Fake Green Has Asthma Sufferers Seeing Red!

December 18, 2008

At first glance, it seemed like asthma inhalers were going Green by changing out the CHC propulsion for the live-saving drug to a more atmosphere-friendly prompulsion agent. As it turns out, though, the biggest green in the whole thing is the dollars they’re now milking asthma sufferers and insurance companies for. The new propellant isn’t going to make that big of a difference in the environment, but does make the inhaler more prone to clogging.

The drug, called Albuterol helps asthma sufferers from suffering an attack which could be deadly. The medicine needs a propellant to work and, as of January 1, 2009, they’re going to be using a “more eco-friendly” chemical, HFA. The announcement was initially made because doctors wanted patients to expect a different taste and feel. University Health System physician Fred Campbell claims there is little resistance to the change, but it seems he’s not really paying attention.

The kicker? The new propellant raises the price from $5-10 to anywhere between $30-$60 each. That’s a pretty massive increase as it is. Now apply that to 20 million and you can see just how in the green the manufacturers are about to become. We’re all for things that are Going Green — but that Green is supposed to be going into the environment, not a drug company’s pockets.

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Fredricksburg Gets A Green Dojo

December 17, 2008

Aviv Goldsmith’s new Aikido dojo is being built Green, from the ground up. While it still employs some conventional building materials, they are being used in relatively unconventional ways, and some changes are downright radical. Large spans of metal, for example, have been replaced with engineered wood trusses because, according to Eagle Rigid Spans’ website, steel takes 17 times as much fossil fuel to produce as wood does. We’d also add that you need far less tons of wood than of steel to make those trusses, so it’s actually a lot more than that. All of this makes sense, especially from a martial art with a name that means “The Way of Harmonizing With Energy.”

Other considerations going into the mammoth structure include utilizing the sun’s rays as efficiently as possible. There are plenty of south-facing windows, and the entire facility has an open feel to it. The building sits upon 20 acres, and most of that land will be mowed only twice a year, to retain water and keep things green and natural. Temporary ponds have been established to facilitate the efforts. Insulated concrete walls as well as structural insulated roof panels are part of the plan as well. The roof panels will protect the roof from the sun’s rays during the summer months, and keep the biomass heat stored from the sun’s rays from escaping when it’s cool out.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has issued an Innovation award for the design, and the state of Virginia has likewise given accolades. We add our support as well. Instead of being destructive, this project promises to create a Greener space than it started with. What a wonderful way to harmonize with the environment!

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Blame Canada!

December 16, 2008

Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as quite so big a surprise. After all, it’s a big country with a lot of roads being supported by fuel tax. The way in which it’s being done seems very out of character for the Canadians, though. It seems clear and evident that the Canadian government is stonewalling electric cars — including those made right there in Canada!

Two electric car manufacturers, Zenn Motor Company from Quebec, and Dynasty out of Vancouver, have plug-in low-speed electric cars in production. Zenn’s designs have earned them awards in Europe, and their cars are driving in urban areas of the United States. It is all the more clear that no one is a prophet in his own town, though. Canada is flat-out stonewalling sales of the vehicles within their own country. Excuses vary with each phone call. One time, it’s claimed that they haven’t complied with a law, though they show proof that they have. Another time it’s that the department is considering revamping the requirements because they’re too broad — which avoids the question but does not answer to why Zenn is not being allowed to sell their cars when they comply with existing law.

The cost of transportation and import duties can account for a large part of the costs. In selling within their own country, the manufacturers would be able to be more competitive. But their homeland government doesn’t seem willing to budge. Dynasty has already given up fighting with their government. Both companies are about ready to take their manufacturing operations to more friendly ground.

What’s the real reason behind this? Why would Canada want to stop a company from bringing a car to market which offsets 6 tons of carbon a year, when they’re unable to meet the Kyoto Protocol agreement as it is? The same root as most evils, it’s all about money. The government taxes gasoline and diesel, and supports their roads and highways with that tax money. If they allow electric cars, that revenue is reduced. If the E-cars should become popular, that would put a major dent in their budget. For now, at least, it seems they’re more worried about the lost taxes than complying with the Kyoto treaty.

