Archive for September, 2009

Fueling Plants

algae-2We are all aware of the fast growing consumption of the global fossil fuels in our society. We are quickly expending these natural resources and we cannot afford to lose any more. Robert Lane Greene, the International Correspondent at The Economist, explains the urgency of reducing or if possible eliminating the use of fossil fuels. He writes, ”The world’s dependence on traditional fossil fuels–particularly coal and oil–must change. But many proposed solutions would simply use fossil fuels in a cleaner or more efficient way. Carbon capture and storage holds out the promise of turning coal-fired electricity clean. And the world may have more natural gas than previously thought. But spending scarce research and development dollars on these and other fossil-fuel technologies means not spending them on renewable and risks technological dead-ends that will lock in possibly dangerous levels of carbon-dioxide emissions for decades to come.” We need to make a change, and quickly.

 One alternative is making use of plant photosynthesis. When creating foods, plants expand energy. They use the rays of the sun in this process of photosynthesis. It has also been shown by science daily, algae makes 15 times more oil than any other plants use of bio-fuels. In addition because this plant thrives on carbon dioxide and sewage it can help clean our environment while saving energy. Two functions working to our advantage. This is only one of the many means by which we can save our resources and our globe. I believe using algae for energy is a sure proof way out of this problem.

-By Gift Nleko

This article is a follow up of the previous one written by Phil Pham

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The Economist Host an Online Debate on Fossil Fuels

economist_logoOur Extempers have brought to our attention that the Economist Magazine is hosting a great online debate on Climate change, asking the question, “are we running out of time in our decision to use Fossil Fuels and  whether the world should try to make fossil fuels greener, or abandon them as quickly as possible.”

 The format is similiar to the parliamentary format we will be using soon in our very own climate debates, so log on comment on this very hot topic.

The proposition is: “This house believes that tackling climate change means leaving fossil fuels behind completely and quickly.”

 The moderator, Robert Lane Greene, is the International Correspondent at The Economist, and he explains why the world needs an answer–and soon:

 “The world’s dependence on traditional fossil fuels–particularly coal and oil–must change. But many proposed solutions would simply use fossil fuels in a cleaner or more efficient way. Carbon capture and storage holds out the promise of turning coal-fired electricity clean.

And the world may have more natural gas than previously thought. But spending scarce research and development dollars on these and other fossil-fuel technologies means not spending them on renewables and risks technological dead-ends that will lock in possibly dangerous levels of carbon-dioxide emissions for decades to come.”

 The Green Debate team encourages everyone to join Dr. Gerd Leipold, Executive Director of Greenpeace and Amy Myers Jaffe, Wallace S. Wilson Fellow in Energy Studies, James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy as they argue for and against the motion.

 The closing arguments will be on September 30th and you can vote for your winner October 2nd when the Debate winner will be announced

 Join the debate at:

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Appliances and Electricity – An epic tale of temptation and love.

Welcome back to the world of tomorrow! For the crazy few of you who actually look forward to the unnecessarily long posts I make when I create a blog entry, you have reason to cheer.

The previous recycling topic  discussed all the different kinds of things you could recycle. The previous electricity conservation one before that was about how conserving water prevents electricity wastage.

So now it’s time to move onto the next topic of interest in regards to conserving electricity. In today’s post, I’m actually going to go over a large variety of concepts instead of sticking to just one. The topics in this post brought to you (or at least inspired) by Yum, that be some good gov.

Phantom Energy

This is a topic that has been discussed a few times before. To put it simply, devices that require standby energy end up using a large amount of electricity over time. This accumulates rather quickly, and can account for about 5% of the total power that most households use. To fight it, the easiest way is to just unplug appliances or flip off the switch if it is connected to a power strip.

I think I can hear the groan you’re probably letting out right now.. A far easier alternative, at least with power strips, is to get a “smartstrip”. Essentially, it will stop the flow of electricity to electronics that are off or in standby so you won’t have to yourself. It would be nice if there could be one for singular applications as well, but until then just try to get the smartstrips if possible. It’ll save a lot of money and prevent CO2 emissions.

