Friday, February 10, 2006

Friday Hope Blogging

Planet Ark describes the growth of solar thermal power in the desert West:

People will soon cool their homes with power from the searing desert sun, according to companies investing in a little-used solar technology. Deserts are becoming hot spots for solar thermal power in which futuristic troughs concentrate the sun's rays and create steam to run power-producing turbines at power plants. It is a different technology than rooftop solar panels.
In somewhat related news, advances in solar titanium nanotubes may reduce the cost of producing photovoltaics. Better yet, nanotubes may also allow a breakthrough in energy-storing ultracapacitors:
"This configuration has the potential to maintain and even improve the high performance characteristics of ultracapacitors while providing energy storage densities comparable to batteries," Schindall said. "Nanotube-enhanced ultracapacitors would combine the long life and high power characteristics of a commercial ultracapacitor with the higher energy storage density normally available only from a chemical battery."
Triple Pundit describes a rather odd innovation from Japan:
Tokyo Electric Power Company managed to turn a piece of waste into a valuable and useful commodity. Fly ash from their coal burning power plants is being recycled into a type of pavement that is able to retain a cooler temperature than conventional asphalt. The result is that using the pavement will also reduce the "heat island effect" in cities - the tendency for cities to have a higher ambient temperature than the weather would ordinarily dictate - resulting, potentially, in much lower utility costs.
No word on the energy required to recycle the material; this site simply says that the process utilizes 100 percent of fly ash, and can lower road surface temperature by 10 degrees Celsius.

Maine has passed a law that requires manufacturers to pay for the cost of recycling e-waste:
Beyond saving money for the local taxpayers who usually bear the brunt of municipal recycling costs, the long-term aim of the law is to give manufacturers an economic incentive to design less-toxic and easier-to-recycle products.
Other states are expected to follow suit. This is part of a welcome trend of attacking the misleading - or nonexistent - accounting behind some of our most absurd policies. Apropos of which, a study from the UK attempts to calculate the social costs of greenhouse gas emissions. It's not pleasant reading, and as Treehugger notes, their solutions aren't particularly inspiring. Still, I'm always happy to see high-profile studies of external costs. (And I'm pleased that shareholders are increasingly forcing companies to address product toxicity.)

A far more important measure of our tentative progress towards sanity is that American evangelicals finally issued a statement demanding action on climate change. It's backed up by a survey showing that:
70 percent of evangelicals believe global warming poses a serious threat to future generations, and that "63 percent of evangelicals believe that while global warming may be a long-term issue, the problem is being caused today, so we must start addressing it immediately."
Dr. Matt Prescott suggests that one way of doing this would be to ban incandescent lightbulbs:
It has been estimated that if every household in the US replaced just three of its incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving designs and used them for five hours per day, it would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 23 million tonnes, reduce electricity demand by the equivalent of 11 coal-fired power stations and save $1.8bn.
Banning them outright is unworkable, in my opinion, though an extreme stance like Prescott's can be helpful if it gets people talking. That said, you should change every lightbulb you can to compact fluorescent. And if you can, install a SunPipe.

In medical news, researchers have found a way to re-engineer an antibiotic so that it works against resistant bacteria:
The scientists replaced a single atom from the molecular structure of vancomycin aglycon, a glycopeptide antibiotic that attacks the bacteria by inhibiting cell wall synthesis, significantly increasing the drug's spectrum of activity.
Last, have a look at this fascinating animation showing the evolution of the alphabet. (Via Occult Design).


Engineer-Poet said...

You don't need a ban, just incentives.  A 10¢/watt tax on fixtures and 1¢/watt on (non-automotive) bulbs would do it in a big hurry.

Phila said...


I agree completely. Seems to be what quite a few of the respondents to Prescott's article think, too. Seems to me a ban would be crazy even if it had a hope of being accepted.