Archive for Alternative Energy

BioChar: The New Approach to Carbon Sequestration.

Coal, a fossil fuel, emits foul and harmful gasses into our atmosphere, and with a lack of political support for clean coal, a new alternative is here, biochar. Biochar is a newfound way of trapping carbon with so called “green coal”. Biomass waste we would never think of using, such as peanut shells actually release carbon when it decomposes. However, by burning the remains in a process known as pyrolysis, what’s left over is biochar or green coal. South American societies began this process and dug back this green coal in the ground in order to lock in carbon instead of allowing it to widen the hole in the ozone layer. If this process is applied efficiently and effectively, scientists agree that billion of tons of carbons could be sequestered in soil instead of being released into our atmosphere. Carbon sequestration can be an effective approach to runaway global warming. This new green coal is proved to be more effective than nature’s natural approach to the problem. While trees or plants lock in the carbon for only 15-20 years, biochar could possibly lock in carbon for possibly 100 years. Along with its obvious benefits, the nutrients brought back into the soil could also spur the industrial agriculture sector, signifying a thumbs up from not only farmers, but those attempting to combat climatecharcoal_d change.

-Nicholas Chan

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Hooray for Hemp?

 legal-hempBiofuels have been proven to be cost effective and efficient since 1973. It is estimated that biomass produces 146 billion metric tons a year. Many new alternatives are emerging across the country and hemp is a potential. Hemp has the potential to be the number one biomass producer on Earth. 77% of the plant contains cellulose and cellulosic ethanol is the term referring to types of energy that we are familiar with. Cubing the plant can condense the bulk which reduces the cost and the amount of land used in the pyrolosis reactor which makes the fuel.

Hemp has promising potential because it is drought resistant making it easier to grow in dry regions across the country and is the only resource capable of functioning as an independent energy source. Although this seems like a great idea, there’s an underlying problem, it was outlawed in the United States in 1938. It is said that marijuana and hemp are of the same category, so the government made them illegal, but scientifically speaking you would need to smoke a 60ft pole of hemp just to get high. American farmers are now encouraged to apply for a license to cultivate hemp, but the Department of Agriculture rarely gives them out discouraging farmers.

The United States spends so much money on petroleum and coal exports that we are now feeling the effects of it in our economy. If the government were to legalize hemp, then the crop would provide us with a clean energy source, easier ways of producing cotton, a reduction on oil, and a better outlook on our future. To outlaw something with such great potential is completely absurd and its many uses can change the face of the green America.

-Nicholas Chan

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Water Wheels: A Transition to Hydrogen Cargo Ships

large-cargo-ship-pollution-smoke-photo4The United States makes up 40% of China’s imports and unfortunately, these two major industrialized countries lack new alternatives to even simple problems such as the transportation of goods. Large cargo ships emit fossil fuels just as any other form of transportation such as a car or a heavy metal locomotive, however the newest innovations prove how hydrogen based cargo ships can make drastic changes in society. Some consider the global shipping industry as an emission juggernaut, but hydrogen-hybrid boats can easily switch over to a zero-emissions glide into the oceans. The first design was actually created and based off of a British Waterways vessel and is powered by stored hydrogen. Unlike normal hydrogen based vehicles, the cargo ships actually store the hydrogen-lithium-hydride power safely to avoid dangerous accidents because there is no need to carry high pressured gasses on board. Another positive benefit is that the weight of the heavy hydrogen is no longer a problem on smooth sailing waterways. With all of this taken into consideration, the ships that carry our precious goods can easily be powered by the water that they’re gliding across on the ocean.

-Nicholas Chan

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Renewable Portfolio Standards

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An RPS is a regulation or incentive that promotes the use of alternative energy such as wind, solar, geothermal, or biomass. The RPS system forces electricity and utility companies to produce usually 20% of their energy from renewable energy sources. Not only do companies gain profit from the 20% switch, but customers are happier as well as the environment for a small shift in a brighter future.

The use of private market implementation ensures success and efficiency that produces energy as the lowest possible price that competes with cheaper fossil fuels. The United States still trails behind large countries like Britain, Italy, and even Belgium. With the annual extensions of PTC’s or production tax credits, the RPS system is more reliable because its mandated and obligated nature forced upon electric companies.

