Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thank Groceries

TGIT - Thank Groceries It's ThursdayYes today's blog is brought to you by extra amount you are paying for your grocery bill. You can thank your local government, the US Government, the EU, just about every politician, Archer Daniel Midland, and the extremely incompetent group at UC Berkeley that work in the so called Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab. Yes the Wasteful and Inappropriate Lab at Berkeley was perhaps the loudest proponent over the past five years for bioethanol. When I confronted their director and staff five years ago to stop "selling" the bad science of "food for fuel" they turned a deaf ear and a blind eye. I kind of remember before the Iraq war the UN had this "oil for food" program with old Saddam. At least some of the oil Saddam sold bought food. Our incompetent leaders, our greedy commodity traders, and even the faculty of what was once the premier public university in the land sold out. Yes UC Berkeley has sold out to BP for $500 million and RAEL certainly was an active participant in this transaction. This food for oil is a crock pot of sewage and will yield more waste of land, higher food prices, and more global misery. Your groceries now cost a lot more but at least in Marin County we can eat a single sourdough baguette for the ridiculous cost of $3.29. Talking about our dough going sour, the magician of the year award goes to Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson for the trick of turning the dollar into a third world currency in no time at all. The sad point to all of this is that the poor people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America work for less per day than what a baguette now costs in Golden State.

On a more positive note my blog was mentioned in the April report of a website downunder called The monthly newsletter is free and more importantly informative. The local newspaper that reports on the Tiburon Peninsular is now carrying my articles which will appear weekly are titled "Lindsay Leveen The Green Machine" I will use these articles which are limited to 500 words to teach laypeople about the hope and hype of energy alternates.

It is very interesting to see in the news today that the Rockefeller Family is at odds with the management of Exxon Mobil about Exxon's avoidance of renewable energy as part of its portfolio Yes old John D may be turning in his grave now that his descendants have a preference for the color green in something other than the color of money.

Some good news on the conservation front. Gasoline usage in the USA dropped in February and is likely to continue to drop this year compared with last. Conservation is the only real and appropriate alternate to overcome the high price of energy and the resulting massive emissions of carbon. A real dent will be made by individuals driving less, eating less, heating less, and making fewer latte runs to Starbucks. I had previously blogged about the 140 Degree Latte, Looks like old Starbucks should merge with Stone Cold Ice Cream as Starbuck's profit has dropped by 27% and they are going to be stone cold even with their new drink called Rigor Mortis

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thank Gaylord

TGIT - Thank Gaylord It's Tuesday

Today I blog a couple days earlier in the week. Today is a very important day for the color green. Today is Earth Day. We can thank Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin for Earth day. yes it was Gaylord who had the foresight to conceive Earth Day way back in 1970.

Actually my favorite and home city of San Francisco beat Gaylord by a month by the then mayor Alioto declaring Earth Day in the city on March 21, 1970. Gaylord's first universal Earth day was held on April 22 1970.

Yes back in 1969 when Apollo 11 made it to the moon and landed humans on the moon for the first time there was great debate of the ruination of the earth. I guess not much has changed except we use almost twice as much oil in our global economy. We are still debating global warming and the need for energy conservation and sustainable development. Even good old Uncle Sam is in the Earth Day mood. yes the government has an Earth Day web site. Yes we see a picture of the President and First Lady in front of a national park sign celebrating their green accomplishment of attempting to reduce the backlog of maintenance to national parks. This makes playing the fiddle while Rome burned miniscule in comparison to mending the fence of Yellowstone while the planet consumes over 85 million barrels a day. By George He Has Got It Professor Henry Hyde Higgins exclaimed.

