Fresno Bee op-ed calls for air cleanup/emissions reduction

On Sept. 21, 2016, The Fresno Bee Editorial Board printed an op-ed, the crux of the editorial having to do with work in California and the San Joaquin Valley centered on helping “economically disadvantaged communities” better deal with the effects of poor area air quality. This was indeed a big part of the story.

Brought out in the opinion piece also was information related to Senate Bill 859 (there was another bill referenced as well – Assembly Bill 1613), legislation that focuses on air quality issues in agriculture and directs monies to farms – dairy or otherwise – in an effort to help in the reduction of on-farm generated greenhouse-gas emissions. Nine-hundred-million dollars in cap-and-trade proceeds has been allocated in all.

The Editorial Board furthermore calls for the Brown administration to do more to advance (and at a more rapid pace) not only air cleanup, but Fresno’s downtown revitalization. There is no mistaking here that urban-core-revitalization and air-quality improvement are must-dos.

train-2-kandelAdd to these opinion-piece points, the message that high-speed rail in California will be a big benefit for the state as well as the Valley in that it will provide to millions of people a travel option whereby fast-moving trains will carry them throughout much of the state.

Important to note here is that in recent weeks there were other key pieces of legislation to which the Governor gave his blessing also, including Senate Bill (SB) 32 (which extends out to year 2030 the state’s pivotal Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 and calls for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by that 2030 date) in addition to Assembly Bills 1383, 1550 and 2722.

Now hear this: where the Bee Board writes: “Rather than dividing that pot [of money] up many ways and watering down the impacts of those dollars, the governor’s team should invest substantially in a small number of regions and ensure that measurable progress is made,” this obvious opinion is spot on, the Editorial Board further submitting: “We encourage Gov. Brown to make added investments that will support our community’s vision – and his vision – of Fresno as a state and world leader in providing economic opportunity, cleaning dirty air and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

To The Fresno Bee Board (and to other newsprint publisher editorial boards too): By all means do keep the positive press coming!

Calif.: Climate-change laws leader; black carbon, methane, fluorinated gases bill signed

California is the nation’s undisputed leader in the effort to regulate and tackle global warming emissions.

The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17[1]On Monday, Sept. 20, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown affixed his signature to California Senate Bill (SB) 1383 introduced by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), this according to information in a California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) press release. This registers as the third in a string of climate bill signings: SB 32 on Sept. 8th and AB 1550, AB 1613, AB 2722 and SB 859 on Sept. 14th. (See: “More money to fight warming, polluted air in California issued”). “If followed worldwide, these acts would help cut the projected rate of global warming in half by 2050.

“‘Cutting black carbon and other super pollutants is the critical next step in our program to combat climate change,’ said Governor Brown at a signing ceremony near a Long Beach playground bordered by oil refinery smokestacks. ‘This bill curbs these dangerous pollutants and thereby protects public health and slows climate change.’

“SB 1383 reduces the emission of super pollutants (also known as short-lived climate pollutants) and promotes renewable gas by requiring a 50 percent reduction in black carbon and 40 percent reduction in methane and hydrofluorocarbon from 2013 levels by 2030,” the ARB went on in the release to state. “Sources of these super pollutants include petroleum-based transportation fuels, agriculture, waste disposal and synthetic gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning and aerosol products.”

Short-lived climate pollutants or SLCPs such as methane (CH4) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) account for around 18 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions – the majority or the bulk consisting of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas (82 percent). But their ability to trap and retain heat (hence the term “heat-trapping gases”) is far greater. Meanwhile, according to the ARB, 20 percent of global warming can be attributed directly to emissions of methane.

SLCPs like the above-mentioned are released into the air from sources such as diesel exhaust, cook stoves and brick-making ovens, oil and natural gas production leakage and flaring, as well as from disposal of municipal solid waste, as pointed out in the Air Quality Matters post: “Black carbon a major air pollution culprit.”

And, as for black carbon, also in the same post it is stated: “Globally, 19 percent of emissions coming from the transportation sector is black carbon, estimates the UNEP [United Nations Environment Programme], a relatively large percentage of which is exhausted from the engines of diesel vehicles.”

