Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Carbon: is Algae a solution?

Yesterday, there was a post on the treehugger site.

Its title is ‘Seambiotic: Algae That Clean Up and Put Out’.
The company has built a prototype algae farm consisting of eight shallow algae pools, filled with the same seawater used to cool the coal-burning power plant.

I think this is the core statement of the article. It’s a great concept. In deed, it’s very close to how the biosphere disposes of carbon, via the death of phytoplankton as the Oceanic conveyor plunges down to the abyssal plain in the North Atlantic.

But it not a solution to carbon from coal fired power stations. We are still burning fossil carbon and releasing it into the carbon cycle.

When running the ruler over any solution, my rule of thumb is ‘follow the carbon’!


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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Peak Oil: Wheat prices & media spin

This just can through my news aggregator from Energy Bulletin.

BBC News
Wheat prices have hit record highs on global commodity markets, bringing the threat of rising bread prices.

Bad weather in key grain growing areas such as Canada and parts of Europe has limited supplies as demand has risen, sparking fears of a supply shortfall.

Surging prices are also expected to have widespread fallout for consumers.

While it will mean higher bread prices, it could also trigger an increase in meat and dairy prices as farmers battle to pass on rising feed costs.

Global wheat stockpiles will slip to their lowest levels in 26 years as a result, official US figures predicted earlier this month.
(24 Aug 2007)

It’s spin. In money terms this may be true, and it’s headline grabbing. But is it really true. In terms of hours at medium wage rates, how long would it take to buy a tonne of wheat? How much gold would it take to buy a tonne? Any measure got to be better than fiat paper money!

There are all kinds of rules of thumb. Some measures can be personal, measured in relation to your own experience. I’ve heard of one farmer who uses house prices as a measure. He built a home (average 3 bedroom at the time) in the 60’s and he uses the amount of wheat he would have to grow to build an average 3 bedroom home as his measure. He thinks wheat is about a quarter of the price it was 45 years ago.


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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Trains and peak oil

A few weeks ago, at the start of the Difference of Opinion program titled 'Are We Running On Empty?', one of the panelist Professor Peter Newman commented about rural rail line closures.

Here is the whole transcript

…But we are still building suburbs as though cheap oil is going to be around for the next 50 years. We're still - we're about to close down the wheat lines, the rail lines that go out to our wheat-belt areas, as though trucking will be able to use fuel that's as cheap as it was in the last 50 years. These stupid things have got to stop. We have to face up to a future that is much more constrained. It's not going to run out, right, but it will be seriously more expensive and we're not all going to be able to have access to it. A lot of poorer people will really suffer.

My family have always tried to use rail first. It safer. Less people die in rail related accidents the road accidents. The big trucks used to carry wheat are dangerous and they damage the roads far more that cars.

These line closures are an ongoing process. At home they have been fighting a local closure since the Goss labor government.

Labor just don’t seem to understand that the last section of a rail line will generate the least money. That the freight carried will generate usage and money for all sections of line between there and its destination (usually Brisbane). The removal of a tributary means less flow at the mouth of a river.

So with peak oil and global warming, I think we need to go a step further. Once you decide to not close a line, you should be thinking of electofication. Current most country trains still use fossil fuels (diesel). We are still omitting new fossil carbon into the carbon cycle. With electricity, currently, you would still be powering trains with fossil fuels, either coal or petroleum gas. But, electricity is an energy transportation system, not an energy generation system. You can always convert the ultimate power sources over to alternative energy sources on an incremental basis.

An electrified rail system can ultimately be turned into a non fossil carbon emitting system!


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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Kevin07: is there a bullet out there?

Logging on check mail today, I noticed in a splash headline that Kevin Rudd has a new web site.

It’s called Kevin07. But what does it mean? Cult of personality?

Are we going the American style over substance route? Look like it to me.

So if we are going to follow the American Presidential style of campaigning in future. Will style over substance lead to a frustrated someone introducing another American political tradition, the Presidential Assassination? (I know, RFK was only his parties nomination at the time, for me that is effectively the same, the assassination was a political act)

Is there an Australian Lee Harvey Oswald or Sirhan Sirhan out there?


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Rammed Earth: Albury

More about the Melbourne trip (21&22 July).

Drove back from Melbourne on the Sunday afternoon.

Stopped in at Albury to check out the rammed earth building at a Thurgoona campus of the Charles Sturt University and a local church.

The C D Blake Lecture Theatre is pictured in Sticks Stones Mud Homes: Natural Living by Nigel Noyes. This is how I knew these buildings existed. A bit of googling with ‘Thurgoona’ and ‘rammed earth’ also brought the church to light.

The Lecture Theatre building also has an earth roof over the theatre end.

Arrived at the site only expecting the one rammed earth building. Was delighted to find that most of the other buildings on site where also rammed earth.

Do to lack of planning on my part; I had no replacement for the almost flat battery in my camera. So no rammed earth pics.