Back in 1969, when Alioto was mayor of the city by the bay, gas cost 30 cents a gallon. Today the news proclaimed that the average price for Regular Grade gasoline in San Francisco exceeded $4 a gallon for the first time. Gavin the Gavel Newsome our fame seeking mayor was seen drinking bio ethanol and chasing after the wife of one of his friends to celebrate his accomplishment of having the most expensive gas in the nation. But one could have bought a mansion in Pacific Heights in 1970 for $100,000, now the same mansion costs $5 million so gas is really not that expensive. Gas would need to be $15 a gallon to reach parity with that mansion. Old Gavy is considering an $11 a gallon gas tax to pay for his public works boondoggles.

Now that I have picked on both sides of the aisle in a fair and balanced way, do I see any hope as we "celebrate" Earth day 2008? Actually I do. Battery technology is improving and Lithium will come to our rescue in doubling the average fuel efficiency of vehicles. LED lighting will replace the inefficient vacuum technology of both incandescent and florescent light bulbs. Solar energy will increasing be used for heating spaces and water as well as generating PV electricity. Wind turbines are becoming common and are already competitive with fossil fuel power generation. Folks have woken up and seen the hoax being played out in hydrogen and bio-ethanol from corn and bio diesel from soy. Mostly there is money being made in being green and the greenback is the electromotive force for change in energy policy. I feel good and know that old Gaylord caused a sea change in the indiscriminate pollution of the planet with known toxins circa 1970. There will be new Gaylords in business, Congress and the White House and our great country will do more than mend fences in Yellowstone, we will show how the world how we can drive efficient vehicles, live in more efficient homes, have better public transportation, increase the fraction of our renewable electric power generation, and yet continue to enjoy economic growth without wasteful subsidies in corn ethanol or a hydrogen highway that leads to nowhere.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thank Government

Green Thursday TGIT Thank Government It's Thursday

Today we thank the government because they have finally smelled the roses and agree there is global warming. Yes the President was smelling the blooms in the Rose garden today when he acknowledged that the US will need to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 in order to save the world.

Yes the leader of the free world, with the legacy of no other commander in chief, wants to curb CO2 emissions in the year he will turn 80. Hello Houston we have a problem and we need to address it now! Dubya smelled the roses but it is now reported that bees and other pollinators cannot smell the sweet aroma of roses because of ozone pollution. It turns out that the aromatic chemicals in roses are now being oxidized by ozone pollution that primarily comes for vehicles.,2933,350968,00.html

So what do we do about ozone pollution near the ground. Well Volvo and Engelhardt had an idea that is now used on some of Volvo's vehicles. They applied a ozone depleting catalyst on the radiators of their vehicles and as the air passes through the radiator the catalyst converts ozone into oxygen.

My friend Paul in Australia alerted me to a new engine technology that promises to be almost 30% more efficient. Using very smart microelectronic controllers the engine can be rapidly switched from four stroke cycle to two stroke cycle allowing a smaller and lighter engine to have the power of a far larger engine. This out of the cylinder thinking is what is needed.

Now that we have our good news story we have to return to sad state of affairs caused by the completely misguided policy of bio-fuels. Food prices are up in the USA but at least we have food

Poorer countries in Asia and Africa have food shortages and people are starving thanks to the Department Of Entropy's misguided policy. This week I award the Gangrene Award for the dumbest energy idea to our Secretary of Entropy - Sam Bodman. Regimes around the world could be toppled much like the royalty in France in the late eighteenth century. Yosemite Sam was quoted as saying to the masses "if you have no corn for bread just eat rum cake with your bio ethanol"

Unfortunately most of this week's Green Thursday is pretty depressing news so I will leave you with the word's of a great president who also had to deal with troubled times. When JFK had to remind folks of the need for commitment to solve pressing problems he did not fumble for words in the Rose Garden, instead he said these remarkable words:
"There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction." - -- John F. Kennedy

Could someone please convey the message to our leaders that the long range risks and costs of an overheated earth without food is pretty important and worth action now.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thank Gold

Green Thursday TGIT - Thank Gold it is Thursday
Today we will discuss nano gold and its potential to save the world. I wrote parts of this blog a year ago before many of you were subscribers to Thermo Thursday, but the topic remains interesting and pertinant.