Improving air, addressing warming

“California’s ongoing efforts to improve air quality and address climate change have already led to important reductions in super pollutants, and have provided a strong foundation for today’s legislation. SB 605 by Senator Lara, signed by Governor Brown in 2014, directed the California Air Resources Board to develop a comprehensive strategy for addressing super pollutants, which ultimately included reduction targets now set forth in this legislation. During last year’s Climate Week in New York, the Governor gave remarks at an event hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme, where he outlined goals for cutting super pollutants that are now codified by today’s legislation,” the state air regulatory agency further reported.

For more related to this, see: “ARB releases plan to slash short-lived climate pollutants” and “Governor Brown Announces 14 New Signatories to the Under 2 MOU Climate Agreement at Ceremony in New York.”

Image above: NASA

FWDS: Researchers hot on trail of heat from food; tho, capturing it, the tricky part

Number 2 in the Food Waste Disposal Series.

320px-Landfill_face[1]So much food gets eaten, but so much gets wasted too.

Last time in the FWDS, looked at were statistics related to municipal solid waste (MSW) and more, including the amount of food in the U.S. annually discarded and the percentage recovered.

So what are the related and relevant numbers? This from the “Food-waste-disposal-series kickoff: Introduction, background” post:

“Of all municipal solid waste (MSW) discarded, food accounted for 37.084 million tons or 14.6 percent of a total 254.1 million tons in 2013, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its distribution Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2013 Fact Sheet, Assessing Trends in Material Generation, Recycling and Disposal in the United States, June 2015. This means that every American on average discards roughly 0.1158875 tons or 231.775 pounds of food yearly.”

163px-ARS_red_onion[1]Meanwhile, some 87 million tons of the total 254.1 million tons is recovered. And, of that which is recovered, food accounts for but 2.1 percent of that 87 million tons which amounts to 1.827 million tons or 3.654 billion pounds, this information from the FWDS-kickoff post also.

Recovery of food waste is one thing. But, what if that which is recovered could be put to productive use? Such a program as this would definitely help keep more perishable and non-perishable foodstuffs alike out of the waste stream and landfills in particular where the methane gas produced in connection with this is a very real concern.

So, the American Chemical Society (ACS), in “Food waste could store solar and wind energy: Nano-Scale Heat Transfer in Carbon Nanotube – Sugar Alcohol Composite as Heat Storage Materials,”1 in its September 14, 2016 PressPac reported, “Electricity generation from renewables has grown steadily over recent years, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects this rise to continue. To keep up with this expansion, use of battery and flywheel energy storage has increased in the past five years, according to the EIA. These technologies take advantage of chemical and mechanical energy.”

Chemical and mechanical energy: they are what they do. All well and good. One thing obviously leading to another and using the imagination, what if energy in the form of heat could be stored. No way? Try “way”!

So check it out: “Some scientists have been exploring sugar alcohols as a possible material for making thermal storage work, but this direction has some limitations,” the ACS in the Sept. 14, 2016 PressPac continued. “Huaichen Zhang, Silvia V. Nedea and colleagues wanted to investigate how mixing carbon nanotubes with sugar alcohols might affect their energy storage properties.

“The researchers analyzed what happened when carbon nanotubes of varying sizes were mixed with two types of sugar alcohols – erythritol and xylitol, both naturally occurring compounds in foods. Their findings showed that with one exception, heat transfer within a mixture decreased as the nanotube diameter decreased. They also found that in general, higher density combinations led to better heat transfer. The researchers say these new insights could assist in the future design of sugar alcohol-based energy storage systems,” suggested the ACS in the September 14, 2016 announcement.

Sugar alcohols – a food-industry waste product – as it relates, are in abundant supply, according to the American Chemical Society.

And, as for how uneaten food is dealt with, the above represents but one solution among several.

