the way we live

nascar turning to ethanol?

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i’ll be the first to admit that i’m no nascar fan but i was perusing some of the archives over at time when i found an article about nascar closing in on switching from leaded gasoline to ethanol (interestingly i also found a small blurb on treehugger today). my first thought was utter disbelief in the fact that they actually still run on leaded fuel. other racing series, such as indy, have been using ethanol for a while now. my next thought was that this would be a great symbolic move for the sustainable movement. certainly nascar represents only a tiny fraction of gasoline consumed in this country but the societal swing power nascar carries could easily translate into faster shift away from gasoline throughout the country. the time article discusses the example of the brazilian system of ethanol cars in depth while trying to make the argument that it is applicable here. this seems rather basic to me as we’ve discussed before brazilian ethanol is not the same as the american version at all. in fact, the brazilian variety is generated from sugar cane as opposed to the corn we use stateside. additionally it has a production ratio of 1:8 and one can produce 650gal/acre of land. our corn-based ethanol requires one barrel of oil for every 1.3 barrels of ethanol produced (1:1.3 production ratio) and can only be produced at 350gal/acre. finally, our version costs 1.25 times more than gasoline per gallon, but is only 0.75 times as efficient, certainly this is not the sustainable fuel it is being marketed as. it is, however, a stop-gap and i am certainly not one to rail against nascar moving away from leaded fuel to something even partially more environmentally friendly. my concern is that at this point we need to move beyond stop-gaps and to something truly sustainable, recycled vegtable oil, hydrogen, water, electric, orĀ  pressurized air powered cars to name a few.

24 February 2007 Posted by | green, society | 1 Comment

magic fireplace

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available in black or stainless steel, this sleek ultramodern fireplace burns bio-ethanol as fuel (don’t let the name fool you, it’s not really an environmentally responsible or viable alternative fuel, at least the american version). the fireplace is wall hung and requires no chimney, flue, logs, or smoke and is designed by radius. personally, i think this is a piece of gorgeous design and i would love to see it installed in person (preferably in my home). all of this just in time for winter.

29 October 2007 Posted by | materials, modern, products, technology | Leave a comment

the greening of the history channel

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last night the history channel ran back to back modern marvels episodes on green technologies. the first was “renewable energy” an episode being rerun from last year and the second was a new episode, “environmental technology.” i must say both episodes were extremely thorough, very interesting, and jambed full of information. naturally as one would expect the renewable energy episode discussed advancements in solar energy including photovoltaic films that can literally be printed on surfaces like glass and roof shingles meaning the current method of growing expensive silicon wafers is unnecessary. geothermal energy was documented as well, both for producing heat and hot water, in both forms (the tapping the hot springs/lava method and the running conduit 6′-8′ under the ground for residential uses). wind farms now have turbines capable of generating 1.5 megawatts of power and hydro turbines are several hundred times more efficient than wind. “environmental technology” documented the ever widening field of both bio and phytoremediation which is the use of organisms or plant life to decontaminate soils and groundwater, even on sites contaminated with nuclear waste. a multitude of carbon sequestration methods were documented as well, including an interesting method of capturing the carbon from fossil fuel burning and putting it into a tank with algae blooms. through photosynthesis the algae actually devours the carbon dioxide leaving only water and oxygen. finally there was a very informative discussion on the successes/pitfalls of ethanol. the variety being championed here in the states is by no means a sustainable source of fuel. it costs 1.25 times more to produce than regular gasoline and is only about .75 times as efficient went burned. additionally, it requires one barrel of oil for every 1.3 barrels of corn based ethanol produced (1:1.3) additionally, one can produce only 350gal/acre. however, brazilian sugar cane based ethanol has a production ratio of 1:8 and one can produce 650gal/acre. the real chance for ethanol to be both renewable and sustainable lies in using switchgrass. switchgrass has a production ratio of 1:10 (barrels of oil used to barrels of ethanol produced) and one can produce 1150gal/acre. the plant requires far less maintenance to grow and can grow in a much wider region than corn. all said, nice job history channel.

25 January 2007 Posted by | green, materials, society | 3 Comments