Future Energy eNews IntegrityResearchInstitute.org Oct. 7, 2005
1) Global Warming Solutions - Here's how each individual can reduce emissions by 60% now
2) Magnetic Power Inst in the News - Claims to have over-unity zero-point energy magnetic motor
3) Steering Hurricanes Away from People - It is just a matter of injecting energy in the right place
4) Zero-Point Energy Project Receives Grant - Million euro project to measure zero-point energy
5) Environmental and Energy Study Institute - The only energy group that targets policymakers
6) Can the Castor Bean Avert Fuel Wars - Brazil finds a plentiful biodiesel source of oil
7) Fusion or Illusion? - Excellent Cold Fusion, Tokamak review on National Public Radio (mp3 too)
8) Free Energy Congress Fills a Gap - Group commits to semi-annual emerging energy report
9) Global Challenges for Physicists! - World Congress on Physics and Sustainable Development
Note: Editor Valone wins 6-year arbitration battle with USPTO http://users.erols.com/iri/ValonePatentOfficeDecision.htm
Dave Reay, 10 September 2005, NewScientist.com news service
Personal greenhouse emissions
Are you fed up with all the hot air and inaction coming from our political leaders on the subject of climate change? Heard enough about clean energy, carbon trading and emissions reductions? Perhaps you've lost interest in an issue that seems way beyond your ability to control. Or maybe you feel you're doing your bit to cool things down by leaving your fridge door open for half an hour each day. If any of the above apply to you, read on.
First, some facts. It is 10 years since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made its landmark statement: "The balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate." Eight years ago, world leaders drew up the Kyoto protocol, an agreement to set legally binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions in the developed world. Four years ago, George W. Bush announced that the US would not be signing up. In February this year, the protocol finally came into force. The US and Australia were not on board, but they have since teamed up with China, India, Japan and South Korea in a pact to develop and share cleaner, more efficient technologies (New Scientist, 3 September 2005, p 30).
The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate seems unlikely to set any targets for limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, even with everyone playing ball, Kyoto would only have led to a 5.2 per cent cut by 2012 compared with global emissions in the baseline year of 1990.
To put that into perspective, we need a reduction of 60 per cent by 2050 if we are to stabilise our climate and head off catastrophic effects, according to the IPCC's latest estimate. Daunting, isn't it? At this rate, if we leave things to the politicians we might well have to wait for a catastrophe before we see any action. Meanwhile things could get very bad for a very large number of people, people like you and me, our children and our friends.
But what's the alternative? Short of running for political office, what can you and I do to help stop the roaring juggernaut that is climate change? You may think the answer is "not very much". That's exactly what I used to think. Surely, I reasoned, it is industry, big business and ultimately the politicians who are doing the steering while we the public are just passengers, strapped into our seats and braced for impact. I was wrong.
A glance at who is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions in the developed world shows just how much of a push you and I are giving to climate change. In the US and Australia, each year every man, woman and child emits over 20 tonnes of greenhouse gas (mainly carbon dioxide, but also some methane and a little nitrous oxide, which I have converted to CO2 equivalents here). The figure for Brits is 11 tonnes. The bulk of these emissions are a direct result of the decisions we make as individuals: a quarter comes from transport, a quarter from homes and even for the 50 per cent or so produced by offices or industry, individual actions can make a difference. Still convinced that global warming is nothing to do with you?
Time to consider how to become part of the solution, not just part of the problem. You may have heard of the "one-tonne challenge", a Canadian initiative to persuade people to reduce their personal greenhouse emissions. Very commendable - as far as it goes. But remember, the IPCC wants us to aim for a 60 per cent reduction. So folks in the US and Australia should be facing up to a "12-tonne challenge", and let's call it 7 tonnes for everyone else. Surely such a reduction is preposterous, impossible even, unless we are prepared to live like hippies or hermits. Well, no. In fact, cutting back on personal emissions is far more doable than you might think.
By making the kind of lifestyle changes I suggest below, you can cut your lifetime contribution to global warming by over 1000 tonnes of greenhouse gas. You can hit that 60 per cent target in your transport and home-based emissions, and the possibilities are even greater if you take your new attitudes to work. Multiply this up for everyone in your workplace, your street or your town, and the potential savings are huge. Through increasing awareness and individual action we can achieve not just one Kyoto-sized reduction in emissions, not two, but a cut equivalent to six Kyoto protocols. All before the politicians have decided who will sit where at the next climate change meeting.
Ten steps to saving the planet
An easy one to start with, but this is the fastest and cheapest way to cut back on your energy use at home. The average house in the US and Australia emits 11 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, with UK households chipping in with about 6 tonnes a year each. The largest chunk of that, about 40 per cent, comes from heating and cooling. At home, control of your domestic climate is what most threatens the global one. The solution couldn't be simpler.
As the snow piles up against the windows in winter and the robins bang their heads against the frozen bird bath in your garden, don't pad barefoot around your house in a T-shirt. And don't sit in that same T-shirt in summer as you shudder at the chill of the air-conditioning while the sun beats down outside. Turning down the thermostat and pulling on more clothes in winter can cut emissions from temperature control by a third. For the average house in the developed world, notching back the heating by just 1 °C, or setting the aircon 1 °C higher, will cut a third of a tonne off annual CO2 emissions. And if you're not prepared to dress warm in winter and cool in summer, then at least invest in proper insulation; whatever your indoor climate, this can almost halve the amount of energy you use to heat and cool your house.
