Think space exploration isn’t worthwhile? Wondering what we will use for energy when the oil is all gone? Are you disgusted by all the garbage our society produces? Check out this juxtaposition of the three seemingly unrelated ideas…
Calgary-based AlterNRG’s plasma gasification technology uses a process developed for NASA to superheat landfill garbage and convert it into a highly energized gas, which can then be used to produce electricity.
Plasma gasification can be applied to almost any waste now put in landfills, and it produces fewer carbon emissions than standard power plants that burn coal or natural gas.
The process involves plasma torches capable of producing temperatures of 5,400 degrees.
It was initially developed by Westinghouse to help NASA test spacecraft at the intense heat of atmosphere re-entry, said Alex Damnjanovic, an AlterNRG vice president.
Two commercial plants using the process are operational in Japan.
Ask yourself why this isn’t something that the presidential candidates in the U.S. are talking about? Or consider U.S. energy use: *5 percent of the world’s population, consumes 25 percent of the world’s energy. *Transportation sector uses 70 percent of petroleum used for fuel and emits 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases. *Buildings account for 36 percent of emissions.
“The bottom line is that the quickest way to do something about America’s use of energy is through energy efficiency,” said Burton Richter, the chairman of the study panel and a 1976 Nobel Prize winner in physics. “Energy that you don’t use is free. It’s not imported and it doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases. Most of the things we recommend don’t cost anything to the economy. The economy will save money.”
The projected growth of energy use in buildings — 30 percent by 2030 — could be cut to zero using existing technology and what’s likely to become available in the next decade at the current level of research and development.
On transportation, the key is in more federal government investment in developing cheaper and more reliable batteries for electric cars.
“If you look at magically converting the whole fleet to plug-in hybrids” that get 40 miles per charge, greenhouse gases would be reduced by 33 percent and gasoline use by 60 percent, Richter said.
That would be the equivalent of cutting oil imports by 6 million barrels a day, Richter said. That’s the amount the U.S. imports from OPEC (largely from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Nigeria), out of a total of about 13.5 million barrels imported a day from all countries.
“So if you’re looking at energy security issues, which is government’s business, if you’re looking at the overall economy, which also ought to be government’s business, to spend a bit more on research and development to hasten the day when you’re going to get all these benefits is a good thing to do,” Richter said.
Very interesting, right? As oppossed to ‘lets ease environmental standards’ or ‘lets get more oil from Iraq’, etc. What about global population?
Some 6.7 billion people live on planet Earth today and close to 3 billion more may be in the mix by 2050. Given those staggering numbers, it’s easy to assume surging human population is the real root of the world’s evils, from global warming to poverty, starvation to habitat loss. Not so fast. Three recent books by renowned experts on the subject paint a far more complex portrait of the world’s population and what it portends. It’s by turns dire and hopeful
Today we have one of the most robust ideological state apparatuses in the world with our vast web of media outlets. Turn on your television and you’ll find several hundred cable channels eager to shape how you think about the world. (I’m using the word “think” loosely here since an active brain seems to be the antithesis of what television producers want to inspire.) Yet, I won’t just pick on TV here…that would be too easy, too overdone, too, well, TV…newspapers, magazines, radio, and even the Internet are all part of this ideological apparatus.
There is certainly no denying that the rise in food prices worldwide is creating problems though.
Rising food prices are partly to blame for adding 75 million more people to the ranks of the world’s hungry in 2007 and lifting the global figure to roughly 925 million, the U.N.’s food agency said on Wednesday.
Water is also an issue in many places, but perhaps it doesn’t have to be.
Brad Lancaster is the author of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond.
As Lancaster explains, harvesting rainwater means to “capture the rain as close as possible to where it falls, and then to use it as close as possible to where it falls.”
The easiest method is to use the soil to capture the rainwater. “You create these bowl-like shapes in the landscape that collect water. You mulch the surface and plant them so the water quickly infiltrates, and then the plants become your living pumps.”
“So you then utilize that water in the form of a peach, a pomegranate, an apple, wildlife habitat and beauty,” Lancaster tells Renee Montagne.
A second, better-known version of rainwater harvesting is collecting rainwater from a roof in a tank, or a cistern.
The third example is harvesting wastewater, also known as graywater, from household drains, including showers, bathtubs, bathroom sinks and washing machines. (Other drains — such as the toilet, kitchen sink and dishwasher — are high in organic mater, such as food or bacteria, and are not suitable for reuse.)
Household wastewater is “an excellent source of rainwater that we can reuse to passively irrigate our landscapes in times of no rain,” Lancaster says.
Lancaster says that 30 percent to 50 percent of potable water consumed by the average single-family home is used for landscaping. But nearly all of the irrigation water needs can be met just with rainwater and graywater, he says.
Rainwater harvesting can be useful even in areas that are not affected by drought, helping reduce flooding downstream, for example, Lancaster says.
For five happy years they enjoyed simple lives in their straw and mud huts.
Generating their own power and growing their own food, they strived for self-sufficiency and thrived in homes that looked more suited to the hobbits from The Lord of the Rings.
Then a survey plane chanced upon the ‘lost tribe’… and they were plunged into a decade-long battle with officialdom.
Yesterday that fight, backed by more modern support for green issues, ended in victory.
The eco-community in the Preseli mountains of west Wales was set up in 1993 and lived contentedly away from the rat race round a 180-acre farm bought by Julian and Emma Orbach.
In 1998, it was spotted when sunlight was seen glinting off a solar panel on the main building, which was built from straw bales, timber and recycled glass.
When the pilot reported back, officials were unable to find any records, let alone planning permission, for the mystery hillside village surrounded by trees and bushes.
They insisted the grass-covered buildings should be demolished.
The eco-community endured a decade of inquiries, court cases and planning hearings.
The 22 villagers fought planners even when they were within hours of the bulldozers moving in to demolish their eight homes.
Now, however, they can celebrate, thanks to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s ‘sustainability’ policy.
With green issues now getting a more sympathetic hearing, the commune has been given planning approval for its roundhouses along with lavatories, agricultural buildings and workshops.
Community founder Emma Orbach, a 52-year-old mother of three, said yesterday: ‘We are really excited and happy as it has been a very long battle.
‘Even when planning inquiries and court hearings went against us we were determined to fight on.
‘The villagers are pioneering a new lifestyle and are determined to prove it’s possible for people to live more simply.’
Tony Wrench, 62, who lives in the original roundhouse with his partner Jane, said: ‘We are very relieved and delighted.
‘We have been able to prove to the planners that it is possible to have a sustainable and low-impact community in the countryside.
The original 180-acre farm was divided up into the area around the farm, a section around the original roundhouse known as Tir Ysbrydol (Spirit Land) where Mrs Orbach lives, and 80 acres of pasture and woodland run by a community known as Brithdir Mawr.
Each community is independent and they co-exist as neighbours in a more traditional style.
Brithdir Mawr continues to support sustainable living based around the original farmhouse, with eight adults and four children sharing communal meals, looking after goats, horses and chickens – and also holding down part-time jobs to raise the £200 per month rent they each pay Mr Orbach, who lives in a house in nearby Newport.
The current residents now run businesses such as courses in furniture making and sustainable living for around £95 a head.
Maybe you didn’t expect this post to end on a hopeful note, but there it is. We can change our reality and it is changing all around us all the time.