Mercedes-Benz to Cut Petroleum Out of Lineup!

When it comes to cars, I rarely find myself asking how something works, or what kind of motor is under the hood. But after searching for the latest in green technologies I came across ecogeek.org, the site that will call you an EcoGeek if you’ve got the brains to clean up the eco-mess we’re in now. What caught my attention, though, was a post on Mercedes-Benz plan to ditch petroleum-powered vehicles from its lineup by 2015!

If the German automotive industry follows through on their as-usual promise of excellent engineering then this could potentially be a trail-blazing innovation. If Mercedes goes green then General Motors and other titans in the industry are sure to do the same, or else they’ll be left in the dust. With the Green movement becoming something of a badge to proudly wear as a sign of social conscience and wealth, car companies are sure to follow with their brands of smart cars, hybrids and prius’.

Ironically, though, making the jump over to biodiesel isn’t that far. Companies have been doing it for years, pouring biodiesel into harvest combines, semi-trucks and locomotives with minimal retrofitting. The arguments against biodiesel are pretty well known and can be found here as well. But even with the caveats, biodiesel is still a good idea.

As for engineering cars that run on electricity, John commented on EcoGeek:

“A widespread adoption of electric vehicles will only result in more electricity needing to be generated, which simply transfers the pollution from your tailpipe to a utility company’s smokestack.”

But…as William noted:

“That’s assuming that power stations will continue to burn coal as their primary fuel source….The infrastructure of getting electricity to customers is already in place, and by moving all cars to electric, the work in technology and efficiency moves from the individual car to the power company….It would be more cost efficient to improve the emissions of the smokestack than it would to improve the emissions of a million cars that would get their energy from that power station.”

Of course, both reasoning has merit, but the second offers an important solution that the first overlooks: In the future, power stations may generate all of its energy from wind, hydro, or other sustainable sources, making the entire process practically emission free, which is certainly ecogeek enough for me.



Bookmark and Share

Hoarding Nations Drive Food Costs Ever Higher

Lately, every day has felt like the harbinger of record high prices at the pump, and now the same can be said about our food. I suppose the news shouldn’t hit so hard, after all, it’s only expected that food prices rise as the cost of planting rise with it. But according to a recent article published by the New York Times, prices of fertilizer, diesel and other farm expenses aren’t the only reason for skyward prices.

At least 29 countries have sharply curbed food exports in recent months, to ensure that their own people have enough to eat, at affordable prices. The food hoarding comes as increasing perceptions of shortages scare countries into a panic that has inadvertently made a real food crisis entirely possible.

Now, with food protests and ill climate changes, the world is increasingly dependant on a handful of food exporting countries like Brazil and the United States whose produce is protected by large subsidies that drown other countries with a tsunami of exports, which is another reason why trade barriers have risen and food prices have gone up. The result is what United States trade representative Susan C. Schwab noted as “Once country’s act to promote food security is another country’s food insecurity.”

With powerful lobbies from Japan to Western Europe to the United States protecting farmers in ways factory workers in Detroit could only dream of, the current dispute over food trade touches on an age-old question for civilizations everywhere:

“Is it best to specialize in whatever food grows best in a country’s soil, and trade it for all other food needs—or even, perhaps, specialize in services or manufacturing, and trade those for food?

Or is it best to seek self-sufficiency in every type of food that will, weather permitting, grow within a country’s borders?”

The usual answer within an ever globalizing world is that everyone benefits most if every country specializes what it can most efficiently make, and trade for the rest.

One way of looking at it is if Egypt had to be self-sufficient in food, there would be no water left in the Nile. But specialization only works if countries are willing to trade in what has become a globalized market.

In many ways, the price stand-off is like the tension felt in a high-stake game of poker. The food and gas connection are the jokers in a deck of cards that are sorted from the pile. Meanwhile, all the aces are held by food exporting countries like us, while the food hoarders make a go at a believable bluff.


Bookmark and Share

Nuclear Reactor Demolition…in other news Bill Gates Retires

As promised, here is footage of North Korea‘s nuclear reactor demolition followed by AP segments on Zimbabwe‘s sham presidential election, then Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama‘s first campaign event held in aptly named Unity, New Hampshire, with a final transition into Bill Gates‘ ending career moments at Microsoft.