Annual household saving: 0.33 to 2 tonnes
You've heard it before, but it bears repetition: if you can use public transport, do. On a like-for-like basis, taking the bus or train rather than your car cuts your greenhouse emissions by about 60 per cent. A commuter making a 30-kilometre round trip in a five-door hatchback, for example, will save 1.5 tonnes of greenhouse emissions a year by taking the train instead. If you drive an SUV, you double that saving. Better still, if your journey is short, use a carbon-neutral means of transport - get on your bike or walk. It may seem suicidal in the car-dominated urban spaces most of us inhabit, but by refusing to surrender the remaining footpaths and cycle tracks you can make it clear to the town planners and politicians that you need an alternative to car travel. If they don't listen, there is always the walk to the polling booth. (And if you really cannot get out of the car, see number 5)
Annual household saving: 1.5 to 12 tonnes
On average each of us throws away 10 times our own body weight in rubbish every year. Once the truck-loads of waste are collected, about 60 per cent is taken to landfill sites where it is compacted down into an airless, putrid mass. This is the perfect breeding ground for stinky bacteria called methanogens that convert your organic waste into the powerful greenhouse gas, methane. For every kilogram of potato peelings, tea bags and grass clippings these microbes digest, they produce around 2 kilograms of methane. If you live in an average household, you will be chucking out around 3.5 kilograms of food a day. Two-thirds of this could be composted. And by composting you won't just be cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions, you will also be saying goodbye to pongy trash and producing a wonderful source of free plant food. Get yourself some mail-order composting worms via the internet and you'll see results in double-quick time. Even if you don't have room for a compost bin, many areas in the UK and US now have a "compostables collection". Annual household saving: 1 tonne
4) Fly less, especially short haul
When it comes to getting around, road travel may be the worst offender, but coming up fast in the rear-view mirror is jet travel. On average, it accounts for 6 per cent of personal annual greenhouse gas emissions - that's around two-thirds of a tonne for the average Brit and over a tonne per Yank or Aussie. The burgeoning market in budget flights has helped fuel a steep rise in greenhouse emissions and worse is surely to come. The IPCC predicts that by 2050 the contribution that flying makes to global warming may have quadrupled.
Some air travel is hard to avoid, but many short-haul flights now operate between destinations also well served by trains. Going by train rather than plane on these journeys can reduce your emissions by 75 per cent. Even when there is no alternative, you can compensate for the harm your flight causes. It is cheap and easy to offset emissions through schemes such as Climate Care (www.climatecare.org), which lets you buy into projects that fund sustainable energy and reforestation. If you happen to be involved with the organisation of international conferences, think carefully where you locate them - the right choice can save hundreds of thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions. Best of all, go electronic and try virtual conferencing to avoid that flight altogether.
Annual household saving: 1 to 3 tonnes
5) Change your driving habits - or better still, your car
This is a big one. Of all our energy-guzzling activities, car driving is the most profligate, accounting for 40 per cent of the average person's greenhouse gas emissions outside work. The upside of this is that simply changing the way you drive can make a big difference. Cruising at 8 kilometres per hour below the speed limit rather than the same amount above it may feel odd at first, but the long-term benefits to your fuel bills will compensate. On a 10-kilometre commute to work, you will also clock up a quarter-tonne saving in greenhouse emissions over a year. Add to this the virtuous habits of avoiding short and unnecessary journeys, car-sharing and keeping your vehicle properly serviced, and you could cut your car's greenhouse emissions in half.
If you happen to drive an SUV, you should consider more drastic measures. Emissions from a big four-wheel drive can reach 12 tonnes a year. Swapping this bull-barred behemoth for a smaller-engined model (1.3 litre maximum) will at least halve this. While you're at it, consider getting a diesel. Greenhouse emissions from a diesel-driven car can be up to 10 per cent lower than the petrol equivalent. Alternatively, if you're concerned about the polluting particles that diesels emit, opt for a dual fuel (petrol and liquified petroleum gas or compressed natural gas), hybrid (petrol and electric) or biofuelled car (usually a mix of petrol and ethanol), and cut your car's greenhouse emissions by anything from 20 to 100 per cent.
Annual household saving: 2 to 12 tonnes
6) Remember the appliance of science
After heating and air conditioning, the biggest drains on energy at home are electrical appliances and lighting, which together account for 4 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in the average US and Australian household and about 2 tonnes in a UK household. Our desire to own the latest plasma screen television, home cinema system, outsized fridge and trendy electronic gadget makes this a boom sector. Opting for the most efficient models and for low-energy light bulbs can lower emissions by up to 30 per cent.
But it isn't as simple as that. Tonnes of plastic and metal go into making appliances, and rushing straight out to get the model with the highest efficiency rating wastes all this embodied energy. The trade-off here means that as a rule of thumb, if your appliance is less than 5 years old and still working, hold onto it. Just make sure it is running as efficiently as possible: keeping your fridge coils and door seals clean, for example, can cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 200 kilograms a year.
And finally, don't forget to turn off all those appliances when they are not in use. In the US alone, standby power is responsible for 30 million tonnes of greenhouse emissions each year. Pull the plug and you can cut your home energy-related emissions by up to 10 per cent.
Annual household saving: 0.5 to 1.6 tonnes
7) Avoid flatulent and jet-setting food
Food is easily overlooked as a contributor to global warming, but it can make a big impact during production and transport. For a family in the developed world, emissions from food can total over 4 tonnes a year. Chopping back woodland, ploughing up soils and planting crops leads to big greenhouse emissions. Farming also produces large quantities of two powerful greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxide.
What you choose to eat will make a difference here. Eating less meat and dairy will equate to fewer methane-belching ruminants - a cut of just two cow-based meals a month can reduce your family's annual greenhouse gas emissions by a third of a tonne.
More important, though, is where your food comes from. Look at the country-of-origin labels in your supermarket trolley and you will realise that your groceries are better travelled than you are. A 2001 study by Sustain, the UK alliance for better food and farming, reported that the 26 items in a shopping basket of organic food had together travelled almost 250,000 kilometres, accounting for 80 kilograms of greenhouse gas. Maybe your weakness is for wines that have been shipped halfway around the globe. Perhaps you can't resist exotic or out-of-season fruits. If so, think of this: by eating local produce, you can cut your food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 90 per cent. For the ultimate travel-free food option, grow your own.
