Posts Tagged ‘alternative energy sources’

Yes, the Green Stuff

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Branco CartoonIf you don’t  follow Political Cartoonist A.F.Branco’s work on Facebook then you are missing out on some great art and satire.  His cartoons, like the one on the right from a few days ago, always seem to have the right balance between ironic bite and humor.    But if you want a political cartoon to be funny it takes more than a talented cartoonist, the reader has to also know what the heck the picture is all about.  That was the problem I had when I saw a  solar powered 747 trying to crash land in algae.  I didn’t really think it was that funny because I hadn’t heard anything about the President Obama/Newt Gingrich algae thing.

So I Googled “algae” so I could try and reclaim some funny and that’s where I got the scoop on the whole Newt trying to make his own funny out of what President Obama had said.

The President said we have to be practical. Drilling won’t solve it. And then he offered his practical solution. Anybody here remember what it was?  Algae. Algae. I mean I think this summer as gas prices keep going up, one of our campaign techniques should be to go to gas stations with jar of algae and say to people would you rather have the Gingrich solution of drilling and having more oil or would you like to try to put this in your gas tank. I’m amazed that SNL hasn’t taken that speech and turned that into a skit.

Gingrich Ruthlessly Mocks Obama’s “Algae” Energy Policy

Ok, so I had to admit that what Newt said sounded funny and it succeeded in making the solar airplane funny and so I was hoping for a little more funny when I sought out what it was that President Obama actually said it.

We’re making new investments in the development of gasoline and diesel and jet fuel that’s actually made from a plant-like substance — algae.  You’ve got a bunch of algae out here, right? (Laughter.)  If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we’ll be doing all right.

Ok, well I wasn’t there, but it didn’t really sound that funny.  In fact it sounded a little condescending when he tried to explain that algae is a “plant-like substance.”   And it even made him sound a little dim since algae is not a “plant-like substance,” it actually is a plant.  And I didn’t really think it was funny that he thinks “we’ll be doing all right” if we can figure out how to make energy from algae.  What arrogance from a man to treat American’s like we all all some sort of hicks.  And when I read that the Department of Energy had made $14 million of taxpayer dollars available to support research and development of biofuels produced from algae…well I didn’t find that funny either.

I don’t really find much humor at all in government spending our money to research a process that  privately held businesses have already been investing in for years.  I brought algae here previously in a post titled Energy where I wrote how privateers from the dreaded big oil industry had aligned with visionary capitalists like Bill Gates to explore the potential of algae as a renewable fuel resource.

Bill Gates’ investment firm is funding Sapphire Energy, a company that intends to make auto fuel from algae. Sapphire Energy said Wednesday that a series B round will bring the total amount it has raised to more than $100 million.

The Energy post was from a couple of years ago and oddly enough, when I checked back now I found that Sapphire Energy is still alive, well and progressing towards viable commercial products as opposed to the fate of propped up heavily government funded companies like Solyndra.

As I have said many times, capitalism is the answer to our energy needs.

According to Environmental News Network Algae could yield more than 2000 gallons of fuel per acre per year as opposed to corn which they estimate at only 250 gallons per acre per year.  Algae also can be grown using land and water that isn’t suitable for other uses, so good land is still available for food crops.   Petrosun with another ex-big oil CEO, is a leader in algae based biodiesel and they describe the benefits in a little more detail.

Extensive research was conducted to determine the utilization of microalgae as an energy source, with applications being developed for biodiesel, ethanol, and bioplastics. Independent studies have demonstrated that algae is capable of producing in excess of 30 times more oil per acre than corn and soybean crops. Biodiesel produced from algae contains no sulfur, is non-toxic and highly biodegradable.
One of the biggest advantages of biodiesel compared to many other alternative transportation fuels is that it can be used in existing diesel engines, which relieves manufacturers of having to make costly engine modifications. Biodiesel can also be mixed, at any ratio, with conventional petroleum diesel. As a result, the alternative fuel can be used in the current distribution infrastructure, replacing petroleum diesel either wholly, or as a diesel fuel blend with minimal integration costs.

So really how funny is a commercially viable sustainable energy source that pulls CO2 back out of the atmosphere and can be used in existing vehicles and distributed in existing infrastructure?  Not really the rolling on floor laughing kind of funny is it?   It’s more like the, oh it kind of makes me look stupid for laughing funny.    I wonder if either Mr. Gingrich or Mr. Obama have gotten that yet?

We’re coming down to the end of of the road in the selection process for a conservative presidential candidate and I keep hearing how Newt Gingrich is such a brain,  but in this case he’s looking a little foolish next to the already foolish looking President Obama.  And yes it hurt to say that, but not as much as you might think because I am cheering for Mitt Romney.

Another nail in Lake Whatcom’s coffin

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

hammer and nail“Bellingham exploring new energy projects” is the name of the post by John Stark over at the Herald Blog.   He’s calling our attention to the City of Bellingham’s  look into a couple of alternative energy programs that they are just starting to look into.  The first is using water main that had service Georgia-Pacific to drive a micro-hydroelectric plant and the second is to use gas fired plant at the GP site to supply heat and electric power to Bellingham.

A small hydroelectric generating plant to harness water that could be funneled through turbines via a 48-inch industrial water main that once served the G-P pulp mill.

I’m certainly all for exploring new ways of providing energy, looking for alternative energy sources, and repurposing industrial infrastructure, but I’m a little concerned in this case.  Mr. Stark says he is working on a “more lengthy report on this for print and online editions in the next few days”  and I’m hoping to find that there are others concerned with the damage to the Lake from again opening the flood gates on the GP drain.   I believe and have stated here last year that the use of this mid-lake drain is the biggest obstacle for the health of Lake Whatcom.   I firmly believe that even the draconian restrictions which are being thrust on nearby residents won’t allow the Lake to recover until the drain is closed off and normal flow returned to the Lake.   In that same post I did suggest that we glean some hydro from the outflow of the Lake, but I was clear that we should do so from the normal outflow, not the drain pipe.    In another post, Energy, I also explained that I am a firm believer that the closer a process is to the natural process, the better it is for our environment, so until someone shows me a lake with a naturally occurring 48” diameter pipe suddenly appeared, I’m going to say that using the pipe less rather than more is better for the Lake.

Of course losing jobs and industry in Bellingham was not appealing, but with respect to restoring normal water flow and health, the Lake is fortunate that G-P closed up shop.   I’m afraid that if power generation is put in place using the mid-lake drain we will never be able to wean ourselves from it and Lake Whatcom will be doomed.

Bottom-line: I’m strongly opposed to the micro-hydro plan I see suggested at this point and would hope that the City of Bellingham would drop it from their process both to save Lake Whatcom and save the taxpayers from further funding down this gloomy path.