Thursday, November 30, 2006

Loopwing Wind Turbine

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Loopwing is a new wind turbine that is low noise, low vibration, self stabilizing, and high torque. It is specifically designed for quiet home use. It's low maintenance and requires only a 1.6 mph breeze to get started. Not too bad looking either. It's almost like a work of art. Well, I like it anyway. Placing small wind turbines in a variety of locations could go a long way to getting us off of coal. Here is one ontop of a lightpost:


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Exxon Buying the Teachers Associations?

The NSTA consists of 55,000 science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives which are involved in science education. Membership is not free and typically costs a teacher $74 each year. In otherwords, the NSTA is not a lightweight organization. In fact their website self describes the NSTA as the "largest organization in the world committed to promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. "

Larry David, the co-creator of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, has a environmentally conscious wife that decided to donate 50,000 DVDs of the documentary An Inconvenient Truth to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). Despite the fact that the documentary received "five stars for accuracy" by scientists, the Washington Post is now reporting that the NSTA has refused to accept the DVDs:

In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other “special interests” might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn’t want to offer “political” endorsement of the film; and they saw “little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members” in accepting the free DVDs. …

[T]here was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place “unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters.”

As it turns out those special interests include Exxon-Mobil, Shell Oil, and the American Petroleum Institute. To take matters one step farther the NSTA has distributed videos produced by the American Petroleum Institute. This video claims that one "can't be cool without fuel". In this case fuel is natural gas and oil.

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Feel free to spend a few minutes watching the video. (Link to video). The Washington post article continues:
An API memo leaked to the media as long ago as 1998 succinctly explains why the association is angling to infiltrate the classroom: "Informing teachers/students about uncertainties in climate science will begin to erect barriers against further efforts to impose Kyoto-like measures in the future."
The information war knows no boundaries.

regurgitation hat tip: Thinkprogress

Washington Post, Science a la Joe Camel Sunday, November 26, 2006; B01

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Shell: "the debate is over"

From the Washington Post:

Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co., said in a recent speech at the National Press Club. "From Shell's point of view, the debate is over. When 98 percent of scientists agree, who is Shell to say, 'Let's debate the science'?"
And amazingly Exxon Mobil has finally begun the process of accepting the possibility that climate change might be real:
Exxon Mobil Corp., the highest-profile corporate skeptic about global warming, said in September that it was considering ending its funding of a think tank that has sought to cast doubts on climate change. And on Nov. 2, the company announced that it will contribute more than $1.25 million to a European Union study on how to store carbon dioxide in natural gas fields in the Norwegian North Sea, Algeria and Germany.
It's a small step, but better than the all out war they've previously funded. Is it good faith or just an inevitable result of the dethroning of the Exxon backed "climate change is a hoax" Senator Inhofe? Only time will tell.

Washington Post: Energy Firms Come to Terms With Climate Change Saturday, November 25, 2006; Page A01

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Fifth Estate: The Denial Industry

A new documentary from the Peabody winning CBC News just came out. Here is the official description of the documentary:

In the past few years, a hurricane has engulfed the debate about global warming. This scientific issue has become a rhetorical firestorm with science pitted against spin and inflammatory words on both sides.

This documentary shows how fossil fuel corporations have kept the global warming debate alive long after most scientists believed that global warming was real and had potentially catastrophic consequences. It shows that companies such as Exxon Mobil are working with top public relations firms and using many of the same tactics and personnel as those employed by Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds to dispute the cigarette-cancer link in the 1990s. Exxon Mobil sought out those willing to question the science behind climate change, providing funding for some of them, their organizations and their studies.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Plane vs. Wall @ 500 mph

Since I debunk a wide variety of misinformation I might as well do something relevant to a popular September 11th conspiracy theory. As you can see the plane "mysteriously" vanishes without a trace. Some medium res pics here, here, and here.

Here is a really good site:

And here are a few more:

Purdue simulation
Purdue simulation II
Snopes on the pentagon
Popular Mechanics on 9/11

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hydrogen Economy: No backing in Physics

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Many people think hydrogen is the key to the future. However, Ulf Bossel of the European Fuel Cell Forum says the "Hydrogen economy is a structure of mind, which has no backing by physics. " To explain why, here are a few quotes.

