Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘biofuels

Here Come the Food Wars

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October 1, 2011 at 11:57 am

Monday Night

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* “Pass the Damn Bill” movement gaining steam? More at Daily Kos.

* Looks like Obamatopia is officially over: Indonesia may tear down Obama statue.

* But wait! State of the Union to call for an end to DADT?

* Today in the past: the first robot homicide.

Williams died instantly in 1979 when the robot’s arm slammed him as he was gathering parts in a storage facility, where the robot also retrieved parts. Williams’ family was later awarded $10 million in damages. The jury agreed the robot struck him in the head because of a lack of safety measures, including one that would sound an alarm if the robot was near.

* Skepticism about algae fuels from Bradford Plumer.

* And Erica highlights what will surely be the most important academic conference of the year.


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* Kim Stanley Robinson, hero of the environment.

* People will have to be rationed to four modest portions of meat and one litre of milk a week if the world is to avoid run-away climate change, a major new report warns.

* We’re double-saved! ‘New Facility Uses Algae to Turn Coal Pollution Into Fuel.’

* Except we’ve already destroyed the oceans and the rainforests.

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September 30, 2008 at 3:21 pm

Closing a Few Open Tabs

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Closing a few open tabs.

* The New York Times has an article on Fermi problems and the importance of intuition in mathematics. (There’s a game.) (Via Boing Boing.) Kottke links to some such calculations at 3quarksdaily, saying they used to be part of the interview process of Microsoft and Google.

* Roger Ebert explains why some people say he gives movies too many stars.

* The new season of the Ricky Gervais podcast is out.

* More radio: an episode of This American Life from May that explains the origins of the mortgage crisis.

* And Bill Gates is investing heavily in algae fuel. We’re saved!

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September 18, 2008 at 12:26 pm

Random Links

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Random links in anticipation of the big speech tonight.

* Wikipedia’s page on the crucial compound unobtanium. Via kottke.

* A brief history of tabloids.

* Geographically misplaced statues of pop-culture icons.

* McCain gets prickly with Time.

There’s a theme that recurs in your books and your speeches, both about putting country first but also about honor. I wonder if you could define honor for us?
Read it in my books.

I’ve read your books.
No, I’m not going to define it.

But honor in politics?
I defined it in five books. Read my books.

* 9 very cool bridges.

* Have we hit Peak Tequila?

* And Banksy visits New Orleans.

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August 28, 2008 at 7:08 pm


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Here come cyanobacterial fuels. We’re saved!

Dramatic progress has been made over the last decade understanding the fundamental reaction of photosynthesis that evolved in cyanobacteria 3.7 billion years ago, which for the first time used water molecules as a source of electrons to transport energy derived from sunlight, while converting carbon dioxide into oxygen.

The light harvesting systems gave the bacteria their blue (“cyano”) colour, and paved the way for plants to evolve by “kidnapping” bacteria to provide their photosynthetic engines, and for animals by liberating oxygen for them to breathe, by splitting water molecules. For humans now there is the tantalising possibility of tweaking the photosynthetic reactions of cyanobacteria to produce fuels we want such as hydrogen, alcohols or even hydrocarbons, rather than carbohydrates.

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August 27, 2008 at 3:09 pm

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* Climate Debate Daily, from the good (if too conservative) folks who bring you Arts & Letters Daily, is the latest addition to the ecology section of my sidebar.

* And from way back in February: the top 50 eco blogs, as ranked by the Guardian.

* 25 tips to make your apartment a green paradise.

* More from the the 55-mph wars: Nissan’s new ECO pedal “presses back upward when it senses drivers are driving too quickly.”

* ‘Junk Mail Produces as Much CO2 as 7 States Combined.’ Here’s how to stop it.

* ‘Prepare for global temperature rise of 4°C, warns top scientist.’

* Scientists predict that the disappearance of Arctic sea ice ‘will lead to a large-scale transfer of shellfish, snails, and other animals from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic.’

* But will algal ethanol save us? Virgin Airlines says yes!

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August 10, 2008 at 12:10 am

Piedmont Biofuels

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We spent most of the morning out in Pittsboro with Lyle Estill at Piedmont Biofuels, one of the largest renewable energy projects on the East Coast. Literally begun as a garage project in Estill’s backyard, Piedmont Biofuels grew into a cooperative for approximately 600 local users before incorporating as an industrial site that sells biodiesel for blending with commercial petroleum.

