Thursday, June 5, 2008

Save Five Lives, Save $142

Edmunds recently tested tips for improving fuel efficiency. Some of these tips (stop driving like a maniac; drive the speed limit) could reduce your gasoline consumption by at least 10%. So if you drive 12,000 miles per year and averaged around 25 miles per gallon, you would have burned 480 gallons of gas. If you reduced this by 48 gallons, at $4 per gallon you’ve saved $192. Of course you still burned 432 gallons of gas, and this means you contributed 4.19 tons of CO2 to the atmosphere. The IPCC estimates that the "social cost" of a ton of CO2 is $12, so you have caused a total of about $50 worth of damage.

If you feel bad about this I suppose you could buy $50 worth of carbon offsets. But I’d like you to consider something else. Global warming may increase the incidence of malaria, which already kills around one million people a year. has started a campaign to raise awareness and get bed nets to people in areas where the mosquito borne disease is found. So you can donate that $50 and buy five nets, which could easily save the lives of five people. (Donating to Save the Children is a good option too). And you can still pocket the $142 left in savings.

One million lives a year is about two per minute. So two people died while you were reading this. But now, by changing some of your driving habits, you can

Reduce your “carbon footprint”
Save $142
Save five lives

The only thing better than a “win-win”…is a “win-win-win.”

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Astrolab Revisited

After checking their website, it seems that calling this a solar powered car is a tad misleading. The solar panels give enough power to take you 18 km, or 11 miles. So if you have a commute longer than that you need to plug it in at night to charge the battery, which gives the bulk of the 110 km range (68 miles). It uses nickel hydride batteries. Lithium ion would give more storage but I guess they have not figured out how to dissipate the heat yet (they can explode at high temperature).

And it still seems to lack a windshield. I don't know why.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Not One Thin Dime for Gas!

You wouldn't feel any pain at the pump if you had a solar powered car. And you can have one now for only $117,000. By the looks of it you can only take one passenger and neither of you will have much leg room. I'm guessing there isn't a lot you can put in the trunk (if it has one). And it might not get top scores in government crash tests. But maybe these will be much more practical and affordable five or ten years down the road.

With Venturi's Astrolab, solar cars have moved beyond the plaything of engineering students and tech geeks into the hands of ordinary consumers.

The manufacturer claims the two-seater Astrolab can reach top cruising speeds of 75 mph and has a potential driving range of 68 miles. Along with no gas bills, the car aims at the simple but revolutionary math of zero fossil fuel consumption and zero carbon dioxide emissions. That is news to make the heart of the tightwad or the environmentalist grow warm.

The car works by combining four key pieces of technology: an ultra-light auto body constructed from carbon monocoque, a sleek aerodynamic shape to minimize wind resistance, photovoltaic cells coated by a film of nano-prisms to concentrate solar energy, and rechargeable NiMH batteries. The price tag for this technological wonder? Approximate manufactures' suggested retail price is a cool $117,000.

Global warming effects: A Decrease in Hurricanes?

A new study, from NOAA, says that we may actually see fewer hurricanes in the coming decades.

The new research suggests that the number of hurricanes
each summer could decrease by about 18 percent.

Major hurricanes—those with winds in excess of 110 miles (177 kilometers) an hour—could decline by about 8 percent.

Currently about ten Atlantic hurricanes form—two to three of them major—during an average season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.

One of the ways that global warming could reduce hurricanes is by increasing upper-level winds—known as wind shear—that can inhibit hurricane formation, said lead author Thomas Knutson.

Read the article at National Geographic.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Solar bra brings conservation closer to the heart

I've read lots of interesting ideas on how we can help save the Earth, but this one is quite unusual:

"Ladies, take your battle for the environment a little closer to your heart with a solar-powered bra that can generate enough electric energy to charge a mobile phone or an iPod.

Lingerie maker Triumph International Japan Ltd unveiled its environmentally friendly, and green colored, "Solar Power Bra" on Wednesday in Tokyo which features a solar panel worn around the stomach."

Friday, May 2, 2008

Super MoneyMaker Pump

While "hi-tech" developments are always interesting to read about, sometimes a "low-tech" device can have a big impact. A $100 pump can be used on small farms to help them bring in an extra $1000 profit each year. This could be a great help to farmers in Third World countries that are trying to work their way out of poverty. The pump is by KickStart. Read about it here also.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Save the squirrels, or save the Earth?

I had told a coworker recently that maybe solar panels will cover the southwest US one day and supply most of our energy needs. Unless of course someone finds some endangered species out in the desert somewhere that needs protection. Then I come across an item in Reason about a meeting of governors, including Mr. Schwarzenegger, who had this to share:

The biggest applause line of the day came when the seven-time Mr. Olympia turned the tables on political conventional wisdom about who is hurting the environment and who is helping. "It's not always Republicans" or big corporations, he said, that slow environmental progress. Several companies want to build solar power plants in the Mojave Desert. However, the place where they want to build may be the kind of territory that a particular kind of endangered squirrel would prefer to frequent. Efforts by the California Department of Fish and Game ("my own agency, that I'm supposed to be the head of and the boss of!") to protect "this little creature" have thwarted plans to build planet-saving solar arrays. "If we can't put a solar power plant in the Mojave Desert," Schwarzenegger thundered, "I don't know where the hell we can put it!"