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Mike Kojima Nerd

Revenge of the Nerd, Hope for my Green Ass

By Mike Kojima

During my trip to Germany to the 24 hours of Nurburgring last week I hung out with D Sport Magazine's publisher Mike Ferarra who was also traveling with us.  Mike holds the same ideas about the green revolution as I do, perhaps even more extremely, hence last months "Green Sucks" issue of D Sport. Sharing rants, I realized that I forgot to finish my thoughts about being green here. 

About three months ago I went on a bit of a rant about some much touted “Green” solutions to counter our problems of global warming and declining supplies of petroleum.  Most of these drawbacks are based on doing a little studying on the subject beyond what the popular media writes about and doing a little thinking as an engineer.  I could have gone into a lot more specific detail but heck this is a little monthly column that is supposed to be somewhat humorous so I have kept the details light since I am too lazy to do calculations and supply supporting data.  I am probably making a lot of enemies with the greenies but uh whatever.  Most of them have a liberal arts background.  If I want to make my life more aesthetic, I’ll dig up your number; in the meanwhile leave thinking about hardware to me.


Like I said, I am all for less pollution and more efficient means of transportation.  In my last bit of editorial on the subject I ranted about bad ideas.  This month I’ll talk about ones that will probably actually work.  Some of them will require governmental intervention and a change to our individualistic self-centered freedom loving culture but these ideas will work, they work in other countries.  With gas prices probably reaching the mid 4 dollar per gallon range soon, the economics of these ideas start to make sense as well.

telecommute


1. Telecommute.   As communications technology continues to improve, there is no reason why employees doing information type jobs should have to commute to work except for select important meeting where teleconferencing won’t cut it.  Corporate America needs to wake up to this fact.  This could save so much energy that the numbers are too staggering to compute.  The MotoIQ staff does this extensively to make up for the pollution we make racing.


2. Move closer to work.  A lot of people don’t consider this much.  Jeff lives in our office which is a converted house.  This makes up for the greenhouse gasses he spews out of his ass.


3. Walk or ride a bike.  I would ride a bike nearly everywhere if I didn’t have to worry about cell phone talking idiots taking me out.  I envision bike only roads or at least nice wide bike lanes.  Biking is a viable way to get around in Europe and Asia.  American culture needs to change to accommodate cyclists.  Offices need to relax dress codes so you could come to work in comfortable walking or biking attire.  It’s good for your fat ass; you’ll waste less time going to the Gym.  Coming back from Germany I noticed something interesting.  Germans eat a very rich diet.  Three square meals a day with lots of red meat, dairy, gravy, rich sauces, beer and not much in the way of vegetables, yet there are few fat Germans.  The reason, I think its because Germans walk and ride bikes alot.


4. Take public transportation.  If you have spent much time in Japan, Europe or urban Canada, you can get nearly anywhere quickly, safely, cheaply and efficiently by walking, taking a bus, subway or commuter train.  You are never more than a few blocks away from a bus stop, train station or subway.  You rarely need to wait more than 5 minutes for a bus, train or subway car to come. You end up walking a bit but it’s a nice healthy amount, a few block here and there.  The experience is pleasant and much less stressful than dealing with idiots in bumper to bumper traffic.  Sure in rush hour you might have to stand but that’s good for you as well.  Our country needs to invest in a better public transportation infrastructure for the long term.  We need to start this sort of planning and search out funding now.

project ruckus


5. Ride a small motorcycle or super efficient scooter.   Nowdays these can get upwards of 80 mpg.  Jeff has owned at one time or another, an LS-1 powered FD, a suburban and a Turbo Sentra SE-R and was spending $300 a month on gas.  He recently bought a scooter and now spends only about $40 a month.  He also rides a lot more places than he used to drive because now he doesn’t have to worry about spending too much on fuel.  Like a bicycle, motorcycles and scooters are vulnerable to 4 wheel idiots.  I envision two wheel only commuting roads for them which requires governmental intervention.  In the Netherlands, nearly 70 percent of the population gets around on scooters, despite their harsh winters.  In Europe and Asia the scooter is an important mode of transportation.  If you havent noticed, we have been writing on how to have fun with these sorts of things in the near future.

aprlia SR50

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Comments
8695Beaters
8695Beaterslink
Thursday, May 20, 2010 3:59 PM
Back in World War II, Germany was cut off from most of the worlds oil supplies, and since Germany didn't have its own oil, Hitler worked on figuring out how to make his own oil. His scientists succeeded, and they were able to make oil and gasoline out used carbon like trash, compost, etc. If the Government regulated all materials to be recyclable or reclaimable in some way, trash wouldn't exist. You could take the carbon waste and turn it into gas (or ethanol these days), and all the metals and other stuff can be recycled. Only a few everyday materials are not reclaimable (like styrofoam), so in most instances, trash production would be zero. Everything gets used again and nothing goes to waste. Just like how humans did it thousands of years ago.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Thursday, May 20, 2010 4:07 PM
I think it was oil from coal, not trash via the Fischer-Tropsh process. The spelling might be wrong though.
l4mbch0ps
l4mbch0pslink
Thursday, May 20, 2010 4:45 PM
I have seen a PBS special, or Knowledge Network about a large processor that can break down nearly any trash into it's component parts, including petroleum products (comes out as a thick black refineable oil similar to crude), metal components, glass components, and burns the non-recoverable waste to heat the process. Basically if you run all the trash through the machine, you get a bunch of raw materials that can be plugged back in to the supply chain.
8695Beaters
8695Beaterslink
Thursday, May 20, 2010 6:49 PM
Yeah Mike you're right, but the idea was to use carbon to make oil. Carbon also comes in food waste, yard waste, etc. SO with almost 70 years of advanced technology, you could do it with trash.

