Category Archives: Greening Up!

The Cells of Smart Power

When I last wrote about “smart power”, I was taking US business and especially political leaders to task for failing to craft comprehensive, forward-looking energy policy.  They seem to be more concerned with drilling for today’s dwindling oil than planning for tomorrow’s growing needs.  Meanwhile, citizens feel powerless to do much about it.

Part of the problem is one of scale.  Our energy dilemma is big and not easily solved.  There’s a great deal of economic inertia keeping us stuck in hydrocarbons.  As I said before, I believe it’s largely the role of government to help “unstick” us– to provide incentives, tax or whatever, in facilitating a transition from a polluting power paradigm to one more responsible and sustainable.

But that doesn’t mean the citizenry should sit back and wait for their tax dollars to be put to proper use.  There are moves we can make at local levels to get change underway… and set the stage for more expansive solutions.  Continue reading

Smart Grids and Stupid Policies

Rolling power blackouts, a common resort in northeastern US states when extreme weather takes hold, are now steamrolling into an overheated Texas (although not yet as widespread as initially feared).  Unfortunately, the outages are largely indiscriminate thanks to an outdated, dumb electrical grid.  This puts people and produce at risk.

Tonight we lost power for a few hours and felt the impact immediately.  Our 30-year-old air conditioner was already struggling to overcome 111 degree Fahrenheit heat– without it or fans going, our little house quickly turned into a big oven.  As I walked around in the dark lighting candles and contemplating my car’s lovely air cooling ability, my mind went back in time…  Continue reading

The Nokia Phoenix

I wrote in May of last year asking, only partially rhetorically, if this would be a make-or-break year for consumer electronics giant Nokia.  And like many other pundits, I’ve offered my previous employer sound survival advice on more than one occasion [1][2][3] .  Based on recent financial reports, nobody listened.

All facetiousness aside, here around the halfway point of this year it makes sense to look at the company’s situation again and see if any of Nokia’s remaining strengths can lift it up and turn it around.   Continue reading

Getting out of the box

Very recently I poked a little fun at an unnamed job applicant’s attempt to stretch his grocery sacking experience into the area of packaging design.  But lurking near that tongue-in-cheek soliloquy was an old rant I’ve been meaning to put to voice for some time.

Today I bought two different health supplement products, two packages of each.  In both cases, I was able to combine the entire contents into a single container.  Then I summarily discarded the unnecessary packages.

Although my discomfort with this was somewhat mitigated by our habit of recycling in this household, I’m still disturbed that manufacturers cannot seem to move past this very wasteful habit.  I wouldn’t mind quite as much, except now they’re leaving out the cotton stuffing that used to keep pills from rattling.  Hey, I used that thing!

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A compact conundrum

CFLCompact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) offer two significant advantages over their counterparts such as halogens and incandescents: they put out the same amount of light at lower current, and typically last longer.

These characteristics have led to CFLs becoming a lauded centerpiece to environmental responsibility, touted by many groups as the long-overdue and obvious evolutionary replacement for technologies in place since the 1800s.

But what’s omitted from common propaganda about CFLs is the fact that these bulbs come loaded– with toxins.  Mercury, a poisonous metal long known to interfere with animal neurological systems, is a basic component of CFLs.  In addition, there is evidence to strongly suggest living and working solely under flourescent lighting is unhealthy, both physically and mentally.

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Good day sunshine

Regardless of how one may view the administration of former US President Jimmy Carter, one really good thing that came out of it (besides a large supply of comedic material for Dan Aykroyd) was a sensible, proactive energy policy.  Carter signed off on federal incentives to kickstart alternative energy years before it was fashionable, and a growth industry erupted almost overnight in response.

I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time because I got to directly participate.  I was a young plumber at the time, almost ready to take my journeyman’s license exam, when our little outfit became involved with installing passive solar water heating systems.  The basic setup was a roof-mounted panel or two along with a heat exchanger in the garage.  There was even a job or two involving several panels as well as a large storage tank for swimming pools.

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More Gore?

No, that’s not a plea for an increase in movie or video game violence (sorry fans).

Instead, it’s a question around Al Gore’s future.  Yesterday I offhandedly told my wife that it would be interesting to see the former Vice President and recent Nobel prizewinner selected as EPA head.  That turned out to be amazingly prescient, because now CNN reports that Gore is meeting with Obama, and at this point that can only mean one thing: a job.

However, perhaps a cabinet slot such as Energy Secretary makes more sense, given Gore’s post White House projects.

Regardless, a Gore appointment somewhere would only add further intrigue to what is already shaping up as one of the most interesting White House assemblies since the Reagan years.  Stay tuned!