Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Global Warming debate is getting heated.

Al Gore has been criticized for using too much electricity and destroying the local environment with zinc mining. Gore predicts 20 foot rises in sea levels that appear to be contradicted by 20 inch estimates in the International Panel of Climate Change’s (IPCC) Forth report. Liberals are accusing Big Oil of conspiracies to falsify data on CO2 emissions impact on climate change. NASA is planning to launch mini mirrors into orbit to block some of the sunlight to balance the effect of green house gases. So what’s the deal?

The deal is that there are logical paths to follow. There is no way the billions of humans can occupy a planet without having some negative impact. So yes, all the little human polluters need to tighten up! There are things you can do to save money on energy. These things that Al Gore mention: Florescent light bulbs, programmable thermostats, hot water heater blankets, solar outdoor lighting, and changing your air conditioner filters regularly are all great suggestions. If you add hot water heater timers, weather stripping, lighter colored roofing material, high-efficiency or water source heat pump air conditioning (where the water can be properly utilized), attic ventilation, ceiling fans, window tinting, insulated glass windows, proper attic insulation and passive solar applications (deciduous trees on the south side of your home for one); you are beginning to get the point I was paid to make for years.

The regular Earthling can do plenty to help save themselves energy, that just happens to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money. Irregardless of your stance on global warming, these are simple economically sound things you can do. A friend of mine told me that if I replace one incandescent light bulb, I could help stop global warming. I only have two incandescent bulbs and they are both 12 volt. Every light I use is florescent.

What can municipalities do to help? Check out the urban heat island effect. For some odd reason, the IPCC does not include the urban heat island effect in their mankind’s contributions to global warming. It is considered insignificant in their report. Yet, Al Gore lists things like florescent light bulbs, etc. as helpful parts of the solution. Urban heat island effect is this; dark pavement, dark home roofs, densely packed buildings and fewer trees create much warmer urban areas. The ten plus degree warmer air temperatures in the heat islands reduce the efficiency of air conditioning units, reduce the efficiency of motor vehicles and increase air conditioning demand. Reducing heat island effect is like installing a heck of a lot of florescent bulbs!

Local governments can help reduce the heat island effect with reduced heat absorption pavements, encouraged tree planting, construction code changes to address reflective/less heat absorbing roofing, green roof initiatives and encouraging green development. The green development not only reduces the heat island effect, it has created some beautiful areas in revitalization projects.

The federal government has been doing more than they have been given credit for. Dozens of relatively small government grants have help develop a large number of new technologies and products in alternate energy production and storage. Many types of alternate energy generation are just becoming economically feasible. Wind power generation is now viable. Five mega watt wind mills are online instead of the 50 kilowatt toys available ten to twenty years ago. Solar cells are becoming more efficient and less expensive. Fuel cells are lighter, cost much less and are more efficient. Hydrogen fuel storage technology has improved incredibly in the last four years. Farmers risked their own money years ago to start alcohol distilleries for alternate energy. All of these were aided by federal programs, grants and tax incentives.

If you are new to the global warming band wagon, just how much have you done over the past thirty years to help. Yep! For thirty years scientists and entrepreneurs have been working to develop more energy efficient devices and alternate energy applications related to reducing global warming. A great deal of these scientists and entrepreneurs gained inspiration from NASA. Some gained inspiration from military contracts. Some worked for years on their own until finally tax incentives and rising gas costs drove investors to their door.

If you really want to do something that might help global warming, start thinking higher efficiency, alternate energy, alternate fuels and new technology. If you don’t buy the alternatives, change will never happen. In the next two years, real alternatives that offer real performance will be available from the auto industry. The “not in my backyard mentality” related to wind farms and other green energy options needs to be reconsidered. New and some older green energy options are in the works for your community. Cleaner, transitional, uses of fossil fuels need to be used on the road to fossil fuel independence, accept that fact. That ten year old coal fired power plant has not paid for itself yet. Don’t shut it down. Upgrade the scrubbers if need be and increase the carbon retention, and call it transitional. Because that is what it is.

The ball will soon be in your court consumer. This is a capitalistic society. Products that help solve some of the problem are available. New automotive products that are the real deal, are coming soon to a show room near you. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, ask not what your country can do for global warming, ask instead, what you can do for your world to stop global warming.

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