Notes

  1. Related periodical reference: Journal of Physical Chemistry C, from the American Chemical Society

Upper image above: Ashley Felton

Lower image above: Stephen Ausmus, U.S.D.A. Agricultural Research Service

More money to fight warming, polluted air in California issued

High atop a parking garage in downtown Fresno, California Governor Jerry Brown on Wed., Sept. 14, 2016 affixed his signature to several bills thereby enacting legislation that allocates monies to fight warming and polluted air in the state.

A very smoggy 1972 L.A. day
A very smoggy 1972 L.A. day

In the governor’s presence and bearing witness to the bills’ signature signings that day were (in no particular order) Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, Assemblymembers Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno), Autumn R. Burke (D-Inglewood), Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. Bills approved include: Assembly Bill (AB) 1550 (Gomez), AB 2722 (Burke) and Senate Bill (SB) 859 (Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review) and AB 1613 (Committee on Budget). Monies to the tune of $900 million were allocated in all. This follows on the heels of the governor’s approval of SB 32 less than a week earlier. (SB 32 enables California’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 law to be extended 10 more years from year 2020 to 2030).

“Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today signed legislation that directs $900 million in cap-and-trade funds to greenhouse gas reducing programs that benefit disadvantaged communities, support clean transportation and protect natural ecosystems,” the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) specified in the “Governor Signs Legislation to Support Communities Impacted by Climate Change” press statement. “The governor also signed bills that prioritize spending in communities disproportionally impacted by dirty air and carbon pollution.

“‘These cap-and-trade investments will help spur innovation of all kinds to curb carbon pollution,’ said Governor Brown at a signing ceremony in downtown Fresno, where cap-and-trade proceeds are helping to improve bus rapid transit services and access to affordable housing. ‘With these bills, we also help communities hard hit by pollution and climate change.’”

Currently, cap-and-trade auction proceeds help fund such projects and/or programs as affordable housing, high-speed rail, public transit and sustainable communities, to name four, according to the ARB in the release. The $900 million is from cap-and-trade generated, fiscal year 2016-’17 funds that had previously not been allocated from those funds remaining and roughly $462 million (just over half) represents an appropriation reserved for future years.

“Cap-and-trade investments in California, including expenditures in today’s agreement,” the ARB added, “total $3.2 billion.”

California, as a greenhouse gas emitter, adds approximately 1 percent GHG to world totals. At the same time, “the state is playing a leading role in broadening collaboration among subnational leaders,” the ARB emphasized.

“These efforts include spearheading the Under2Coalition, a global climate pact among cities, states and countries to limit the increase in the world’s average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius. A total of 135 jurisdictions representing 32 countries and six continents have now signed or endorsed the agreement. Together, they represent more than 783 million people and $21 trillion in [Gross Domestic Product], equivalent to more than a quarter of the global economy. Signatories commit to either reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 or achieving a per capita annual emission target of less than 2 metric tons by 2050,” the ARB in the release continued.

The Golden State is home to some of the dirtiest air in the country and helping improve the health and well-being of citizens located in disadvantaged communities in state is what legislation of this kind is about.

“‘These bills unleash badly needed resources that can make tangible improvements to environmental health and quality of life in our most polluted and impoverished communities,’ said Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León. ‘This year we set ambitious new targets for reducing harmful emissions of greenhouse gases and other toxic pollutants. Now it’s time to use every tool at our disposal to reach those goals and improve lives in the process. These funds are a down-payment toward those ends – they will increase access to electric vehicles, solar panels, and low-carbon public transit; help us improve household energy efficiency and create new parks; and bolster our forest and wetland management efforts to better prepare for damaging wildfires and floods. …’”

And, for any and all proclaiming California’s emissions-trading program has not produced as anticipated, for the record, if $3.2 billion in cap-and-trade proceeds to date already invested isn’t testament to the contrary, than what is??!!

For more on this matter, see: the “Governor Signs Legislation to Support Communities Impacted by Climate Change” press release here.

Image above: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

New federal GHG, fuel-efficiency standards for trucks, etc. finalized

On Aug. 16, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a news release announced: “Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) jointly finalized standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that will improve fuel efficiency and cut carbon pollution, while bolstering energy security and spurring manufacturing innovation. The final phase two standards were called for by President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and respond to the President’s directive in early 2014 to develop new standards that run into the next decade.