Not only would the fossil fuel market be allowed to stay afloat ensuring strong relations with huge importers such as Russia and Saudi Arabia, but our world is bound to last a bit longer and the satisfaction of a greener energy source in our homes makes us not feel as bad when we flick on that light switch. Finally, the light bulb has lit up, a new idea and new found transition backed with potential and support.

-Nicholas Chan

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Go Big or Go Home!

captradeGlobal Warming and greenhouse emissions are becoming a bigger issue than we ever expected. Our own industrial revolution seem to coming back to bite us in the butt, but President Barack Obama is currently proposing a policy to Congress concerning cap and trade emissions. The policy calls for the auctioning off of permits to large emission companies. There will be a cap set to determine the amount of carbon released and carbon permits will be traded to carbon emitters. Since the U.S never signed the Kyoto Protocol, getting this passed through Congress will be a huge achievement and a positive thumbs up from other countries around the world. Obama wants to reduce emissions by 83% during the 2050. Although the legislation is being debated now, it might end up being crowded out by the controversial health care proposals. The President is using up tons of his political capital in order to get health care passed and it might be incredibly hard to squeeze cap and trade in there as well. There is also still public opposition to the policy because Americans just don’t seem to care about global warming because it doesn’t seem to affect their current day to day lives, but U.S citizens must open up their eyes and look to the bigger picture. Melting ice caps, depleting animal habitats and resource wars are just small scale consequences to a much larger problem. If Congress doesn’t follow through, we’re going to be expecting warmer winters.

-Nicholas Chan

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Chocolate is not brown… It’s green.

     

Now that we’ve established alternatives to wrapping papers and lights, there’s one more topic to address, chocolate. Christmas is filled with chocolate and that’s only reasonable because chocolate makes us happy, no matter hot or cold.  Bloomsberry and Terrapass worked together and produced the Climate Change Chocolate.  A 3.5-ounce confection that, for $4.95, offsets 133 pounds of carbon dioxide — the average American’s daily carbon impact on the planet. “It’s a great way to treat yourself while washing away your sins,” says John Edson, president of Lunar Design, which created the chocolate bar wrappings. Not only are chocolates extremely delicious and eco-friendly, but it also suggestion 15 different ways to reduce your carbon footprint on the wrapping of the candy bar. Chocolate that educates us? Now that’s a win-win. So for this Christmas season, indulge yourself with the decadent Climate Change Chocolate and enjoy the satisfaction of helping the planet while you’re at it.   

~Phil Pham

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Gifts wrapped in Green

        

Christmas is mostly about giving, no matter how big or small your gifts may be, it’s the thoughts that count. Usually the gift isn’t enough, so we gorged our gifts in pretty wrapping paper and fancy bows. But in reality, how much carbon dioxide does your Christmas wrapping output? The answer is once again, a lot. However there are fancy alternatives to Christmas wrapping paper just lying around your house, waiting to be discovered. Here are a few suggestions:

1: Newspapers: Now there’s nothing better than wrapping paper that makes you laugh. Yes folks, wrap your gifts with the comic pages and on the bright side if your gift isn’t really what the person desired, at least they’ll have a comic to laugh at. How about those unused newspapers? Collect those and with a few crayons, you’ll have one snazzy looking wrapping paper.  

2: Fabric; Have you tried wrapping something but gotten the wrapping paper torn and had to start over? Annoying isn’t it? Well if you wrapped with fabric, you wouldn’t have this problem. Just look around your house and scavenge for some unused fabric, you can even be creative and make fancy patterns with it!

3: Jars and Cans: Here’s an odd way to give your gifts in. If you have a gift small enough, why not put it in an old jar or coffee can. After that you can decorate it with bows or wrap it up with fabric. Plus, the person receiving your gift can reuse the can or jar that you gave them, so essentially, it’s a win-win.

Although these suggestions might be a little bit funky and odd, the person receiving your gifts will definitely see your intentions to go green and that’s the best gift anyone can give.

~Phil Pham

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