Turn off lights more

This is pretty self-explanatory, and we’ve probably had this drilled into our heads over and over again. It is a pretty important point to stress however – you end up having to get more light bulb replacements when you leave light bulbs on for extended periods of time. It is a commonly held myth that turning lights on causes a power surge which uses up more electricity then just leaving the light on – which is complete bogus, seeing as how the surge uses only a fraction of the energy of turning it on for only 1/120 of a second. A final piece of advice is to switch to fluorescent lightbulbs if you have not already done so, for reasons explained in more detail here

A word of caution on turning lights off when leaving a room. When it is a good idea to do this will vary depending on the type of bulb you have and how long you’re going to be out. For regular bulbs, it is a good idea to just turn them on and off as many times as you need to. Their life span does not become shorter from it. But if you have fluorescents, you may want to consider only turning them off if you’ll be away for about 15 minutes. The reason is because unlike incandescents, fluorescent lightbulbs have a shorter lifespan after multiple turning off and on’s.

Turn off computers

Many people seem to have this refusal to turn off their computers even when they are not going to use them for extended periods of time. This is especially true when they are left on even when the owner goes to sleep or on vacation. First, the power surge myth seems to apply here as it did with lightbulbs. Do not listen to it. Again, it is total hogwash and it actually harms the computer more to leave it on for extended periods of time instead of turning it on again. It does not harm computer components or make it slower.

Perhaps turning off the computer over and over again when you feel you won’t use it for more than an hour may be a hassle. This can be easily solved by making a quick trip to your computer’s Control Panel and then finding the Power Options. Then set your computer to auto-sleep after a set amount of time passes by.

For others still, it may be that you need to keep your computer on during the day because of applications that need to display a notification to you, such as AIM. In this case, auto-sleep may become annoying since you would be logged off each time the computer offs itself. For these scenarios, it may be a better idea to instead set the computer to shut down every 2 hours or so. If you really aren’t using it for that long, you are probably asleep. If you would rather not bother starting up all the programs you have up all over again, then consider auto-hibernating it instead. This will turn it off while still keeping all the applications open.

If you can’t do any of this, at the very least set a screensaver to turn your screen completely black after about 10 minutes. The truth is that screensavers are actually obsolete tools from when CLF monitors would become ‘burned’ if they maintained the same image for too long. Almost every computer is now LCD, and this no longer applies. A screensaver that displays black will save more energy then one that displays a complicated one, or none at all. Flying toasters on your screen are not worth the small costs they will end up bringing.

Turn off as opposed to keeping on

I’ve mentioned this twice already, but it’s an annoying point that I’ve even encountered in my own family. Turning off and on an appliance after a period of time will never use more electricity then leaving it on the entire time. Unless your an alien. And not the South American kind. I’ve addressed this twice, but this urban legend seems to stick around for every major electrical appliance in households, and it simply has no logical basis to stand on anymore. The only exceptions this might apply for are things built before the 1990’s or so. And if you’re using something that old, your life probably already sucks anyways. Heck, I would wonder how you even access this site.

That should about wrap this session up. I’m hoping I managed to make this yet another informative blog post. I congratulate you if you didn’t get intimidated by the length and even read this far actually. Until next time, *explosion*

~Jay Meza

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Garbage is… Good?

garbageScientists in Singapore and Switzerland are claiming that garbage is the answer to the growing energy crisis and reducing carbon emissions. New research has shown how replacing gasoline with biofuel from processed waste could cut global carbon emissions by 80%. While it’s true that biofuels from crops would require an increase in crop production (which has been proven to have severe environmental costs), second-generation biofuels may be the key to reducing carbon emissions.

Second-generation biofuels are produced from crop and forest residues, as well as from non-food crops, thus taking away the environmental harms. Concerns for the impacts of first-generation have increased the interest in developing biofuels from non-food biomass. With any luck, second-generation biofuels could avoid many of the concerns facing first-generation biofuels and potentially offer greater cost reduction potential in the longer term.