Annual household saving: 0.33 to 3.6 tonnes
"Reduce, reuse, recycle" should be the mantra of anyone who is serious about saving the planet. Of these three Rs, reduce is king. Extra packaging, an avalanche of junk mail and a widespread craving for retail therapy mean our houses and our bins are filled with new stuff as quickly as we can earn money to buy it. By refusing to be seduced by things such as single bananas heat-sealed in plastic and resisting the urge to order his 'n' hers patio heaters you can help stem this unsustainable tide of products, packaging and their associated emissions. Where you can't reduce, reuse. This is not always an option, but when it is you can make a huge difference. For example, if everyone in the UK used each plastic bag twice, the energy used in the manufacture of 4 billion bags could be saved every year. Recycling is the third option. It won't save the energy required to transform your recycled metal, glass or plastic into new cans, bottles, toys or whatever, but it will at least save the energy associated with producing the materials themselves.
Annual household saving: 1 tonne
The fight against global warming may begin at home but it needn't end there. Turning a light off has the same planet-saving potential at work as it does at home. Ditto choosing energy-efficient office appliances and making use of their energy-saving settings. You can save up to 2.5 kilograms of greenhouse gas for every kilogram of paper, simply by using both sides for printing and ensuring that all the discarded memos, faxes and photocopies of buttocks get recycled.
Annual saving: the sky's the limit
10) Go green at the final checkout
Death comes to us all, but the trend of defying the process of decay through airtight bronze caskets and earthquake-proof vaults means that, along with our corpses, we also bury huge amounts of concrete, steel, copper and bronze - 1.5 million tonnes of concrete and 100,000 tonnes of steel a year in the US alone. This final testament to your conspicuous consumption can mean an extra tonne of emissions. Reject this world of silk linings and embalming fluid and instead opt for a natural burial (see, for example, www.naturaldeath.org.uk), and you can avoid the ultimate climate-warming legacy. Saving: up to 1 tonne
2) Magnetic energy?
David Lazarus, San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday, September 7, 2005 http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/09/07/BUG9NEJD3L1.DTL
The nation's energy industry is struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina. Gas prices are soaring as a result of the catastrophic storm. America's reliance on overseas oil increases every year. And from his office in the North Bay city of Sebastopol, Mark Goldes envisions a day -- perhaps not so far off -- when none of this will be a problem.
Goldes, 73, is chief executive of a small company called Magnetic Power Inc., which has spent years researching ways to, yes, generate power using magnets.Within a few months, he says, he might just have a breakthrough to report that could revolutionize where people get fuel. "We're not yet ready to talk about what's happening in our lab because, honestly, we don't know what's
happening," Goldes told me. "All we know is that we're seeing more energy output than input.
"We're still having trouble making it repeatable, but we think that's more an engineering problem than a scientific problem," he said. Does Goldes realize what's he's saying -- that he's perhaps discovered a clean, inexhaustible energy source?
"That's exactly what it appears to be," he answered. What Goldes believes he's done is produce power from what physicists call zero-point energy. In simple terms, zero-point energy results from the infinitesimal motion of molecules even when seemingly at rest. OK, let's throw a whole bunch of caveats at this. First of all, I've spoken with physicists at some of the country's most prestigious institutions, and not one said that what Goldes claims to have accomplished is doable.
Theoretically possible, they acknowledged. But not doable. "Zero-point energy is so tiny that nobody can feel it," said Hossein Sadeghpour, a physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "But when you get to the realm of quantum mechanics, it exists. "The question is, how do you harness it? I have not seen any meaningful theory or demonstration of that.
It's not impossible, but I don't know how you would do it."
Moreover, it's all well and good to make stupendous scientific claims. But until those claims are verified by other scientists, that's all they are. Remember cold fusion? "You're right to be skeptical," Goldes responded. "The only way anyone is going to believe this is if they can see it with their own eyes, and we don't yet have working models that are repeatable." But he said he expects to have something that another lab can inspect and replicate by the end of the year.
On top of that, Goldes said he'll have a prototype next year for a small generator using his magnetic technology that can produce enough power to run kitchen appliances. Normally, I dismiss such pie-in-the-sky pronouncements (and I receive more than my share). During the California energy crisis, I was contacted repeatedly by some guy who said he'd invented a car engine that runs on ordinary water.
I'm still waiting for it to hit the market. But Goldes isn't so easy to shrug off. That's because he's also come up with technology called the UltraConductor, which purports to be capable of conducting electricity at room temperature with no resistance, thus vastly improving fuel efficiency. The research was funded in part by the Department of Defense, which invested $600,000 in the project. The technology also has been replicated elsewhere.
Matt Aldissi, who runs a Florida research firm called Fractal
Systems, reproduced Goldes' UltraConductor as part of
work on conductivity he was performing for the U.S. Air Force. He told me that
he visited Goldes' Sebastopol lab a few years ago and was impressed by what he
saw. "Is this guy legit? Yes," Aldissi said. "The work he claims
to have done, he's done it." That is, the work on conductivity. Energy from
magnets? "I don't know anything about that," Aldissi said.
The magnets are part of creating what's known in physics as the "Casimir effect," in which seemingly motionless molecules are in fact moving around and expending energy. "For many years the Casimir effect was little more than a theoretical curiosity," says PhysicsWeb, the online arm of Physics World magazine. "But interest in the phenomenon has blossomed in recent years."
Ori Ganor, an associate professor of physics at UC Berkeley, said the Casimir effect makes it theoretically possible to capture power from zero-point energy. "Physics doesn't rule this out," he said. "But I don't see how it is commercially viable." Stanley Wojcicki, a Stanford physics professor, said it may be possible to generate small amounts of power from zero-point energy, but not in any sustainable way.
