Book of the Month

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Your ticket, sir

For an example of profits trumping fair traffic policing, The Consumerist blog cited a Canadian Yahoo article, Cellphone ticket baffles senior with no phone:

A Winnipeg couple is shaking their heads, wondering why they got a ticket for talking on a cellphone while driving — when they don't own a cellphone.

Laszlo Piszker and his wife, Margaret, were pulled over by two city police officers in the 2500 block of Portage Avenue on Friday.

Piszker was handed a $199.80 ticket, even after he urged the officers to search him and the car for any sign of a cellphone.

"I told them, 'Do whatever it takes. There's no phone in here; never has been. I don't know anything about the phone.' But they won't have it," ...

Immediately after getting the ticket, the couple went to a nearby police station to complain.

Piszker said the officer there laughed and suggested the ticket was likely issued to fill a quota. [Read more]

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Absolutely Fabless


During his keynote speech at the Energy Innovation Summit, Dr Steven Chu cited an ARPA-E grant recipient, Envia Systems, which has announced, "a more energy-dense lithium ion battery that it says will be cheaper than today's batteries and allow for an electric car with a 300-mile range." [Read more]

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The World's Dirtiest Oil

TransCanada is moving ahead with the Southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline that would take oil, and synthetic oil from tar sands, from Cushing, Oklahoma to the refineries and ports near the Gulf of Mexico. A White House press release stated: [Read more]

The President welcomes today's news that TransCanada plans to build a pipeline to bring crude oil from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf of Mexico. As the President made clear in January, we support the company's interest in proceeding with this project, which will help address the bottleneck of oil in Cushing that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production, currently at an eight year high. Moving oil from the Midwest to the world-class, state-of-the-art refineries on the Gulf Coast will modernize our infrastructure, create jobs, and encourage American energy production.
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The Bricked Battery Affair

I watched a brief video on Motley Fool last weekend to the effect that Tesla Motors is a good investment while Zipcar has probably grown to its upper limit within walkable urban cities. But I'd be concerned about the bricked Roadster battery reports, which are getting fierce on both sides. A dogpile search shows dozens of stories like "Tesla Downplays Danger of Bricked Battery" and some that ridicule anyone that wouldn't already know that batteries will discharge. Meanwhile, self-proclaimed experts on Slashdot swear that LIon batteries couldn't possibly be fully discharged because they found an old cell phone once and recharged it. [Read more]

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Cold Fusion Believers and Homecoming Queens

 

As we've seen in the comments to my last two posts, cold fusion, or LENR, has many skeptics and some firm believers. Scientific American describes a film, The Believers: [Read more]

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It's Going To Be Complicated


Gasoline is expensive, getting more expensive, and that threatens our wide-ranging American way of life, y'all. The conservative solution seems to be drill, baby, drill and frack, baby, frack and pipeline, baby, pipeline. Others are looking for the big technological breakthrough—the dilithium crystals that will keep the Starship America on its continuing mission.

In his latest Technological Update, Tom Whipple feels that there are two possible sources of energy that might replace fossil fuels. The bad news is that one is hydrogen. The worse news is that the other is cold fusion. Whipple is being cautious in his writing, but he still gives LENR more credence than do most of us: [Read more]

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Fracking, Drilling OK in Theory


In UT: No Evidence of Groundwater Contamination from Hydraulic Fracturing, Rigzone lets fracking off the hook:
  [Read more]

No direct connection has been found between hydraulic fracturing and reports of groundwater contamination, according to a study released Thursday by the Energy Institute at The University of Texas of Austin.

The study found that many of the problems linked to hydraulic fracturing are related to common oil and gas drilling operations such as casing failures or poor cement jobs.

Researchers also concluded that many reports of contamination can be traced to above-ground split or other mishandling of wastewater produced from shale gas drilling, rather than hydraulic fracturing per se, said Charles "Chip" Groat, an Energy Institute associate director who led the project.