Estill’s a great guy and Piedmont’s a fascinating and important project, which I’ll have a lot more to say about in an longish Indy article we’re working on about responses to Peak Oil in the Triangle. (One of the things that won’t be in the article are some more Kim-Stanley-Robinson-inspired, science-fictiony thoughts on Utopia, particularly Robinson’s critique of enclavism and his advocacy of distributed Utopian nodes, dispersed in a network and immanent to the system they oppose. That’s the switch from the biodiesel cooperative to Piedmont Biofuels Industrial, LLC, and I think it’s pretty interesting.)

In the meantime, here’s the FAQ, and here are the pictures Jaimee took while we were out there. What’s impressive is not just how clean everything is, but the lengths to which the group has endeavored to make the project both sustainable and ecologically friendly—alongside the biodiesel plants are sustainable farms, hydroponic greenhouses, biodiversity gardens, waste-product reclamation, and a huge vermicomposting bin.

All in all, it’s a pretty ecotopian place.

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July 24, 2008 at 4:28 pm

Random Science Monday!

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Random Science Monday!

* At most movie theaters, there’s more popcorn in a medium bag than in a large tub.

* We could grow asparagus on Mars.

* Is the universe fractal?

* Optical illusion creates fake speed bumps. Via Neil F.

* In the future, we’ll get all our energy from giant, man-made tornadoes. We’re saved! Via MeFi.

* Compared to the tornadoes, mutant bacteria that excrete oil seem almost mundane.

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June 30, 2008 at 11:45 pm

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Wasting Food

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As it turns out, Americans waste an astounding amount of food — an estimated 27 percent of the food available for consumption, according to a government study — and it happens at the supermarket, in restaurants and cafeterias and in your very own kitchen. It works out to about a pound of food every day for every American.

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May 18, 2008 at 3:32 pm

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Polygraph 22: Call for Papers

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Polygraph 22—Call for Papers

Special Issue: Ecology and Ideology

The contemporary moment abounds with speculation concerning our ecological future. Specialists in a variety of fields forecast immanent catastrophe, stemming from a combination of climate change, fossil-fuel depletion, and consumer waste. The recent bestowal of the Nobel Peace Prize on a group of scientists studying climate change indicates the degree to which "peace" has come to signify ecological balance; even the declaration by the Vatican of a new set of "7 Deadly Sins for the modern age" includes pollution in an attempt to grapple with the potential of individuals to inflict ecological damage on a global scale.

In the name of an impending crisis felt to be collectively shared, new political, cultural, and intellectual alignments are being forged, just as seismic shifts in the flow of global capital once again threaten to "redistribute" the world’s resources and people. Ecological crisis has become a 24/7 media event, canvassing the planet in the imagery and rhetoric of disaster. From the halls of research and policy to activist documentary and apocalyptic fantasy, at the news desk, podium, pulpit, classroom, and computer monitor alike, all channels are united by a single underlying conviction: the present ecological catastrophe has humanity as its cause.

Precisely because the answer seems so obvious, we want to know: why now? Where are the points of antagonism in the midst of such apparent consensus, and what is at stake in their difference?

The Polygraph Editorial Collective invites papers concerning any aspect of ecology’s relationship to ideology, both interrogating ecology as a location for critique of global capitalism and analyzing the ways in which ecology functions as an ideology in its own right.

Potential areas of interest include:

Political Ecology
Globalization and ecology
Marxism and ecology
"Environmental accounting" as a challenge to the free market
Ecology and capital / consumerism
Ecology as growth market

Peak oil and climate change
Biofuels and the food crisis
Overpopulation and Neo-Malthusianism
Ecology as a rhetoric of control
Figurations of eco-disaster in popular culture

Religion and Ecology
Green apocalypticism and green evangelism
Ecology and world religion

Ecology and gender
Recent articulations of eco-feminism
Eco- & transnational feminisms
Women’s work and the global chain of production
Agricultural work and reproduction

Ecologies against ecologies
"Light" vs. "dark green" environmentalism (i.e. deep ecology)
Primitivism and technofuturism
The status of international Green movements

Polygraph welcomes work from a variety of different disciplines, including critical geography, cultural anthropology, political economy, political theology, science studies, and systems theory. We also encourage the submission of a variety of formats and genres: i.e. field reports, surveys, interviews, photography, essays, etc.

