Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Geothermal Power - An Alternative Energy Source

More and more people who are concerned about the energy future of the world are arriving at the idea that someone should be doing everything possible to develop geothermal energy technologies.

Despite some study and development in the area of geothermal energy, this is still a largely untapped area of tremendous alternative energy potential. What is great about this potential form of power is that it simply taps into, and makes use of, the energy being naturally produced by the Earth itself.

Think about it: Vast amounts of power are present below the surface crust on which we live as we worry about where our energy will come from in the future.

All we need do is tap into it and harness it.

Earth at High Temperature Provides Steam Energy

Within the Earths' core, far beneath our feet, the average temperature is 60 times greater than that of boiling water. This tremendous amount of heat creates pressures that express themselves as near to us as only a couple of miles below the surface.

These areas of pressure include huge amounts of energy.

Superheated fluids in the form of magma, in which we can see the power and energy of whenever there is a volcanic eruption, are ready for our use. These fluids also often trickle to the surface as steam and emerge from open vents in the earth's surface. We can even create our own vents, and we can create our own containment chambers for the magma and convert all of this energy into electricity to light and heat our homes.

The Geothermal Power Plant

In the creation of a geothermal power plant, a well would be dug where there is a good source of magma or heated fluid. Piping would then be fitted down into the source, and the fluids then forced to the surface to produce the needed steam. The steam would turn a turbine engine, which would generate the electricity.

The Critic's Argument

There are criticisms of tapping geothermal energy which could prevent its being implemented on the large scale which it should be.

For example, there are critics who say that study and research to find a naturally productive area is too costly and takes up too much time. Then there are those who point out the great expense needed to build a geothermal power plant, with no promise of the plant turning a profit. Some say that geothermal sites, once tapped, might possibly be found to not produce a large enough amount of steam for the power plant to be viable or reliable. And finally, we hear from the environmentalists who are concerned that bringing up magma can bring up potentially harmful materials along with it or have other negative aspects on the environment.

Do the Benefits Outweigh the Criticisms?

However, the great benefits of geothermal energy may possibly trump these criticisms if only we would explore it more.

While critics are right that we don't yet know all we need to know, we will not ever know the answers unless we follow the natural course of exploration and experimentation.

A few years ago, critics scoffed at the idea of hybrid cars, while others scoffed at the idea of gas prices being as high as they are now!

The fact that geothermal energy is merely the energy of the Earth herself means that it does not produce any least as we know now. The effects on the environment can already be studied to some extent at natural vent sites.

The Benefits of Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is extremely efficient. The efforts needed to channel it are relatively minimal after a site is found and a plant is set up.

Geothermal plants, furthermore, will not need to be as large as electrical plants, giant hydroelectric dams, or atomic energy facilities. As a result, the environment would be less disrupted.

Needless to say, it is an alternative form of energy. Using it would mean we become that much less dependent on foreign oil and/or domestic coal. Perhaps most importantly of all, we are never, ever going to run out of geothermal energy while the earth is habitable by humans, and it is not a commodity that should continuously become more expensive in terms of real dollars as time passes, since it is so available and easy to obtain.

Geothermal energy would be, in the end, very cheap, after exploration, experimentation, investigation and power plant construction costs are recouped.
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How to Save on Gas Through Proper Automotive Maintenance

If you have to drive even somewhat regularly these days, it is a sure bet that you are as sick of high gas prices as the rest of us.

However, there is very little that any of us can do to directly affect the price of gas itself. Therefore, we are forced to turn our attention to things we can do to limit the amount of gas that we use ourselves. I used to train new truck drivers for a major national carrier, and one thing which surprised me was how many complained about the price of fuel but drove as if it were free!

Like those students of mine, you may or may not be aware that there are some very easy and simple methods for increasing the gas mileage you get in your car, van, truck or sport utility vehicle. In fact, many of the ways that you can help your vehicle’s gas mileage are through simple, but regular, maintenance that you should be performing on your vehicle anyway!

Sadly, many who are attempting to escape high gas prices have turned to costly products that claim they can help your vehicle get more gas mileage. Of course, it often does make a little sense to spend money in order to save money, but not when many of these products are largely unproven to begin with.

That is why, when you are trying to dramatically increase your vehicle’s gas mileage, it is better to stick to the more reliable, more basic methods instead. These time proven methods definitely include performing the regular maintenance that your car requires already.


Many drivers are fairly diligent about getting oil changes regularly for their vehicle. After all, regular oil changes are among the most fundamental (and cheapest) ways to maintain your vehicle’s performance and condition for years. I have been reading Popular Mechanics, Car and Driver and similar magazines since my mother used to take to Mr. Bragg's barber shop in Warrington, Florida back in the 50's. I cannot recall how many articles I have read in the last half century where someone had owned a car for years which was still in excellent mechanical condition.