Yet he noted that astonishing breakthroughs can come from unlikely sources. "Einstein worked in a patent office," Wojcicki observed. "All sorts of people can have brilliant ideas." Goldes said he's reluctant to provide details of his zero-point-energy technology until he's got a better handle on how it does what he says it does. "We're seeing energy produced in a way that has to have a source," he said. "The only explanation we see is zero-point energy. There could be another, but we don't see what it could be."
A handful of other companies worldwide are believed also to be pursuing zero-point energy via magnetic systems. One of them, InterStellar Technologies, is run by a former scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. According to Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, the Pentagon and at least two large aerospace companies are actively researching zero-point energy as a means of propulsion. "If their efforts pay off," the magazine reported last year, "ZPE-driven power plants might enable Mach 4 fighters, quiet 1,200-seat hypersonic airliners that fly at 100-mile altitudes as far as 12,000 miles in about 70 minutes and 12.6-hour trips to the moon."
Is it a pipe dream? Goldes doesn't think so. "You can't build a perpetual-motion machine," he said. "But this is real." My inclination is to suspect that cheap, limitless energy is probably a crock. Goldes might sincerely buy into this stuff, but there's undoubtedly another explanation for what he claims to have achieved in his lab.
Then again, what if he's right?
3) Could humans tackle hurricanes?
Justin Mullins 10:58 14 September 2005
NewScientist.com news service
Tackling hurricanes before they make landfall by calming them down or steering them off course may be a good way to prevent a storm striking a city. Experts are working on numerous ways to do this but it may take some time – and it has never been done before.
Hurricanes are fuelled by the warm waters they pass over. So hurricane mitigation strategies all focus on depriving hurricanes of this fuel.
In April 2005, Moshe Alamaro at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, outlined a plan to use an array of floating jet engines to trigger miniature cyclones in the atmosphere ahead of a hurricane. The idea is to drain the ocean and atmosphere of energy before the hurricane arrives. But critics point out that even a large array of jet engines probably cannot inject enough energy into the atmosphere to trigger even a tiny storm.
Another strategy is to cover the ocean ahead of the hurricane with a thin layer of fish oil that disrupts the flow of energy into the atmosphere. But experiments in 2002 by Kerry Emanuel, a hurricane expert also at MIT, suggest that high winds would break up the oil layer and prevent it from having an effect.
Then there is the idea of triggering storms with soot – which would provide a nucleus for moisture in a cloud to form. In 1973, William Gray, a hurricane expert at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, suggested that the extra energy absorbed by soot could trigger smaller storms. In 1958, the US Naval Research Laboratory carried out a series of experiments to monitor clouds seeded with soot but the results were inconclusive. The idea was to seed clouds inside a hurricane and disrupt its inner structure and so weaken it.
Emanuel says the best idea may be to exploit the chaotic features of weather systems to steer them away from populated centres, an idea put forward by Ross Hoffman, a researcher at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, a research and development company based in Lexington, Massachusetts. The idea is based on the so-called butterfly effect – that a small nudge to a chaotic system such as a hurricane could end up having a big enough influence to knock it off course.
Meteorologists first need better hurricane measurements and models to forecast the effect of any “nudge”. They also need a way to do the nudging, possibly with space-based reflectors to heat up the atmosphere; something that Hoffman believes is a long way off.
But nudge a hurricane and the danger is that scientists may get blamed and sued wherever it goes, a problem that could mire hurricane mitigation attempts in numerous legal challenges. “You need to be able to show that you’re going to make things better,” says Hoffman.
Emanuel agrees and says that hurricane steering creates hard choices. “Choosing between a Category 3 hitting Pensacola and a Category 5 hitting New Orleans is easy. But the people of Pensacola may have something to say about it.”
4) What Lies Beneath the Void
Professor Chris Binns (Physics and Astronomy), University of Leicester, eBulletin, 2005 http://ebulletin.le.ac.uk/features/2000-2009/2005/08/nparticle-82w-fqr-2cd
Exciting project connected to the 'zero-point energy' of space
Three thousand years ago the Greek philosophers Leucippus and his student Demokritos proposed the concept of the atom, as a fundamental building block of materials, in order to circumvent a paradox that arises with continuous elements (such as earth fire air and water). They pointed out that if matter was really a continuum then you could cut it into smaller and smaller pieces ad infinitum and, in principle, cut it out of existence into pieces of nothing that could not then be reassembled. Thus, they reasoned, there must be a smallest piece of matter that could not be further divided the a-tomon (uncuttable) from which the word atom is derived. To complete the picture you also need a void in which the atoms move, a concept that produced fervent debate, for example, is the void a ‘nothing’ or a ‘something’ and is it a continuum or does the void itself have an uncuttable smallest unit.
While the atom, the legacy of Leucippus and Demokritos, is now a familiar part of the scientific landscape, the true nature of the void remains a mystery. In classical Physics the void is a ‘nothing’, a simple absence of all matter and energy. Quantum theory tells a different story and states that the void is definitely a ‘something’. It is a seething mass of ‘virtual’ particles that fleetingly appear into and then disappear from our observable universe. This activity, known as quantum fluctuations, corresponds to an intrinsic energy of the void, the ‘zero-point energy’, which, if the void were a continuum, would be infinite. It is generally believed that there is a smallest piece of void, which makes the zero-point energy finite but still colossal beyond the imagination. Each cubic millimetre of empty space contains more than enough zero-point energy to create a new universe.