Nano materials are being investigated for unique properties and gold is considered to be one of the most promising nano materials. Nano comes from nanometer or one billionth of a meter. Gold is not the same color when it is in nano form and it is not even a metal but rather a semiconductor in nano form Old Robin Williams who was Mork from Ork never realized how important his utterance on Nano Nano would become.

A very simple use of nano gold is as an oxidation catalyst to convert carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide. Gas masks for fire fighters will be made with nano gold and the Taiwanese intend to market such gas masks soon.

Taiwan ITRI expects substantial patent income from nano-gold catalyst Claire Sung, Taipei; Esther Lam, [Tuesday 17 April 2007]

After successfully applying for patents for its self-develop nano-gold catalyst technologies in Taiwan and the US, the Taiwan government-sponsored Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) anticipates to generate hundreds of millions of US dollars in sales of commercial applications of the technology.

As gold can transform carbon monoxide (CO) to carbon dioxide (CO2) when it is in the form of nano-particles, the ITRI-developed nano-gold catalyst can be used in CO filtering applications such as gas masks. Jassy Wang, deputy general director at ITRI's material and chemical research laboratories, highlighted that the cost of ITRI's nano-gold catalyst is only one fifth of conventional materials.

ITRI has inked a 10-year licensing agreement with Taiwan-based Novax Material & Technology for nano-gold catalyst based device production and it expects patent income from the partnership could reach a minimum of NT$10 million. Novax said it will first use the material in gas mask production and anticipates that the derived business potential is worth about US$100 million.

Nano gold can be conjugated with a monoclonal antibody to deliver the nano gold to a specific target area of the body. Using near infrared light sources that will not do harm to the rest of the body these nano gold particles can be heated and the targeted cells can be thermally ablated. Altering the shape of the nano gold to cylindrical nanorods also improves the efficacy of the treatment. The Mayo Clinic reports that nano gold will be used in cancer treatment

Work at UCSF and the Georgia Institute of technology has focused on shaping the nano gold more effectively for improved cancer imaging and treatment.

Nano gold will also find use in treating Alzheimer’s disease

I am glad to see the AWEA (Americans without electric appliances) has reported that the great state of Iowa leads the nation in the rate of adoption of wind power for electricity generation. I can attest to how windy the metropolis of Ames was, while I was mastering thermodynamics at one of the world’s leading chemical and nuclear engineering departments. Don’t laugh George Washington Carver is a fellow alumnus of the Iowa State University of Science and Technology.

Iowa Leads the Nation with 5.5% Wind Power, Says AWEA

Wind power provides 5.5% of the electricity generated in Iowa, making it the leading state for wind power generation on a percentage basis, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). AWEA's annual ranking of wind power leadership, released last week, continues to show Texas leading the states in terms of both total installed wind power capacity and the amount of new wind power capacity that was installed last year. In fact, the Sweetwater, Texas, wind plant more than doubled in capacity to 585 megawatts, pushing it from fifth to second place in the size rankings, while the state's Buffalo Gap wind facility expanded to 353 megawatts, placing it in fifth place for size. The recently completed 364-megawatt Capricorn Ridge wind facility, also in Texas, landed in fourth place, while last year's 401-megawatt Peetz Table Wind Energy Center in Colorado is the only non-Texas wind plant in the top five. See the AWEA press release and report (PDF 312 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

Given the subprime crisis and high oil prices I thought that we would end today’s blog with a quote of the day rather than the word of the day. My hero Albert Einstein preferred the study of thermo over accounting for the following reason “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts” This should have been the motto of the auditors and the management at Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns as well as the Federal Reserve.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


Green Thursday TGIT Thank Gullibility It’s Thursday

Yes it used to mean if someone was green they were gullible. With all the hype of green products and Madison Avenue creating ads about the greenest car company, the greenest energy company, etc. I decided it would be good to put some thermodynamic reason to all these claims and expose the messages of these promoters against the backdrop of the gullibility of the average Joe.