Again and again, the most common thing these people had done was to get their oil, and other lubricants, changed regularly.

What any people do not know, however, is that regular oil changes also help to limit fuel consumption!

This means that you will save money in the end on fuel and maintenance costs, even if you have to spend a little money up front to perform regular oil changes yourself or have one done for you. Also, while you’re at it, make sure that your car is using the appropriate grade of oil. This simple check can reduce your fuel consumption by one or two percent.

If you are willing to pay a little more up front to save a lot later, here's another tip about oil changes, and...

In the last few years, synthetic lubricants such as those offered by AMSOIL have become popular with many car owners. The reason is simple. While you pay a little more initially, the oil cnange intervals are much longer, resulting in fewer oil changes, thus reducing costs. Additionally, a good synthetic motor oil will retain its ability to lubricate effectively much longer than standard, petroleum based lubricants.

This means that your car's engine runs more efficiently between oil changes.


The longer life and improved lubricating ability of synthetic motor oils means that your automobile engine, and its components, are not breaking down as rapidly as with standard motor oils. In fact, over the last few years, special formulations of synthetic motor oils have been developed for diesel engines, trucks, motorcycles, and even chainsaws and snow plows!

So, regular oil changes using high quality synthetic motor oils can not only increase fuel economy, but also increase the life, and value, of your vehicle while reducing common maintenance costs.


No, not quite.

I have been talking primarily about synthetic motor oil and regular oil changes. However, technology has also provided us with high efficiency synthetic gear lube and grease as well. Combining regular oil changes with regular lubricant changes in other parts of the vehicle, such as in transmissions, with the use of the most effective synthetic lubricants, can result in vast savings.

In the trucking industry, large fleet owners and independent owner-operators have both recognized this as the way to cut fuel costs, cut maintenance costs, and maintain the value and effectiveness of the expensive assets which are their bread-and-butter. That's the "AND..."


Sorry, couldn't resist a pun.

However, "no joke", as we used to say in high school. One excellent way to easily increase your car’s gas mileage has got to be one of the easiest.

The next time you pull up to a convenience store, gas station or car wash that has an air pump, check the air pressure in your tires and add air, if necessary. By the way, many of these facilities do not have air gauges or have ones that are questionable at best. If you are still willing to pay a little up front to save a lot later, invest in a good tire gauge which you can carry in your car. At many gas stations or car washes, airing up your tires will not cost you anything. Even if the only machine you can find is a pay machine, it will still likely only cost you as much as fifty cents. The price (or lack thereof) and simplicity of this method makes it a great way to help keep yourself away from the gas pump.

Also, you should know the recommended tire pressure for YOUR tires and keep it there. Basic recommended pressures are usually on a sticker on the door frame, and recommended pressures are also on the tires themselves. One estimate is that simply maintaining proper tire pressure can increase fuel economy by approximately 3.3 percent.

As Paul Harvey would say, here's the rest of the story. Maintaining proper air pressure will help your tires (expensive little dudes) last longer. You car will also handle better and you and your family will be safer with properly inflated tires, and THAT beats money any time!


Sorry, another joke!

Seriously, another type of regular maintenance that your car requires consists of regular tune-ups.

A proper tune-up helps to ensure that your car is performing as well as it should be, including in respect to the gas mileage you hope to get out of it. Also, a properly conducted tune-up will often include a check of many important areas, which you might not associate in your mind with the word "tune-up".

These checks may reveal a problem with your car that is costing you valuable gas mileage, or simply allow the mechanic to let you know about potential problems which can be taken care of now (pay up front to save later), or which can be watched to keep them from becoming more expensive issues later.

Fixing many of these problems, or potential problems, may result in drastically improved performance and gas mileage, so that is a side benefit of having your car tuned up.


One simple vehicle maintenance act which will net you improved gas mileage is definitely that of checking and replacing dirty, clogged air filters.

Your car is luckier than you in some ways. If your cars air filters are filthy, you can switch them out with clean, new ones right away!

Wish we could do that with our lungs!

Did you know that changing your car's air filters can boost your gas mileage by one-tenth! That is a pretty significant amount when you consider today’s rather high gas prices. Think about one-tenth of a gallon of gas where you live. That’s how much you can expect to save, per gallon, if you drive with clean (rather than a dirty) air filters.


However, saving money through proper automotive maintenance is no joke. These few relatively simple vehicle maintenance acts prove once and for all that it is not necessary to buy costly products to increase your gas mileage.

Simply do the maintenance that you should already be doing for your car, and you will reap the benefits!

