Sunday, September 26, 2004

Strategies for a Small Planet: the politics of energy and barometic pressure as an energy source

Popular Mechanics reports a new system that uses differences in barometric pressure (and the Bernoulli effect) to power turbines. The article is called Power from Thin Air and is very exciting to me.

[Anthony] Mamo estimates it would be possible to produce power from his [barometric power] system for less than 1 cent per kilowatt-hour, compared to 4 to 6 cents for windmills and 11 to 14 cents for nuclear plants. |Link|

Imagine a source of power that is cheap, clean, and infinite.

Of course, that already describes solar power, wind power, and wave power.

I ask myself over and over again, what is wrong with our society that we aren't implementing these technologies on a massive scale?

What defect in national character or native intelligence keeps us from adopting sustainable energy policies?

Jim Hamilton recently posted an interesting piece on campaign coverage of oil politics and the difficulties of America's continuing love affair with middle eastern oil over at the Bellman. frames the question this way:

[W]hich do we want more: a comfortable standard of living, or a foreign policy that keeps us out of regional conflicts?

I'm afraid that I already know the answer to that one...

But there are some people who are working hard to protect the environment.

Slashdot recently covered an experimental house design that is virtually energy independent sponsored by the Portland Office of Sustainable Development. The Office of Sustainable Development has assembled a list of the top ten green choices for home builders and remodelers.

The Canadian Broadcast Network has an article on building your own solar-powered bicycle/scooter. The promised free blueprints do not appear to be available yet.

Those rabid environmentalists over at the Christian Science Monitor have an article by Mark Clayton discussing how Americans can help save energy without putting much of a crimp in their lifestyle by using more energy efficient materials and designs.

Selected quote:
Efficiency has worked before, these experts add. From 1977 to 1985, the nation's gross domestic product rose 27 percent while oil use fell 17 percent, Mr. Lovins points out. At the same time, net oil imports fell 42 percent and imports from the Middle East fell 87 percent. OPEC lost half of its oil market and its pricing power....To Lovins, the key is weaning a nation from its dependence on oil imports with a new generation of ultralight automobiles made from ultrastrong carbon fiber. Powered by hybrid and eventually fuel-cell technology, such vehicles would vault the US ahead of other nations technologically and help it "win the oil endgame," he says. "Some day our cars will be made of carbon fiber materials that weigh half as much and are twice as strong," Lovins adds. "We'll fly on airplanes that have better engines, but are lighter and more aero-dynamic. Cars and planes will still look the same, but the greater efficiency and lower fuel costs will pay for themselves."

Of course, the current administration's response to something as simple as energy conservation is contempt:

"Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy," said Vice President Dick Cheney in dismissing the idea two years ago. |Link|

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