Saturday, May 30, 2009

Should we paint our roofs white?

We used to have a white flag of surrender, now the US government is proposing a far bigger white surface option. Our secretary of energy Dr Chu has proposed that we paint our roofs white. No kidding yes he did. Is the Nobel Prize winning physicist buckling under the pressure of the job? Or has he realized the Martians are invading? No he has done a calculation that shows if roofs were painted white less heat would be lost in the winter from our homes and more heat would be reflected away from our homes in the summer. This simple act of painting roofs white will save a couple percent of the energy consumed in heating and air conditioning our homes. See the London Telegraph article

Chu also suggested that the paving of roads should be done with lighter color material than asphalt. This got me thinking we should have pastel color roofs and pastel color concrete roads and sidewalks. We should allow kids to decide the color of the roof of the home we live in as well as the color of the roads and sidewalks. Living in such a neighborhood would like being on an acid trip without any LSD and it would be a declaration of victory for the Hippies of yesteryear. I am all for brightening up the neighborhood and getting rid of dark color shingles on the roofs of our homes. Why did the roofing materials companies come up with dark colors in the first place? It might have been that historically tar and gravel was a simple, abundant, and inexpensive choice in the material selection process. I am sure that folks could come up with pastel colored alternatives for roofing material but they will be more expensive. In many European and Asian countries roofing of dwellings is accomplished with red terracotta tiles. This is because of the global abundance of the red clay that can be baked into tiles, pots, and other objects. In old soviet style housing drab gray concrete tiles were used. Perhaps we could resurrect concrete roofs but add some pastel tints and colorants to the concrete before it cures.

Road paving with pastel colored concrete is a much simpler task. However the production of cement is a carbon intensive undertaking. I have performed some simple arithmetic that does show over the complete lifecycle of a road that will span 20 years a pastel colored road does significantly reduce global warming compared with an asphalt road. Perhaps the government should set aside several billion dollars of the stimulus to replace the pothole filled roads in America with Dorothy’s light yellow brick road. I also have a suggestion for the government that we should install a few hundred thousand air compressor stations along our roads that would conveniently offer free compressed air for the tires in our vehicles. Most folks are driving with underinflated tires and the simple act of properly inflating tires will increase fuel economy by as much as three percent. Why not use a few of these billions of dollars of stimulus to have the news cars from Congressional Motors (the renamed General Motors) drive nicely on smooth and cool roads with properly inflated tires?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Can a Hummer really get 100 mpg?

Today I have a very interesting blog for the readers. This company called Raser Technologies is hereby awarded this quarter's Gangrene Award for their pretence to be green. These guys claim to have developed a Hummer that gets 100 mpg. Ordinarily one would laugh at them but they got the Governator excited and he loved their Hummer by exclaiming at the Society of Automotive Engineers Forum on April 20 that the "solution is not changing the size of the cars we drive but in changing the technology that drives the car." What a dumb statement from a bankrupt governor who got a F in thermodynamics. Raser Technology then took their monstrosity to Wall Street and rang the opening bell for the NYSE on May 1. Their chairman appeared on Squawk On The Street and tried to convince Erin Burnett that this oversized piece of junk gets 100 mpg.

Their audacity does not end there, on May 19th these gangrene green folks paraded their contraption on Capitol Hill and had Senator Hatch drive the thing around the Capitol.

100 mpg my elbow!! The piece of junk at best gets 33mpg and cost $40,000 more than a standard bummer. Together with Tad Patzek the Chairman of the Department of Petroleum Engineering at University Texas I helped alternativeenergy dot com bust these green imposters. David Kates writing for alternative energy dot com broke the story that the 100 mpg was a slight of hand. You must read his article by going to

Doug Schiller of alternative energy dot com also was interviewed on MSNBC who broke the news that the 100 mpg was a myth. Go to for the MSNBC article on 100 mpg more or less