Diesel-smoke[1]“The final phase two program promotes a new generation of cleaner, more fuel-efficient trucks by encouraging the wider application of currently available technologies and the development of new and advanced cost-effective technologies through model year 2027. The final standards are expected to lower CO2 emissions by approximately 1.1 billion metric tons, save vehicle owners fuel costs of about $170 billion, and reduce oil consumption by up to two billion barrels over the lifetime of the vehicles sold under the program. Overall, the program will provide $230 billion in net benefits to society, including benefits to our climate and the public health of Americans. These benefits outweigh costs by about an 8-to-1 ratio,” the EPA stated.

The engine performance and vehicle standards, to cover 2021 to 2027 model years, apply to large pickup and semi-trucks and also to vans, as well as to every size and type of work truck and bus, the EPA noted. Marked improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency and substantial reductions in GHGs are the hallmark of this program. In fact, after full phase-in, tractor-trailer tractors, for instance, according to the EPA, will use up to a quarter less fuel, resulting in a 25 percent decrease in emissions of carbon dioxide than what would a comparable model year 2018 tractor.

The federal regulatory agency in the release further stressed, “Heavy-duty trucks are the second largest segment and collectively make up the biggest increase in the U.S. transportation sector in terms of emissions and energy use. These vehicles currently account for about 20 percent of GHG emissions and oil use in the U.S. transportation sector. Globally, GHG emissions from heavy-duty vehicles are growing rapidly and are expected to surpass emissions from passenger vehicles by 2030. Through the Paris climate agreement and discussions with other countries, the United States is working with other major economies to encourage progress on fuel economy standards, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that will improve global energy and climate security by reducing our reliance on oil.”

Added to this, first-time fuel-efficiency and GHG standards for trailers are being finalized. Excluding mobile homes and certain similar categories, and whereas the NHTSA’s standards aren’t going to go into effect until year 2021, the EPA’s standards are slated to become effective starting with model year 2018 trailers. Such cost-effective trailer technologies include “aerodynamic devices, light weight construction and self-inflating tires” which, according to the EPA, lower significantly consumption of tractor-trailer-tractor fuel and because of the fuel savings this will allow owners to recoup costs faster.

Soybeanbus[1]“The final standards are cost effective for customers and businesses, delivering favorable payback periods for truck owners,” the EPA pronounced. “The buyer of a new long-haul truck in 2027 would recoup the investment in fuel-efficient technology in less than two years through fuel savings.”

There’s absolutely nothing not to like about these two moves!

What say we call the matter of air pollution what it is really? A shame

I have heard and read repeatedly air pollution, and crisis – the terms, in the same clause or sentence. There have been occasions even when I’ve constructed the same in my writing.

Pollution, I understand. But, a crisis, meanwhile, well, I thought I knew!

So, I went searching for the meaning, of crisis, that is.

“Crisis: 1. a turning point, as in a sequence of events, for better or for worse. 2. a condition of instability, as in international relations, that leads to a decisive change. 3. a personal tragedy, emotional upheaval, or the like. …”1

360px-the_thinker_rodin1Okay, so now I’ve come to the conclusion that regarding the association or connection with air pollution, the word crisis just doesn’t fit. The two terms are just at odds and causes me to scratch my head in bewilderment and leaves me to wonder if there is a more appropriate substitute. Coming to mind is “situation.” Being that this is what I have arrived at, a definition is in order.

“Situation: 1. manner of being situated; location or position with reference to environment. 2. a place or locality. 3. condition; case; plight: in a desperate situation. 4. the state of affairs; combination of circumstances: the international situation. …”2

Good.

Back to crisis, considering language usage, I now want to know what makes a crisis a crisis. I thought maybe a few examples would help clarify.

Crises – examples of:

  1. The Ebola outbreak
  2. The Gulf (of Mexico) oil spill
  3. The Stock Market Crash of 1929; The Great Depression

I’m convinced most, if not all would agree these are each and all crises or going out on a limb, crisis situations, and, if you examine closely, they each and every one share a common trait: they have captured and held our collective attention plus demanded immediate and a swift and sweeping response.