            So what’s the link to garbage? One study team found that 82.93 billion liters of cellulosic ethanol could be produced from the world’s landfill waste. If we substitute gasoline with the resulting biofuel, global carbon emissions could be cut by figures ranging from 29.2% to 86.1% for every unit of energy produced. No doubt, advancements in technology are sure to increase these numbers.


~Almayra Porrata-Doria


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What an E-Waste!

Electronic waste, or E-Waste, is a serious issue that’s overlooked by many. However, as the concern grows smaller, the problem grows bigger. E-Waste is the process of loose discarded electronic devices. This waste is slowly shifting away from the United States, but is being shipped to developing countries such as Sub-Saharan Africa and even all the way to China. This is a serious health concern because it is polluting the earth with electronic equipment that contains lead and mercury.

In order for countries to successfully deal with the issue, programs like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must promote the ideas of keeping electronics as long as possible and then recycle their cell phones and re-use scraps from computers. Setting up city-wide electronic waste recycling programs are just small steps in dealing with a huge problem. Along with reducing and effectively dealing with E-Waste in the United States, following guidelines found in the Basel and Bamako Conventions in order to end the abuse of sending E-Waste to many parts of Africa.

As the United States grows as a technologically dependent nation, what we do with the remains needs to be dealt with in a professional and logical manner. Safely disposing E-Waste is dangerous in itself, so by just preventing the problem and cutting off the problem at its source, we can prevent large amounts of hazardous electronic waste from being shipped to all parts of the world.

-Nicholas Chan

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A Biofuel That Could Grow On You

algeaA recent article, entitled BIOFUEL OF THE FUTURE?,  surprised me the idea of a great new biofuel. We all know that plants use photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide and sunlight, but do we realize that this can be translated into usable energy? Plants do this so efficiently that they can double their weight in one day, which means that they could become a source of ever expanding energy. Algae could be the jumpstart to truly efficient energy usage in the future. Research shows that algae produced 15 times s many oil as other plants used for biofuel plants such as corn. Algae can grow in almost any type of water, salt water, fresh water, contaminated water and even land that’s not fertile for food production. Algae are theorized to grow faster when fed carbon dioxide (the common greenhouse gas) this means that, algae is not only an efficient energy producer, but it can also clean up our environment. Scientist have been interested in using algae as biofuel ever since the 1950’s. There was a experiment conducted to see if algae was able to produced enough oil to be used as fuel, but the study shows that it only produced around 1% of it’s weight. Recently a team of U.Va scientist study has showed that by feeding the algae more carbon dioxide, it can up produced oil up to 40% of its’ weight,. This shows that algae can strive off of carbon dioxide, and  untreated sewer waste, this can be a huge benefit to industries. There are still research going on about algae, to see if it can be our future source of biofuel. To me personally I think using algae as biofuel is an excellent idea, I hope that we can find other source of ener gy instead of resulting to burning fossil fuel.
Reference to

Phil Pham

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Kerr’s Green Debate Team Accepts a New Challenge!

188As a part of The Green Debate Team’s BP A+ for Energy projects, Kerr entered and had great success in the Lexus Eco Air Challenge last spring. Although they did not win one of the top prizes, they took part in the clean-up of Bray’s Bayou and hosted the remarkable “Air Aware” campaign and over 45o students and faculty pledged to make a change in their daily activities to help make their community greener.

This year, the are taking the Land & Water Challenge and will be organizing another community service project dealing with land and water issues in the Alief community. The team will be vying for $10,000 in prizes and a change to compete in the Spring Challenge.

At Thursday Speech meetings, Kerr Green Team members will be focusing on a specific environmental issue within this topic that affects our local community:


  • Landfills, Waste Management, and Recycling
  • Forest Destruction/Deforestation or Desertification
  • Endangered Species and Loss of Biodiversity
  • Water Conservation and Fresh Water Shortages
  • Shrinking Wetlands and Aquatic Habitats
  • Threats to the World’s Waterways and Oceans (e.g. poorly managed fishing, pollution, coastal tourism and development, and shipping)

All students or faculty interested in being a part of this challenge should see Coach Davis about how they can contribute. PLease comment with your ideas below.

See official rules at:

– The Green Debate Team

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