February 28, 2007
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FROM VOLUME 8, NUMBER 8, AUGUST 1995
ENERGY SOURCES AND USE
Two items from The Atlantic Monthly, Jan. 1995:
"Reinventing the Wheels," A.B. Lovins, L.H. Lovins, 75-86. New
ways to design and manufacture cars can make them ten times more fuel-efficient,
safer, more durable, and probably cheaper. The key to a super-efficient car is
to make the car very light and aerodynamically slippery, and to recover most of
its braking energy.
"Beyond Efficiency," M. Derr, 86-93. Even if lighter, durable,
more efficient cars eventually replace those now in use, a long-term solution to
overcrowded highways and an auto-centered culture will require imaginative
transportation and urban-planning options. This may include low-speed cars for
the local solo trips that account for 19% of U.S. mileage.
"The International Grid," F. Pearce, New Scientist,
38-42, July 8, 1995.
Describes the growing number of regional electricity grids each of which
encompass several countries. Engineers are planning the links that could
eventually lead to an international network, distributing renewable energy from
rainforests, geothermal rocks, rivers and nuclear power plants to population
"Cookstoves for the Developing World," D.M. Kammen, Scientific
American, 72-75, July 1995.
Solar-box ovens that efficiently burn firewood and other traditional fuels
are raising standards of living in poor nations. Some households in Africa,
Latin America and elsewhere have reduced their cooking-fuel expenditures by 50%.
In many places, a manufacturing base has emerged that could bring down the costs
of the ovens.
"Revisiting Solar Power's Past," C. Smith, Technology
Review, 38-47, July 1995.
Traces the history of solar power from 1860 to the present. After following
the same path as solar inventors of the late 1800s and early 1990s, contemporary
solar engineers have arrived at the same conclusion: solar power is not only
possible, but practical. However, public support for further development and
implementation is once again eroding.
"White Paint on a Hot Tin Roof," R. Mestel, New Scientist,
34-37, Mar. 25, 1995.
U.S. scientists are learning about cost-effective strategies to combat the
urban heat island effect, such as planting trees that are low emitters of
hydrocarbons, and coating roofs with a reflective, white, plastic polymer.
Additional benefits are energy savings for consumers and less air pollution.
Potential problems include cities with cold winters, alteration of air patterns,
and buildup of algae and fungi on roofs in humid areas.
"Rebel with a Cause," J. Webb, ibid., 32-35, Feb. 11,
About Amory Lovins, co-founder with his wife Hunter of the Rocky Mountain
Institute near Aspen, Colorado. Lovins has been an active campaigner for energy
efficiency in buildings and transportation. Although often controversial, many
of Lovins' ideas are catching on.
"A Growing Desire for Streetcars," M. Hamer, ibid.,
14-15, Jan. 28, 1995.
Trams, once rejected, are now seen as the transport of the future in the
U.K. because they offer many of the benefits of a train system at a much lower
cost. Although trams are slower than trains, they are more accessible to people
in the streets. Capital startup costs for tram service are higher than for bus
service, but the extra costs of carrying extra passengers are smaller than for
"Seeing the Wood for the Trees," F. Pearce, ibid.,
12-13, Jan. 14, 1995.
Coppicing is an ancient method of managing woodlands in Great Britain
whereby foresters cut young trees leaving a stump from which numerous poles
sprout. The signing of the Climate Change Convention is one reason for new
interest in industrial coppicing. Currently an expensive source of power, the
costs of industrial coppices should fall significantly with new technology and
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