Power from Our Roads

Hand held communications devices, space stations and men walking on the moon. Each of these was pure fantasy at one time in history. So, why not generating power from our roadways? If a couple from Idaho have their way, the idea is about to become not just fantasy but reality. Solar Roadways, created by Julie and Scott Brusaw, is exploring the feasibility of building drivable roads using solar panels. With the help of private funding and two phases of funding from the Federal Highway Administration, they now have a working product/prototype – paving the 12’ by 28’ parking lot outside their electronics lab with hexagon shaped solar panels. Built from textured impact resistant glass, the prototype has been load tested without issue at 250,000 pounds. The prototype also includes heating elements to help clear snow and ice as well as LED lighting for lane markings. On April 21st, the Brusaw’s started an Indiegogo campaign to raise one million dollars to help commercialize their product. The hugely successful campaign, now closed, raised $2,200,341 in just two … Continued

Finding Energy in Our Groceries

Finding Energy in Our Groceries When you think of businesses that can make an impact environmentally you probably don’t think of a grocery store. Oil and gas companies, big box retailers, even paper mills and lumber yards probably pop into your mind. According to the grocery stores, they discard more than 2.7 million tons of food waste per year. The majority of that waste ends up in landfills where it decomposes and puts methane gas into the air, which we all know is not a good thing. In fact, food waste makes up about 25 percent of methane emissions. One supermarket chain in the UK has figured out a way to take all that waste and turn it into energy. Sainsbury’s, one of the largest supermarket chains in the UK, has started doing something that isn’t only financially beneficial to the chain, but beneficial to the environment. The grocery giant wants to start using their food waste to power some of their stores. Financially, it makes sense; every ton of food waste they send to … Continued

Finally, Something I like

Our Editor, Aaron, walks into our daily writing meeting and the first words out of his mouth were literally, ”Do we like ANYTHING?” Immediately, I replied, “Moderately priced whiskey, home-made tortillas and shark fishing in a 12 foot plastic boat.” “On the website, Gammill”, he said shaking his head, “Is there anything we like on the website?” “Yes sir,” I said perking up, “I like the pictures and the shiny buttons and the … ” “I MEAN, we seem to constantly write about how bad things are”, Aaron said, cutting me off, “Go find something you like.” “Yeah, Gammill”, added Megan, who was already way too bubbly for that particular hour of the morning. “There are all kinds of great things out there, you just have to have the right attitude and see the glass as half full!” Now, considering that moderately priced whiskey, homemade tortillas and shark fishing on a sit-on-top kayak could all be spun (in one way or another] into a conversation about the environment, I’ve chosen to step outside of my … Continued

What Were We Sold?

I like to think of myself as a pretty savvy shopper. I cut the occasional coupon. I read product reviews on Amazon. I even once researched a pair of socks for 3 days to make sure that they were the right footwear option for my uses. You may scoff at that, but I’m telling you right now, losing a toe to frostbite or jungle rot will ruin your ballet career faster than you can say “Hey doc, does this foot look weird to you too?” With that being said, even the savviest shopper like myself can get duped with a product that isn’t exactly what it is sold to be. Volcano insurance, for example, probably wasn’t one of my smarter buys. In my defense; the salesman, Bob, showed me a clip from “Dantes Peak” and explained to me that even though I am in Texas, “volcanoes are sneaky.” Well, apparently Bob has been at work selling sketchiness across the U.S. for quite some time. Right now in over 20 states there is a pollution source … Continued

The Fuzzy Math of Alaskan Drilling

About a year and a half ago, Shell Oil started drilling in Alaska. Two weeks later, they had their first accident. The Kulluk, a rig loaded with 150,000 gallons of diesel fuel, was being towed to Seattle, largely to avoid Alaskan state taxes, when it broke free of its tow line and drifted out of control before running aground. The 18-crew members aboard the rig had to be airlifted out by the Coast Guard amid 50-mph winds and 18-foot swells. Luckily, no oil spilled. The Kulluk had undergone a $200 million upgrade to prepare it for the harsh Artic climate. Of course, nowhere in that $200 million did anyone set aside any money to give the damn thing a motor. The Coast Guard recently released a report on the accident and concluded that Shell had “made an ill-advised decision to tow its drill rig … to avoid millions of dollars in tax liabilities.” It took the Coast Guard fifteen months to come to that conclusion. They must have had their best team of monkeys working … Continued