Just yesterday CNN had a news headline of a company in Texas that has a super duper way for growing algae to make algae oil as a bio-fuel substitute. I had blogged on algae and their ability to produce lipids (oil) and how the lowly life-form was indeed better than bio-fuel from corn. The promoter from Texas is now making huge claims regarding the productivity of algae in producing oil. The claim that his algae can yield 100,000 gallons of bio oil per acre per year kind of blew my mind. I decided to challenge the claim by doing a simple energy balance comparing how much incident sunlight there is available in an acre of desert during a year. Turns out that in Arizona one can expect about six kilowatt hours per day per square meter of incident solar radiation. This is about 2,000 kilowatt hours per year per square meter. There are about 4,000 square meters in an acre so one has Mother Nature providing 8 million kilowatt hours per year of incident radiation per acre of Arizona desert. The Texan’s claim of 100,000 gallons of diesel type oil per year per acre can now be compared. A gallon of diesel has some 130,000 BTUs or some 38 kilowatt hours. Therefore the 100,000 gallons has about 3,800,000 kilowatt hours of energy. The Texan is not claiming perpetual motion but is claiming half of the incident solar radiation is converted in algae oil. Algae also produces protein, carbohydrate, and fiber besides oil (lipids). Lipids are typically one third the mass of the algae. The other two thirds are protein, carbohydrate and fiber. One a unit mass basis protein and carbohydrate have half the energy of lipids so the other two thirds of the algae mass has about the same energy content as the oil. Therefore the Texan is claiming almost 100% conversion of the incident solar radiation into algae on an energy balance basis. I have to say this is bunk! Most photosynthesis is only 0.1% efficient in converting solar radiation into BTUs. I would doubt that this Texan has improved this 1,000 fold and is approaching full conversion of sunlight into algae. On top of this the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere needed to be converted into plant material by photosynthesis would limit the rate at which biomass can grow. Enough said CNN was gain duped by not knowing thermo.

Given the British failure to lower electricity consumption for a day, the rest of the world attempted an hour of lower electricity consumption.,2933,343088,00.html This hour was called Earth Hour and some energy savings were affected. The problem is there are 8,760 hours in a year and we can’t save the world by gimmicks of shutting the lights on Sydney’s Opera House for an hour.

Yahoo did have an interesting article to tell the average Joe how to save gasoline while driving on the freeway by slowing down. Yes Yahoo has finally found the formula that shows the power needed to propel a vehicle through air is proportional to the cube of the velocity. Of course slowing down has an almost exponential effect in saving gas. Why not slow down all the way to zero and walk or take a bicycle. The folks in the holy land are trying to do this by having an inexpensive bicycle leasing program Paris will have 20,000 rental bicycles available at 1,500 stations by year end. The West is trading cars for bicycles while the Chinese are trading bicycle for cars. Just goes to prove that Newton was correct in stating that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The word of the day is bellwether or a leading indicator of future trends. The bicycle bell will be a bellwether indicator of whether the bell has tolled on peak energy usage.

bellwether \BEL-weth-uhr\, noun:A leader of a movement or activity; also, a leading indicator of future trends.
Raised to believe they were among their generation's best and brightest, my class can be seen as a bellwether for a generation caught without a compass on the cutting edge of uncharted territory.-- Elizabeth Fishel,
Reunion: The Girls We Used to Be, the Women We Became
Before that election, Maine's proud citizens had fancied their state to be a sort of bellwether, a notion embodied in the saying "As Maine goes, so goes the nation."-- Robert Shogan, The Fate of the Union
Bellwether is a compound of bell and wether, "a male sheep, usually castrated"; from the practice of hanging a bell from the neck of the leader of the flock.