In a sense the actual value of the zero-point energy is not important because everything we know about is on top of it. According to quantum field theory every particle is an excitation (a wave) of an underlying field (for example the electromagnetic field) in the void and it is only the energy of the wave itself that we can detect. A useful analogy is to consider our observable universe as a mass of waves on top of an ocean, whose depth is immaterial. Our senses and all our instruments can only directly detect the waves so it seems that trying to probe whatever lies beneath, the void itself, is hopeless. Not quite so. There are subtle effects of the zero-point energy that do lead to detectable phenomena in our observable universe. An example is a force, predicted in 1948 by the Dutch physicist, Hendrik Casimir, that arises from the zero-point energy. If you place two mirrors facing each other in empty space they produce a disturbance in the quantum fluctuations that results in a pressure pushing the mirrors together. Detecting the Casimir force however is not easy as it only becomes significant if the mirrors approach to within less than 1 micrometre (about a fiftieth the width of a human hair). Producing sufficiently parallel surfaces to the precision required has had to wait for the emergence of the tools of nanotechnology to make accurate measurements of the force.
In the last decade this has happened and a spate of measurements using atomic force microscopes has confirmed Casimir’s prediction to a precision of about 5% and the zero-point energy of the void is an experimental reality. This is just the beginning however as the force has only been measured in very simple geometries such as flat parallel plates. More recent calculations show that the force is sensitive to geometry and by changing the materials and the shape of the cavity you can alter the magnitude of the Casimir force and possibly even reverse it. This would be a ground-breaking discovery as the Casimir force is a fundamental property of the void and reversing it is akin to reversing gravity. Technologically this would only have relevance at very small distances but it would revolutionise the design of micro- and nano-machines.
The srif2 and srif3 investment by the University of Leicester in the Virtual Microscopy Centre and the Nanoscale Interfaces Centre has put the University in a key position to take a lead in Casimir force measurements in novel geometries. It has led to the award of an 800,000€ grant (NANOCASE) from the European framework 6 NEST (New and Emerging Science and Technology) programme to lead a consortium from three countries (UK, France and Sweden). The programme will use the ultra-high vacuum Atomic Force Microscope installed in the Physics and Astronomy department under srif2 to make very high precision Casimir force measurements in non-simple cavities and assess the utility of the force in providing a method for contactless transmission in nano-machines.
The new instrumentation to be installed soon following the srif3 investment will enable researchers to extend the measurements to yet more complex shapes and, for the first time, to search for a way to reverse the Casimir force.
This new wave of measurements will enable an unprecedented level of probing of the void and will provide important information on new theories of gravity and with sufficient precision will even put limits on the true number of spatial dimensions. Knowing how zero-point energy varies with the shape of an enclosure may also give clues to the origin of so-called ‘dark energy’, discovered recently.
5) Energy has never been a more critical issue
Carol Werner, EESI News, September 21, 2005, www.eesi.org
We stand on the threshold of a great opportunity to put our country on a “clean” energy path. However, we can’t seize the chance without great resolve from all of us. EESI is steadfast in its determination to bring about a transition to a society that doesn’t waste energy but uses it much more efficiently in every sector of our economy and that harnesses the powerful renewable resources of solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and biomass. We know the tremendous benefits of such a future – to improve public health, increase national security, create jobs, spur new economic development, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air and water quality, and protect our citizens. But we need you to make it happen.
A short six months ago people were decrying that the price of oil had “soared to record highs” – “topping $2 a gallon.” Little did we know that come September it would be a struggle to find gasoline for less the $3 a gallon! With natural gas prices expected to increase 50 percent or more this winter, we can be sure energy will remain high on the agenda. And, the “rebuild” from Katrina will be a monumental opportunity to build “green” and with an eye to “energy smart” planning.
The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) is working for a better future using our successful multi-pronged approach of policymaker education, coalition building/ networking, and policy development. Decisions made over the next several years will determine our energy – and environmental – path for the future. Without increased and persistent education and advocacy, too many legislators will continue to support the same polluting technologies of the past, rather than support the clean energy technologies of today. Together, we can make sure policymakers know that renewable energy and efficiency technologies work - they are available, being used, cost-effective and good for our country.
EESI educates policymakers by organizing Congressional briefings, writing publications, meeting with staff and many other organizations and experts, and building connections between Members, scientists, business and other experts. EESI fills a unique niche as the only energy and environmental policy organization in Washington, DC that brings together the science and technology communities with federal policymakers to discuss and provide education on technology and science issues. “I've always been impressed with the quality of programs that EESI puts together, and with the universal respect that it receives on Capitol Hill.” — Shalom Flank, Ph.D., Chief Technical Officer, Pareto Energy.
EESI has accomplished the following milestones including:
o In the past 12 months, EESI held 27 Congressional briefings and other forums on climate change, renewable energy, transportation, agriculture, energy efficiency, and more.
o EESI successfully led the fight, working with Congressional leaders, to overturn the Administration’s repeated attempts to cut funding for the renewable energy and efficiency grant program in the Energy Title of the 2002 Farm Bill for the past three years. The Farm Bill is up for reauthorization in 2007 and we’ll use the opportunity to make it an even better, stronger tool to promote renewable energy and efficiency.
o EESI publishes three, free, highly-acclaimed, electronic newsletters: Climate Change News (weekly); National Clean Bus Update (monthly); and BCO: Bioenergy, Climate Protection, Oil Reduction (quarterly). “I get lots of emails each day and some I hardly look at, but I always take the time to look through the EESI emails. There's much good, timely information in them.” -Ted Glick, Co-founder, Climate Crisis Coalition.
o EESI has worked hard to maintain funding for “clean” bus programs and help communities learn how to use clean buses as an alternative to harmful diesel exhaust. “We were so successful only because groups like EESI sprung into action…Thanks for all of your help.” – Beth Osborne, Senator Carper’s staff.
o At a spring EESI Congressional briefing, a powerful presentation about the impact of EPA’s mercury rule on the health of thousands of children nationwide led several attending Senate offices and their colleagues to file a resolution requiring EPA to review and redo its mercury rule.
o The political “climate” for climate change is changing. For example, a “Sense of the Senate on climate change” amendment passed this summer. Now we need to steer that concern toward solid action and maximizing clean energy. We need to improve the understanding of climate change science, the impacts of global warming, existing “clean” energy technologies, and policy options for building a lower-carbon future.
o A sampling of recent EESI fact sheets, white papers, briefing summaries, and press releases include: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change; Climate Change Post-2100: What are the Implications of Continued Greenhouse Gas Buildup?; The Crisis in Children’s Environmental Health: Policy Implications; Action Alert: Provision in Omnibus Bill Threatens To Cut Funds for Cleaner Transit; Senator Harkin Hosts Biobased Product Showcase; and Farm Bill Forums
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6) Can the Castor Bean Avert Fuel Wars?
