Apr 14, 2008
Algae: ‘The Ultimate in Renewable Energy’
By Marsha Walton, CNN
Texas may be best known for “Big Oil.” But the oil that could some day make a dent in the country’s use of fossil fuels is small. Microscopic, in fact: algae. Literally and figuratively, this is green fuel."Algae is the ultimate in renewable energy,” Glen Kertz, president and CEO of Valcent Products, told CNN while conducting a tour of his algae greenhouse on the outskirts of El Paso. Kertz, a plant physiologist and entrepreneur, holds about 20 patents. And he is psyched about the potential algae holds, both as an energy source and as a way to deal with global warming. “We are a giant solar collecting system. We get the bulk of our energy from the sunshine,” said Kertz.
Algae are among the fastest growing plants in the world, and about 50 percent of their weight is oil. That lipid oil can be used to make biodiesel for cars, trucks, and airplanes. Most people know algae as “pond scum.” And until recently, most energy research and development projects used ponds to grow it. But instead of ponds, Valcent uses a closed, vertical system, growing the algae in long rows of moving plastic bags. The patented system is called Vertigro, a joint venture with Canadian alternative energy company Global Green Solutions. The companies have invested about $5 million in the Texas facility.
“A pond has a limited amount of surface area for solar absorption,” said Kertz. “By going vertical, you can get a lot more surface area to expose cells to the sunlight. It keeps the algae hanging in the sunlight just long enough to pick up the solar energy they need to produce, to go through photosynthesis,” he said. Read more here.
Kertz said he can produce about 100,000 gallons of algae oil a year per acre, compared to about 30 gallons per acre from corn; 50 gallons from soybeans. Using algae as an alternative fuel is not a new idea. The U.S. Department of Energy studied it for about 18 years, from 1978 to 1996. But according to Al Darzins of the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Lab, in 1996 the feds decided that algae oil could never compete economically with fossil fuels. The price of a barrel of oil in 1996? About 20 bucks! Read more here.
Apr 14, 2008
Cold Temperatures Freeze Gardening Season
By Mark Geary, Reporter KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids, IA
All of this cold weather is freezing the start of the gardening season. Now, outdoor fans are eager for a warm-up. “I’m 71-years-old and I’ve never seen spring come this late,” Robert Ciesleck said. Ciesleck and his family look forward to gardening together every spring. This year, they’re not sure when they’re going to be able to get their hands dirty. “When it starts getting into mid-March and April, then things should change fast, but not this year,” he said.
On a typical Sunday afternoon, the Culver’s greenhouse would be packed with people, but the recent cold temperatures scared away a lot of customers. “All the plants are right here. All you can do is come and look for now. I’d hate to take any home quite yet, but it’s getting really tempting,” customer Rhonda Kaczinski said. Cold temperatures aren’t the only problem. This winter’s snow and ice storms drenched the soil and left it soggy. If you can pick up a handful of soil and still wring moisture out of it, it’s too wet to plant,” Culver’s employee Sherri Baldonado said. Even though it might be too cold for flowers to take root, Culver’s employees recommend buying plants now and storing them in a warm place like a garage. Read more here.
Icecap Note: To put in into perspective, Cedar Rapids and the surrounding Midwest has been consistently colder than normal since December. In Cedar Rapids, December averaged 3.0 F below normal, January 1.9 F below normal, February a whopping 8.3 F below normal, March 4.9 F below normal and so far in April 4.4 degrees below normal.
Apr 13, 2008
Exposing the Climate Change Agenda
By Dr Muriel Newman, NZ Centre For Political Research
The climate change debate is forever shifting as science casts long shadows of doubt on the predictions of global catastrophe. The debate gathered a world-wide audience when climate alarmists gained control of the climate science agenda. Its popularisation has given it a political momentum that is proving difficult to halt. At first the alarmists tried to scare us with those exaggerated claims that man-made greenhouse gas emissions were causing the earth’s temperature to rise. They said there was a direct causal relationship between industrialisation (and therefore CO2 emissions) and global temperatures, and that link was so serious that mankind would bring about its own demise if immediate action were not taken.
