Category Archives: Energy

4 Day Work Week

The Scientific American reports on Environmental and Economic Pluses of the 4-Day Workweek

Local governments in particular have had their eyes on Utah over the last year; the state redefined the workday for more than 17,000 of its employees last August. For those workplaces, there’s no longer a need to turn on the lights, elevators or computers on Fridays—nor do janitors need to clean vacant buildings. Electric bills have dropped even further during the summer, thanks to less air-conditioning: Friday’s midday hours have been replaced by cooler mornings and evenings on Monday through Thursday. As of May, the state had saved $1.8 million.

No word on how this helps security, but clearly happier employees are less likely to become a risk (reduces motive). Although the time in the office is the same, I suspect the shift to longer days and fewer of them is also less risk (potentially reduces opportunity). Just as employees are on the road 20 percent less, they also potentially need authorization 20 percent less. The article does mention that health issues are reduced, surely because commuting and work-family pressures are reduced as well.

“Utah employees actually show decreased health complaints, less stress and fewer sick days,” Wadsworth says, noting previous research finding that fatigue is typically triggered by workdays over 12 hours. Early results from another multicity survey indicate that just 20 percent of respondents said they felt they ate more fast food and only 30 percent said they worked out less. In fact, 30 percent said they exercised more. Anecdotal evidence from Utah also points to an unexpected benefit: increased volunteerism.

That suggests four day work weeks are the limit. No need to get excited about trying the three day model. Another benefit might be more time at brick-and-mortar retail, which could boost the economy as well, and have more people outside for more days potentially reducing street crime.

VW Diesel Crushes Fuel Consumption

It has been a while since I last waxed poetically about the amazing virtues of diesel. It is the obvious choice to me for independence from petroleum today. The new Volkswagen Lupo 3L TDI not only proves this is reality, but has some nice marketing language to boot:

It wasn’t long ago the European community thought the idea of a regular production vehicle that consumes 3 liters of fuel for every 100 kilometers was a mere pipe dream. A challenge was put out to European car manufacturers to produce such a vehicle and former VWAG Chairman Dr. Piech stepped up to the plate and swung hard – he usually didn’t miss too many pitches when it comes to engineering feats. What resulted is the Volkswagen Lupo 3L TDI, the worlds first 3-liter consumption production car.

Considering that the 2010 VW Golf will give 170hp at 44mpg, we’re talking real cars with really efficient engines today. This is not to say small engines are not a good idea, but the fact is that today’s typical American driver will purchase based on performance and status first, efficiency second. The fact that BMW has started pumping up the 3-series diesel is proof of this performance-orientation taking hold. Not too long ago they were carrying on about some sort of hydrogen 7-series, which will probably be a reality in like…never. Today they too see the American diesel market heating up. Next step, biodiesel blends of 5% or more. Landfills, get your conversion systems running. You don’t have to be a total veggiebus to make a significant impact. Imagine reducing dependence on foreign oil by just 10% and the positive impact to air quality and health.

Biofuels are carbon dioxide (CO2) neutral. Unlike petroleum fuels, they do not add new carbon to the atmosphere [since they come from renewable plants which consume CO2]. Sulphur dioxide (SO2) and sulfates (major contributors to acid rain) are completely eliminated due to the fact that sulfur does not exist in veggie oil. Carbon monoxide (CO) emissions are reduced by 40-60% and carcinogens by 90%. Hydrocarbon emissions are reduced by 50% which reduces photochemical smog (ozone) by 50% as well. Particulate matter, a major contributor to increased asthma cases, is reduced by 45%

Shatner Does Palin

William Shatner performs Sarah Palin’s resignation poem:

What? Palin was really trying to say in this poem that global warming evidence is best seen right in her own backyard. She can not come out and say it straight, for fear of upsetting her financial and political supporters, so a poem was written to ring the alarm more eloquently and safely.

Palin also seems to be paying homage to the late Luke Cole who died last month in a car accident. Last year he filed the Alaska Kivalina v. ExxonMobile et al case.

Thus, we should thank Palin for her resignation poem. It shows she has finally taken a stand, albeit with thick literary camouflage, for national security through environmental protection.

Stopping Desertification

Magnus Larsson gave a cool (pun intended) presentation at TEDGlobal 2009 called “Cities past and future” where he suggested an innovative way to stop desertification. You can see him in action here and here.

First, let me just clarify that I am all in favor of desserts and this in no way clouds my ability to comment on the urgent need to stop deserts from spreading. Ahem.

The idea is to support the green-belt concept, a barrier of trees and vegetation, with a giant wall made of sand.

The sand can be fused together using methods pioneered by anti-earthquake engineering and seismic research in California that is essentially a form of “bacterial concrete”. Bacteria (Bacillus pasteurii – microorganisms that create sandstone by precipitating calcite) can be used at low expense to generate a giant wall from sand. This not only protects the trees and provides a more significant barrier to wind and heat, but also should remain even as the trees may succumb to local demand for firewood or construction materials. In fact, this method coupled with solar innovations and enforcement penalties may make trees no longer desirable for construction or heat, so you get an overall risk reduction in several areas.

Some say this is poetry

Larsson espouses “aggregation as a design strategy”:

in one way, all design is aggregation. even the most austere minimalistic design usually produces an aggregation of elements that weren’t there before. on one level, it is hard to do anything in the world without adding something to it: a trace, a movement; something.

sand is the very epitome of aggregation. a single grain of sand is almost nothing: a splinter of rock, something that once was something, but has now become a memory of that thing. but put myriad grains together and you get entire landscapes, deserts, the earth. you get fascinating forms and emergent patterns. you get possibilities, potentials, a fluid material from which to build our structures. and you get a force to do it for you: as the sand is carried by the wind, “all” we have to do is make sure we design with this in mind. work with the aggregation, not against it. allow the aeolian forces to put the sand in motion, allow saltation to do its thing, and then, when the sand has aggregated into a shape that we like, use an intelligent strategy for how to solidify it, petrify it, freeze it into a solid state that speaks of that one moment in time.

To me, of course, that is poetry.

Self-healing concrete is another interesting application.

Hummer fails Chinese test

China is set ‘to block’ Hummer takeover.

Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery emerged as the surprise buyer for the brand earlier this year.

But China National Radio said Hummer is at odds with the country’s planning agency’s attempts to decrease pollution from Chinese manufacturers.

Standards in China for clean air and efficiency that exceed those in the US? That normally would be good news, but thanks to product management at GM it’s now bad news for America.