Jeane Manning, Atlantis Rising, October, 2005, Issue 54 www.atlantisrising.com
It's time to get grounded, so to speak. We can't yet purchase the far-out energy technologies, but some down-to-earth souls are introducing transition technologies that both ecologists and economists can welcome. That means both the business community and environmental activists can be happy, as is the case with the achievements of the Institute of Ecolonomics (IoE).
Film star Dennis Weaver founded the IoE in 1993. By the time this is in print, you may have heard news of an action sparked by the new chairman of the IoE's board of directors, Peter LaVaute. At New Energy Movement board meetings I met the man I now call "pragmatic Peter". He's Mr. Down-To-Earth in my mind, yet he's added a politically crucial agenda item to a Farmers' Union executives' fly-in to Washington DC on September 11, 2005. At this time it looks like a 400-person fly-in, with LaVaute as a consultant in the thick of simultaneous-lobbying action that week. By September 27th he'll be in Brazil studying its successful biofuel program that could be copied back home in the American Midwest, big-time. It's all based on castor beansŠ
Energy-related developments are evolving fast in LaVaute's life, but years of quieter efforts with his company EcoSense Solutions laid the groundwork. (Dennis Weaver and family are now co-owners of Ecosense Solutions, LLC.) The pace accelerated repeatedly this year for instance when LaVaute and Weaver were handed the keys to Crane, Missouri, a town which they envision becoming the first Ecolonomic city.
Let's back up to find out why the lowly castor bean started hanging out with film stars. And why that particular bean could undermine the argument for oil wars. We'll look at what Weaver and LaVaute are up to.
Briefly, both men have roots in the Midwest, and care. They see people streaming away from rural communities, yet farm family life and rural communities traditionally provided a stable foundation for society. So the IoE and EcoSense Solutions came up with a plan -- Re-Ruralization. It starts with assessing resources what's locally available that a community can turn into job-creating businesses while preserving a healthy environment. As with the Weavers¹ own home built out of abandoned tires and cans, a region can take troublesome waste materials and turn them into resources. Each community gets a "positive action plan" for producing electricity, liquid fuel, housing and food locally, and producing value-added products to sell outside the area. Crane, Missouri, in an economically depressed rural area, is a good place to start.
They¹re also working with the Northwest region of Oklahoma. How did they get their Re-Ruralization program into such a large area? LaVaute points to Tom Lucas of the U.S. Department of Agriculture¹s Resource Conservation and Development branch as an "organizational powerhouse"; he¹s implementing it. LaVaute sees Lucas as a natural Ecolonomist, and he¹s now on the IoE board of trustees. I include this because readers might be doing grassroots organizing themselves -- perhaps an energy cooperative. Don¹t underestimate your neighbor who works for the government.
In Crane, the plan includes a large building to house an "ecolonomic incubator" -- a commercialization center. The incubator checks out innovations that might solve environmental problems while creating new businesses. If inventions test out, they'll be helped toward the marketplace. LaVaute's group has a head start on the incubator, using a large rented workshop space.
Which brings us to the beans, or almost there. He and his EcoSense engineer, Russell Gherke, decided hydrogen is neither an efficient nor sustainable route to energy independence at this time. LaVaute researched alternatives including biofuels. He likes the thought of growing crops that take carbon dioxide out of the air and transform it into oxygen before being burned for fuel, but he found the alcohol fuels to be saturated with politics. Corn growers successfully lobby for incentives to make alcohol (ethanol) plants, but other powerful lobbies make sure we can't use more than a small per cent alcohol in our gasoline.
Researching biofuels, LaVaute learned why our soybean growers created the soy biodiesel industry they had surplus oil, from crushing beans for soybean oil meal for livestock. Even supplying the fast food industry didn¹t create enough demand for the oil. Could it be sold as fuel? Due partly to singer Willie Nelson and his biodiesel campaign, truck-stops would really like to pump biodiesel for truckers. Truck stops chains, however, won't promote a fuel unless assured of a constant supply. Meanwhile, soybeans are only about 18 per cent oil. And in a National Renewable Energy Laboratory survey, soybean crushers were asked if they would continue to crush soybeans if there weren¹t a market for the meal. They replied that it was unlikely. This reduces soy biodiesel to being a byproduct dependent on the demand for soybean oil meal. Although LaVaute appreciates soy bean growers for pioneering a supply infrastructure for diesel-fuel-from-agricultural-sources, he realized the scenario isn't the best "ecolonomics" model.
So he researched which crop is best to be grown specifically for fuel, not as an afterthought. "I've come up with a number of them," he told me, "but the one that just blows you out of the water is castor bean some varieties being grown in Brazil are 42- to 48 per cent oil. There are reports of beans in the 60 per cent range."
He learned that Brazil has new social programs set up in its semi-arid northeast: The government builds houses in a huge circle. Each house has a strip of maybe 25 acres shooting off from it. Destitute farmers and their families can own a house and its land if in ten years they¹ve stayed with it and grown at least fifteen acres of castor beans per farm. The government trains farmers and buys their crop. Brazil recently mandated that at least two per cent of its diesel fuel has to be biodiesel.
