Saturday, February 16, 2013

Eradicate Poverty, Climate Change & Carbon Footprints

English: Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Resized,...
Where would you say you place yourself in Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs? Click on the triangle to read the detail of the chart. My guess is that 99.99% of you will locate yourself in the top half of this chart. Today is International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This is about all of those that are located in the bottom section of the chart.

The priority for this group at the bottom of this chart is breathing , food , water, sex, sleep, homeostasis and escretion. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs works on the basis that individuals start at the bottom and work on getting their way up the chart. So once the bottom needs have been satisfied, the individual starts working on the next level above, summarized as safety. This goes on until the individual achieves the top level of self actualization.

The poor will suffer more than the rich with climate change. The reason is that the poor live life on the margin. They are more at risk of being affected by floods and droughts. The poor are less able to absorb the increases in food prices. A small increase in food price will represent a huge proportion of their income.

So what has happened? Land which used to grow food is now growing biofuels. The biofuels go into cars to reduce carbon output. Less food produced has resulted in price increases in food. Why? Simple economics of the law of supply and demand. When supply goes down the price of a product goes up unless there is reduced demand. Demand does not go down among the very poor as their demand is already at subsistence levels.

The numbers of individuals living below the poverty line is difficult to imagine. Suffice to say that in Indonesia there are some 30 million living below the poverty line. This is almost half the population of the UK or approximately double the population of the Holland.

Poverty and Climate change are issues that have to be dealt with. Climate change will not be resolved by the very poor.

Carbon produced by person
  • 1 ton   per year in Africa
  • 12.8 tons per year in the UK
  • 28.5 tons per year in the United States

The priority for the poor is to eat and have their basic needs satisfied. We cannot and should not expect the poor to resolve the problems associated with carbon production and climate change.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Renewable Energy for Greener Buildings

Geothermal plant at the Blue Lagoon

Geothermal: The Sleeping Energy Giant

Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) are the ideal solution for solving the climate/energy crisis.  The main difference between this renewable energy and wind/solar is that it can scale efficiently with a small base footprint and can satisfy base load on the energy grid.  This is the 20% of peak energy (electric) demand that is currently satisfied by coal.  Geothermal is a 24/7 energy solution that is clean and scalable.

Geothermal systems have been around since the 1800s and development of these systems has been suppressed by big oil and other fossil fuel backed organizations.  Part of this has always had to do with the fact that geothermal systems create energy.  Fossil fuels are energy stores and can cheaply acquired out of the ground a transported.  Geothermal requires an electric grid and hence was never considered as a transportation fuel.  Geothermal missed out on the industrial revolution because it never could be deployed for transportation.  We never mastered implementing it and instead relied on the black stuff.  With advances in electric storage systems (super capacitors/batteries/hydrogen generation) that is no longer an issue.  Geothermal is limitless, we can afford to be even wasteful because it has zero carbon emissions.

The difference between  traditional geothermal systems employed in Scandinavian countries and new enhanced systems of the kind used in Nevada comes down to water irrigation.  Either the water is naturally available close to the bedrock (Yellowstone) or we need to pump the water down towards the hot rock.  EGS (enhanced geothermal systems) can be located on the coasts or irrigated from rivers or the Great Lakes.  Water is efficiently used in a closed loop system.  Geothermal plants on the coast can also pull double duty as desalinization plants.  Geothermal offers clean, limitless energy and is already proven.  Furthermore, it does not require expensive manufacturing that contributes to greenhouse gases (steel manufacturing) like wind turbines.  Couple that with its small footprint and you have an ideal solution that has been tested for hundreds of years.

Why is Geothermal Being Suppressed

The Bush Administration has put “zero” dollars into geothermal research.  The venture capital community put only a few million.  Why? Everyone has a horse in the energy race and no one wants the “Big Brown” of energy to participate.  Geothermal plants are relatively inexpensive to build and provide limitless energy which is determined by square acres instead of miles (like wind turbines in the Pickens plan). They are capable of supplying huge amounts of energy, which can be used for building and designing LEED certified buildings, or greeen buildings. This opens the door for commissioning services to come in and optimize buildings for our future. We need a solution now and we have to look past greed.   Even clean energy advocates like T. Boone Pickens are misguided by greed.  We need a workable solution now.

The Solution: Let Today’s U.S. Energy companies become tomorrow’s

The U.S. oil and gas industries made record profits in the tens of billions and are the only companies in the U.S. that can afford the cash outlay to build irrigated geothermal plants, that can solve the crisis today instead of tomorrow.  Mandate them to do so, let them protect their profits and business model and move on to the next issue like health care.

Let me be clear, President Obama, you can solve the energy crisis with a swipe of the pen if you mandate U.S. energy companies to switch over to geothermal.  The government can set aside research money to build enhance plant designs, but you must also mandate immediate build out of plants based on existing designs that are already being deployed in Nevada.

Both coal and oil companies in particular have the know how to find and dig holes in the ground (the most complicated part of geothermal).  Let them do it.  Solar/wind at the hyper local level, on rooftops and cars makes a lot of sense, but we need to protect our open spaces.  Carpeting the land with solar panels and wind turbines when billions of years of magnetic, solar, and thermal  energy is right below our feet is silly and irresponsible.

There is a basic lesson that any kid knows. Your basement is always warmer than outside…  The solution to the climate/energy crisis is right below our feet. Your green jobs are here. It will take a lot of “traditional” labor to put these plants online. It will also take researchers to increase efficiency and lower the footprint of designs. Geothermal will also jump start the viable engine of the hydrogen/natural gas/liquefied coal economy, viable transportation fuels.  Eventually we will be able to switch completely over to hydrogen. Today’s energy companies will eventually become plant operators and hydrogen distributors. Large companies like airlines, might eventually operate their own geothermal plants for the sole production of hydrogen for transportation around the clock.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Maintenance for Log Siding

Side view of the cabin
(Photo credit: saidinjest)
Log siding is some of the best looking siding you can get for your house, not to mention the additional benefits which can include better insulation and improved dimensional stability (particularly if the siding in question is cedar). That said, there are quite a few things you need to realize as far as what comes after the siding gets installed. Of course, we're talking about long-term maintenance of log siding.

At a very basic level, log siding simply needs to be treated the same way you would treat actual logs. Some people might already know how to take care of logs that sit out in the environment, and those people are certainly at an advantage. That said, we refuse to leave those who have never dealt with logs behind in the dust, so it's time cover the basics.

Perhaps the most important thing when it comes to logs is that they have a natural tendency to soak up massive amounts of liquid. What this means in the real world is that log siding absolutely loves to get extremely wet, which can stain the log siding, and in extreme cases even rot it.

For now though, let's focus on the staining. For the log siding to rot, you would have to neglect doing any sort of maintenance for an extremely long time. With these tips, rot will never cause any problems. When log siding gets stained, the first step is to wash it down, ideally with some sort of power washer. If you've never used a power washer before, practice on some junk pieces of wood first, as you can do some serious damage if you're not careful. After thoroughly washing the log siding, give it a day or two to dry, and then re-stain the log siding.

Like anything else, you could certainly pay someone to take care of this for you, but prices are usually astronomical, thanks to the fact that it takes approximately 2 full days of work, not even counting the days that you allow the log siding to dry after you have power washed it. By doing it yourself, you can save anywhere from three thousand to four thousand dollars, and feel better about your Do-it-yourself abilities all in one fell swoop.
Allie Thompson is a guest contributor who works for Town & Country Cedar Products, a distributor of white cedar siding and paneling. Learn more at their website,