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Archive for March, 2012

If you don’t know the story, Energy Secretary Steven Chu previously graded himself with an A minus as his job rating.* At a congressional hearing on Oversight and Government Reform last week, Congressman Darrell Issa asked Secretary Chu if he also gave himself an A minus on “controlling the price of gasoline at the pump.”

Chu responded with, “I would give myself a little higher.”

Although he hedged his answer with a belief that the tools at his disposal are limited, the clip made the rounds, and, of course, political commentary followed. Anti-Anti-Underground — a biting, political cartoon site — scrawled out the following opinion:

*Let’s be honest: There’s no good way to answer the “rate yourself in your job” question. Whether you’re self-deprecating or confident, rating your individual effort or the final team result, someone will pick on your answer. Still shouldn’t give yourself an A on everything though…

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

 

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SpiroFlo looks at a potential breakthrough in wind power: the wind lens.

I’ll admit it: I’m not a big fan of wind power (oh, pun).

Like electric car batteries, it’s making progress, but thus far, fails in a) the ability to store a sufficient amount of energy; and b) returning enough energy value for the energy it takes to create it — the fancy term is EROEI: energy returned on energy invested — making it unreliable as anything more than a niche power source.

That said, I still like to keep track of the progression of green technologies, because the world is changing, and if it changes rapidly enough, some of these alternate energy sources could be sustainable long-term. Of course, this will likely require a dominant energy industry to crash — as need is a great developer of technology — so in the mean time, we get to enjoy the smaller developments along the way:

If you’ve driven through North Dakota, Texas or Wyoming, you’ve probably seen those giant three-pronged wind turbines up on a hill. Even though they’re placed in areas where they should catch the wind and spin, you’ve probably driven by them when they’re not turning. As a result of that, wind power technologies are looking for ways for turbines to spin more efficiently, while being safe and cost-effective.

Japan has invented a wind turbine that could triple the output of a standard wind turbine, potentially making it more cost-efficient than nuclear power ($80 per MWh for wind versus $90 per MWh for coal). As usual, I italicized the terms that highlight the difference between a success and a raging failure.

new wind turbine

Looks like a Dyson bladeless fan -- uh, with the blades put back in

Speculators have determined that with a mere (whopping) 2,640,000 wind lenses, wind power could completely replace nuclear power. You know, if it actually works as planned, and if people somehow sign off on turning over a combined land mass area a quarter the size of Alaska. Minor details, especially considering wind turbines aren’t aesthetically pleasing enough for many environmentalists.

That’s one of those hypocritical standards that pops up in environmentalism: As wind power gets more mainstream — and therefore more visible and hopefully more reliable — the less it is embraced by the hardcore green crowd who initially champion just about any potentially green technology that could be more efficient than big oil or nuclear energy. In the end, green or not, there is no more inefficient energy resource than fantasy.

Wind power has some hefty price tags ahead, too — like the proposed multi-billion dollar TWE Carbon Valley project in Wyoming (note that ‘proposed’ is italicized, whereas ‘multi-billion dollar’ is not) — but at least it’s progressing in a way that even I might agree with one day.

More on the wind lens:

More innovative wind turbine designs: http://www.ecofriend.com/entry/7-innovative-wind-turbine-designs/

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo looks at LifeStraw—an award-winning portable water filter.

LifeStraw demonstration

Given that we’re in the water saving and purification business, SpiroFlo is a big fan of other water-saving and purification technologies, especially those with ties to humanitarian efforts.

Even in today’s world:

  • An estimated 884 million people in the world, 37% of whom live in Sub-Saharan Africa, still use unimproved sources of drinking water.
  • Approximately 43% of the global population, especially the lower-income populace in the remote and rural parts of the developing world, is deprived of household safe piped water.
  • In many rural and urban areas of the developing world, household water-quality interventions can reduce diarrhea morbidity by more than 40%.

Unfortunately, even with the safety improvements of treating water in the home, there’s still a great need for water filtration at the point of use. That’s where the LifeStraw comes in. Released in 2005 by Vestergaard-Frandsen LifeStaw allows those in third-world countries access to safe drinking water. It contains no chemicals, no moving parts, and has a three-year shelf life (or 264 gallons), filtering out 99.9% of bacteria and protozoa. Users place the LifeStraw directly in the water source and sip through it as a regular straw (albeit slightly bigger: given that it’s 9” by 1”).

LifeStraw is also available in the U.S. and Canada; enabling hikers to cut down on bottled water use (and its associated waste cost). Several LifeStraws are donated yearly for areas in need.

For more on the LifeStraw, visit http://www.vestergaard-frandsen.com/lifestraw

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo looks at the two, large solar flares the sun shot at the Earth on March 6th.

In the same way that militant vegetarians have to contend with the reality that animals seem to be just fine with eating other animals, I wonder what the hardcore environmental crowd thinks when the sun trashes the earth with solar flares.

You see, earlier on this month, the sun shot two huge, plasma balls towards Earth at four million miles-per-hour. Both of these flares ranked as X-class storms — the strongest type of solar flare from the sun.

In addition to amounting to monstrous speeding ticket fines, this type of solar activity (likely the largest since 2006) knocks out satellites and power grids, blacks out radios, and forces planes to reroute. This type of solar radiation also causes astronauts on the International Space Station to seek shelter until it passes. While these effects likely only last 24 hours, somebody really needs to chat to the sun about its energy use.

Here’s a NASA video on the solar flare.

