Friday, May 12, 2006

Friday Hope Blogging

I've been complaining quite a bit about the Big Three automakers lately, but this is pretty impressive:

GM’s Tonawanda (NY) Engine Plant, the world’s largest engine manufacturing facility, has achieved landfill-free status in its manufacturing operations by reducing waste generation, recycling and converting waste to energy. More than 95% of the waste materials from the plant’s manufacturing operations (23,233 tons annually) are recycled and nearly 5% (or 1,060 tons annually) are converted to energy at waste-to-energy facilities.
And my pal Rorschach informs me of these glad tidings:
An attempt by a Ford shareholder to force the automaker to drop protections for LGBT workers from its human resources regulations was swiftly defeated on Thursday. Shareholders at the company's annual meeting in Dearborn voted 95 percent to reject the proposal.
Meanwhile, Brockton, Massachusetts is nearing completion of the Brightfields plan it announced a few years back.
A once-polluted former industrial site that lay fallow off Brockton's Grove Street for over 40 years will soon host New England's first ''brightfields," a facility for generating solar energy. Over the next three months, a 425-kilowatt array of 1,395 solar panels will be installed across 3 acres of the old Brockton Gas Works site. The project, which will produce enough energy to power City Hall and meet a portion of the police station's energy demand, demonstrates that former industrial areas, landfills, and swaths of blighted land can be transformed into something more productive.
I'm less excited than Treehugger about these solar-powered ships, but I'll mention them anyway:
In the past week or so, two new proposals have emerged that the term audicous hardly seems to encompass. One is to build two 600 passenger hybrid-electric ferries to carry tourists to the island national park of Alcatraz from San Francisco. The ferries utilise massive solar wings to generate electricity, which cut fuel needs in half, with zero emissions while docking at the wharf. "As needed, the vessels will operate with diesel generators burning low-sulfur diesel fuel and equipped with air pollution controls that cut emissions by 70% to 90% (compared to conventional marine diesels)." The first such craft is due in two years.
The other proposal involves using solar "aquatankers" to haul water from a wet region of Australia to the drought-ridden city of Perth. Suffice it to say that I don't approve.

However, I do approve of this new design for offshore wind farms:
The wind turbines and towers would be assembled at a shipyard and placed on top of large floating cylinders. The canisters would be ballasted on the bottom with high-density concrete to keep the structure from tipping over, and the whole turbine assembly would be tugged out to sea. There, four steel cables would be attached to the platform, anchoring it to the sea floor.
The biggest benefits here are that the turbines can be sited far enough away from shore as to be invisible, and will be driven by faster and more reliable wind speeds. Also, I'd assume that using cable anchors is preferable to sinking dozens of shafts into the sea floor, both from a cost and an environmental point of view. But that's sheer speculation on my part.

In San Francisco, it looks as though an impossibly stupid power-plant cooling system is going to be shut down:
Mirant's own consultant...concluded the pumps kill 300 hundred [sic] million fish larvae every year. And water gushing from the discharge pipe — 26,000 gallons in the time it takes to read this sentence — scours the Bay's floor, kicking up sediments loaded with PCBs, mercury, arsenic, chromium and other industrial pollutants.
WorldChanging discusses organic LEDs (OLEDs), which I'm embarassed to say I've never heard of before. They sound interesting, though:
OLED's are greener to manufacture than LED's or fluorescents, and can even be printed by inkjet, instead of requiring vacuum chambers, high temperatures, and bevies of toxic chemicals like lead or mercury. This is a big reason to keep an eye on them for the future. Because of these facts, they will also end up cheaper to make than today's technologies.
Not sure what to make of this story, but it's certainly worth reading:
[O]ne particular antibiotic – fosfomycin – can treat Listeria in the body, despite it being ineffective in laboratory conditions. Because it was not effective in the laboratory, this drug has never been considered for the treatment of listeriosis, in spite of it reaching the infection sites more effectively than other antibiotics.

Professor Vazquez-Boland said: "Our results illustrate that antibiotic resistance in the laboratory does not always mean that the drug will not work in the infected patient. This work brings some optimism to the highly worrying problem of the increasing resistance to antibiotics."
Lots of blogs are talking about Worldmapper this week, and rightly so (I believe I saw it first at BLDGBLOG, so that's who gets the hat tip). Have a's fascinating, and visually stunning.

On a related note, We Make Money Not Art discusses new research on Earth's magnetic field, compiled from ship's logs dating back to 1590. If that's too dry for you, you could always watch Perversion for Profit, which brings a whole new meaning to "The Russians are coming!"