mm482: Windy panacea? Not so fast!

August 28, 2008
© Damian Chung | Dreamstime.com

© Damian Chung | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Oops.

Turns out that all those ambitious windmill plans might be more worthy of Don Quixote than Michael Bloomberg.

Seems that generating power is only part of the equation, whether you use boring and dirty old technology (coal-fired) or exciting and clean new technology (wind turbines).

See, that power has to get from those lonesome windy landscapes to the nation’s factories (ah, an optimistic curmudgeon!), shopping malls and homes, and it won’t get there by wishing it so.

No, that generated power, sulfurously filthy or delightfully green, needs the national power grid to get from Windyvastwasteland, Texas to where it’s needed, and folks, the national power grid is a subtle but critical part of what one of my favorite amateur pundits calls, in a most memorable coinage, “this country’s infrastructure osteoporosis.”

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mm476: The next Windy City?

August 22, 2008
© David Davis | Dreamstime.com

© David Davis | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Two recurring themes on this site converge this week, as alternative energy, mainly windmills, and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, not a presidential candidate, occupy the same NYTimes story.

nytimes[3]

Bloomberg Offers Windmill Power Plan

By MICHAEL BARBARO | Published: August 19, 2008

In a plan that would drastically remake New York City’s skyline and shores, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is seeking to put wind turbines on the city’s bridges and skyscrapers and in its waters as part of a wide-ranging push to develop renewable energy.

The plan, while still in its early stages, appears to be the boldest environmental proposal to date from the mayor, who has made energy efficiency a cornerstone of his administration.

Mr. Bloomberg said he would ask private companies and investors to study how windmills can be built across the city, with the aim of weaning it off the nation’s overtaxed power grid, which has produced several crippling blackouts in New York over the last decade.

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mm474: A very good year for paperboard and plastic

August 20, 2008

almaden01

MUDGE’s Musings

Boxed wine. A totally frightening concept.

Except, not exactly.

Turns out that boxed wine has come up in the world’s estimation. And for a most unexpected reason.

The environment.

Drink Outside the Box

Op-Ed Contributor | By TYLER COLMAN | Published: August 17, 2008 | Waccabuc, N.Y.

ITALY’S Agriculture Ministry announced this month that some wines that receive the government’s quality assurance label may now be sold in boxes. That’s right, Italian wine is going green, and for some connoisseurs, the sky might as well be falling.

But the sky isn’t falling. Wine in a box makes sense environmentally and economically. Indeed, vintners in the United States would be wise to embrace the trend that is slowly gaining acceptance worldwide.

Wine in a box has been around for more than 30 years — though with varying quality. The Australians were among the first to popularize it. And hardly a fridge in the south of France, especially this time of year, is complete without a box of rosé. Here in America, by contrast, boxed wine has had trouble escaping a down-market image. But now that wine producers are talking about reducing their carbon footprint — that is, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the transportation of wine — selling the beverage in alternative, lighter packaging instead of heavier glass seems like the right thing to do.

Shipping cases of glass bottles from California and the West Coast, the major domestic wine production regions, to the Eastern U.S., the major wine consuming market, is quite costly, due to the weight of the glass and the heavy duty packaging required to carry and cushion it.

And saving weight not only saves money, it shrinks to some extent wine’s carbon footprint. Who knew wine had any kind of footprint?

But, a box! That’s for red and white and rosé swill, isn’t it?

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mm473: If only it were actually oil they spew in such quantities

August 19, 2008
© Eline Spek | Dreamstime.com

© Eline Spek | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

How can you tell a Rovian Republican is lying?

His lips are moving.

It’s less than three months to election day, and the Rovian machinery of mis- and disinformation has lurched into gear.

Jerome Corsi’s new No. 1 bestseller is beneath contempt; the Obama campaign seems to have learned from the stricken paralysis that was the Kerry campaign’s reaction to Corsi’s Swift Boat slander, and one can only hope that the Corsi’s latest spurious attacks will be swiftly deflected.

But there’s a lot more going on in the Fantasyland that is the Republican commentariat.

Take oil, for example.

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mm465: Toilet to tap — coming soon to a glass near you?

August 11, 2008

toilettotap

MUDGE’s Musings

Water shortages are a growing fact of life in many parts of the U.S. It’s a source of growing friction between states, as noted earlier this year here.

The answer for those parched yet populous regions of the country, especially in the desert West, has often taken the form of routing fresh water from formerly underused sources, such as the Colorado River.

Lately, though, whether an artifact of cyclical climate change, or as a result of permanent crisis, such remote resources are becoming scarce, and ever more hotly fought over.

So, rather than dumping its sewage, Orange County, south of Los Angeles in Southern California, has taken the radical step for this part of the world to seriously recycle its water, for reuse in every way. We have noted this water filtration initiative previously in this space.

The technicians call the process “indirect potable reuse.”

Don’t you just love euphemisms?

Let’s call it what it is, shall we? Toilet to tap.

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mm453: Go with the wind

July 30, 2008

dreamstime_1129778

© David Davis | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Electricity generated by windmills, sponsored by one of the last of the iconoclastic oilmen.

Electric powered automobiles that actually have a driving radius between recharges of more than an hour or two.

We’ve looked at wind power several times [mm294: Making the world unsafe for bats and birds; mm220: It’s all about power; mm204: Wind power – Ugly, noisy, destructive! Who knew?] in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© as an idea whose time has arrived.