These prophets of doom initially ignored the fact that while concentrations of man-made greenhouse gases have continued to rise, global temperatures stopped rising ten years ago. However, with the growing weight of scientific data now indicating the globe could be cooling, not warming, the alarmists are now talking of a ‘climate change’ crisis. They have broadened their rhetoric to accommodate all forms of extreme weather change - in order to hedge their bets!
When will these alarmists stop, you might well ask? My answer is they won’t. Those promoting the global warming cause will adapt their reasoning in whatever way is necessary to remain credible in the eyes of the public. Let’s not forget there are powerful vested interests benefiting from global warming alarmism with vast profit opportunities and political reputations at stake. They will hang on as long as a gullible public allows them to.
And big money there is. All around the world, carbon offset schemes - any of extremely dubious quality - are growing like topsy. Companies like Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management, which makes money from investing in “sustainable” businesses, now has $5 billion in funds under management, according to the New York Times. The runaway success of his movie “An Inconvenient Truth” would have done the inflow of money into that fund no harm at all!
Professor Bob Carter, an environmental scientist at Queensland’s James Cook University is presently in New Zealand on a lecture tour. He suggested “The roughly 50 computer experts and scientists who form the core advisory group for the IPCC’s stance must have realized for several years now that the game was up. There is indeed copious evidence that climate is changing, as it always has; and that natural biological and physico-chemical systems - again as always - are changing in response. But as to human causation - the evidential cupboard is bare. “For the last three years, satellite-measured average global temperature has been declining. Given the occurrence also of record low winter temperatures and massive snowfalls across both hemispheres this year, IPCC members have now entered panic mode, the whites of their eyes being clearly visible as they seek to defend their now unsustainable hypothesis of dangerous, human-caused global warming”. Read more here.
Apr 12, 2008
Hurricane Expert Reconsiders Global Warming’s Impact
By Eric Berger, Houston Chronicle
One of the most influential scientists behind the theory that global warming has intensified recent hurricane activity says he will reconsider his stand. The hurricane expert, Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this week unveiled a novel technique for predicting hurricane activity. The new work suggests that, even in a dramatically warming world, hurricane frequency and intensity may not substantially rise during the next two centuries.
The research, appearing in the March issue of Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, is all the more remarkable coming from Emanuel, a highly visible leader in his field and long an ardent proponent of a link between global warming and much stronger hurricanes. His changing views could influence other scientists. “The results surprised me,” Emanuel said of his work, adding that global warming may still play a role in raising the intensity of hurricanes but what that role is remains far from certain. Emanuel’s work uses a new method of computer modeling that did a reasonable job of simulating past hurricane fluctuations. He, therefore, believes the models may have predictive value for future activity. Read more here.
Apr 11, 2008
Geologist: Sun’s Shift Could Mean Global Chill
By John Stark, The Bellingham Herald
Fluctuations in solar radiation could mean colder weather in the decades ahead, despite all the talk about global warming, retired Western Washington University geologist Don Easterbrook said Tuesday. Easterbrook is convinced that the threat of global warming from mankind’s carbon dioxide pollution is overblown. In a campus lecture, he cited centuries of climate data in an effort to convince a somewhat skeptical audience that carbon dioxide’s impact on climate is being much exaggerated by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and by scientists who appear to have won the debate over global warming.
“Despite all you hear about the debate being over, the debate is just starting,” Easterbrook said. Easterbrook doesn’t deny that the Earth’s climate has been warming slowly since about 1980. But he argued that this warming trend fits a longstanding pattern of warming and cooling cycles that last roughly 30 years. Sunspot activity and other solar changes appear to explain the 30-year cycles, he said. If that pattern persists, the earth could now be close to the next 30-year cooling cycle, Easterbrook said.
NASS extreme ultraviolet solar view - still quiet almost 12 years now since last solar minimum
He noted that the 2007-08 winter set records for cold and snow in many parts of the globe. According to the data he displayed, the Earth’s temperature hit a peak in 1998 and has been steady or slightly cooler since then. “One cold winter doesn’t mean much of anything,” he said. “A 10-year trend is interesting.” Read more here.
Dr. Don J. Easterbrook, Professor Emeritus Geology, Western Washington University, author of 8 books, 150 journal publications with focus on geomorphology; glacial geology; Pleistocene geochronology; environmental and engineering geology