Month: September 2008

New Device could make internal combustion 15-20% more efficient

Improving engine efficiency and reducing pollutant emissions are extremely important. Here, we report our fuel injection technology based on the new physics principle that proper application of electrorheology can reduce the viscosity of petroleum fuels. A small device is thus introduced just before the fuel injection for the engine, producing a strong electric field to reduce the fuel viscosity, resulting in much smaller fuel droplets in atomization. Because combustion starts at the droplet surface, smaller droplets lead to cleaner and more efficient combustion. Both laboratory tests and road tests confirm our theory and indicate that such a device improves fuel mileage significantly. The technology is expected to have broad applications, applicable to current internal combustion engines and future engines as well.

Electrorheology Leads to Efficient Combustion.

According to the press release, this is a very simple device. It has one small advantage over the usual snake oil, it is academic research and has been peer reviewed.

Good stuff, hope this is an easy after market addition to any vehicle with fuel injection. However, the press release also notes that the prototype is being developed for diesel engines only, and that the research was based mainly on diesel, wonder why…

Carbon Trends 2007

Emissions increased from 6.2 PgC per year in 1990 to 8.5 PgC in 2007, a 38% increase from the Kyoto reference year 1990. The growth rate of emissions was 3.5% per year for the period of 2000-2007, an almost four fold increase from 0.9% per year in 1990-1999. The actual emissions growth rate for 2000-2007 exceeded the highest forecast growth rates for the decade 2000-2010 in the emissions scenarios of the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change, Special Report on Emissions Scenarios IPCC-SRES. This makes current trends in emissions higher than the worst case IPCC-SRES scenario. Fossil fuel and cement emissions released approximately 348 PgC to the atmosphere from 1850 to 2007.

Carbon Trends 2007.

This is very scary news, and there’s more in the carbon budget for the last 7 years released here. It shows a total lack of leadership from the US, Canada, and Europe, countries responsible for over 80% of the historical anthropogenic contribution.

James K. Galbraith – A Bailout We Don't Need

Is this bailout still necessary?

The point of the bailout is to buy assets that are illiquid but not worthless. But regular banks hold assets like that all the time. They're called "loans."

With banks, runs occur only when depositors panic, because they fear the loan book is bad. Deposit insurance takes care of that. So why not eliminate the pointless $100,000 cap on federal deposit insurance and go take inventory? If a bank is solvent, money market funds would flow in, eliminating the need to insure those separately. If it isn't, the FDIC has the bridge bank facility to take care of that.

James K. Galbraith – A Bailout We Don’t Need –

Makes a lot more sense to me than “Give me 700b today or I’ll blow up your economy” line fed by the same administration that gave you “give us the unfettered right to wage war or you’ll be eaten alive by mushroom clouds”.

Scientist speaks up

Vote for [Liberal Party Leader] Stéphane Dion; don't vote for the Green Party," Weaver said in an interview promoting Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World.

"If the Green Party has a strong candidate who's going to beat out the Liberal and Conservative candidates, then, okay, go ahead and vote Green. But, by and large, a green vote is not a Green vote. A green vote is for a Liberal government and Stéphane Dion. There is no other candidate you can vote for.

Scientist speaks up.

Victoria’s most prominent scientist wants you to vote for a Liberal Party candidate in this Canadian election.

Pakistan troops 'repel US raid'

Pakistani troops have fired at two US helicopters forcing them back into Afghanistan, local Pakistani intelligence officials say.The helicopters flew into the tribal North Waziristan region from Afghanistan’s Khost province at around midnight, the reports say.

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Pakistan troops ‘repel US raid’

What the hell is the US doing starting another war? Don’t they have other things to worry about?

Night Shyamalan was right

What next, poison that kills entire swathes of people? I know that Night Shyamalan’s The Happening was panned for its atrociousness, but hey, the man is a prescient science fiction turns to fact maven if this story is any indication.

Plants facing stressful conditions like drought produce their own aspirin-like chemical, US researchers say.

The chemicals are produced as a gas to boost the plant’s biochemical defences, say scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Stressed plants ‘produce aspirin’.

Methyl Salicylate, or Oil of Wintergreen is what makes Ben Gay!

Coal-to-Liquid: Useless

Liquid transportation fuels derived from coal and natural gas could help the United States reduce its dependence on petroleum. The fuels could be produced domestically or imported from fossil fuel-rich countries. The goal of this paper is to determine the life-cycle GHG emissions of coal- and natural gas-based Fischer−Tropsch (FT) liquids, as well as to compare production costs. The results show that the use of coal- or natural gas-based FT liquids will likely lead to significant increases in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to petroleum-based fuels. In a best-case scenario, coal- or natural gas-based FT-liquids have emissions only comparable to petroleum-based fuels. In addition, the economic advantages of gas-to-liquid (GTL) fuels are not obvious: there is a narrow range of petroleum and natural gas prices at which GTL fuels would be competitive with petroleum-based fuels. CTL fuels are generally cheaper than petroleum-based fuels. However, recent reports suggest there is uncertainty about the availability of economically viable coal resources in the United States. If the U.S. has a goal of increasing its energy security, and at the same time significantly reducing its GHG emissions, neither CTL nor GTL consumption seem a reasonable path to follow.

Comparative Analysis of the Production Costs and Life-Cycle GHG Emissions of FT Liquid Fuels from Coal and Natural Gas.