Other crises examples, meanwhile, are:

  1. The climate crisis
  2. The air pollution crisis

Comparing the two subsets, the latter, in my opinion, don’t carry the same weight as the former.

In the case of the first, clearly, these were serious matters all (the Ebola outbreak; the oil spill and the late 1920s, mid-’30s financial collapse). However, with respect to the second, what appears to be lacking and unlike with the first, is the sense of urgency in bringing about resolution. That seems really odd considering, according to World Health Organization estimates, 7 million plus people prematurely die from air pollution’s effects, annually. This is more than 19,178 deaths per day, which is just about one-half of the number killed in automobile crashes on U.S. roads each year. Only it’s in a day; not over 365 of them.

Think about that for a moment (hopefully, for more than a moment). I have and do and death (and this doesn’t include morbidity figures) on this grand a scale, I would think should prompt immediate, corrective action as a response. In my mind’s eye, it’s – plainly and simply – absent. This is not to say people are not tuning in and taking note and work is not being undertaken to try to make the air – which we all share – cleaner. They are, they do and it is. However, this, what I would call a disastrous, sorry situation at hand, should be a wake-up call. For scores of people to engage in a worldwide campaign to launch a thorough and effective mitigating plan to return global air to a state of healthy repair.

Until such time that this actually happens, if it happens, I don’t believe for one minute and I don’t see how, the air pollution situation can be anything but that alone – a situation. What I’m suggesting here, in reference to determining what the sum of, yes, this situation is, crisis, is just not it.

Oh, and today’s Air Quality Index for Fresno, lest I forget, is an “Unhealthy” (for everyone) 154. That’s neither a crisis nor a situation. It’s a downright shame!

“Shame: 1. the painful feeling of having done or experienced something dishonorable, improper, foolish, etc. 2. capacity to experience this feeling: to be without shame. 3. disgrace; ignominy. 4. a cause for regret, disappointment, etc.: It was a shame you weren’t there. …”3

Notes

  1. Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, 1991, p. 322
  2. Ibid. p. 1252
  3. Ibid. p. 1231

Image above: AndrewHorne

SAPS: Stanford scientists use novel approach to get ‘green’ plastics from CO2, ag-waste mix

Number 6 in the Sustainable Agricultural Practices Series.

Researchers at Stanford University are working their magic: For example, turning inedible plant waste in conjunction with carbon dioxide into usable, sustainable plastic.

Typically needed in the production of plastics and other products is petroleum. What makes this development so special and promising is that, by utilizing this new plastic-making method, the need for petroleum is now less. Not just this, but the carbon dioxide used here isn’t released into the atmosphere and instead goes into the plastic-making process and, what’s more, that plastic is, itself, renewable.

So, what’s behind – or driving – this research?

As many of today’s products are petroleum-based (that is, made using petroleum or petroleum byproducts), as this relates to the ongoing research in question, Stanford Assistant Professor of Chemistry Matthew Kanan and graduate student Aanindeeta Banerjee, are in search of finding ways to manufacture plastic and other products such as polyester that are more renewable.

Mark Shwartz writes in: “Stanford scientists make renewable plastic from carbon dioxide and plants: The new technology could provide a green alternative to petroleum-based plastic bottles and other polyester products,” a Mar. 9, 2016 Stanford University press release, “Stanford scientists have discovered a novel way to make plastic from carbon dioxide (CO2) and inedible plant material, such as agricultural waste and grasses. Researchers say the new technology could provide a low-carbon alternative to plastic bottles and other items currently made from petroleum.”

“Instead of using sugar from corn to make FDCA [2-5-Furandicarboxylic acid], the Stanford team has been experimenting with furfural, a compound made from agricultural waste that has been widely used for decades,” Shwartz continues. “About 400,000 tons are produced annually for use in resins, solvents and other products.

“But making FDCA from furfural and CO2 typically requires hazardous chemicals that are expensive and energy-intensive to make.”