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Monday, April 26, 2010

The Nissan Leaf - All Electric

The Nissan Leaf, the first 100% electric, zero-emission vehicle to reach the mass market will become available at dealers in December 2010. However, so many people have expressed interest, that Nissan Motors has placed a link on its website where you can put down a small ($99 I heard) deposit to be one of the first to own the Nissan Leaf when it does become available.

You can access the link here.

The 2011 Nissan Leaf will have an MSRP of $32,790, with federal tax savings from 0 to $7,500.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Alternative Sources of Energy - Biofuels

Biofuels as Alternative Sources of Energy

Biofuels are produced by converting organic matter into fuel for powering our society. Biofuels are an alternative energy source to the fossil fuels that we currently depend so much upon. The biofuels umbrella includes under its aegis such products as ethanol and derivatives of plants such as sugar cane, as well aS vegetable and corn oils.

However, not all ethanol products are designed to be used as a kind of gasoline. The International Energy Agency (IEA) tells us that ethanol could comprise up to 10 percent of the world's usable gasoline by 2025, and up to 30 percent by 2050. Today, the percentage figure is two percent.

On the other hand, we have a long way to go to refine and make economic and practical these biofuels that we are researching.

A study by Oregon State University proves this.

We have yet to develop biofuels that are as energy efficient as gasoline made from petroleum. Energy efficiency is the measure of how much usable energy for our needed purposes is derived from a certain amount of input energy. (Nothing that mankind has ever used has derived more energy from output than from what the needed input was.

What has always been important is the conversion—the end-product energy is what is useful for our needs, while the input energy is just the effort it takes to produce the end-product.) The OSU study found corn-derived ethanol to be only 20% energy efficient (gasoline made from petroleum is 75% energy efficient). Biodiesel fuel was recorded at 69% energy efficiency. However, the study did turn up one positive: cellulose-derived ethanol was charted at 85% efficiency, which is even higher than that of the fantastically efficient nuclear energy.

Recently, oil futures have been down on the New York Stock Exchange, as analysts from several different countries are predicting a surge in biofuel availability which would offset the value of oil, dropping crude oil prices on the international market to $40 per barrel or thereabouts.

The Chicago Stock Exchange has a grain futures market which is starting to “steal” investment activity away from the oil futures in NY, as investors are definitely expecting better profitability to start coming from biofuels. Indeed, it is predicted by a consensus of analysts that biofuels shall be supplying seven percent of the entire world's transportation fuels by the year 2030. One certain energy markets analyst has said, growth in demand for diesel and gasoline may slow down dramatically, if the government subsidizes firms distributing biofuels and further pushes to promote the use of eco-friendly fuel.

There are several nations which are seriously involved in the development of biofuels.

There is Brazil, for example, which happens to be the world's biggest producer of ethanols derived from sugars. It produces approximately three and a half billion gallons of ethanol per year.

The United States, while being the world's greatest oil-guzzler, is already the second largest producer of biofuels behind Brazil.

The European Union's biodiesel production capacity is now in excess of four million (British) tonnes. 80 percent of the EU's biodiesel fuels are derived from rapeseed oil; soybean oil and a marginal quantity of palm oil comprise the other 20 percent.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Is Toyota Launching a Hybrid Mini-Van?

In Japan, the Nikkei business daily recently reported that Toyota may be introducing a hybrid Prius mini-van in 2011.

Not a bad idea from a lot of angles.

For one thing, the competition among the automobile manufacturers worldwide are making the hybrid vehicle a more common commodity, and introducing a hybrid into another segment of the market is a smart move. Especially NOT a bad move for Toyota if the report is true.

At the moment, people with the need for a larger than normal sedan vehicle have to jump straight up to the hybrid SUV. Introducing a Prius Minivan would give many a new option...both in the sense of getting a vehicle more suited to their needs and perhaps their budget...all while making at least some small contribution to the environment.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Hybrids Don't Have any Power and Are Uncomfortable, Right?

I was listening to a guy talking about cars the other day on some television show. He repeated what I had heard many other times from people who do not own, and, apparently, do NOT want to own a hybrid car.

In essence, he stated that hybrid cars did not have any speed or power and were tiny, uncomforable "teardrops".

Well, I HAVE owned a Toyota Prius since 2006, and I'll have to give him the "teardrop" thing.

However, I have driven my car for over 115,000 miles, including on a three-week trip from Texas to California and back, several Dallas to Atlanta shots, and several trips down to the coast. I have driven it over all kinds of environments and in all sorts of traffic situations. I have passed sports cars and semi's (which I used to drive and teach people to drive).

I have cruised for miles at 75 miles an hour, climbed mountains, and used acceleration to zip out of harm's way.