Why is Raser hyping thing this. Well Raser Technologies (RZ NYSE) is a small cap stock and they are for all intents and purposes insolvent. They reported their first quarter earning recently and their balance sheet makes Chrysler look triple A. Their working capital is negative to the tune of $60 million and their net equity is negative by over $20 million. The 100 mpg Hummer is being used as a last ditch effort to inflate their stock. I had blogged in March 2008 that Raser was a hype stock when they were trading at $13.82

Raser is now trading around $4.00 even with the hype of the 100 mpg Hummer. I was correct in renaming Raser to Eraser as they are a wipe out. Remember my motto that is a misquote of Warren Buffet "be green when all are fearful and be fearful when all are green". No doubt you must be very fearful when folks are gangrene.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Can the US bust its gasoline addiction?

I did not have time for a blog but this comes to you from the US Department of Energy

President Obama Announces a Comprehensive National Fuel Economy Policy

President Obama acknowledged Alan Mulally, the chief executive officer of Ford Motor Company, while announcing the new auto policy. Nine other auto executives, the president of the United Auto Workers, and three administration officials joined the president for the announcement. Enlarge this photo. Credit: Samantha Appleton, White House
President Barack Obama announced a new national policy on Tuesday that will increase the fuel economy and reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of all new cars and trucks sold in the United States. The policy includes proposed new fuel economy standards will cover model years 2012-2016, achieving an average fuel economy of 35.5 miles per gallon (mpg) for model year 2016. That exceeds the requirements of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which required an average fuel economy of 35 mpg by model year 2020. The standards will also reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new vehicles by 30% by 2016. Over the lifetime of these new vehicles, they will save an estimated 1.8 billion barrels of oil and will avoid the emission of 900 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Cars and light trucks cause 17% of the carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.
The groundbreaking policy represents an unprecedented collaboration among the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 10 of the world's largest auto manufacturers, the United Auto Workers (UAW), leaders in the environmental community, the State of California, and other state governments. Because the policy combines fuel economy regulations with GHG regulations for vehicles, it addresses the EPA's need to set GHG regulations for vehicles while also addressing California's request to set its own GHG regulations. Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia had planned to adopt California's GHG regulations. Meanwhile, 10 major car companies and the UAW have embraced the national program because it provides certainty and predictability to 2016 and includes flexibilities that will significantly reduce the cost of compliance.
To put the new policy in place, the EPA and DOT intend to initiate a joint rulemaking for new vehicle standards. The proposed standards are expected to be divided into categories of vehicles, based on the size of the vehicles, and they are expected to include a variety of measures to allow flexibility in meeting the standards, including credits earned for actions such as implementing advanced air conditioning technologies and using additional technologies that reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Such credits would be tradable among the auto manufacturers. See the White House press release and fact sheet

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why do grannies get better MPGs?

I hope there is nobody out there who does not love their granny. I have selected this group of people as the G word of the week because they have the lowest carbon footprint of any age group. Due to their extremely slow driving they achieve far better gas mileage than teenagers. Also I have not seen a Granny driving a Hummer or and Escalade. Grannies in Tiburon tend to drive a baby Mercedes or a compact Lexus. Grannies do not accelerate rapidly nor do they brake suddenly close to the traffic light or the stop sign. In fact it almost takes an expert to identify if a granny is accelerating or braking and that is why cars are equipped with brake lights. Some grannies actually use two feet while driving an automatic vehicle. This is why their brake lights are on even when they pull off from a stop or are driving up a grade. These two footed drivers are ruining the average fuel economy for their age group and should be told that braking while accelerating and accelerating while braking is contrary to Newton’s second law of motion but congruent with his third law of equal and opposite actions and reactions.

Midas Brake Repair should offer an early bird special to Grannies who use both feet as they must need brake pads as often as they need an oil change. Enough of my picking on an age group that is not much more than a decade older than me. The news for Chrysler this past week was that the company would enter Chapter 11 and hopefully be in Chapter 12 within two months. Let’s hope they are not speed readers and turn the pages too quickly to chapter 13. It is a good thing though they missed chapter 7. I wonder what all the other chapters of the bankruptcy code are all about. Maybe we have a copy of the code in the Tiburon library and we could find out if chapter s 3 and 5 are more interesting than chapters 7, 11, and 13 that we always hear about.

