With the Fourth of July approaching, let us pause and consider the words of that great patriot Sarah Palin:
“Americans are not addicted to oil, Americans are addicted to freedom — the freedom to move freely and independently where and when we want.”
Makes you want to go out and drive a Hummer in circles, no?
But since, let’s face it, we are addicted to oil, here are 10 ideas that have popped up in the past month, which provide a glimpse of fossil-fuel freedom.
1. Power to the pedal: Sure, bike lanes are nice, but peddlers still have to expose themselves to way too many DWAACPs (Drivers With Attitudes and Cell Phones). The time has come, argues Tom Vanderbilt in Slate, for honest-to-God bicycle boulevards in the U.S.:
There have been many protracted debates in the transportation world about what sort of facilities are safest for cyclists (a picture that is complicated by the recent finding, for example, that drivers seem to drive closer to cyclists on streets with bike lanes than without). One thing that seems clear, however, is that cyclist safety tends to improve as there are more cyclists. And the best way to get more cyclists is to make them feel safer. And the way to make them feel safer is, many planners argue, to provide separate facilities.
2. Float, baby, float: One way of capturing energy from strong ocean breezes is to build deepwater wind farms. Tricky, but Dominique Roddier, a California naval architect, has a way to do it: floating turbines.
3. Kite makes light: Joby Energy, another California player, has a prototype for large wind turbines that soar — like kites — high enough to harvest energy from powerful global wind currents.
4. Light lite: Royal Phillips Electronics has unveiled the 12-watt EnduraLED, the first low-wattage LED bulb that achieves the brightness of the classic 60-watt incandescent.
5. Think we need a little less Xbox: Most of us have no idea how much energy we use in our home until the bill comes in. But Cisco just rolled out the “Home Energy Controller.” It’s a a little dashboard, complete with touchscreen, that lets you track where and how you’re burning energy — and how much it’s costing you — in real time.
6. Turn the heat around: You know all that heat your car engine produces — and wastes? Well, a team of MIT engineers has come up with a way to convert it into enough energy to power the vehicle’s electronic systems.
7. Another bright idea: Who needs flashlights? Now you can go off the grid and still see in the dark, thanks to a new, small solar light bulb created by Nokero.
8. Battery up! Other MIT researchers have found a way to use carbon nanotubes to dramatically ratchet up the power and capacity of lithium batteries.
9. What’s it all about, algae? The Energy Department this past week handed out $24 million in research grants to scientists trying to turn algae into a biofuel.
10. You make me feel like a natural lumen: And finally, the Federal Trade Commission just approved a proposal to put new labels on light bulb packages. Unlike the the nutritional info food wrappers, light labels will note bulb brightness in lumens instead of watts, which will allow us consumers to buy bulbs that burn just as bright, but use less energy.
Happy (Energy) Independence Day!