Why would a government go to such lengths? At first it was just about energy independence. Brazil had been making alcohol from sugar cane waste for years, and all cars sold in Brazil can run on a variety of fuels including alcohol. During the contrived international oil crisis of 1973, Brazil decided it wasn't going to depend on another country for fuel, so put resources into its best alternative. This year alone, about 150,000 Brazilians got jobs out of the biodiesel program. I read an estimate that Brazil expects to create 400,000 jobs in the labor-intensive industry before 2008. The president of Brasil EcoDiesel, a company working with the Brazilian government (www.brasilecodiesel.com.br), points out that the castor bean settlements will prevent that country¹s agricultural exodus and induce the return to the land of the people who migrated to huge urban centers. It¹s about the farmer of the future, as in LaVaute and Weaver¹s vision.
The oily castor bean can be planted along with subsistence crops normally cultivated in northeast Brazil. Its harvest begins during the drought season, when crops with a shorter growing cycle are finished. Lack of water actually aids the plant's growth. Are you listening, growers in semi-arid American states? Castor can grow alongside your other beans if someone helps you get it started.
LaVaute learned you can make 700 different products from castor oil. It's in lipsticks, hair conditioners and shampoo, and the colorful beans are polished to make rosary beads. Other uses range from laxative to skin softener to industrial lubricant. If you have evil intent, you could extract and concentrate the deadly toxin ricin, but that aspect has perhaps received more publicity than it deserves. LaVaute tells me you can make polymers and epoxies, for instance, from castor bean oil, and a minimum of processing makes it a diesel fuel. "It's an incredible oil and it's also a strategic material."
Here's where the Re-Ruralization excitement intensified. Rob Wood, executive director of IoE, uncovered documents about a neglected piece of American legislation that spells out how to build a castor industry just like LaVaute was talking about -- a basis for creating fuel, and value-added products. The Critical Agricultural Materials Act (CAMA) was passed in the early 1970s and amended several times including in 2005, but never implemented! It focuses on rubber and other critical agricultural materials, highlighting the one that could help replace much of America's oil imports castor beans. The law considers castor oil as a strategic material because of its use as an additive for jet fuel and hydraulic fluid.
The crop was successfully grown in the U.S. in the past, but today, with no incentives, it isn't commercially grown. America depends on castor oil from India and China, with a bit coming from Brazil. Remember, we're talking about a strategic material used in engines, vital to national security, at a time when government leaders talk a lot about being at war. CAMA delineates what needs to be done to create and grow an industry around such a critical material. If implemented, the law would provide structure to set up 10,000-acre plantations just for seed stock, for instance. In fact, the law says such actions must be taken!
LaVaute sparked a reaction to all this when he and Gherke were riding in a big diesel-fueled pickup truck, hauling a congressman to a fish-fry. Congressman Frank Lucas, a rancher from Oklahoma who chairs an agricultural subcommittee, was their captive audience so they told him about the crucial-but-languishing Critical Agricultural Materials Act. It was about the time that China was trying to buy a big American oil company. LaVaute recalls that the congressman was disturbed that his country was so dependent on foreign oil while at the same time a law, intended to address that, has never been implemented. The congressman hit the roof, figuratively speaking.
LaVaute, who happens to be in the Missouri Farmers' Union, kept the momentum going. He met with his friend, the president of the union, who is on the board of the National Farmers' Union and who contacted other states' Farmers' Union presidents. They sent out information about CAMA's mandate to fund new agricultural industries to ensure availability of strategic and critical materials. As serendipity would have it, the farmers¹ groups had already planned to do a September fly-in to the capital.
Usually these lobbies struggle to get legislators to write legislation so that farmers will have more alternatives and options. This time, legislation to give them such choices is on the books and just needs to be put into action. So the plan at this time the end of August is that on September 11 the movers-and-shakers from various states' farmers unions fly to Washington. Along with the three full-time lobbyists for the National Farmers' Union, they are to lobby every senator and congressman and insist they implement the CAMA law. Every legislator is going to be hit up to pick up the phone and say "Why isn't this being done? It's already passed and it's supposed to be happening!"
It looks like this issue is a shoo-in, but if it isn't, LaVaute and Weaver have other avenues for nudging politicians.
The farmers¹ unions are paying LaVaute's expenses to fly in and help organize the simultaneous lobbying. Then he's away to Brazil to study the castor bean industry. The USDA go-getter in Oklahoma is rounding up the first funding for LaVaute¹s trip, and Missouri Farmers' Union and private ranchers are also helping. Peter¹s film-maker son Colin LaVaute will travel with him, to document the castor industry. Producer Rick Weaver, who produced Magnum, P.I. and other television episodes, will do post-production work on the documentary. Perhaps documenting China¹s and India¹s castor bean industries will be among the Weaver and LaVaute families¹ future Ecolonomics projects.
LaVaute is definitely down-to-earth, but he also believes that if you go down the right track, the universe will send you what you need to work with. He¹s obviously on track.
For Further Information
"Energy in a Castor Bean" http://www.tierramerica.net/2003/0526/ianalisis.shtml
7) Fusion or Illusion?
Living On Earth, http://www.loe.org/
Major funding for Living On Earth is provided by the National Science Foundation.
Some Like it Hot
This week, Living on Earth looks at the promise of fusion energy. It's easy to see why physicists say fusion is the energy source of the future. The fuel for fusion is virtually unlimited.
It's a form of hydrogen that's available by the oceans-full, and when the nuclei are forced together, or fused, they produce enormous amounts of energy that's practically pollution-free.
It may sound too good to be true, but physicists say while the technical challenges are enormous, it is possible. Over the past sixty years, scientists have been developing larger and larger devices in their labs that will mimic the way fusion energy is produced in stars. And recently, the international science community announced the construction of the largest fusion device ever conceived and predict it will demonstrate that fusion really is the "energy source of the future." But critics say the twelve billion dollar experiment will never be economically viable and quip, fusion is indeed the energy source of the future and always will be.