On efficiency:
hydrogen has to be compressed or liquefied for handling, it has to be distributed, and then reconverted back to, guess what, electricity. That means electricity derived from hydrogen has to compete with its original energy source, electricity. If you go through a hydrogen chain, you find that after the fuel cell only 25% of the original electricity is available for use by consumers. A hydrogen economy is a gigantic energy waste.
He then goes on to say "compressed air has [an efficiency of] 75%, flywheels perhaps 80% and Lithium-ion batteries about 90%." In other words, hydrogen is by far the most inefficient energy storage technology discussed in the interview. Think about that for a second. The relatively cave man like technology of compressing air is 3 times more efficient. THREE TIMES!!! Yes, there is energy density problems so it's not exactly proper to compare the two. However, air powered cars that travel 70 mph (range 50 miles, more if traveling slower) are being sold in Europe. And the potential energy storage capabilities of batteries is much much greater. If the battery problem is solved then gasoline will be a slow and cumbersome technology. I will post more on that later. Ok we are getting off topic, back to hydrogen...

Quotes on scales of power:
Using hydrogen for all public air and road transport in Germany, it would take the power output of about 400 nuclear power plants plus enormous amounts of water. You need nine kilograms of water to make one kilogram of hydrogen. The Rhine river and all other rivers would be dry in the summer because the water is used to make hydrogen.
Every river in Germany would run dry? That is a LOT of water to power just one country. And just to drive the point home:
Without the slightest doubt, the technology for a hydrogen economy exists or can be developed in reasonable time. Also, hydrogen is an appropriate energy carrier for particular niche applications, or it may become an important medium for electricity storage with reversible fuel cells. But hydrogen can never establish itself as a dominant energy carrier. It has to be fabricated from high grade energy and it has to compete with high grad energy in the marketplace. Hydrogen cannot win this fight against its own energy source.

Physics is eternal and cannot be changed by man. Therefore, a "Hydrogen Economy" has no past, no present and no future. The road to sustainability leads to an "Electron Economy".
It seems Dr. Ulf Bossel feels the hydrogen economy is a joke and batteries are the key. So what does Robert Rapier, a chemical engineer at big oil, think?

Well on his blog titled R-Squared Robert Rapier says:
I was recently asked what kind of cars we would be driving 100 years from now. Without hesitating for a second, I replied “Electric cars.”
And he confirmed Ulf Bossels findings in the comments of his blog as well.

Considering AC Propulsion's tzero does 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, and the Tesla does 0-60 in 4 seconds then the only thing that's holding us back is batteries. The good news is there is tremendous room for improvement for battery technology. Solid state batteries, Super caps, and carbon nanotube batteries all have tremendous potential. (more on that later) Unfortunately this area isn't a hotbed of federal funding and R&D. Yet for some reason hydrogen is being aggressively funded. The dissonance between the politicians and the scientists is often comical.

TheWatt- Interview with Ulf Bossel - Hydrogen vs Electron Economy
TheWatt- Podcast with Ulf Bossel
"Intelec '05" - On the Way to a Sustainable Energy Future
R-Squared - Cellulosic Ethanol vs. Biomass Gasification
R-Squared - Electric Car Breakthrough?
MSNBC - Car runs on compressed air, but will it sell?

Other sources:

JOSEPH J. ROMM (Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary US Department of Energy), The Hype about Hydrogen
Salon, Just say no, to hydrogen If we're serious about stopping global warming, hybrid cars make a lot more sense than a hydrogen future, says Joseph Romm, a former Clinton administration energy official.

Physorg caught on to the news:

Physorg, Why a hydrogen economy doesn't make sense, 15:44, December 11, 2006
Bossel, Ulf. “Does a Hydrogen Economy Make Sense?” Proceedings of the IEEE. Vol. 94, No. 10, October 2006. (PDF)

And so did Robert Zubrin, an aerospace engineer and president of Pioneer Astronautics:
Robert Zubrin, "The Hydrogen Hoax," The New Atlantis, Number 15, Winter 2007, pp. 9-20.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Grudge Match: Dems vs Exxon, FIGHT!

According to this article:
The Democrats plan to rescind $11.6 billion in energy subsidies for Exxon Mobil and other oil companies and require pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer Inc. to negotiate with Medicare on prescription-drug prices.
I'm not going to comment about the prescription drugs but the Exxon subsidy removal is excellent news. $11.6 billion in direct subsidies and tens of billions in military subsidies (last I read it was ~$1.50 a gallon) to control unstable regions is an unfair advantage to competing alternative energy. I'm hoping the democrats will take the 11.6 billion and invest it in the development of alternative energy technologies. According to the recently deceased Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley, that is more than enough money to fund the research that could solve all of our problems.

Source:, Democrats Hold `Grudge' Against Republicans' Corporate Allies

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Wooden Stake in Newsweek's Global Cooling Heart

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William Connolley claims imminent global cooling was never predicted by the scientific community in the 70's. He has documented this on his website and reiterated this on as well.

