Friday, December 15, 2006

Nano-cables convert light into electricity

Nanocables that convert light into electricity could one day be used to power nano-robots. Read more...

Not directly related to this blog, but if electricity can be generated alternatively in even these small quantities, might that not lead to new technology? By the way, here is an interesting site: Operation Fresh Start

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Environmental Issues

The Environment - A Global Overview
By Larry Butz

It is not difficult to become a believer in global warming. According to the U.S. National Climatic Data Center 2001 was the second warmest year on record and it was the 23rd consecutive year of above normal temperatures. Perhaps most troubling is the fact that the rate of temperature increase is accelerating. Add to this the data just released from insurer Munich Re stating that deaths from natural disasters were more than double in 2001 versus 2000 and insured losses were up more than 50%.UNEP estimates that the extra economic costs of disasters attributable to global warming are running at more than $300 billion annually.

Some 180 countries are proceeding toward an expected ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by the end of this year. Of the six gases it will control CO2 is by far the largest contributing nearly 90% of the global warming impact. The primary source of CO2 is the burning of fossil fuels. Therefore the focus on energy will continue to increase.

Throughout the world different methods are being used to encourage reduced energy use. Japan has enacted the Energy Conservation Law in 1999 mandating huge efficiency improvements by 2004 for nearly all air conditioning products. The U.S. has revised ASHRAE Standard 90.1 for buildings to raise the minimum COP level for centrifugal chillers from the current value of 5.2 to 6.1 effective in October 2001. DOE and Green Seal have revised their recommended efficiency levels to an even higher level of 6.27.

Some countries use laws. Others use codes and standards. An increasing number of countries are using environmental costing which increases the price of energy thereby increasing the financial attractiveness of high efficiency products. European countries have been using such “carbon taxes” for more than a decade. However a rapidly growing trend in developing countries is the reduction of subsidies to energy industries “so prices more accurately reflect environmental impacts” according to OECD’s Environmental Strategy for the First Decade of the 21st Century.

China has shown leadership by reducing subsidies to the coal industry from $24.5 billion in 1990 to $10 billion in 1996 resulting in 7% emissions reduction while seeing a solid economic growth of 36%! China is now moving aggressively into environmental costing with the just announced (1/13/2002) 5-year environmental plan that commits 700 billion yuan ($84 billion) to help protect the environment. The government will provide the fist 65 billion yuan to initiate the project but will apply the “polluter pays” principle for the rest. The “environmental protection authorities will collect funds from the pollution-producing companies”. The impact on the price of energy is not known at this time. However it is clear that the addition of environmental costing will increase energy prices. According to a European Research Commission Report of July 2001 “The cost of producing electricity from coal or oil would double if costs such as damage to the environment and health were taken into account”.

The global movement to high efficiency is accelerating just like the rate of temperature increase. But this is not all that is changing. This second environmental threat of global warming is making it clear that we need to give combined consideration to ozone depletion and global warming. But more important is the need to focus on the real issue which is the total environmental impact not address each individual environmental threat in isolation. This includes the concept of environmental risk exposure, which recognizes that there are other environmental threats that are less well understood today. However, there are “no regrets” decisions we can make today (such as minimum refrigerant charge, minimum atmospheric life refrigerants, etc.) to minimize these risks.

Combined consideration would place more emphasis on reducing the use of CFCs, which are still being produced in developing countries until 2010 in accordance with the Montreal Protocol. Little attention is being given the large contribution to global warming from CFCs. Actions which cause confusion and delay the phaseout of CFCs cause increased environmental damage rather than lessening the environmental impact.

The other rapidly changing factor in the HVAC industry is the shift to becoming a hermetic industry, where refrigerant is contained throughout the life of a chiller and recycled for further use when the chiller is replaced. This simple understanding that “if it doesn’t get into the environment it does no harm” is a powerful argument, which will lead to the continued use of the most efficient refrigerants in such closed hermetic applications as chillers. In just 15 years annual refrigerants emissions from chillers have been reduced from 25% to well below 1% today. This defines a whole different world than that which existed when the Montreal Protocol was crafted some 15 years ago.

But perhaps the most important change coming to our industry is the realization that there are no new or “perfect” refrigerants waiting to be discovered. There are eight elements that can be combined for use in a vapor compression cycle. All feasible combinations of these eight have been evaluated. The reality is “what we have now is all there is”.

This recognition is why we are now seeing a shift from the search for a perfect refrigerant to a search for the right refrigerant(s) for the right application. Said another way, the highest efficiency refrigerants for the lowest emissions applications. Many in our industry call this “Responsible Use”.

