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Nissan Leaf, meet Ford Pinto

There were two interesting cars parked on my street this week. One was a Nissan Leaf (see my test drive video here). The other was a Ford Pinto. The Pinto was one of the forerunners of today's small hatchbacks. It had bucket seats with a hand brake between them, a back seat that folded down, a small four-cylinder engine, and of course a hatch back. I owned four of them through high school and college because used versions were inexpensive and easy to repair, although thanks to shody manufacturing, they never lasted long. Long ago and far away, I once …

Read more: Green Cars

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Review of The Rational Optimist — How Prosperity Evolves

                          Photo courtesy s.red via Flickr Crossposted from the Biodiversivist blog Just how rational are we? Had the optimists not prevailed would the Titanic have sailed? I've read most of Ridley's books and have recently read my favorite, The Red Queen-Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature for the second time. I was looking forward to this book, which started out good. I stopped counting after he used the word pessimist for the twelfth time (seriously). He spends an inordinate amount of time complaining about the press's propensity …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Disarming the Food to Fuel Conflict

Corncob Bob (left) and Bob Dinneen, CEO of the RFA. Crossposted from the Biodiversivist blog In this post I am going to critique an article titled: Disarming the Food to Fuel Conflict ...which was written by someone who did not seem to be aware that his main source of information, the Renewable Fuels Association, is the nation's largest and best funded corn ethanol lobbying firm. I used the same title because is it just as applicable to my article. And he's not the only unwitting corn ethanol missionary out there helping the corn ethanol propaganda mill to spread the word …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Nissan Leaf As An Emergency Power Source

Crossposted from the Biodiversivist blog   While doing a test drive I discovered that the Nissan Leaf has an ordinary 12 volt lead acid battery under the hood. It charges off of the main battery pack, which is several hundred volts. In other words, because you don't need to run an engine to turn an alternator to charge the 12 volt battery, it shouldn't go dead in just a few hours if you use it to run something like your laptop while car camping (which actually happened to me last summer with our Prius). And if I'm wrong, it wouldn't …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Nisson Leaf Test Drive

  Crossposted from the Biodiversivist blog   Nissan is touring the country with a dozen or so electric Leafs to let people test drive them. It was exciting to be sitting in the first viable mass-produced electric car from a major car manufacturer. This car has the backing of Nissan dealerships for maintenance, warranties, and the quality control you can expect from a Japanese company. This is history in the making. See this Treehugger article on the American version of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV due out next year. The Drive: The quietness and total lack of engine vibration was noticeable. The …

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Not so somber analysis of energy policy debate

Crossposted from the Biodiversivist blog I'm posting on this because my comment on Roberts' and Everley's debate blew up into a full-blown diatribe and now I have to do something with it. I didn't watch the video. A podcast would have sufficed. A transcript would have been even better. I listened to it from the Huff Po site while multitasking. Funny thing about debates is that your guy always wins. I will briefly critique Steve's remarks but most of this post is meant to make the argument for renewable energy a little more bulletproof. And if you don't feel like …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Electric Bicycle Evolution

I spotted an interesting looking electric bicycle in front of my neighborhood grocery store a while back. The picture you see below came from an owner's manual I found on the internet. It has some nice features like:   1) A centered kickstand (electric bikes tend to be top heavy)2) Front and rear disc brakes (will never wear a hole in your rim)3) A pivoted rear wheel frame (loose tail to protect electronics and your butt)4) A cargo rack that fits on a loose tail (a feature easier said than done)5) Lithium ion batteries (never buy a bike with lead …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Biofuels Reduce The Biosphere's Capacity to Absorb Carbon

Crossposted from the Biodiversivist blog Brace yourselves for another thought exercise. Tim Searchinger is a researcher who has been published in the prestigious journal Science at least five separate times by my count. His, in hindsight, rather obvious, common sense observations have become a serious thorn in the side of the biofuel industry. He was one of the first to raise the alarm about indirect land use issues (using corn for ethanol sent a price signal to clear more farmland from carbon sinks). He was the first to point out that government subsidies for biomass will aggravate global warming by …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Birth Control will not stop climate change

Cross posted from Biodiversivist ...but it sure could help. From a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  ...reducing peak population to roughly 8 billion, for example, could save 29 percent of expected greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, if people are allowed to retire at a reasonable age (there is a trend to increase retirement ages), some industrialized countries could also see a very large drop in CO2 emissions. On the negative side, increasing urbanization could increase emissions because that trend tends to go along with greater wealth and wealthier people tend to do stupid …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Renewable Fuels Association not happy with E85 labels on pumps

Bob Dinneen, head of a very well-funded corn ethanol lobbying organization, has a  new press release in the Huff Po green blog which begins by claiming: Other nations, including Brazil, with at least as many older vehicles on their roads, allow higher levels of ethanol blends with no discernible damage to their cars and light trucks. In reality, unlike American cars, cars in Brazil where ethanol blends have been 22% since 1993 are all designed to run on that higher blend. According to Wikipedia: "All Brazilian automakers have adapted their gasoline engines to run smoothly with these range of mixtures, …

Read more: Climate & Energy