"These problems are not unique to hydraulic fracturing," Groat said in a statement.
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Longtails to Long Tailpipes

My massage therapist now rides a big black Yuba Mundo cargo bike, or longtail, like the one in the video above. While I was on the table he raved about the financial advantages of ditching his car, skipping the bus and cycling around town. He had even let his Zipcar membership lapse. He likes riding in an upright posture, because it takes stress off his arms, which are his tools. He's been riding all winter, which has been mild, but I do see people riding in the snow. I haven't been willing to try that, even though Dmitry Orlov says it is common enough elsewhere: [Read more]

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Hofmeister-Patzek Debate

The video above efficiently trims the discussion to one hour. The debate proceeded as I expected. [Read more]

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Keystone XL & $5.00 Gasoline


An email from 350.org warns that the Keystone XL pipeline project is already being revived. You can sign a petition against that action here. While we follow the unfortunate death of Whitney Houston or the trial from the unfortunate death of Yeardley Love, or even the GOP Primary follies, oil interests are trying to pull a fast one:

Senate Trying To Sneak The Keystone XL Pipeline Onto Obama's Desk Through An Unrelated Bill [Read more]

After last month's decision by the Obama administration to reject the 1,700-mile-route of the Keystone XL Pipeline, Republican lawmakers are trying to revive the controversial project by attaching it to transportation legislation.
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DC Auto Prototype Show

 [Read more]

"It's a prototype; it's not supposed to work. That's why they call it a prototype." - Texas Rangers (2001)

Getting to the DC Auto Show was easy. I drove South on I-95, parked at Greenbelt metro station, then took the green line seven or eight stops to the Mt Vernon Square / Convention Center station. I walked from the station into the convention center just as the show opened. Toyota had a Ride & Drive booth near the ticket area, so I scanned my driver's license and quickly found myself getting into a Prius v - which is called an extended hatchback wagon, but just looks like a longer Prius.
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Obama attends DC Auto Show (before me)


 
I stopped by Light Street Cycles today to buy a brighter taillight. The weather's been so unseasonably warm that I'm riding to the light rail, but it's really dark in the morning. The owner showed me all sorts of rechargeable blinkies, and I bought a Knog Boomer. I also signed a petition to complain about building a new street with no bike lanes right next to two college campuses, UMB & MICA. Then I told the owner that I was planning on visiting the Washington Auto Show tomorrow, and being a bike person, she looked puzzled. When I told her I wanted to see the Leaf, she seemed satisfied.
 [Read more]
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Operation Plowshare

I just added Operation Plowshare to the long list of stuff I never knew about.

Following links, I ended up at 1967 Recklessness in PA Equals Destruction? at How Should We Do the Mountain blog: [Read more]

In hindsight, the plan seems impossibly audacious: Explode a 24-kiloton atomic bomb in the thick shale beneath the Sproul State Forest near State College to create a massive cavern for storing natural gas. Known as Project Ketch, it was a partnership between the Columbia Gas System Service Corp. and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, which was hungry to find peaceful purposes for nuclear technology. (Another commission brainchild of the era: to nuke its way across Panama to create a second canal.)

Back then, Harrisburg had the red carpet out for any nuclear project, no matter how bizarre, and the proposal caught on. Why not put all that empty forest land to good use? Pennsylvania could cash in big, because the industry and the AEC hoped to detonate as many as 1,000 nuclear bombs to allow gas storage in the Northeast.

While the plan had the blessing of lawmakers from downstream districts along the Susquehanna, the reception wasn’t as enthusiastic upstream. Among those opposed were the residents of Renovo, which was ground zero for Project Ketch.
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The Man Who Fell for Fusion


Back in the 1980s, no one could replicate Pons and Fleischmann's claims about cold fusion, and the idea of controlled fusion without tremendous costs became a sort of atomic snake oil. ITER's tremendously expensive controlled "hot" fusion is still decades away from practicality, but the hydrogen bomb seems to suffice as proof of concept. Cold fusion has crept back into the news, but not into peer-reviewed discussion. Skeptics attack the few articles published with a fury. Peak Oil guru Tom Whipple is used to doubt, and has followed the issue dispassionately in a handful of articles. His Cold Fusion Update discusses the current claims of Italian entrepreneur Andrea Rossi: [Read more]