And we caught the first inklings of Shai Agassi’s ambitious electric dream earlier this year [mm271: The automobile post – diesel / electric].

Leave it to Tom Friedman of the NYTimes, global strategic thinker that he is, to make the connection.

nytimes

Texas to Tel Aviv

Op-Ed Columnist | By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN | Published: July 27, 2008

What would happen if you cross-bred J. R. Ewing of “Dallas” and Carl Pope, the head of the Sierra Club? You’d get T. Boone Pickens. What would happen if you cross-bred Henry Ford and Yitzhak Rabin? You’d get Shai Agassi. And what would happen if you put together T. Boone Pickens, the green billionaire Texas oilman now obsessed with wind power, and Shai Agassi, the Jewish Henry Ford now obsessed with making Israel the world’s leader in electric cars?

You’d have the start of an energy revolution.

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mm451: Goodbye, old blue, you’re worth more to me dead than alive

July 28, 2008

dreamstime_3143346

© Mel Gama | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Old cars. If they’re old enough (in most states, more than 25 years old), they’re vintage, even antique, and perhaps worth the extra effort it takes to keep them running.

If they are 15-25 years old, they are usually just basic transportation, and a basic pain.

The body parts not rusted are crumpled. The driver’s window no longer winds down (maybe the entire door is rusted shut), so paying a toll, or dining at a drive-through fast food establishment, is yet another hassle.

You prefer to drive at night, because the black exhaust cloud isn’t as obvious.

And then the usual litany:

Will it start?

Will it stop??

What’s it going to cost me to fix it for the third time this year???

And the planet shares your pain.

How sensitive of the planet!

Princeton University economist Alan Blinder, whom I fondly remember as a columnist for Business Week years ago, a side job while vice-chairing the Federal Reserve and holding down the Princeton gig, would like to take that beast off of your hands.

Because that black cloud trailing behind you isn’t unique. The state of California estimates that cars 13 years and older account for 25% of miles driven overall, but an astonishing 75% of all passenger automobile generated pollution.

nytimes

A Modest Proposal: Eco-Friendly Stimulus

Economic View | By ALAN S. BLINDER | Published: July 27, 2008

ECONOMISTS and members of Congress are now on the prowl for new ways to stimulate spending in our dreary economy. Here’s my humble suggestion: “Cash for Clunkers,” the best stimulus idea you’ve never heard of.

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mm448: Global warming: real but not catastrophe

July 25, 2008

dreamstime_638321

© Markwr | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Politicians disagree. That’s not news — that’s politics.

Scientists disagree. That sometimes does not make the news. The flaming rhetoric gets the attention; the calm, carefully reasoned rebuttal is buried on page A22.

Or buried in a special interest magazine.

Found another such publication: Skeptical Inquirer.

Al Gore wants this country to totally migrate power generation from coal, like that sooty specimen above, to renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, in 10 years. A very Kennedy-esque proposal. Actually, Kennedy’s inspiration (or, at least, his speechwriters’) might have been Chicago visionary, and leading proponent of the Columbian Exposition of 1892-93, Daniel Burnham, who most famously said: “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood…”

[Editor’s note: the paragraph immediately above is a prime example of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©‘s specialty: Sequitur Service©.]

Gore’s proposal of course is the follow-on to his environmental hobby-horse, sound-bit as global warming.

Not so fast, Al…

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mm429: World Bank: biofuels cause starvation

July 4, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

As food prices rise around the world, evidence that the biofuels initiatives are the cause keeps becoming clearer. As the entire issue of petroleum alternatives has become most pressing, the relationship between the diversion of food stocks to fuel stocks has been guessed at, but there have been few firm numbers of the impact.

Today The Guardian seems to have found the smoking gun.

First, a review. We have discussed this topic many times:

Fuel from Food: Just a bad idea all around

mm367: It’s not just a bad idea, it’s a crime
mm360: Global food price crisis: Genocide?
mm298: Nutty Richard Branson flies to Holland on biofuel
mm282: If it sounds too good to be true…
mm260: The other oil shock
mm233: Corn in the news – and not just in Iowa!
mm194: Friedman: Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
mm193: Fuel without oil, or corn
mm084: Food versus fools – Salon.com
mm053: The case for turning crops into fuel – Saletan

guardian

Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis

Internal World Bank study delivers blow to plant energy drive

Aditya Chakrabortty | The Guardian, Friday July 4, 2008

Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% – far more than previously estimated – according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian.

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mm425: Short attention span blogging returns!

June 30, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

The Prime Directive of Blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily, has run head-on into the brick wall of fatigue.

Mrs. MUDGE, gathering a bunch of old clothes for a charity pick up tomorrow, has inspired us to gather some stories that we’ve stockpiled but simply can’t do more than whiff at them over the past few days.

So perhaps we’ll just showcase six of them without commentary, just this once. Pretend we’re reddit.com without the social networking trappings. Call this post: “(th)read(bare)it.” Or not.

1. The NYTimes takes a look at a brand new, cost saving (and, get this!, the savings seem to be mostly passed onto the consumer!) gallon milk jug.

New Milk Jug Leads to Cost Savings and Spills

2. The MUDGE household has been weaning itself from the bottled water habit for the past several months. We’re in the minority,apparently.

What’s Colorless and Tasteless And Smells Like . . . Money? – washingtonpost.com

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