Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gas or Diesel?

Just a quick little post more for more a mental note for me than anything..ya know how it goes with memory and getting older..
Anyhow, I was having a conversation with my classmate at Permaculture about VWs and converting them to run on biodeisel or SVO (Straight Vegetable Oil) and the question came up about why the car has be diesel. Well I'm actually not sure the explanation why (tho it has something to do with the necessity of a spark plug in gas engines), but I did find out the reason what the differences are and why gas run cars can't be converted (you lucky diesel car owners, you!). Below is the answer, and also a link to where I got the answer. This site, called PlantDrive, offers a lot of great information about Renewable Oils and Fuels.

Q: Will it (conversion to biodiesel/SVO) work for my gasoline (petrol) car?

No. This is only for diesel engines. Diesels work by compressing air much more than is the case with a gasoline (petrol) engine. This creates high temperatures, and causes a fine mist of injected oil to self-ignite from the heat of compression and combust. The fine mist ("atomized") oils injected into the cylinder just before the piston reaches the top of the compression stroke. There is no spark plug or ignition system in a diesel engine. It is designed to burn a light viscosity oil. Vegetable oils are heavier/thick/more viscous, and so need to be made thinner (less "viscous", lower "viscosity") to work. This is why "biodiesel" (alkyl ester, usually methyl ester) is made ....or, alternatively, why vegetable oil is preheated in our systems.

The chemical process of making biodiesel, or the pre-heating of the vegetable oil both achieve this goal: reduction of viscosity. If that is done, then the engine will run. But never a gasoline engine, only diesels!
...from PlantDrive FAQS

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Well, today was my first day at my 4 Seasons VII - Permaculture Design Certification Course at Regenerative Design Institute and let me say first that I am sooo glad I'm in this class. Listening to Penny alone is more than worth the trip.

But let me rewind a little bit for those of you who are scratching your heads and saying to yourselves "What exactly is permaculture?"

Good question, especially if you are trying to keep it to a one sentence answer. So for now I'll cop out and defer to the ever-illustrious wikipedia to provide my answer.. at least until I've gone to a few more classes..

So, permaculture is:

The word permaculture, coined by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren during the 1970s, is a portmanteau of permanent agriculture as well as permanent culture. Through a series of publications, Mollison, Holmgren and their associates documented an approach to designing human settlements, in particular the development of perennial agricultural systems that mimic the structure and interrelationship found in natural ecologies.

Permaculture design principles extend from the position that "The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children" (Mollison, 1990). The intent was that, by rapidly training individuals in a core set of design principles, those individuals could become designers of their own environments and able to build increasingly self-sufficient human settlements — ones that reduce society's reliance on industrial systems of production and distribution that Mollison identified as fundamentally and systematically destroying the earth's ecosystems.[wikipedia]

ack!.. getting late and must prepare for tomorrow's journey to Commonwealth Garden and another full day to sponge up the knowledge. wohoo! But don't fret, I pinky swear to wrote more soon...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Why the Environment should be #1 on the List of Things to be Concerned About

Excerpted from Steve Kirsch's List of "Twenty things every American should know about climate change", below are some of the points he talks about that everyone should know. The problem is big and disaster is not far away.

Sure lots of people know about global warming and even joke about it with all the recent changes in weather. But this is no joke.. Folks aren't as concerned because they think "oh..sure it's a problem but we've got plenty of time".. and of course it doesn't help when our own government doesn't acknowledge the sense of urgency in global climate change and its effects... read below and I encourage everyone to read Steve's List

We have less than 10 years to achieve dramatic reductions
You hear a lot of talk about achieving 80% reductions by 2050. But the reality is that we must act much sooner than that. There is a ecological "tipping point" that scientists believe will occur before 2017. When that tipping point is exceeded, our climate system transitions from a negative feedback system into a positive feedback system. Today, our natural systems act to dampen the amount of CO2 we release by absorbing a good fraction of it. But as the earth becomes hotter, these systems break down and will start contributing to making things worse instead of better. If we do not make dramatic progress within the next 10 years, then climate change becomes a runaway train, beyond our ability to control it. This will not be easy. Today, worldwide emissions are increasing at a faster rate than at any point in history. We don't have a lot of time. The deeper and faster we cut our emissions over the next 10 years, the better.

