Category Archives: Energy

Safety on Escalators and Crocs

This story should get filed under the “if only I had known” category:

At first, Rory’s mother had no idea what caused the boy’s foot to get caught. It was only later, when someone at the hospital remarked on Rory’s shoes, that she began to suspect the Crocs and did an Internet search.

“I came home and typed in ‘Croc’ and ‘escalator,’ and all these stories came up,” said Jodi McDermott, of Vienna, Va. “If I had known, those would never have been worn.”

Informed consent? Should we all be searching the Internet for safety information before a purchase, and can we trust the data that we find? These are deep questions that tug at the roots of compliance and safety regulations.

The first question that comes to my mind is should the Croc be held liable? Consider what comes from a
“consumer rights” perspective:

“These injuries are horrendous,” reports Early Show ConsumerWatch Correspondent Susan Koeppen. “They look like shark bites. This is a six-ton piece of machinery and if your foot, your finger or something gets caught in there, we’re talking a serious, serious injury.”

Scary! What is being done about these six-ton sharks with giant metal teeth ready to tear pedestrian toes into ribbons? Nothing, apparently. Instead, consumer advocates are going after a soft-shoe manufacturer. Consumerreports highlights the frequency of risk as well as the target group. It seems the escalator monsters prefer children:

In Japan, where 3.9 million pairs of Crocs were sold last year, the Trade Ministry asked the Colorado-based maker of Crocs to change the design of its shoes after receiving 65 complaints of Crocs and Crocs knockoffs becoming stuck in escalators between June and November of 2007. Most of the cases involved young children.

Call me crazy, but what was the rate of other soft-shoe complaints on escalators at the same time. Perhaps the problem is that escalator designers assumed steel-toed safety boots for passengers in the way that motorcycles now require helmets? Is the cost of a soft-shoe friendly escalator too much to ask? What about a child-safe escalator design? There seem to be child-safety designs exploding in every other area of the market these days, should the blame for the dangers of six-ton monsters get laid on the feet of soft-shoe wearing children?

In NY, the answer is yes. An attorney filed a USD$7 million (that’s about ten euros) lawsuit that claims the Croc manufacturer is misleading consumers:

“It’s not everyday footwear. It’s especially dangerous on escalators, and this is something (Crocs has) known about for quite some time,” Laskin said. “And they just don’t seem to be doing anything about it.”


“It’s somewhat ironic that kid after kid keeps getting the same kind of injury,” Laskin said. “And Crocs keeps on saying it’s a fluke.”

Again, I have to ask if perhaps there is something clearly wrong with the escalators if they are maiming children…but I guess the shoe company provides a more juicy or colorful target? The EESF (Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation) was formed in 1991, long before Crocs, and claims they have “reached over 4 million children, parents and teachers since inception”. That tells me the Croc situation is just a new chapter in a long-standing concern that really should be driving us towards better escalators. Maybe I’m just not seeing the Croc threat properly, but here is an alternative approach that also saves energy: shut-down any escalators unless they can pass a Croc test.

English recycle food oil into fuel

Now this is what I have been talking about:

Faced with soaring prices at the petrol pumps, ecologically-minded Britons are turning to fish and chips to run their cars — transforming the leftover frying oil into “green” fuel.

Deep in the southern English countryside, an environmental group spent last weekend teaching 12 men how to transform the abundant vegetable oil from fish and chip shops, but also pubs and restaurants, into biodiesel.

There is really no need to worry about food crop disruption if people would instead focus on recycling their waste oils. Even if just 10% of current consumption is replaced with oil that would otherwise be used for tallow or sent to landfill, there would be a significant impact to the market (lower emissions from bio-diesel blends and reduced demand for petroleum).

In an added incentive, the government does not tax the production of biodiesel, providing it does not exceed 2,500 litres per person a year.


“The risks are, you use some dangerous chemicals, you also use electricity so you could have potentially dangerous scenarios but you just have to take care.

“It’s not rocket science, it’s like cookery but on a big scale.”

Great article.

The real biofuel story: grass and algae good, corn bad

Big props to the person who pointed me to the How Green Are Biofuels? Comparison Chart

The chart was created jointly by faculty members from University of Washington and The Nature Conservancy and published in the Seattle P-I (see the article Bio-debatable: Food vs. fuel).

Most interesting is not just how horrible the rating of corn-based solutions, but also the fact that wood residue is listed whereas oil waste is not. I have a really hard time understanding why waste oil (e.g. cooking oil from all the restaurants) is never factored into these discussions, especially since a vast majority of biodiesel production systems in place today use exactly that source.

Anyway, here’s the full chart in all it’s beauty.


I am starting to dislike corn more and more every day. How in the world did America get so dominated by the corn industry? There must be a book on this somewhere.

Coke in every other country in the world has sugar, but not in America…here we have to imbibe the disgusting corn syrup. So perhaps fuel will go the same way? While the rest of the world will develop sensible and safe ingredients for power (engines and bodies), the US corn industry will continue to monopolize and distort the discussion at home.

Real biofuel sources are not a trade-off with food. End of story.