As a means to get around this, carbonate is substituted with the resulting compound being a far more benign one, according to Shwartz.

Specifics

In the approach taken here, “… Banerjee … combined carbonate with CO2 and furoic acid, a derivative of furfural. She then heated the mixture to about 290 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) to form a molten salt.

“The results were dramatic. After five hours, 89 percent of the molten-salt mixture had been converted to FDCA. The next step, transforming FDCA into PEF plastic, is a straightforward process that has been worked out by other researchers, Kanan said,” Shwartz wrote.

And, as for PEF or polyethylene furandicarboxylate, this is formulated by combining ethylene glycol and the FDCA compound.

PET (polyethylene terephthalate), on the other hand, is a polymer, known more commonly as polyester, according to Shwartz, and a healthy 50 million tons of it annually is used in electronics, fabrics, personal-care-products and recyclable-beverage-container manufacturing.

“PET is made from two components, terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol, which are derived from refined petroleum and natural gas. Manufacturing PET produces significant amounts of CO2, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming,” Shwartz, of Stanford University’s Precourt Institute for Energy, adds.

Because carbon dioxide is needed to produce PEF, the real beauty of this is that with this substance exists the potential for a significant reduction in the production and release into the atmosphere of GHG. And, perhaps, the icing on the cake is the notion that carbon dioxide needed in PEF production, could come from industry or the energy-producing sector as Shwartz offers, or both.

The press release in question author further notes: “Kanan and colleagues have also begun to apply their new chemistry to the production of renewable fuels and other compounds from hydrogen and CO2.”

Expect more promising developments ahead.

National Drive Electric Week this year goes on the road Sept. 10 thru 18

National Drive Electric Week is, for the sixth time in a row, hitting the road in force, returning this year in September for one solid week and then some, beginning Sept. 10th and running through the 18th.

“Each year, Plug In America, the Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association team up with local groups to organize events, which typically feature all-electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars from every automaker on the market,” expressed Plug In America in its “Sixth Annual National Drive Electric Week: September 10-18, 2016” press release, dated June 15, 2016. “National Drive Electric Week events are linked to increased plug-in vehicle sales, which have jumped by as much as 23 percent the month after.”

This is an outstanding opportunity for anyone who has been on the fence about going the all-electric or plug-in hybrid route to talk to experts and other such vehicle owners, take test drives and learn more about what is available on the market as well as what these vehicles can offer buyers.

Under the hood

Development of electric vehicles (EV) has definitely come a long way.

In 2015 Americans drove a cumulative 3.148 trillion miles. Meanwhile, average motor vehicle fuel economy rating is 25.3 miles per gallon (mpg). Now, using a per-capita yearly vehicle miles traveled average of 9,363, dividing the latter by the former yields an average per-annum, per-vehicle gasoline consumption rate of about 370 gallons. So, with Americans collectively putting 3.148 trillion miles on the odometer, this more or less translates into a staggering combined total 124.427 billion gallons of fuel consumed by an estimated 253 million autos and trucks traversing America’s highways and byways in one year’s time.

The price of gasoline right at this moment in America on Labor Day weekend is an average $2.22 per gallon. Using this number, this means an annual expenditure of $276.228 billion shelled out to buy fuel.

Helpful indeed would be to look at comparative data.

To determine electric vehicle fuel-consumption equivalency, using my own cost for electricity of an average $0.24 per kilowatt-hour or $0.24/kWh (based on my charges from Jul. 12-Aug. 10, 2016), say, for example, that in order to go 100 EV miles would require 25 kWh-worth of battery charge (an estimate) and, providing I drove an EV, my cost would be $6 or a per-mile cost of $0.06.

Now, also, say, for example, the fuel-economy rating of the vehicle I do drive is 22.5 mpg, to go 100 miles would require 4.44 gallons of gasoline. At a cost of $2.22 per gallon, to drive that same distance would set me back roughly $9.86 – a little more than 1.5 times as much. If I were the typical driver, and to drive the average 9,363 per-capita vehicle travel miles, over a year’s time my car would consume 416.13 gallons of gas and my expenditure just for that alone would be $923.82, assuming, of course, that that per-gallon-of-gasoline price held steady.