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Hybrids: Alt Energi



Even though Detroit is hurting, the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is still a big deal in the industry. The historically Big Three did fairly well in 2011, particularly Chrysler, which increased sales some 26% more than 2010. I hated Chrysler's product line at last year's Baltimore show, but their Imported From Detroit campaign included several redesigned models. I read one article that attributed Chrysler's comeback to a patriotic fervor stimulated by the 2011 Superbowl advertisement featuring Eminem. That would be ironic, because since June, Fiat owns about 58% of Chrysler Group, LLC. [Read more]

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EVs: Leaf and i-MiEV



I'm hoping Nissan shows the Leaf at the next Auto Show. I recently looked more closely at the specs. When the Leaf was first released, forced-air cabin heating was standard, and a cold weather package was optional. In chillier areas, the cold weather package was standard. In summer 2011, Nissan offered the cold weather package as standard throughout the US. It seems that cabin heating draws 3 to 5 KW and reduces the 75 or 100 mile range (depending on who you believe), which is already a source of concern for American drivers. Presumably front and rear heated seats, a heated steering wheel and a rear HVAC duct draw much lower wattage and eventually heat the cabin air. The package also includes a battery heater and heated outside mirrors. [Read more]

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Occupy Ogallala


I got another Keystone XL (KXL) email this morning, but it wasn't from Duncan Meisel or Bill McKibben: [Read more]

Dear Friend:

Thank you for writing.  President Obama has heard from many Americans concerning the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project, and we appreciate hearing from you.

The President is committed to creating the most open and transparent Government in American history, and values your input.  Given your interest in this matter, you may be interested in reading a recent official White House response to a petition on this issue.  To learn more, please visit: www.WhiteHouse.gov/Energy.

Thank you, again, for writing.

Sincerely,

The White House
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Daniel Yergin Gets Tight

I watched Val Kilmer in Red Planet again last night. It's 2056 and Earth has been seeding Mars with algae because our blue marble is almost toast. The acting and SFX are OK, but the plot is contrived. I like scifi enough to overlook small errors, but some of the science in the fiction doesn't make a lot of sense. Spaceships swoosh as they go by, but just about every show does that. A helper robot ignores Asimov's three laws and decides to be a ninja assassin. A scientist calls some exoskeletoned Martian insects, "nematodes," which I recall as being simple roundworms. But hey, it's escapist fantasy.

In America's New Energy Security, Daniel Yergin jumps on the tight oil bandwagon, claiming that everything's going to be fine because we're finding plenty of new oil in the good old US of A. [Read more]

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The Unbelievable Adventures

I just read that John Neville, who played Baron Munchausen in The Adventures Of ..., and the Well-Manicured Man on The X-Files, has died. In stories, Munchausen was a comical hero able to lift himself to the moon by his own bootstraps, or out of a swamp by his own hair, and so on.

In the 1970s, I wanted an EV so I could avoid sitting in gas lines. On the one hand pretty girls would walk up and down the line selling coffee, doughnuts, and Washington Posts but on the other there were fistfights and guns drawn over one's place in line. I bought a 120 mpg moped and filled it from my car's tank, so my fingers smelled like gasoline but I only had to refill every 1000 miles. [Read more]

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Natural Gas Looks Green


The greenest car in America still runs on fossil fuel: Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).
 
Honda Civic Natural Gas Named 2012 Green Car of the Year [Read more]


The all-new 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas – the only factory-built, CNG-powered car produced in America – was named 2012 Green Car of the Year® at the Los Angeles Auto Show today. The award was presented to Honda by the editors of Green Car Journal representing a diverse panel of environmental experts and automotive enthusiasts who annually select a single vehicle for its outstanding environmental performance.

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