Over the years, several people have stopped my wife and myself in parking lots to talk to us about our Toyota Prius. We often let them sit in the car, and they are generally amazed to learn, despite the "teardrop" appearance, and small outer dimensions of the car, how much room there is inside.

Not only roomy, but one of the most comfortable cars I have ever owned.

Take that, talk show guy!
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Best Deals on High MPG Hybrids, Diesel, and Gas Cars

A recent report by ranks the top ten models, in terms of fuel economy this way:

Chevrolet Aveo 30 MPG
Hyundai Accent Blue 31 MPG
Kia Rio 31 MPG
Honda Fit 31 MPG
Toyota Yaris 32 MPG
MINI Cooper 32 MPG
Nissan Altima 34 MPG
smart fortwo coupe 37 MPG
Honda Insight 41 MPG
Toyota Prius 50 MPG

However, they also went one step further and ranked those cars based on average cost per mile to operate. Things changed.

Hyundai Accent Blue 31 MPG BUT $0.20 per mile
Kia Rio 31 MPG BUT $0.22 per mile
Chevrolet Aveo 30 MPG BUT $0.22 per mile
smart fortwo coupe 37 MPG BUT $0.22 per mile
Toyota Yaris 32 MPG BUT $0.23 per mile
Honda Fit 31 MPG BUT $0.27 per mile
Honda Insight 41 MPG BUT $0.28 per mile
MINI Cooper 32 MPG BUT $0.30 per mile
Toyota Prius 50 MPG BUT $0.31 per mile
Nissan Altima 34 MPG BUT $0.32 per mile

Click here to read the entire report.
Save money on maintenance, extend the life of your engine, transmission, and other parts with AMSOIL products.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Update - 2006 Hybrid Prius Mileage

Just thought I would take a moment to post an update of the miles per gallon I am still getting on my 2006 Toyota Prius...which, by the way, has NEVER HAD ANY MECHANICAL PROBLEM, including sticking gas pedals, invasive floor mats, or fleas.

Okay, fleas are NOT a mechanical problem, but we haven't had them anyway.

To continue in a serious vein:

I bought my 2006 Toyota Prius new in April 2006 from Texas Toyota of Grapevine. It now has over 115,000 miles, is in perfect mechanical condition and appearance, and still gets slightly over 50 MPG.

By the way, I have heard a few people on TV speak disparagingly about speed and comfort in relation to hybrids in general, so, just let me say that I weigh 230 lbs, and my wife is a large woman. One of the reasons we bought our Toyota Prius is because of the comfort and roomy interior.

We have also taken several trips in it and have no complaints about its ability to cruise at highway speeds, climb mountains, or pass other vehicles. We have taken a 3-week trip from Dallas, Texas through Las Vegas, Nevada, Reno, Sacramento, California, down the coast to Monterey, on to Los Angeles, back to Phoenix and home to Dallas. The car was perfect for all the different types of terrain and traffic.

We even went to Rachel, Nevada, and visited the Little A'Le'Inn where we had breakfast and my wife got to purchase an "Extraterrestrial Highway - Area 51" T-shirt.

We have been back and forth between Dallas and Atlanta several times and have taken several trips from Dallas and Atlanta down to the coast. We have also taken a couple of trips from Dallas to Phoenix.

Not only have we enjoyed the fuel economy of our 2006 Toyota Prius, but we have traveled in comfort and easily kept up with the other drivers on the road.
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Monday, April 19, 2010

Protect the Environment - Help Your Engine Run More Efficiently

As gasoline and diesel engines age, they lose efficiency. Among the affects of this lower engine efficiency are decreased fuel economy and more emissions.

Many are aware that regular maintenance, especially regular oil changes, can be a major step towards not only protecting the investment you have in your car or truck, but in protecting the environment as well.

Many are not so well aware that other parts of the vehicle drive train need regular lubrication as well. The transmission, in particular, needs to be flushed and refilled regularly also.

One problem that is often overlooked, even by those who DO change oil and transmission fluids regularly, is that the parts themselves are still dirty, and clean oil or fluid is being put into a container which is dirty.

You would not pour dirty oil or transmission fluid into a clean engine and expect it to work as well. Nor can you pour clean oil or transmission fluid into a dirty engine or tranmission and expect it to work as efficiently as it could.

One solution is AMSOIL Engine and Transmission Flush.

This new product from AMSOIL cleans engines and transmissions before oil and transmission oil changes so that the new, clean lubricant will be going into a clean engine and/or clean transmission.

You can learn more about AMSOIL Engine and Transmission Flush at the AMSOIL website.

You can learn more about improving the efficiency of your car, truck, motorcyle, boat, or even your chainsaw at

Click here to learn how you can become an AMSOIL dealer.

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