NMTV
It’s all in a days work.


Bookmark and Share

SCOTUS Upholds 2nd Amendment Rights

Today, the Supreme Court struck down the 37 year old D.C. ban on handguns. Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the opinion of the court and said that the Constitution does not provide for the absolute ban of hand guns. The case was brought forward when Dick Heller, who is an armed security officer, filed suit after his application to keep a handgun in his home and was rejected. That’s right, he wanted to keep the gun in his home for personal protection, but the city wouldn’t allow it.

The 2nd amendment reads: A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. It is debated whether this amendment is in affect today because we have no need for militia since we have an army. However, the first part of the amendment gives a reason, but, as Justice Scalia points out in the courts opinion, does not limit the 2nd part or in law terms, the operative clause. Until a new amendment is passed to change the 2nd Amendment, the right of the citizens to bear arms cannot be infringed upon.

If you were to look through history, the first thing a government does before it become a dictatorship or oppresses its people is to take away the right to own a weapon and right to defend one’s self. This is why the forefathers wrote this into the Bill of Rights. It was a matter of great importance to them, evidenced by the fact that it’s the 2nd amendment, not the 10th, 11th, or 12th. It’s hard to comprehend tyranny in the United States; and it’s admittedly not likely happen anytime soon. However, it is not beyond the realm of possibility.

That being said, I don’t believe in unrestricted gun rights. There is no such thing as a limitless right. You have the right to free speech, but you cannot yell fire in a crowded theatre. You have the right to practice religion freely, but if your religion involves polygamy or sacrifice, you cannot lawfully practice those elements of that religion. The same stands here, I don’t believe the felons or the mentally incapacitated should be allowed to own a firearm because that would be an endangerment to the public. However, I am a law abiding citizen and a gun owner. If someone were to break into my house, I would hope that I would be able to defend my self, my family, and my property from harm.

A blanket law like the D.C. handgun ban in unconstitutional in that it stops everyone, including the law abiding, from owning a handgun. Unlike Kennedy v. Louisiana, which was decided yesterday, I fully agree with court and its opinion in this case. It seems that the federal government has been on a streak of trying to strengthen its power. It has been taking power away from the states, thereby the people, as it did yesterday by banning executions of child rapists even when the people of Louisiana supported the law. This landmark judgment is undoubtedly a win for the people.

Bookmark and Share

Kim is left to his whim

Today our President announced that North Korea will come out from the duns corner and again join the international community as they stop their nuclear armament program.

The good news is that the US may have in-part redeemed themselves from the so-called WMDs in Iraq, which justified the warped notion of a global war on terror that has left us with lost lives and a patch of sand. The not so good news is that the US is erasing North Korea off the terrorist sponsor list and dropping sanctions that were brought on by Kim Jong-il’s dictatorship and bent on making the world an angry place.

But the really bad news is that the North’s declaration is not expected to reveal three dark secrets: the nuclear bombs the North has already produced; its alleged attempts to produce nuclear arms by secretly enriching uranium, which triggered the ongoing crisis in 2002; and accusations that the North helped Syria build a nuclear plant.

That means we’re doing North Korea a favor in exchange for zilch since the North’s nuclear reactors were disabled late last year under US supervision. I get the feeling that the nuclear reactor scheduled for demolition on Friday is largely symbolic. The only good that comes out of this is to our global image, which we cannot fully share the glory of since China and a host of four other countries were involved in negotiations with North Korea as well.

All UN sanctions will still be in place for the gross human rights violations that go on every day in the North and Kim Jong-il will still be in power keeping his people starved and miserable.

I suppose the only real excitement out of all of this is that tomorrow (Friday) I will have posted the plant’s demolition, which should make for a decent light show—no promises on a nuclear bomb though.


Bookmark and Share

The true cost to going green (what Ed didn’t mention)…

While I’m all for reducing the effects on the environment by fossil fuel use, I’m not for people going hungry when a person has to decide whether to put fuel in the car to get to work, pay for food or medicine. While it’s true that Europe has paid roughly four times the amount Americans have paid per gallon their society is geared more toward public transportation.