December 31, 2008

Gerry Canavan
Lisa Klarr
Ryan Vu


Wednesday Wednesday

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I’ve been collecting links all day, but haven’t really had time to post until now. So here goes:

* How shoes wreck your feet. Via MeFi.

* The Official Village Voice Election-Season Guide to the Right-Wing Blogosphere, with helpful descriptions of modus operandi and approximate stupid:evil ratio.

* Are lefty political bloggers the New New Left? Maybe, but if this is true we really need to get someone correcting Matt Yglesias’s typos full-time.

* Proximity: “somewhat like a cross between Risk and Go.” Sold!

* More on the food crisis at the Economist. Good discussion at MeFi.

* And in astoundingly cool news, they’ve finally perfected the bionic eye.

Written by gerrycanavan

April 23, 2008 at 6:13 pm

How the Rich Starved the World

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What biofuels do is undeniable: they take food out of the mouths of starving people and divert them to be burned as fuel in the car engines of the world’s rich consumers. This is, in the words of the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, nothing less than a “crime against humanity”.

The New Statesman explains how the rich starved the world. Via Cynical-C.

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April 22, 2008 at 3:40 pm

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Biofuel Is Still Bad News

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Biofuel is still bad news.

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April 8, 2008 at 11:52 pm

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Biofuels, Krugman, Counting Crows, Bruce

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* In addition to all the other things that are terrible about biofuels, including the fact that they use more oil to make than they actually save, it turns out they contribute to greenhouse gases even more than conventional fuels, too. Now that Iowa’s voted, can’t we just bury this idea? Via MeFi.

* Given that the CBS News delegate count now has Obama taking the lead over Clinton, even counting superdelegates, and the Intrade prediction market gives him a nearly 70% chance to win the nomination, isn’t it time for Paul Krugman to start figuring out how he’s ever going to stand down? This weekend’s column was easily the most egregious I’ve seen yet, explicitly comparing Obama to Nixon and Bush on the grounds of I-don’t-know-what-exactly. Check out “Hate Springs Eternal”:

Why, then, is there so much venom out there?

I won’t try for fake evenhandedness here: most of the venom I see is coming from supporters of Mr. Obama, who want their hero or nobody. I’m not the first to point out that the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality. We’ve already had that from the Bush administration — remember Operation Flight Suit? We really don’t want to go there again.

And it gets worse:

But most of all, progressives should realize that Nixonland is not the country we want to be. Racism, misogyny and character assassination are all ways of distracting voters from the issues, and people who care about the issues have a shared interest in making the politics of hatred unacceptable.

Has there ever been a more singular misreading of the dynamics at play in an election, ever?

Is Krugman still going to be tilting at this windmill when Obama is president?

* Nick Beaudrot has called the Democratic nomination for Obama. You can all go back to your homes.

* Finally, I jotted down a little bit more about the new Counting Crows album late last night in the comments of the eight live tracks post. In a nushell, the album seems to suffer from a few related problems: first, many of the songs are not that good, and second those that are good are usually highly referential or explicit sequels to earlier, better songs. Worse, hopes that Adam Duritz’s narcissism has abided have once again been dashed—if anything he appears more narcissistic than ever, still writing about the same twenty-year-old breakup and dropping any pretense that these songs are about anything but his own desire to have a public LiveJournal. More than once in the live set he’s incapable of sustaining the illusion that these are characters rather than himself through even thirty seconds of audience banter; at one point he goes so far as to talk about how one of his “characters” felt just after writing “Accidentally in Love.”

None of this bodes especially well for longtime Counting Crows devotees like myself. I remarked to a Longtime Associate last night that, as far as he and I go, Adam Duritz seems to represent our worst selves in just about every way that Bruce Springsteen represents our best. I really think that’s true, and as we’ve gotten older we both seem to have left a lot of the Duritz stuff behind us. I’m nostalgic for a lot of their old songs because I have a lot of memories attached to them, but there’s not much room inside me for more of the same.

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February 11, 2008 at 1:31 pm