That machine sounds like the solution to a lot of problems. I guess price is why we aren't using it? Or is it stupidity of the people?
brainrush
brainrushlink
Thursday, May 20, 2010 8:05 PM
I haven't done any math for this, but I think a sterling engine powered hybrid would be cool, sterlings are pretty torque-less so I'd made the engine drive a generator/alternator of sorts so it'd technically be an electric car with an attached generator. the cool thing is that with modern electronics, it could act as an electric car while on short trips, then fire up the sterling once the batteries get low, or if you are parked. The fuel can be pretty versatile.

Either that or invent the Mr. Fusion from Back to the Future!
Ben
Benlink
Friday, May 21, 2010 8:28 AM
You need good safe infrastructure and an aware culture to have effective bike commuting. Portland has a really good system of light rail and biking lanes combined with a lot of public participation. Drivers here are well aware to share the road. This came from a vocal biker community and a lot of government subsidies, as it does in Europe where they have very good public transport and bicycle commuting is more common. Trains just aren't profitable when moving people and the government in Germany realized this a long time ago.

Cellulosic ethanol has been a long time waiting, and subsidizing a different group (via the farm bill) to produce soy beans and corn is not the answer either. Also developing nations are canabalizing their own food supply to make these fuels and deforesting immense tracts of land to feed this beast. Indigenous people continue to take the worst punishing from this practice.

All developing technologies need help to get along so you have to compare solar and wind apples to apples. Take into account that all energy is subsidized in one way or another(i.e immense taxbreaks) Especially coal and gas and at what eventual cost? We really don't know but the industry certainly isn't going to pony up the cash to fix the damage. In the end the taxpayer will always subsidize the cleanup.

The very first thing that an old Berkeley solar guy told me is ; Turn off the lights and take your foot off the right pedal. Take responsibility for your consumption. That's one message that we never get from the energy industry.
karay240
karay240link
Friday, May 21, 2010 9:03 AM
There are many other technological breakthroughs that can/could've changed transportation, but _________ (fill in the name of your favorite large company) would either buy up the patent to halt development.

Here's one obvious Example:
http://www.trainweb.org/mts/ctc/ctc06.html
karay240
karay240link
Friday, May 21, 2010 9:23 AM
while I'm at it, here's another interesting read:

http://moderntransit.org/ctc/index.html
mesin_lumba
mesin_lumbalink
Friday, May 21, 2010 11:40 AM
in my observation,as Ausländer(foreigner),Germany esp in Bavaria.The reason of public transport is so efficient is due to popullation control.That means number of ppl per town is controlled.there is system that you have to register if you live in particular town.the housing in germany is also diffferent.mostly ppl live in apartment.thats why,the public transport can easily be accesed.workplace is walking distance.I suggest a solution,instead of hoping goverment(that has no intention providing solution) to take action,why dont we give example.if you guys can hook up big company that wants to set up a factory and investor that wants to invest in housing. germany in smaller size can take place,because in bavaria,the state consist of small town. develop a place that provide many jobs. build apartment instead of single house. the public transport should not be high tech. a simple bus system that is punctual can be good public transportation. school,workplace is placed in a way,that is not so far away from home.the population should be controlled so that number of cars on the street is reduced. Instead of big shoping complex,replace with smaller one.let say Tesco,there should be smaller Tesco, that is placed in starategic place.
mesin_lumba
mesin_lumbalink
Friday, May 21, 2010 11:49 AM
The best candidate to take part in this experiment is young graduate and homeless. Let say a factory is set up,we can hire this homeless.Young graduate who want to have decent life,and dont want to make a bank loan must be interested as smaller house and public transport can reduce their expense. The key factor of good public transport is punctuality and bus stop that can be easily accesed.
pcruz
pcruzlink
Friday, May 21, 2010 7:20 PM
Ride a bike, be it a cycle or an ottocycle, :P

Im a hardcore bolthead like anyone here, but i try to ride my bicycle almost every where i go, unless its more than 1 hr away.

In the city you get there faster if in rush hour, or else in about the same time.

True, cars (well not cars, drivers) treat you like shit (a lot of them), but i do feel an ever growing awareness about us bike geeks urr... riders.