I have a suggestion for the Chrysler Fiat combination company that hopefully emerges out of bankruptcy proceedings, why not target Grannies as your primary market segment? You do not need powerful engines to satisfy grannies. Fiat is famous for underpowered vehicles. Fiat is also well known for their style. Grannies are into style and color and I can only wait for the first purple Fiat 500 to drive down Tiburon Boulevard. Grannies can also loan these underpowered vehicles to their teenage grandchildren without fear that the young and the restless will break the land speed record. Jokes aside Fiat will provide Chrysler with small car technology that will offer improved fuel efficiency and that is what the Green Machine is all about. Many years ago when I was a child my Dad owned an auto junk yard in Johannesburg and he had a massive watch dog named Chrysler that roamed the yard. Both my Dad and Chrysler must be looking down from heaven in disbelief that future smaller stature guard dogs in junk yards may get named Fiat.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Garbonzo beans, nitrogen, and King Corn

Garbanzo beans also known as chick peas might just save the planet. The bean has been cultivated for eight thousand years as a source of nutrition. The garbanzo is a legume that can fix atmospheric nitrogen. Corn is not capable of fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere and therefore requires copious amounts of nitrogen fertilizer to grow. Much of the nitrogen fertilizer in the Midwest winds up travelling down the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico where a massive dead zone now exists due to the excess nitrogen. If farmers rotate garbanzos and corn as alternate crops the garbanzos can replenish nitrogen into the soil. Legumes that fix nitrogen from the atmosphere are a source of high protein food. Proteins are amino acids that are chemical chains containing nitrogen. Carbohydrates do not have any nitrogen atoms. This is why corn ha significantly less protein than garbanzos or soy beans that are both legumes. Corn has approximately 6% protein, garbanzos 25% and soy a whopping 50%. All thanks to the legumes getting their nitrogen fix from the atmosphere.

All this talk of nitrogen has me thinking about Shell Oil who now claim in their advertising promotions that their gasoline is enriched with nitrogen. Shell has patented a detergent for gasoline that contains a large fraction of nitrogen. This detergent is able to withstand high temperatures in an engine and perform the task of removing gunk that could otherwise accumulate on engine parts such as valves and pistons. As nitrogen is a key ingredient in the gasoline additive Shell stations now have large banners extolling the virtues of nitrogen.

Ammonia also contains nitrogen and folks have used ammonia solutions for almost a hundred years as a detergent. Many household detergents use ammonia a key ingredient. Other types of detergents use surfactants, enzymes, oxidants, and abrasives. Ammonia is a pretty simple water soluble molecule. It is composed of one nitrogen atom and three hydrogen atoms. Amino acids in proteins are named after ammonia. In forming an amino acid, the ammonia molecule attaches to carbon backboned chemical and in the process loses one hydrogen atom as it bonds with a carbon atom. Ammonia synthesis using high pressure nitrogen and hydrogen was first accomplished in 1909 in Germany and this chemical became the backbone for the global fertilizer as well as explosives industry. Several nitrogen containing compounds are used as explosives, the scariest of which is TNT or trinitrotoluene. TNT has also been used as the acronym for record albums and comic book heroes. A Belgium airline also named itself TNT but I doubt that too many folks fly these unfriendly skies.

I spent the first twelve years of my working experience in the air separation business working for two companies. The first company was Air Products and the second Liquid Air. I managed to make a living by manufacturing oxygen, nitrogen and argon out of thin air. The industrial uses of nitrogen are widespread and just about any manufactured item ranging from Pringles Potato Chips to Intel Pentium Chip require nitrogen in their manufacturing process. The garbanzo bean should be inducted into the air separation hall of fame, I will likely be inducted into the air separation wall of shame for spending twelve years pretending to work.