UPDATE: Canada has seen the light and Zenn’s e-cars will see Canadian roads, but the decision came too late for Dynasty, and Zenn continues to examine if they care to remain there, after the way they were treated.

Barak Obama is no fool. He has come out in strong public support of the hybrid, but been far less vocal in his support of the all-electric plug-in cars. It would seem he’s being a realist on two fronts. Firstly, there’s concern that the U.S. buyers will reject an electric vehicle which cannot be driven across the country (though relatively few ever do such driving,) but more importantly, perhaps he thought this all through and realized there’d be a need for a period of transition to allow brainstorming for a means of paying for the roads that the E-cars will drive on. That puts him one step ahead of most of us, who are just now realizing the impact an electric car may have upon the Federal Highway funds and other public benefits funded by the gasoline taxes at Federal and State levels. In some cases, cities and counties also stand to lose revenue as gasoline sales decline.

We’re entering a new era. The benefits are enormous, but there will be growing pains. For right now, that seems to be the pain of lost tax revenue. We will have to ferret out a solution, if we’re going to enjoy the government’s support of our bold new clean Green cars.

Meraki’s Solar Brings WiFI to the Great Outdoors

December 15, 2008

Meraki Solar recently announced that they’ve taken the first ever solar-powered WiFi mesh device to market. Public places will now be able to use the Meraki system to provide a WiFi hotspot in places where it would have been difficult, costly, and expensive to do before. With their system, the need for cables is all but gone, so WiFi can be provided easily most anywhere!

Meraki SolarThe unit comes with both a solar panel and a Lithium battery, so it is able to store the sun’s energy even even if it’s not in use at the time! The unit is entirely self-contained, compact and convenient. Just put it on a wall, a post, a fence — anywhere you find some sun!

Sanjit Biswas, the CEO of Meraki, said that Meraki Solar allows customers to “deploy wireless in hard-to-wire areas quickly and without disrupting their businesses.”

Prices for the solar-powered repeater range from $848 to $1,497. No, that’s not cheap, but it eliminates the substantial expense of running electricity to a remote location, (sometimes the most expensive part of the entire installation,) making it less expensive than a hardwired installation. The company also provides a web-based Dashboard, so you’re able to monitor the battery’s charging status.

Suffering from sticker-shock?  Meraki is also offering a solar-powered repeater which will extend the range of your home or office Wi-Fi by as much as 700 meters — for a total of less than $150!

Solar powered WiFi systems aren’t a brand new thing, but Meraki’s all-in-one commercial solution is the first of its kind, and promises to be considerably more practical than previous piecemeal combinations have been, and it’s all Going Green!

Look forward to finding a WiFi signal in more remote locations in the near future!
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Mini Challenges Detroit, Wins Race By Years!

December 14, 2008

Maybe it’s a size thing. There must be SOME good reason why Mini managed to build an electric production model car in 10 months when GM’s Chevy Volt hasn’t been able to do so in 3 years and a LOT of money. But sure enough, there it was at the November 2008 L.A. Auto Show, the Mini E!

BMW-owned Mini has a way of doing things their own way, and this is no exception. Five hundred Mini E electric cars will be build put on the road as long-term test drive cars. The price? Well, that may make some of the nearly 10,000 people who have signed up for the Mini E take a pause. The lease is a scathing $850 a month — to be a part of the experiment. Of course that’s offset a bit by the fact that they’ll cost next to nothing to run or maintain.

Mini is looking at this as the first stage of their ascendancy — a Beta Test, per se. “The know-how gained from this project will help us perfect the Mini E’s innovative drive system and speed production of a mega city car,” said Mini spokeswoman Natalie Bauters. Already their first stage is a lot more car than most others’ best efforts.