It’s Their Nature

The most overused fable in movies is the story of the frog and the scorpion. If you’ve watched a movie in the past two decades that includes an evil character, or a character revealed to be evil, you’ve heard it. If you’ve been living in a tree fort or grew up Amish, here’s the quick version. A scorpion asks a frog for a lift across the river. The frog says, “You’re a scorpion. When we get half way across, you’ll sting me and I’ll die.” The scorpion says, “If I sting you halfway across, we’ll both die.” The frog agrees to carry the scorpion across the river. Halfway across, the scorpion stings the frog. As they both start to drown, the frog asks, “Why would you sting me?” The scorpion says, “Look, I’m a scorpion. This is my nature.” The moral of the story: We are what we are. I was reminded of this fable when Exxon released a report to shareholders about the potential financial effects of climate change regulations. It happened like this. … Continued

Hydrogen Highway

As a natively born son of the great state of Texas, it’s just instinctual for me to cock an eyebrow and shake my head at just about anything that the state of California does. I mean come on; this is the state that routinely sets its self on fire (Watts Riots in 1965. LA Riots in 1992 and 2013. Even a surfer riot in 2013, in Huffington Beach) (and no, It was not totally tubular). It’s the state that has laws against throwing footballs and Frisbees on the beach … (unless you ask a lifeguard for permission). It’s the state that claims to recycle 116% of the plastics it sells. (I’m no math-magician, but that sounds sketchy.) Then again, Texas is the state that banned the entire Encyclopedia Britannica because it has a formula for homemade beer. So with that, I have to begrudgingly admit, California might be on the right track in one area: Zero Emission Vehicles. More specifically: Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles. California is leading the charge in Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standards … Continued

Captured By Regulation

Let’s say I told you there was a company in existence today that has, in theory, solved the energy crisis facing the entire world… Greenhouse emissions: NONE Toxic waste: NONE Human Interaction: next to NONE TerraPower, a little known company in Bellevue, WA, has developed a nuclear reactor that literally runs on the nuclear waste that other nuclear plants throw away. The Traveling Wave Reactor (TWR), as it is known, isn’t even a new concept. It was first envisioned in 1958 by Saveli Feinberg as a reactor that could essentially create its own fuel. CREATES IT’S OWN FUEL. How does a nuclear reactor create its own fuel? Despite many hours of research, I am admittedly not a nuclear physicist yet, imagine a heating stove designed to burn wood. Dry wood burns hot and fast creating a very consistent heat to fuel ratio. Now take that same stove and burn wet, green wood in it. You get a similar heat to fuel ratio, but the fuel lasts longer because the fire is drying the wood as … Continued

Solar Power: Let Me Decide or Buy Me Off?

Throughout the energy conversation we’ve been having with the Nuclear and Coal articles, several readers have commented about the inclusion of solar energy. Solar energy is sold to us as the end-all-be-all solution to our energy needs, and I find it hard not to argue against very specific aspects of that sales pitch. It’s clean, it’s renewable, it’s somewhat readily available, and it has little to no long-term impact. The Department of Energy claims that a 100 square mile solar panel field in Nevada can generate 800 gigawatts of power. That’s enough to power the entire United States. Now, let’s collectively pull our head out of the clouds and talk about the ugly side of the situation … The national average for electricity runs at about 12.6 cents per kilowatt hour, and the average house uses about 1,000 kilowatt hours per month. Before taxes, regulatory, and administrative fees that makes for a $126.00 per month electric bill. You wake up, and decide that you are going green. You hop in your Prius and buzz down … Continued

Clean Coal: Oxymoron of the Century

  Last week we published an article on Nuclear power, and boy did the sparks fly … Good. Our intentions are always to objectively present the information and start a conversation, even on a subject as touchy as nuclear power. Many of our readers fundamentally oppose nuclear power due to their belief it poses safety concerns and toxic waste. Yet, we all live under the umbrella of a generating source that does not threaten ecological disasters,  doesn’t pose the threat of toxic pollution, and does not have the potential for harm to human life … it does them all every day. All masked under the term “Clean Coal” what an oxymoron. Whenever I see a coal plant, the first thing I think of is “duck and cover”. The concept of a sales pitch probably dates as far back as the first shady dealings between two of our prehistoric ancestors over a mangy hide of questionable origins. Throughout our evolution and across the spans of time, the concept still remains the same: convince someone that a … Continued