We must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 90% ASAP and get other countries to do the same
The best way to minimize the impacts of climate change is to make the reductions as soon as we can. It's also cheaper to act sooner. The Stern Review pointed out that it is twenty times less expensive to avoid the impacts of climate change than to pay the price of dealing with it. So what are we waiting for? The sooner we make the cuts here, the sooner we can encourage other developed nations to follow our lead. In general, the deeper we cut now, the less it will cost us later. If we could cut our emissions to zero tomorrow, that would provide the greatest benefit. But that is not practical. However, a 90% reduction in less than 30 years is possible to achieve. We cannot continue to take the position "if other countries don't cut, we won't either." We must be a world leader and set an example for others to follow. If they do not, we must work very hard to ensure that they do. Failure is not an option.

Incremental improvements won't get us there
Baby steps won't get us there in time. Incremental efficiency gains won't get us there in time. Instead of thinking of how we can improve fuel efficiency by 10 miles per gallon over 10 years, we should instead be asking ourselves how can we can improve by over 100 miles per gallon in less than 5 years. We can do this with plug-in hybrids. It will not be easy. But we have the technology to do this. In 1941, we completely re-tooled our automotive plants in less than 12 months. We could do it then. We can do it now.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Tuesday: Vote For Obama

Many of us may be on the fence about who to vote for between Clinton vs Obama.. all I can hope for is that each person makes his/her decision based on knowing and comparing the candidates and where they stand and to make an informed decision who they feel would be the best to represent us. To read a great analysis comparing the candidates and their stances check out Steve Kirsch's article Who would make the best President?. It's excellent and well researched.

For those of you deciding to vote for other reasons or for "strategic" reasons compared to "experience" or who's better against the Republicans, I encourage you to read this article by Michael Chabon.

This excerpt that moves me the most
"It is through our fear of falling prey to the calamity and misadventure from which the media promise faithlessly to protect us -- a fear manufactured and sold by the media themselves -- that we accept without question the media-borne canard (tainted, in my view, by a racism as insidious as any that hides behind the curtains of voting booths) that Barack Obama, a seasoned and successful 46-year-old husband and father of two, a man sweeping into the prime of his life with all his sails and flags unfurled, is too young and inexperienced for a job that demands vitality and flexibility and that, furthermore, has made nonsense of glittering resumes, laughingstocks of practiced old hands and, in a reverse of Popeye's old trick, ravenous alligators out of years of accumulated baggage.

Fear and those who fatten on it spread vile lies about Obama's religion, his past drug use, his views on Israel and the Jews. Fear makes us see the world purely in terms of enemies and perils, and leads us to seek out the promise of leadership, however spurious it proves to be, among those who speak the language of that doomed and demeaning, that inhuman view of the world.

But the most pitiable fear of all is the fear of disappointment, of having our hearts broken and our hopes dashed by this radiant, humane politician who seems not just with his words but with every step he takes, simply by the fact of his running at all, to promise so much for our country, for our future and for the eventual state of our national soul. I say "pitiable" because this fear of disappointment, which I hear underlying so many of the doubts that people express to me, is ultimately a fear of finding out the truth about ourselves and the extent of the mess that we have gotten ourselves into. If we do fight for Obama, work for him, believe in him, vote for him, and the man goes down to defeat by the big-money machines and the merchants of fear, then what hope will we have left to hold on to?

Thus in the name of preserving hope do we disdain it. That is how a phobocracy maintains its grip on power.

To support Obama, we must permit ourselves to feel hope, to acknowledge the possibility that we can aspire as a nation to be more than merely secure or predominant. We must allow ourselves to believe in Obama, not blindly or unquestioningly as we might believe in some demagogue or figurehead but as we believe in the comfort we take in our families, in the pleasure of good company, in the blessings of peace and liberty, in any thing that requires us to put our trust in the best part of ourselves and others. That kind of belief is a revolutionary act. It holds the power, in time, to overturn and repair all the damage that our fear has driven us to inflict on ourselves and the world."

Personally I am voting for Obama since Edwards dropped out..and if the above doesn't sway you, then maybe the below will :)