What’s under the hood? 150 kilowatts of electric motor producing 204 horsepowers of instant torque, kept in juice by a high-performance lithium-ion battery that Mini says is good for 150 miles per full charge. There’s a single-stage helical gearbox to put the power out to the front wheels. Zero to 60 is about 8.5 seconds (which seems a bit slow, considering, and may be improved.) This Mini E’s maximum speed is limited to 95 m.p.h. The down-side? The batteries took posession of what would have been the rear seats; this Mini is a 2-seater… with the very consistent stylings of a Mini, not too far off from their Coopers.

Before you rush out the door, remember that there are only 500 available, and there’s a long list ahead of you. But you should be seeing them on the streets of L.A. and New York very soon… which is a lot more than anyone can say for the Volt. Ain’t it amazing? And BMW hasn’t asked us for one red cent in bailout.
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Silver-zinc — the Battery of the Past and Future

December 13, 2008

Lithium Ion batteries, several varieties of them, are the mainstream these days, for everything from cameras and laptops to the latest electric cars. They’re good on many levels, but not without dangers. IT’s not common, but sometimes they overheat — VERY abruptly, and catch fire or explode. This puts them into the Danger Zone category, meaning that we still need to be working on something newer, better.

Or do we? Silver-Zinc is the new best thing. It’s not really new, though. The military and aerospace industries have been using silver-zinc batteries for some time now, with tremendous success, but they were never made to be rechargeable.

Whereas a Lithium battery has a cobalt core and uses a highly flammable liquid as their electrolyte, the Silver-Zinc batteries have something far more safe, less volatile, in their center: Pure, simple water. What makes the technology even better is that they can produce about 40 percent more power at the same size. But that’s still not the best part.

ZPower, a California company, is developing a Silver-Zinc battery — with a very responsible twist. They promise to be the first battery manufacturer to buy back the batteries after they’ve been depleted, to recycle the silver. How much? Ross Duebner, CEO of ZPower, isn’t promising, but says it’ll be in the tens of dollars. They can do it, because they find that their battery is about 95% recyclable by weight. Lithium Ion batteries may be recycled as well, but it’s only technically true. What happens with them is that they’re melted down for their lithium and cobalt, and the other parts of the battery help fuel the fires that do it, so TECHNICALLY they’re being recycled… kinda…sorta… right? Meanwhile, Silver-Zinc batteries have no toxic chemicals in them, and no dangerous heavy metals. Moreover, once the silver is mined, by recycling it, silver-zinc batteries become a closed loop, a renewable source of rechargeable batteries.

Their new laptop battery should extend at least two hours beyond a 5 hour Lithium battery’s useable time; ZPower’s Silver-Zinc laptop batteries are expected to run your computer for at least seven hours on a charge.

That’s a pretty big boast. Considering their backers, ZPower may just be able to back it up. Intel and OnPoint Technologies, which is a venture capital fund of the U.S. Army, are amongst those on board with ZPower.

At least at first, these batteries won’t be any cheaper than Lithium. Silver isn’t inexpensive, and they do deliver more power, but we’re hoping that the price will come down. Maybe silver-zinc technology will end up being the standard for all sorts of batteries, a welcome solution for storing alternative energy sources.

A key part of the Green nature of the silver-zinc battery remains that it’s truly able to be recycled, not just burnt to a crisp and then having a few key elements floated back out in a smelting pot. Despite claims to the contrary, that’s pretty much exactly what happens when Lithium Ion batteries are supposedly “recycled.”

But will people do so? Will they return their silver-zinc batteries, or just toss them in the trash? With the buyback program in place and financially viable, it should be a no-brainer that people will turn them in. ZPower cites that large bulky lead batteries are recycled at least 90 percent of the time. Then again, they’re in your car already, and your car’s at the shop so, to the consumer, Recycling amounts to disposing at the same time. There’s minor room for concern, but the buy-back program should ensure that the metals are recycled.

