Sunday Morning Fish Wrap: So Thirsty!

California drought

The Fish Wrap: a spasmodic caboodle of captivating bits and bobs, loosely grouped by subject matter around personal finance, investing, news, and maybe the odd rant or recipe. "Whiskey is for drinkin', water is for fightin'" ~ Mark Twain Well, this is what happens when you live under a self-placed rock, you miss the story of California's ongoing drought. Not that I'm a stranger to this topic, having canvassed door-to-door for a Bay Area environmental group back in college years (hey, I needed the work, starving student and all that...). "Cadillac Desert" by Marc Reisner was almost required reading, as training material for the squads of earnest young people who would cadge donations from enviro-shamed affluent … [Read more...]

The Stock Market Is Stupid and Irrational

ethanol 1aadkgg

  The stock market is just a reflection of people.  And since people have a seemingly infinite capacity to be stupid and irrational, there you go. Cellulosic ethanol is a case in point. As helpfully defined by Wikipedia, cellulosic ethanol is similar to regular ethanol, only not as profitable.  Take it away, wiki-baby: Cellulosic ethanol is a biofuel produced from wood, grasses, or the inedible parts of plants. It is a type of biofuel produced from lignocellulose, a structural material that comprises much of the mass of plants. Lignocellulose is composed mainly of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Corn stover, Panicum virgatum (switchgrass), Miscanthus grass species, wood chips and the byproducts of lawn and tree … [Read more...]

How to Profit From Pond Scum… Or Not

Chlorella regularis, not be confused with Chlorella Vulgaris, the ruder, ill-mannered cousin of Regularis

  Green crude sure sounds sexy enough, in a renewable energy kind of way. What's not to love about it?  Grow a bunch of algae from sunlight and CO2, harvest it, and presto-change-O, you've got "green" bio-diesel. Enough to get save-the-planet folks and environment reporters all hot in the pants. The best laid plans of blog topics sometimes take a backseat to chasing down rabbit holes.  The plan was to write a post on auto insurance today, but in the course of looking up a web reference, came across instead this story from MIT's Technology Review: In Race to Algae Fuel, Sapphire Scores Point for Open Ponds Sapphire Energy starts farming algae at New Mexico demo plant using an open pond design, which it says is the only … [Read more...]

Emperor-For-A-Month Proclaims This Week’s Good Idea (and links)

800Biogas_plant_sketch

I once wrote about being King-for-a-Week. Not King-for-a-Day, as in the deep world-problem-solving discussions we've all had with friends and relatives, along the lines of "Why, if I were King-for-a-day, I sure would fix... X". The idea and solution I posted about before was using our military nuclear power reactors for civilian use.  A nuclear vessel tied alongside dock isn't doing anybody any good. Might as well plug it into the grid and power up a few video game consoles. Weeeeelll... since then, I'm gotten little more bearish. The issues and problems and headaches keep coming up, and the Borg collective up in Washingon is more preoccupied with nest-feathering through insider sweetheart deals, than offering solutions and … [Read more...]

German Windmills

322px-wind-Eoliennes_a_Sloterdijk

I recently took a short trip to Germany and Luxembourg. We drove from Lux to Krefeld, a small town in northwestern Germany near Dusseldorf.  It was just a great drive through the beautiful German countryside. Tidy farms, green fields, neat little towns. And of course, hundreds and hundreds of wind turbines. Big ones, small ones, new ones, old ones.  Most of which were spinning and generating, and oddly enough, some that were NOT. The vanes were frozen in place, unturning. Therein lies the rub of centrally distributed wind power: it's not constant baseline power, always on demand. The wind doesn't always blow. Same goes for solar. Not much sunlight at night or on cloudy days. These idle German windmills could have been down for … [Read more...]

More Biogas

Along the same lines as dog-poop into methane posted earlier, here's a story from Popular Mechanics about turning cow manure and food waste into biogas through an anaerobic digester process. COWS TO KILOWATTS: U.S. Farms Save Big Turning Manure to Energy. For famers already operating on slim margins, the trick to staying afloat could be right under their feet.  PM visits one Pennsylvania dairy farm that's already saving $60,000 a year by turning cow manure into energy using an anaerobic biodigester. After reading this article, and considering all the troubles that Oklahoma and Arkansas have had with poulty industry  manure  that end up in  watersheds, an obviously practical solution would be anaerobic digesters and biogas production.  … [Read more...]

Dog Poop, Methane and Alternative Energy

Here’s something you don’t hear about every day:  alternate, somwhat green small-scale energy from from dog poop.  Funnycool in a slightly disgusting way. Dogs are great–until their poop gets all over your new shoes. Even when dog owners responsibly dispose of dog waste, the excrement continues to generate methane, a potent greenhouse gas. That’s where the Park Spark project, billed as the first public methane digestor for dogs, comes in.  (Continue Reading..)   … [Read more...]