Description: This movie of the March 6, 2012 X5.4 flare was captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in the 171 and 131 Angstrom wavelength. One of the most dramatic features is the way the entire surface of the sun seems to ripple with the force of the eruption. This movement comes from something called EIT waves — because they were first discovered with the Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT) on the Solar Heliospheric Observatory. Since SDO captures images every 12 seconds, it has been able to map the full evolution of these waves and confirm that they can travel across the full breadth of the sun. The waves move at over a million miles per hour, zipping from one side of the sun to the other in about an hour. The movie shows two distinct waves. The first seems to spread in all directions; the second is narrower, moving toward the southeast. Such waves are associated with, and perhaps trigger, fast coronal mass ejections, so it is likely that each one is connected to one of the two CMEs that erupted on March 6.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo looks at Coca-Cola and PepsiCo’s decision to change their recipes to avoid getting a cancer warning label.

Now with fewer calories and a lower risk of rat cancer

Apparently the secret Coke recipe isn’t so secret anymore, as a consumer advocate group, The Center for Science in the Public Interest, forced the soda giant to change how they produce their caramel coloring. The problem is that the previous caramel coloring contained ammonia sulfite—a carcinogen linked to cancer in animals. With a new California regulation placing ammonia sulfite on the carcinogen list, this would require Coke and Pepsi to place a cancer warning label on the product if they stuck with the previous recipe. As a result, they switched to a caramel coloring that reduced the amount of the ammonia sulfite to a safer level (read: they got to avoid that whole “this product causes cancer” sticker).

Seems fair, right? I mean, who wants to gulp down an increased chance of cancer? There’s just one problem:

In order to be at risk for cancer from the previous recipe, you’d need to drink a thousand cans of soda a day.

While some goon is likely to take up that challenge, for everyone else, that’s a lot of resources and furor for hollow victory. Additionally, soda is already linked to a number of realistic health flaws—dissolved tooth enamel, childhood obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes—and it still sells fairly well. It’s not like health experts haven’t been nay-saying soda for years.

While health issues aren’t exactly environmental issues, there’s a lot of overlap in the mentality between the two. When I see a lot of fuss and effort over concerns that frankly aren’t all that bad, I think it takes away from truly destructive practices that should be addressed. In the mean time, if you accidentally down 999 sodas too many every day for the next year, know the health watchdogs have you covered.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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Ecotech Systems looks at Mr. Ellie Pooh — a company that makes paper products from elephant dung.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’m not going to give my wife anything made of feces for our anniversary.

I’m guessing this isn’t a surprise to most of you, but maybe this fancy, heart-shaped note box from Mr. Ellie Pooh will sway your stance. You see, Mr. Ellie Pooh — a Sri Lankan, fair trade company — makes premium paper products using 50% post-consumer waste and 50% fiber from elephant dung. After a process is used to extract the fiber (and ditch that whole crap factor), Mr. Ellie Pooh creates hand-crafted items like greeting cards and photo albums.

Immediate thoughts:

  • The name Mr. Ellie Pooh, while cutesy, just draws attention to the fact that the product is made from elephant poo.
  • The phrase “hand-crafted” probably shouldn’t be anywhere near a product made from what an animal just dropped out.
  • Regardless of the process, like biosolids, I see people having a hard time getting past the yuck factor. No matter how fancy the products are, I still can’t see sticking my wedding photo in a frame made from elephant crap. Maybe in another 10 years I’ll feel differently.

That'll make a nice sticky note.

The intent behind this company is actually quite admirable: Since elephants are often despised in Sri Lanka for eating crops, the founder of Mr. Ellie Pooh, veterinarian Dr. Karl Wald, saw the need to give these animals financial value in the eyes of the farmers losing their crops to these large beasts. With fair trade jobs helping the community, Dr. Karl hopes to “educate the villagers into living, working and respecting the elephant,” rather than shooting them when they come looking for food.

Dr. Karl explains the process:

While I wish Mr. Ellie Pooh the best in their business, like many other Eco-friendly businesses, I don’t think being green is enough.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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SpiroFlo looks at General Motors’ decision to halt production of the Chevy Volt come March 19th.

From March 19th to April 23rd, General Motors will halt production of their plug-in, hybrid, electric car — the Chevrolet Volt. As a result, 1,300 factory workers will be laid off for that five-week period.

This news comes after a wave of recent, good reports: Doubling Volt sales in February and getting named the 2012 European Car of the Year. However, green cars seem to have awards made up in their honor,  and the reason behind doubling their sales stems from recent government safety approval after 2011 concerns over battery fire-related incidents. It’s not that hard to double your sales when only 603 units were sold in January due to these concerns.

Clearly, this puts GM way short of the 60,000 Volts they planned to sell in 2012.

With this squeeze on sales, no wonder GM Spokesperson Chris Lee said, “We need to maintain the right inventory levels and continue to meet demand.” As of today, 6,300 Volts are in inventory (enough to meet the expected demand for the next six months).

Some believe this event could help lower the price of the Chevy Volt and wean consumers away from straight gasoline cars. The Chevy Volt currently sells for $39,145 MSRP (with various tax breaks and credits). While I’ve already stated my opinion that electric cars haven’t yet earned their price (see the second half of this article) and that the battery life needs the most work, I still hate to see the Detroit automobile industry  take one more hit to its labor force.

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Colin McKay Miller is the Marketing Manager for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home) and industrial water purification (biofilm removal).

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

Ecotech for cost-effective non-thermal drying (for biosolids, sugar beets, etc.) and safe movement of materials (including potash and soda ash).

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