It seems like silver-zinc technology could very well be our next Green thing.
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Neil Young: Detroit’s Dinosaurs Can Go Electric

December 12, 2008

It seems everywhere there’s a push for smaller, lighter, more energy efficient cars. These days it’s a foregone conclusion that the cars of the near future will be electric. For Neil Young, the venerable singer-songwriter and outspoken environmentalist, that doesn’t mean having to choose between the huge Detroit beast he loves and the toxic gas consumption we all hate. It’s all about walking the talk, right? Neil Young has formed a company, Linc Volt Technology, and is using his beloved 1959 Lincoln Continental as proof.

“Detroit can do without that $25 billion in retooling loans,” Mr. Young says, “It can make electric cars from existing designs with the tools it already has.” In walking the talk, he has combined forces, pulling together an international team to convert his mammoth 5,000 pound Lincoln Continental from a 9-1o mpg fuel hog to a very friendly 100 mpg example of what can be done. On board is UQM of Denver, the company providing the electric engine, and the Australian firm responsible for building the engine that carried an aircraft around the world without refueling. Young’s car would be a hybrid, with a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) motor generating electricity. Young thinks that the car may end up generating more juice than it uses, meaning that when you plug it in when you get back home, it will actually run your home meter backwards. But he concedes that Detroit’s versions would probably benefit from lighter materials.

Young isn’t the only one who wants a bigger Green vehicle. Salesforce.com Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, wants a F-150 converted. Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, is pushing for a government program to retrofit existing trucks and SUVs, giving them a plug-in electric engine. It seems more than a few people want to keep on having big cars AND be Green while they’re at it. We’re not thrilled that it still has a combustion engine in it, but applaud his efforts to go Green and conserve the energy created while the CNG engine is at it.

How does he like his conversion car? “It’s just a lot faster. A lot healthier… It went from being a hog to being a swan.”
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Going Green for the Holidays

December 11, 2008

All across the country, environmentally friendly folk are looking for ways to be conscientious this holiday season. Being a responsible Green citizen isn’t really difficult, and it may actually save you money while reducing our carbon footprint. Here are a few suggestions. Got others? Please, add them with a comment!

#1 Buy Local. When we’re searching for gifts, we’re usually after something especially for that person. Sure, an Asian-made electronic game system or component may seem like the safe bet, but putting just a little extra time and thought into the process of choosing a gift may find you making a big difference to the environment. When possible, buy things that are made locally, or don’t have to be shipped very far. This reduces the carbon footprint, the amount of poisonous carbon dioxide we put into the air. Buying locally also supports our home area financially. Both are great reasons to buy local.

#2 That gift-wrapping paper can be recycled — right there at home! Rather than stuffing it all into plastic garbage bags and hauling it to the trash, think of ways to reuse it. Substitute wrapping paper for newspaper or peanuts when you’re packing goods to be shipped. Some papers may be able to be used as compost or mulch for your garden. Lining drawers with the larger pieces. Of course, it never hurts to buy paper that comes from recycled sources either. You might even try using left-over fabric as a wrapping material. Christmas cards can be made into ornaments

#3 Do your shopping and browsing around online. It costs less than driving and opening and closing doors, and is a lot easier and less stressful, too! During the holidays, even buying online can be more fuel-efficient, as the carriers’ drivers are already out delivering nearby you. If you DO go to the stores to shop, remember to bring your own bags with you. Reusing is recycling, too!

#4 If you must have a tree, buy a real, pesticide and paint free one — or better yet, buy a live tree and move it outdoors when the season is over.  The artificial trees are made of plastics, and that’s one of those petroleum products that we just can’t afford to continue to endorse.

#5 If there’s someone in your world who hasn’t yet gone to digital cameras, cut down on the use of papers and toxic chemicals by getting them a digital camera. At the very least, use your digital camera, and email pictures (or links to the album) to everyone later. While we’re at it, how about giving gifts that encourage others to go Green as well?