To summarize, no cost benefits, increased GHG emissions, a lot of uncertainty, let’s not follow this madness of trying to make coal into gasoline.

Palin's E-Mail Practices and Accountability

McCain's vice-presidential pick apparently used the accounts to communicate with key aides about government business

ABC News: Experts Don’t Yahoo Over Palin’s E-Mail Practices.

If I were to use my gmail account for official company business, I would get into all kinds of hot water. Many companies would consider it a serious violation of policies and procedures. Yet Americans want these people running their country? No standards whatsoever.

Tariq Ali: Has the U.S. Invasion of Pakistan Begun?

The decision to make public a presidential order of last July authorizing American strikes inside Pakistan without seeking the approval of the Pakistani government ends a long debate within, and on the periphery of, the Bush administration. Senator Barack Obama, aware of this ongoing debate during his own long battle with Hillary Clinton, tried to outflank her by supporting a policy of U.S. strikes into Pakistan. Senator John McCain and Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin have now echoed this view and so it has become, by consensus, official U.S. policy.Its effects on Pakistan could be catastrophic, creating a severe crisis within the army and in the country at large. The overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are opposed to the U.S. presence in the region, viewing it as the most serious threat to peace.

Tomgram: Tariq Ali, Has the U.S. Invasion of Pakistan Begun?

This part of the world could see even more escalation in violence and death. Imagine the terror in the population as unmanned drones routinely fly over and drop bombs from the sky. The US government created this problem in the 1980s when fighting its proxy cold war. It decided that communism was a big enough threat to justify the arming of religious fundamentalists. We still continue to pay the price.

When will this colonialist meddling end? If the last 100+ years have shown us anything, Western forces cannot control this region by force, yet they keep trying, keep killing people and keep the flames alive.

Unfortunately, the women and children of this area just don’t have good alternatives. They either get oppressed by their moronic fundamentalist men or get western bombs hurled from the sky at them. Would 20 years of peace, under even fundamentalist conditions, provide enough stability to make incremental change possible? I don’t know, but I do know that unmanned “drones” dropping bombs from the sky will not bring peace.

What's the matter with Canada?

But beneath the calm exterior, Canada’s political system is in turmoil. Since 2004, a succession of unstable minority governments has led to a constant campaign frenzy, brutalizing Canada’s once-broad political consensus and producing a series of policies at odds with the country’s socially liberal, fiscally conservative identity. Canada is quietly becoming a political basket case, and this latest election may make things even worse.

What’s the matter with Canada? – By Christopher Flavelle – Slate Magazine

I don’t necessarily agree with the whole “basket case” assertion, it is a fundamentally strong country with a broad consensus on what the country should be.

The current set of political parties is rewarding a minority set of policies (the conservatives) by fragmenting the majority centre-left of centre consensus between 4 different political parties, none of which will talk to each other. This is not exactly new, the conservatives only merged their parties a few years back.

The liberals suffer from Dion’s non Englishness, he gets little traction from the English media (no idea about the French, I don’t know any). He’s not that charismatic, nor does he orate well in English, and so like the American election, it is all optics. The liberals also seem to have no understanding of what it takes to win a modern election. The conservatives get in the news all the time, their ads are all over TV, the liberals seem to be MIA.

Harper on the other hand is “strong”, strength of course being defined as sounding decisive and declaratory, even though he usually just sounds alarmist and hyperbolic all the time. Somehow, this is interpreted as leadership. I guess the only good quality of leadership is being loud.

Dion also made a gamble by selling something called the Green Shift, a carbon tax, to increase efficiency in energy consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even though the tax is designed to increase efficiency in a country notorious for its very poor efficiency (27th among the 29 OECD countries in energy use/capita), it is being demonized as a tax that will destroy the country (just like every other environmental regulation destroyed every other country). It is also bad timing, as energy prices have soared recently, and Canada’s economy sputters to a halt due to falling resource prices and the American housing market bust (destroyed the BC lumber industry). The last thing people want to hear is “tax”, even though the middle class will get more than sufficient rebates to cover any tax increases. The liberals seem to have overplayed this hand. Elections are never won on environmental issues, too easy to attack.

The conservative pitch thus far has only been to attack Dion while offering some incremental changes. But as Harper is flirting with a majority, this Toronto Star editorial asks the right questions.

While Harper is presenting himself as a kinder, gentler Conservative these days, in the past, as a Reform MP, head of the National Citizens’ Coalition and leader of the Canadian Alliance (successor party to Reform), he staked out quite radical positions. He has called Canada “a northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term,” has denounced the “moral nihilism” of the Liberals and the left for opposing the Iraq war, has suggested building a “firewall” around Alberta, and has called for “market reforms” for health care, “further deregulation and privatization,” and “elimination of corporate subsidies.”

With a Conservative majority in sight, it is fair for Canadians to ask Harper whether he still holds these views and would implement them once in office. And if the answer is No, Harper should use the remaining four weeks of this election campaign to tell voters just what he would do with a majority.

The media lets Harper get away with sounding “presidential”, his proposals are very vague, and that is worrying. It is clear, however, that from an environmental standpoint, he will be a disaster. A combination of a slowing economy and reduced social support programs (conservatives hate safety nets for regular people) will be bad for the not so well off Canadians. We shall see what happens in a few weeks.