Cold Fusion: A Heated History
March 23, 1989 is the beginning of what’s been called "the greatest controversy in basic science in the 20th century." That’s the day two scientists at the University of Utah told reporters at a news conference that they had created fusion in a test tube at room temperatures.
Skeptics immediately denounced the discovery saying it violated the fundamental laws of physics. A scientific panel convened by the Department of Energy concluded so-called "cold fusion" was not a nuclear reaction and did not produce excess energy. For most scientists, cold fusion was dead and buried.
But over the last sixteen years later a small group of scientists have continued to investigate the phenomenon, and say not only is cold fusion is alive, real, and reproducible, it will soon provide unlimited, and virtually pollution-free energy.
Pebble Bed Technology - Nuclear Promise or Peril?
Nuclear power held great promise when it came online in the 1960s and 70s. Utilities promised nuclear plants would produce electricity that was clean and cheap, and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
But technical problems, high costs, and a change of public opinion turned the tides against nuclear power and during the last two decades, the nuclear industry was a boondoggle.
But today, nuclear power may be experiencing a comeback. High oil and gas prices and the threat of global warming have forced many to give nuclear energy a second chance. Living on Earth travels to South Africa to take a look at pebble bed reactors--small-scale, affordable, high temperature plants. Scientists there say this technology will bring nuclear energy that’s safe to the developing world and other nations.
For information on how to listen to audio on the LOE website, click here.
Living On Earth
20 Holland Street
Somerville, MA 02144
phone number is: 617-629-3626.
8) Free Energy Congress Fills a Gap
Sterling Allan, Executive Director, Free Energy Congress, Thursday, October 6, 2005, http://peswiki.com/energy/Free_Energy_Congress
The purpose of the congress is to provide quorum review of leading technology claims, to assess viability and prioritize. Most deliberations will take place by email, privately. In-person retreats (pow wows) will also be scheduled to discuss these matters, preferably on a semiannual basis -- probably in the Fall, and in the Spring.
The Free Energy Congress is an association for the purpose of reviewing the most promising claims to free energy technologies, in order to come up with a weighted list of recommendations of the best technologies. While the preliminary discussions will be mostly private, the results of those deliberations will be made public, to the extent possible (some technologies are semi-proprietary).
Let's do something meaningful toward ending the frustration that comes with all the bogus claims that float around. There just has to be legitimate science in the midst of all that noise. Together we can methodically dissect the haystacks in short order and find the needles!
By each one of us putting in a little bit, we combine into a formidable repository of wisdom. When our collective stamp of approval is on something, that will carry tremendous weight.
Eventually we will have a central location with a laboratory of our own, but meanwhile, among us are those who have the tools for accurate testing of technology claims. Furthermore, as we draw from people worldwide, there is more of a chance that we can go to the inventor with a group of qualified testers nearby, for technology evaluations.
While we will eventually review all deserving free energy device claims, from solar and wind to cold fusion and zero point energy, we will need to have priorities by which we can triage the abundance of claims and requests that are sure to be presented to us.
In the process of reviewing the technologies, we will be compiling an extensive database of claims. This will be of very high value, and can be a source of revenue to help cover expenses and possibly even provide a stipend for congress members.
In conjunction with our semiannual meetings will be a report that we can make available.
(Alphabetic sequence by last name)
Hal Ade, Adrian Akau, William Alek, Sterling D. Allan, Patrick Bailey, Sepp Hasslberger, Hugh Campbell, Bob Colvine, Nick Cook (http://www.coasttocoastam.com/guests/330.html), Sascha Deri, John Earle, Ron Frazier, Joel Garbon, Reed Huish, Mike Johnston, Eric Krieg, Doug Mann, Andrew Michrowski, Stephen Kaplan, Ken Rasmussen, Ken Rauen, Tai Robinson, Terry Sisson, Thomas Valone, Gary Vesperman, Vlad, Eric Vogels, Gary Voss
"Energy systems that tap into inexhaustible, ubiquitous, and clean sources of energy generation, such as solar, wind, tide, and geothermal, but also including non-conventional avenues such as zero point energy, radiant energy, cold fusion, and magnet motors." (If they do indeed prove to work as claimed.)
See Wikipedia entry for "Pow wow (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pow_wow)". This Free Energy Congress could be thought of as a kind of pow wow -- specifically a gathering of knowledgeable peers for considering free energy technologies on the cutting edge.
The biggest problems are not easy to solve
Later this month 500 or so delegates will gather in Durban, South Africa, for the first World Conference on Physics and Sustainable Development (www.wcpsd.org). As the conference organizers point out, physics has already made tremendous contributions to the health and welfare of people and nations, but many of these contributions have benefited people in the developed world more than those in the developing world. The aim of the Durban conference is to "give the physics community the chance to begin to focus on how we can work with colleagues in the developing world to bring more benefits to their world" (see A global role for physics).
One of the biggest challenges is education. About 20% of the 100 million children of primary-school age in the developing world do not attend school, and this figure rises to about 40% in sub-Saharan Africa. It comes as little surprise that these countries do not have strong track records in either higher education or science and technology (see "The challenges for Africa" Physics World October p12; print version only).
However, a number of agencies have started to address these problems. A report prepared for the United Nations by a task-force on science, technology and innovation calls on developing nations to concentrate on generic or "platform" technologies that are relevant to their local needs, to build their infrastructure, and to rethink the role of universities to ensure that there are stronger links between R&D and local companies and needs (see "Innovations for all nations" Physics World October p16; print version only). Platform technologies identified by the task-force include information and communications technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology and new materials.
Of course, progress in the developing world will not happen without support from the developed world, and it is a disgrace that some western governments have already started to back away from previous commitments. Moreover, the challenges are not confined to the developing world. The Earth has only limited natural resources - notably of energy and safe drinking water - and it is essential that everyone on the planet co-operates to make the most of these, and to develop new sustainable resources, otherwise we all lose out.