With just a little thought, your holidays can be merry and Green – and isn’t that a lot better than just bright? Spread the word while you spread the cheer! Help your friends and family with their Going Green for the holidays!

Got other suggestions? Leave us a comment; Post ‘em here!

Recycling Slams to a Sudden Stop

December 10, 2008

All across the nation, recycling has hit an abrupt and solid brick wall. The economy has fallen off sharply and China, the largest buyer for recycled materials, just isn’t buying. With prices so low that they’re not worth handling, recycling centers all across the nation are at a loss as to what to do with what has suddenly become just so much trash.

How bad is it, really? Tin was at $327 a ton earlier this year. Now? Five bucks. That’s it. Collect, compact, contain, warehouse, and handle it, and you get $5 for a 2,000 pounds of vegetable cans. Even at the lower gas prices, it doesn’t pay to start up the heavy equipment to load it onto a truck in the first place. And it’s not just tin either. West coast prices for mixed paper are down to $20 a ton, less than a fifth of the $105 of earlier this year. Gas prices haven’t fallen that far.

Some recycling centers are warehousing it… and warehousing it… and warehousing even more, in hopes that the prices will come back up. They don’t have much choice. It cost them more to gain it in the first place than the buyers are paying now. Some have government contracts to keep collecting it, but the market just doesn’t justify the costs.

The single exception is glass. It seems there’s still a domestic demand for that. But all that paper and plastic that we’ve been so conscientiously separating and hauling to the colored bins and dumpsters? It’s likely that it’s headed for landfill… or worse. While you may have been recycling because it’s good for the planet, THEY were doing so because it made money.

Two questions remain:

1) Why do recycled products cost so much more than new materials when we’re giving it to them, (only to have it sold at a profit,) and we then buy it back as other products?

2) Are we still supposed to be separating and recycling this stuff?

Sooner or later, the falling economy was bound to affect recycling. Perhaps the better idea these days is to use less in the first place.

Here’s a thought: Just because they’re not accepting it at the recycling bins doesn’t mean you can’t still recycle, right there at home. Do you buy bottled water? Start refilling them, reuse them instead of throwing them out. Do you ship things? Take that paper, those egg crates and other clean recyclable products, and use them for packing. Tin cans? What about craft projects, pencil holders, robot toys? If push comes to shove, smash ‘em down and warehouse ‘em yourself.

Times are changing. We’ll adapt, and figure things like this out. Local solutions may be developed.

Meanwhile, use less, and keep on recycling right there at home.

Pakistan Gets First Wind Turbine

December 9, 2008

Zorlu Enerji Group installed the very first wind turbine generator in Pakistan on Wednesday, December 3, 2008, in Jamphir, Sindh. The 100 meter tall unit (over 300 feet high) is completely installed, and expected to start generating power before the end of the year. This is a big step forward for Pakistan, where approximately 1/3 of their population has no access to electricity whatsoever.

Zorlu Energy Group spokesperson said they will build the very first wind farm in Pakistan as well. The first phase is expected to be completed by January, 2009, and will provide electricity to 60,000 households. The plant will reach it’s full 50 MW capacity with the second phase. Plans are in place to eventually increase the farm’s capacity to 300 WM, which is comparable to the abilities of the Kanupp nuclear power plant. Even with the nuclear plant, half of the country has been subject to blackouts, further reinforcing the need for this wind farm.

Several risks are involved in a project of this kind in this location. There is considerable political risk, and the project must be prepared to weather social unrest, terroist attack, natural disasters… and yet most of this would also be true anywhere in the world, including southern California. Furthermore, the bureaucracy of Pakistan is very friendly towards alternative energy sources. and investors enjoy a transparent regulatory environment.

Pakistan’s combined generation is currently at 20K MW. 61% is produced by public sector, while 39 % is produced by private investors. Pakistan welcomes alternative energy potentials.

Zorlu Holding is one of the largest and leading groups in Turkey and it has been active in the energy sector through the nine companies of the Zorlu Energy Group since 1993.
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