Friday, July 22, 2005

California Adopts Emissions System for Big Trucks

California Adopts Emissions System for Big Trucks: Engine manufacturers must install computer systems on big-rig trucks operating in California to diagnose and warn drivers of emission problems, according to an order issued by state air quality regulators Thursday.

The order by the California Air Resources Board is the first such regulation in the United States for heavy-duty trucks. ...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Silicon Valley entrepeneurs going towards "clean technology"

Apparently some of Silicon Valley's moguls are looking into "clean technology" ventures.

First, let me explain for those who don't know silicon valley what the process is. It was explained to me once that Silicon Valley is one gigantic company, with the Venture Capitalists as the leaders. They, the VC's, hold a lot of money and it's their business to invest in promising ventures. Hence their name, Venture Capitalists, not their other name, Vulture Capitalists.

The idea is that promising ventures get the money, and unpromising ones wither.

Sometimes that ideal is ignored - such as in the crazy years of the 1998-9-2000 boom which .busted in 2000-2001. Some unsound business plans got funded, and Silicon Valley earned a poor reputation because of that.

Investors see green in clean tech (Published: July 20, 2005, 12:02 PM PDT, By Martin LaMonica, Staff Writer, CNET

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Solar parking lot @ Kyocera in San Diego

There's a lot of space in this world which could be used for solar panel systems. They don't have to be installed way out in the desert, but can be installed right here in town. e.g. Parking lots and rooftops represent land area ripe for use as photovoltaic energy systems.

KYOCERA Inaugurates First-Ever Solar Grove, Unleashing "Power of the Sun" for Parking Facilities "Solar Trees" Convert Parking Lot into 235-Kilowatt Solar Electric Generating System

Kyocera Solar makes solar panels, and has set up a system in their parking lot that produces 235 KW's. They call it "solar trees" and it serves a dual purpose. First is of course electricity production, and second is providing shade to cars parked in the parking lot.

Saturday, July 9, 2005

Humans and extinction of other species

Humans causing extinction of other species is apparently not a new phenomenon. But I suppose the experience of the Sabre Tooth Tiger and Woolly Mammoth's in North America might demonstrate that. Or, was that human-caused because in Siberia they've found tremendous numbers of Woolly Mammoth's frozen in the ice with fresh daisy's in their stomach. As if they were flash frozen.

In any case ...

'Fires wiped out' ancient mammals (By Helen Briggs, BBC News science reporter)

We have an article discussing what happened after humans arrived in Australia. At least in Australia there's less doubt of how people arrived there - they arrived by sea from Indonesia around 50,000 years ago. This seems like a very obvious and likely story, with much less doubt than the accepted story of humans arriving in North America.

The article goes over research that shows at 50,000 years ago the diet of certain Australian birds changed drastically from grass seeds to material from scrub-brush. The birds that were able to change their diet (the "opportunistic feeders") survived while the others (the "picky eaters") died off. Their evidence is the quality of the carbon in egg-shells.

The cause they point to is that humans set fire, for a number of reasons, to the landscape as they arrived. e.g. it was a hunting technique (to set fire to the brush to flush out the animals), a farming technique (to clear the land), or merely to signal others. The fires killed off the plants that were in the landscape, changing the mix of plants quickly and drastically. Much too fast for evolution to handle the change, and as already discussed the scientists believe this led to mass extinctions in Australia.

This story connects with a prior one: Major species extinction periods

That story discussed how scientists have mapped out the previous periods of mass extinction, and determined each one happened due to external influence (that is, a major meteor strike on the planet invoking drastic climate change).

The scientists are seeing growing evidence that we are in a new period of mass extinction, but this time it's caused by human influence.

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

'Clean energy' power plant?

There's a lot of hype that burning hydrogen is 'clean energy'. It's tempting, and there's a propoganda effort going on around moving to a hydrogen economy.

'Clean energy' power station move (BBC, June 30, 2005)

This concerns the "first" industrial scale hydrogen power plant. The scheme is to split natural gas to retrieve the hydrogen, burn that in a plant, liquify the remaining stuff (carbon primarily) and pump that liquid into an BP oil field.

It's supposed to produce 350 megawatts (a.k.a. 300,000 homes worth of electricity) and come online in 2009.

Part of the goaling is to increase the useful lifetime of an oil field, and another part is to capture the carbon helping the UK and Scotland meet their targets under the Kyoto accords.

My question in this is - to extract the hydrogen, it's going to require some energy. Where does that energy come from, and is it more than you get by burning the hydrogen?

e.g. if you get the energy to extract hydrogen from a regular power plant that's currently burning a fossil fuel, then you haven't truly improved the situation. You're just shifting the carbon production from one plant (the hydrogen burner) to another (burning an existing fossil fuel).

Maybe they see this as a "step in the right direction" just like the farce of the current hybrid-electric cars has people fooled into believing they're doing something useful for the environment by owning one. So far as I'm concerned it's not a step in the right direction if the vehicle or power plant is still dependant on a fossil fuel.