Saturday, February 3, 2007

Save the planet - ride a bus

In the words of yesterday's N&O headline, "Panel Blames Warming on Man." Well arrest him, already! Seriously - we have known for years that there was some dramatic climate change underway, and the primary controversy has been due to corporate-funded disinformation campaigns. ($16 million in financing for the campaigns and Exxon Mobil is frequently mentioned among the perpetrators.) But what kind of change is it?

2006 was one of the hottest years on record, state by state[1]. Man is responsible for the change[2]. If you shut down the Gulf Stream by melting the Greenland ice sheets, the whole North Atlantic area (England and Europe come to mind) suddenly drops 9 degrees C[3]. Melt all that ice and where does it go? Into the ocean, of course, raising the sea level and changing the coastline dramatically[4]. Is it any wonder I don't live on today's coast?

We need to undertake a coordinated effort to address our greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto Protocol is one such effort, to which most countries agreed, with Australia and the United States the most notable shirks and among the worst polluters, too. The United States is 17th in the world in per-capita oil consumption [5] and first in oil consumption as a country [6]. We need to figure out how to conserve. Hint: not by using hydrogen fuel cells. They are hopelessly inefficient, especially when charged by electricity from a coal or oil generating plant.[7] We need to genuinely conserve, and one of the best ways we can do that is by public transit.

I had an interesting conversation with a staunch Republican friend of mine not too long ago about the price of gas. My premise, for the sake of the discussion, was that gasoline should be taxed to a cost of $5/gallon (brought there gradually), and the revenue generated should be put into establishing usable public transit systems. Her argument was that it was a regressive tax unfairly targeting the poor. (That and taxes and government are bad in the first place.) What if the public transit were genuinely efficient? Then the automobile would become a rich man's convenience and the train, bus, and other transit would be for the common folk. A subway ride in Mexico City costs 15 cents. Why not have bargains like that here?

When I lived and worked on a bus route, I took the bus to work. With my present job location, it would turn a 15 minute commute into a 1-hour ordeal to take the bus, so I drive or ride my bicycle. Biking and public transit is my personal answer to the climate change problem, that and NC Green Power to offset CO2 emissions from my electricity usage. What do you do?

Most bus systems have their schedules online for easy reference. Some, like TTA, even have door-to-door routing. You tell it when and where you want to go, and it tells you which buses, which changes, and even how long you'll spend walking. TTA's routing system even includes routing with the various city transit systems in the area. Very convenient.

1 comment:

Intract Technologies said...

After a glance at your titles, I decided to view this one first, because I note a major flaw in your premise: Riding a bus will not "save the planet", though it could be a step in the right direction... But there is a danger that after the first, or a few, little 'inconveniences' in the name of conservation, people will say "Well, I've done my bit for the environment!" and do no more. 

This is Really Not Good, since even reducing CO2 emissions to zero, planetwide, today, would still subject the globe to at least another 200 years of Global Warming, possibly much more. 

Nor would it help to convert to 100% biofuels for all energy needs, as this would require the entire photosynthetic capacity
of the entire Earth (even the plants in the seas and
This would be very bad, of course, since it would leave nothing for any animal to eat! 

An infinitely more useful idea was put forth in a crude form in the early Seventies by the illustrious Prof. Victor Starr of M.I.T.  I have independently re-invented the idea and greatly improved upon it (I.M.H.O.)

The jist of the idea is: Nature puts 1000 times as much energy into evaporating water as into photosynthesis, and by building large 'chimney' structures for moist air to rise up (as it does in thunderstorms, which work on the same basic physical principle), we can tap into that indirect solar energy to produce first electricity and drinking water (e.g. Starr), and then a whole host of additional useful substances such as ammonia and liquid Oxygen and liquid Nitrogen.

LOx can be used to completely clean up the CO2 emissions from utilities and factories burning coal, oil, gas, even firewood!  LN2 can be used as a pollutionless replacement for gasoline and diesel fuel.

The water produced by these new 'chimneys' is fresh water, suitable for drinking, bathing, washing clothes, agriculture, you name it... and the quantity produced by each 'chimney' can be quite large, like a billion gallons per day, or even more, yet it can be produced from plain old seawater! (Just like Nature does it.) 

These same chimneys can also actively 'scrub out' the excess CO2 already in the atmosphere, and do it very quickly and inexpensively. 

-----------------------------Intellectuals solve problems;
geniuses prevent them.
- Albert Einstein: physicist,
Nobel laureate (1879-1955)