25 September 2008

It's 1968 again! Gore calls for sit-ins

Former Vice-President and Nobel Prize Winner Al Gore called yesterday for civil disobedience to block the construction of coal-fired power plants. He told the audience at the Clinton Global Initiative conference:
  • If you're a young person looking at the future of this planet and looking at what is being done right now, and not done, I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration
He also suggest legal attack:
  • I believe for a carbon company to spend money convincing the stock-buying public that the risk from the global climate crisis is not that great represents a form of stock fraud because they are misrepresenting a material fact. I hope these state attorney generals around the country will take some action on that.
So maybe the youth of today can have a cause as exciting and involving as those in the '60s did. And when you really think about it, global climate disruption is a much bigger issue than the war in Vietnam was. Maybe it will stimulate a hundred times more outrage. Or are the times so different that young people will just shrug their shoulders. Interesting times.

See Reuters report here.

10 September 2008

OpenTrace from Rinen, Inc.

How much CO2 is associated with that beer? An extremely cool application is under development by Rinen, Inc., a Tokyo-based start-up, to answer that question, wherever you are and wherever the beer came from, whether it is in aluminum or glass, or whatever.


OpenTrace is a wiki-based database of information about products which can sum up the embodied environmental impact of products from bread to airplane rides to buses to anything. There is a demo of it here, as presented at TechCrunch50 recently. (The first half of the video is banter while setting up the demo—skip to the middle.)

This CNET article tells more. Still in early alpha, and they are looking for funding, but it could be very interesting if it comes to fruition. They say it will soon be up in demo form at OpenTrace.org.

09 September 2008

T-Shirt Energy Analysis

Have you ever wondered what the total energy consumption of a T-shirt was? I mean counting the production of the fiber (by farming or in a chemical plant), manufacture, distribution, retailing, ownership and disposal? Me neither.
But the Cotton Research and Development Corporation of the Australian government did, and they hired Queensland University of Technology Institute of Sustainable Resources researcher Francisco Javier Navarro to figure it out.

Wet T-Shirts Are Greener Than Dry

He discovered that 75% of all the carbon emissions associated with a T-shirt made, sold and worn in Australia came from washing and drying it over its lifetime. More than half the CO2 came from tumble drying alone. That means you could cut the carbon footprint of an Australian T-shirt in half by hanging it out to dry on the line rather than by using the clothes dryer.

So of all the energy embodied in a T-shirt, about one-quarter is from creating the fiber, making the fabric and manufacturing the shirt, one-quarter is from washing it and one-half is from drying it in a dryer.

I guess that's the opposite of "greenwashing".

(Original QUT press release.)

07 September 2008

How Green is the Large Hadron Collider?

It probably won't cause the destruction of Earth. That would be very ungreen. The latest word on safety was recently published in the online version of J. Phys. G: Nucl. Part. Phys. You can read about it here. But how green is it in other respects?

Well, it is costing between €3.2 to €6.4 billion to build it and run its experiments. It is the largest scientific instrument ever built. How could that money have been spent to benefit the environment?

CERN estimates that the annual power consumption for the collider will be about 800 gigawatt hours (GWh). (It could have been much higher, but the facility will not operate during the winter months.) That's about the amount of electricity used in a year by the country of Mali, or Afghanistan. At 0.5 kg CO2 per kWh, the generation of that electricity would produce 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. And that doesn't count the greenhouse gas emissions during construction, or from the manufacture of all the hardware, giant magnets, and so on.

I suppose it will be useful. It's just a question of priorities.

06 September 2008

Gas Costs Tough On Pickup Truck Drivers

Gas Prices Hit Rural Drivers Hardest

map from NYTAn interesting analysis by those clever folks at the New York Times makes clear the uneven burden of motor fuel costs. The NYT presents a graphic which shows county-by-county gas prices, median incomes, and percentage of income spent on gasoline around the U.S.

California has the highest gasoline prices in the nation, partly due to high taxes and special formulations. But since incomes are generally higher in California than in many states in the South, Plains, and North Central regions, the percent of income spent on gas is generally low in California (except rural Modoc and Trinity Counties). Cities, where people have higher incomes and also do less driving, are the spots where the smallest fraction of income is spent on motor fuel.