Despite all of this, Senator Inhofe has been waving around a 1975 Newsweek article titled "A cooling world" which claimed scientists thought we were heading for a "little ice age". Inhofe used this to discredit the scientific community. These actions seem to have prompted Newsweek to re-examine their old article. In this self-review they reference Connolley:
The point to remember, says Connolley, is that predictions of global cooling never approached the kind of widespread scientific consensus that supports the greenhouse effect today. And for good reason: the tools scientists have at their disposal now—vastly more data, incomparably faster computers and infinitely more sophisticated mathematical models—render any forecasts from 1975 as inoperative as the predictions being made around the same time about the inevitable triumph of communism.
That makes it seem like Newsweek was trying to imply that scientists were making predictions about imminent global cooling. Yet they dismiss this mishap by saying the technology just wasn't very good back then and the consensus wasn't very strong so those predictions couldn't be trusted. Yet somehow we should forget all of those "mistakes" and trust the current predictions. Newsweek continued to defend themselves by saying: In fact, the [1975] story wasn't "wrong" in the journalistic sense of "inaccurate". Well here we have a problem. The website that Newsweek links to actually conflicts with their defense. Also, the author of that website William Connelly, responded to the most recent Newsweek article by telling us "not to take your science stories from the mass media". Given this conflict, I decided to buy the 1975 National Academy of Sciences report and see for myself. The report is titled "Understanding Climatic Change, A Program for action" and is featured in the picture above. A picture that I took with my very own camera. The ISBN# is 0-309-02323-8.

So what does it say inside?

At the bottom of page V of the forward it says:
Unfortunately, we do not have a good quantitative understanding of our climate machine and what determines it's course. Without this fundamental understanding, it does not seem possible to predict climate-neither in short-term variations nor in any in its larger long-term changes.
Wow. It says we "can't predict climate". So what does it say we need to do? What actions are needed? Lets skip to page 9 which is the beginning of the chapter titled Summary of Principle Conclusions and Recommendations. It lists 6 recommendations. They are:

1) Adopt a national program to study the climate
2) Analyze climate data from conventional instruments, satellites, etc.
3) Develop a program to monitor and index all climate data.
4) Accelerate research on climate.
5) Adopt an international program to study climate. (same as #1 but just international)
6) Try to reconstruct the history of the earths pre-industrial climate via tree rings, fossils, etc.

There is no doom and gloom, no national emergency, there are no dire predictions of the world coming to an end. It's just a bunch of scientists saying there might be a problem but we don't know because nobody has studied this crap. So please exercise some common sense and hire someone to study the earth. In short, it is exactly how William Connelley describes it on his website.

So where did Newsweek get their information to claim their story was accurate? Who made those predictions? I don't know. In 1975 Newsweek said "Others regard the cooling as a reversion to the little ice age" but they never said who those "Others" were. Considering the National Academy of Sciences is the premier authority on this subject, and both Science and Nature are devoid of gloom and doom, I'm not sure their source matters. Were there scientists back then that were worried? Sure, there will always be someone that fears the unknown. Is that fear in any shape or form comparable to current models or projections? Well since that fear never made it into either peer review or the national policy recommendations via the NAS, there seems to be a clear distinction between the two.

Newsweek should stand up and admit their mistakes. Maybe after they do that the industry shills will stop using Newsweek's error to discredit the entire scientific community.

Scans of the NAS book's forward:
Page V
Page VI

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Exxon's Lee Raymond to chair the NPC


The NPC is a federal advisory committee to the Secretary of Energy. From 1946 until the implementation of the U.S. Department of Energy Organization Act of 1977, the NPC served as an advisory body to the Secretary of the Interior. The NPC is currently chartered by the Secretary of Energy. The sole purpose of the Council is to advise, inform, and make recommendations to the Secretary of Energy on matters pertaining to oil and natural gas or to the oil and gas industries.

Some may find it interesting that the chairman of this whitehouse advisory committee has long funded think tanks that say cigarettes don't cause cancer, global warming isn't real, and all of these scientists are part of one massive scam. Considering he was the CEO of ExxonMobil and still has strong financial ties, he isn't exactly the most unbiased source. This by itself is not a big deal. But the real question is how many other people the Secretary of Energy listens to? Earlier I highlighted some rather odd behaviors by the Whitehouse. Behaviors that are not only very damaging to the scientific community but are also at odds with the messages put out by the army core of engineers and even other oil companies. It seems the answer to that question may very well be "no-one".

Relevant info:

Bush’s Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman has hand-picked former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond to lead an influential study to develop policy solutions to America’s energy crisis. Exxpose Exxon is running a petition to have him removed from the study. An uphill battle for sure.