Let’s put a more realistic spin on the oil/gas issue. If you own a big SUV / Hummer and drive in the city, you really don’t have a legitimate complaint for oil / gas prices. The tax loop should be closed on these luxury items so that the buyers actually pay for the vehicles and the gas used. Any one of several mini-vans can carry more people than a large SUV with better fuel mileage. If the SUV is an actual work vehicle, have it documented as such with special plates, like dual axle pickups used for farming, and give them the tax breaks.

BIO-diesel is one of the biggest public farces I’ve seen in recent history, and on so many levels. I was a truck driver for three years, driving in the top 10% of the companies 200 drivers for fuel mileage. All drivers that tried the bio-diesel had / have at least one of the following issues: worse fuel mileage, engine damage, less power going up hills and mountains, and increased gelling of the fuel in winter time. If a driver uses 10% more BIO-fuel doesn’t that mean 10% more has to be brought in? In addition to that how much more energy and pollution is produced to make BIO-fuel, and does it actually offset the “environmental impact of hydrocarbons” of the current supply of fuel?

Next on the list would be the ‘shortage’ of crops reported from last year’s harvest. (Bio-diesel / fuel is made from corn or soy beans.) For many decades now the government has been paying farmers not to plant crops but trees. One of the reasons for this was to artificially inflate the price so farmers wouldn’t produce so much and drive prices down. Imagine reclaiming that land and planting corn on it, in fact in 2007 we had so much corn it was sitting in the open in WI, IL, IA, IN, MN, NE, and KS.

What about offshore drilling? Sure we want to protect our environment and coastline, but what difference does it make when right at the boundary of the coastal waters you have Mexico or Russia or Korea tapping into that oil deposit that is literally feet away from the American water border.

Wind generators, I would have one at my house if I had the money to finance it, tax breaks and grants from the government months after they are installed does not fill the stomach or gas tank now. Additonally, many state, county, and local laws are set against putting up a tower.

Solar panels. Right now there is a solar panel developed in South Africa that literally could supply all the electrical demands of a house by covering that houses’ roof with 100 square feet of this product. It’s not available in the United States, yet it’s cheaper and more efficient than the closest competitor.

I recently contacted a solar panel installation company for installation on my house. The quote for $32,000 would only apply to me if I were a business, which obviously could afford it. The company stated that they do not yet provide their services for the general residential needs. Bare in mind this is for the less efficient available product. Further complicating matters are the Federal, state-to-state incentives for installing these systems. Each state is different some have programs, some push off incentives to the power company. Either way a $2,000 incentive with a $2,000 tax break does not significantly reduce the installation cost.

The bottom line is that Americans want everything without paying the price. The energy crisis cannot and will not be resolved without a major change in America’s attitude.

Bookmark and Share

When presidential campaigns were an honest business. Yeah. What a joke.

The other night while eating dinner and watching the news, I listened as pundits went on about how sleazy the campaign had become, how with all the political chatter about the candidates they had stooped to new lows of cheap shots and dirty tricks. Look at Barack Obama with his unpatriotic wife and radical Islamic upbringing, or what about allegations made against John McCain the old McWar monger? Still, I couldn’t help but think how bad the 2004 election was with John Kerry and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth disaster, or the 2000 election and the Florida recount debacle.

Then I got on to thinking about the very beginning—before primaries, spin control, PAC’s, sound bites, hanging chads, and talking heads—when electing a president was a clean, sober, and dignified business. As it happened, there was no such thing. Van Buren was said to have worn women’s clothing, Dewey hated you and your children, Lincoln smelled, and Carter was a hick.

If all of this sounds depressing, cheer up. “Without smears, innuendo, and thievery tainting our electoral system, what would we have to connect us to our quickly vanishing past? Believe me: You could take any Whig or Federalist of yore, plunk him down in a modern presidential campaign, and (once accustomed to television and the internet) he’d be up and shrieking with the best of us.”

“We’re Americans, after all. A nice, dirty election runs in our blood.”–(Anything For A Vote)


Bookmark and Share