Finally we are geting bike lanes on streets, and im starting to hear ads on the radio about bicycle awarenes for drivers. :D

regards from mexico
Naji Dahi
Naji Dahilink
Saturday, May 22, 2010 11:03 AM
A few comments on Mike's article:

1. The individualistic political culture in this country is NOT going to change and that makes govt. intervention highly unlikely. Just witness the latest debacle with the Health Insurance Reform that passed Congress. The opposition was screaming SOCIALISM when what was passed was not even close to being govt. control of Health Care. The Stimulus package that had money in it for the high speed rail in CA was also lamabasted as SOCIALISM by the opposition.

2. I am all for importing energy rich ethanol from Brazil, but here again you run into opposition from the Corn Lobby. The govt places a tarrif on imported ethanol to protect the low energy content corn ethanol. This flies in the face of David Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage. Rather than waste resources on producing low energy ethenol from corn (and driving up food prices in the process), the US should simply import the ethanol from Brazil. But just as the Congress is paid and bought fro by AIPAC, it is also paid and bought for by the corn lobby.

3. I personally like the diesel option and I went for it. I sold my Evo and bought a Golf TDI for my commute. Barring any reliability issues (it is a VW), I think the TDI is one of the best cars I bought. It is fun to drive, it is a hatch, and it gets great fuel mileage (my last tank gave me 49.88 mpg in mixed driving. I doubled my fuel economy by selling the Evo and getting the TDI). Next year when I file for taxes I will get a $1300 tax rebate from the Federal Govt and an unkown amount from the CA. I can hear the shouts of SOCIALISM...LOL. The TDI is quicker than a hybrid, handles way better, and in some instances pollutes less and there is no battery that will need to be recycled at the end of the car's life.

Too bad that we do not have more diesel options in this country. I hope the Japanese will start bringing more diesel to the US. There is talk of Subaru bringing a diesel Outback. Honda has a 2.2 L Accord diesel in Europe that it can bring to the US.
BenFenner
BenFennerlink
Sunday, May 23, 2010 5:36 AM
I'll throw my two cents in since everyone else is.

It's not a magic bullet but I'm a nuclear power + plug-in hybrid type of person. It allows Americans to keep their current life style and frees us from a lot of our oil dependence. Also the efficiency of using a purely electric vehicle for normal commutes and only carrying the IC engine when you're on a long trip is common sense. (Look at AC Propulsion's tzero for the only example I've ever come across. Yes the same people providing the tech for Teslo Motors and others.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AC_Propulsion_tzero
BenFenner
BenFennerlink
Sunday, May 23, 2010 5:36 AM
Grr...
Tesl"A" Motors.
tyndago
tyndagolink
Tuesday, May 25, 2010 8:47 AM
I think that 99% of what drives the majority of the populations choices as far as oil/gasoline use is economics. If gas is cheap, people will use it. Until it reaches the point that it is no longer cheap, then its going to be hard to pry the US from its oil.

Even at $5 a gallon, gasoline would be cheaper than most of the other 1st world countries.

As gas prices crept up over the last few years, people slowed down buying trucks, and start to buy more hybrids, more smaller cars. Then as the gas prices went down, they went back to those big trucks. The economy is still slow, but a rebound will mean there will just be more people caring less about mpg and more about hp.

CAFE and emissions drive the "desired" greenness, but if people don't want or buy the cars, makes life difficult for the manufacturers of automobiles.
Piddster
Piddsterlink
Sunday, May 30, 2010 6:50 PM
Come to MN and see all the people spout off about E85. Is it great for turbo engines? Yes. Does it make any sense from an energy and emissions standpoint? Absolutely not. The net energy gain/loss depends on the yield per acre which is variable, and subject to the people who perform the study.



We seem to have a crux in the matter of fuel economy. We want cars to be safer for the occupants, yet be more efficient. Weight goes up, and engine efficiency goes up as well keeping economy around what it was 20 years ago. Where do we draw the line?


Ford's Ecoboost program is great and hilarious at the same time. I say, "Welcome to the party!" People have been making more power with smaller engine for decades. Cripes, I'll be making 450-500whp on my Legacy and still getting upwards of 28 mpg, all with the spool of a 20g. (Garrett's AVNT system ftw). If it was a 2WD car, the economy would be much better.

In my mind, the problem lies in what the consumers are willing to put up with. I would be fine with a truck to pull stuff that has a 2.0L engine and 400 hp yet will get over 30 mpg. I do not mind a little lag since that is what your transmission is for. However, the impatience of our society shows through the vehicles that we demand as a whole.

Benjamin Rockwell
Benjamin Rockwelllink
Monday, July 05, 2010 3:38 AM
I really like the idea of butanol. Its produced with similar processes to ethanol but is compatible with existing gasoline tank and pipeline infrastructure. It also has a higher energy density so you don't have to lug around as much you would with ethanol. Its not quite as strong in the octane department which is its weak point as it would have yeild lower combustion efficiencies. but no worse than gas.
I don't think it will ever have a chance because the goverment push and industry momemtum is all behind ethanol.
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