On the other hand, an EV that requires 25 kWh of electricity to travel 100 miles, in driving at the average annual per-capita rate, provided the math is performed correctly, my total capital outlay for purchased electricity would equal $561.78 and this over the year. Moreover, maintenance costs for electric vehicles typically are just a fraction of what would be required to maintain your average internal-combustion-engine-powered motor-vehicle model.

So, with EVs, there is quite a savings to be had, meaning these vehicles pay for themselves sooner.

Adds Plug In America in the release: “The environmental and financial benefits combined with the growing convenience of electric vehicles, from longer ranges to expanding charging infrastructure, are causing a steady increase in use. Plug-in electric vehicles are selling at a faster pace than the first generation of hybrid cars. Even with significantly lower gas prices, EV sales were much higher in the first quarter of 2016 than they were in the first quarter of 2015.”

And, the best thing of all? It is that these vehicles don’t air-pollute which makes them zero-emissions vehicles in the truest sense of the term.

Measure of success

The success of National Drive Electric Week is obvious: Plug In America reports:

  • 2013: 100 events in 34 states with over 30,000 participants
  • 2014: 152 events in 38 states, five Canadian provinces and three European countries with over 95,000 participants
  • 2015: 196 events in 41 states, seven Canadian provinces, Hong Kong and New Zealand with more than 130,000 participants and 9,000+ test rides

For more about National Drive Electric Week 2016, look here.

An ahead-of-his-time Thomas Edison
An ahead-of-his-time Thomas Edison

SAPS: Using LED lighting for growing puts crops in best possible light

Number 5 in the Sustainable Agricultural Practices Series.

Food: It’s what makes the world go ‘round. This, and air and water, you know, the essentials or fundamentals.

Efficiency, meanwhile, is responsible for practices, such as growing foods, to be improved; streamlined in some cases. And, innovation is what allows efficiency to take place.

Hydroponic growing technique
Hydroponic growing technique

One innovation in agricultural practices is the application of light. Outside, light is provided by the sun. Inside growing, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. What we’re talking about here is specialized lighting application inside greenhouses, for example, of light-emitting diode (LED) lighting as a way to improve inside growing conditions for crops and plants grown in this manner.

It’s becoming a more viable way of growing food indoors. It’s also much more efficient.

“Hidden inside the prominent Philips lighting building in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, is the state-of-the-art GrowWise Center,” writes Vegetable Growers News correspondent Melanie Epp in: “Lighting the way: LED lighting solutions create a recipe for optimum plant growth,” the Sept. 2016 VGN cover story. “Here, researchers work to provide tailor-made LED light growth recipes for producers who wish to grow healthy, quality food indoors year round. The facility is concentrating its research on optimizing recipes for leafy vegetables, strawberries and herbs. Other areas of research are looking at growing wheat and potatoes indoors.”

Global director of city farming for Philips is Gus van der Feltz, who emphasizes that through its research production of food grown on the local level (and this could include urban settings) can be enabled around the world. The result is conservation of land and water, less waste and reduced need for shipping produce to distant markets, Epp brought to bear in the “Lighting the way” piece.

More LED lighting benefits

But LED lighting for indoor growing goes beyond even this. “LED lighting has improved the taste, quality and health of vegetables; reduced losses due to pests, disease and weed pressure; and reduced overall energy costs, said Robert Colangelo of Green Sense Farms in Illinois,” related Epp. All of these pluses surely mean one thing: air-quality improvement. Additionally, there is no dust being kicked up on account of farm tractor disking (tilling) and plowing of land that are common in field-farming practices. Shipping local also cuts down on pollution entering the air.

Unique to growing crops in LED lighting conditions is that, with the correct combination of LED lighting colors, things like “plant height, width, color and taste,” can be controlled, added Epp. “Red light, for instance, affects height, and blue affects width.”

Because LEDs are low power devices, lighting using this technology just lasts longer, compared to, say, fluorescents, and they also give off less heat.