Larry Butz is a business globalization and energy efficiency expert for GEA Consulting. GEA Consulting is a global resource dedicated to developing practical solutions that drive client revenue, efficiency, and operational productivity. GEA Consulting can be found online at

Article Source:

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mileage Ratings to Drop as EPA Changes Car Tests

Mileage Ratings to Drop as EPA Changes Car Tests
by Wendy Kaufman

Morning Edition, December 12, 2006 · Fuel economy estimates on new car stickers are about to fall. Drivers have complained that the miles per gallon they get from their cars are actually much smaller than the numbers posted in the car windows.

Find the rest of the story at


Small Nukes Could Cause Global Cooling
Alicia Chang, Associated Press

Dec. 12, 2006 — Some of the scientists who first advanced the controversial "nuclear winter" theory more than two decades ago have come up with another bleak forecast: Even a regional nuclear war would devastate the environment. MORE

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Underwater Methane a Danger?

Shallow Gas Hydrates Offer Mixed Bag
Larry O'Hanlon, Discovery News

Dec. 12, 2006 — Deep-sea researchers have unearthed frozen mixtures of methane and ice — called gas hydrates — at surprisingly shallow depths in the Pacific Ocean.

The discovery suggests that the massive methane reservoirs in oceans worldwide could be well within reach of warming seas — which could trigger huge releases of the gas into the atmosphere, where it could make global warming even worse...

Read The Whole Story

Ice-less Arctic By 2040?

Researchers Predict an Ice-less Arctic By 2040
Tuesday, December 12, 2006

By Lewis Smith

Ice is melting so fast in the Arctic that the North Pole will be in the open sea in 30 years, according to leading climatologists.

Read the rest of this story at:,2933,235981,00.html

Alternative Energy Sources

A Closer Look At The Alternative Energy Sources Of Solar And Wind Power
By Gregg Hall

More and more scientists today agree that global warming is a serious issue and that the cause of global warming is carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels are burned. Politicians, too, are being swayed as they see increases in property damaged, injuries, and even deaths due to natural catastrophes which appear to have gotten worse in recent decades. Because fossil fuels appear to be the source of worldwide atmospheric change, people have began to look to other methods of producing energy. In addition to causing atmospheric change, there's the reality that we will run out of fossil fuels. The world's economy is based on fossil fuels but they are a finite resource. Eventually we will run out of them. Fossil fuels are not a sustainable resource. Two methods of producing energy which have little impact on the environment and are sustainable are solar and wind power.

First, we'll take a look at solar power. Solar power is, of course, power derived from the energy of the sun's rays. The limitation with this energy source is the sun itself. The sun will never run out, except at night. Solar power sources have been designed to compensate for the downtime of night or cloudy days, but solar power works best in sunny climates. Solar power is generally used in one of three ways: to generate heat, to generate electricity, and to desalinate salt water. Solar powered heating systems are usually either active or passive in design. An active solar heating system uses pumps to circulate water which has been heated by the sun. Passive solar heating systems use the nature of water to create circulation. This method relies on the fact that heat energy wants to move into areas of lesser heat. In generating electricity, solar power is harnessed by photovoltaic cells which convert the suns energy into electricity. These cells have been widely used to power calculators for decades. In solar desalination, the power of the sun is used to evaporate water to separate it from the salt and other undesirable minerals.

Another type of clean, renewable power comes from the wind. Wind power, while growing in popularity, still accounts for barely 1% of the world's power supply. This is hard to believe considering how much the wind blows! Wind power is usually harnessed using wind turbines. A centuries old version of harnessing wind power is the windmill. These lovely structures used the wind to grind grains and pump water. Today's wind turbines are advanced machinery employing the latest technologies. More and more "wind farms" are sprouting up around the world. These huge arrays of wind turbines can be found on land and offshore. The biggest ones in the US are land-based farms in California, Oregon, and Washington. There are also more and more popping up the Midwest. Because of energy costs and damage done to the environment, alternative energy sources are receiving a great deal of interest. Two of the most promising are solar and wind power.

Gregg Hall is an author living in Navarre Florida. Find more about this as well as science books at

Article Source:

Monday, December 11, 2006

Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth

If you haven't seen this movie, you need to. My wife and I watched it for the first time a few nights ago and are still talking about it.

So far, we have:

Bought a hybrid - Toyota Prius and are getting about 47.8 MPG overall average
Installed the new light bulbs throughout most of our house
Bought an energy efficient clothes washer and dryer
Bought an energy efficient refrigerator
Set the thermostat down a little
Signed up for green power from our energy company
Started turning off lights

No, we didn't do all that in just the last few days, but it shows what one family can do to contribute to the solution. By the way, the old appliances have new homes and are functioning well. They didn't go to a landfill.

Folks, I'm no scientist, and I cannot say that global warming is real, but I CAN say from my lofty height of 62 years, having lived in Europe and several parts of the U. S., the sky's getting dirtier, and there are too many warning signs from too many places.

Watch the movie. It's called "An Inconvenient Truth", and you can learn more at