“‘Having lights that produce less heat and PAR (higher photosynthetic active radiation) and use less electricity are much more sustainable, better for the environment and better for our business because they’re more economical,’ he said,” Epp wrote in citing Colangelo.

Application of LED lighting in facilitating crop growth proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the science of growing crops has indeed come a long, long way.

Image above: NASA, Kennedy Space Center

Keeping it real and relevant: Air quality reporting

I love how when I’m watching local broadcast T.V. news, especially during the weather segment, the on-air meteorologist proceeds to tell viewers about this, that and the other (weather-related, of course) and in the background, meanwhile (behind the person doing the reporting or in a separate frame), the on-screen image is, what else?! our fair city, Fresno, cloaked in haze. (This is quite common in this area). The hazy sky is what my eyes focus on, naturally. (On at least one local television station, during weather broadcasts, what Fresno viewers frequently see on screen is not only what the weather is in this neck of the woods, but weather-wise, what is going on in a number of other area cities too. This is facilitated through placement of strategically city located/mounted cameras).

On occasion and issued via an accompanied voice-over, comes the perfunctory or obligatory remark on the scene shown. For those curious, here’s an example: “If only there were a disturbance in the atmosphere like a strong wind or rain to blow out all that polluted air.”

Good response. Not! Hey weather guy/gal, News Flash: how about an on-air comment encouraging people to drive less, for one? I, personally, don’t think that is asking for too much, do you?

ShipTracks_MODIS_2005may11[1]Furthermore, saying something like: “Hey, can’t wait to get a mixing of the atmosphere to blow out all the polluted air so we can again see the Sierra Nevada Mountains,” the danger in doing this, as I see it, is that there is potential for people hearing sound bites like this to fall into the trap of thinking or believing that weather in the form of either wind or rain is the solution to cleaning the air, when, in fact, what really is needed is solving for what led to the pollution being present in the first place.

Anyway, this is just one example.

As if this weren’t enough, another time I heard on air during, yes, a weather report, reference made to a gorgeous or glorious or magnificent or spectacular sunset. What wasn’t conveyed was the reason behind that “blazing red ball in the sky,” the scene on the viewing screen. Great. The air is laden with toxins, but, do we hear about that? Nope.

Meanwhile, on many a news broadcast during the weather reporting segment, when it’s time for the air quality low-down, displayed, presented is a graphic indicating the Air Quality Index. To go along with this are a group of numbers shown usually for coverage-area counties with corresponding colors and maybe words accompanying those colors such as “moderate” (yellow) and “sensitive” (amber or orange). If the area air is really bad, and we’re talking “unhealthy” (in the red zone), the kind that’s unhealthful enough to prompt an “air pollution alert” or “bad air alert,” a more in-depth report on air quality, typically with experts in the field providing comment, may accompany or precede the weather coverage.

Overall, in my region, air quality reporting on broadcast T.V. news is just okay. My opinion, of course. And when it comes to corresponding commenting, there is barely any at all, and what there is often is cursory. At least, this is my impression. Come on, you tell me.

Oh, and as for said reporting a few weeks ago, I repeatedly heard how area fires were impacting San Joaquin Valley air. You could have fooled me. Upon stepping foot outside, no smell of smoke, anywhere. What’s more, I was even harder-pressed to find more than just a hint of particulate matter pollution in the air. Logging on to the local air district’s web site, with the online tools that I accessed, indications were there were levels of ozone in the air exceeding acceptable limits/thresholds. Fine particulate matter, that was another story. Readings during this period were, for the most part, well within the good range. At worst, on some occasions, moderate levels were recorded. Not the case in summer 2015, when during the Rough Fire in eastern Fresno County, I actually smelled smoke in the air here in Fresno due to it having reached the Valley floor.

I’m not for sure when air quality data and information first started being broadcast as part of local weather reporting. As long as air quality is going to be reported, then that reporting should be the best it can possibly be in order to do the greatest amount of good. What works for me is more of the substantive stuff and less of the superfluous fluff.

So, who’s game?

Image above: NASA