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September 18, 2005

Rice Wins Again!Email This EntryPrint This Article

rice seal.gif No, not on the football field, silly.

(The original Rice seal, to the right, dates from 1911, and carries its own story, including Confederate gray "warmed into life by a tinge of lavender.")

I'm talking about the laboratory, where Rice is successfully managing the transition from Dr. Richard Smalley's "Buckyball foundation" generation with new research into the link between optics and electronics.

Professor Peter Nordlander has announced "a universal relationship between the behavior of light and electrons" which "can be exploited to create nanoscale antennae that convert light into broadband electrical signals capable of carrying approximately 1 million times more data than existing interconnects."

This is big. In many ways it's as big as the original BuckyBall discovery, and more readily exploited.

More after the break.

Continue reading "Rice Wins Again!"

August 25, 2005

Hawaii Should Be TexasEmail This EntryPrint This Article

big_island_hawaii_map.jpgThere's a news report out that Hawaii wants to cap the wholesale price of gasoline, because it has gotten too high.

Of course we know that won't work. Refiners will simply ship their product elsewhere if it can get a better price elsewhere.

But ever since I visited the Big Island in 2001 I have felt that Hawaii's energy situation is, frankly, reversed. The island has immense stores of natural energy -- waves, wind, and vulcanism.

All you have to do is tap it.

See if this sounds silly.

Continue reading "Hawaii Should Be Texas"

August 22, 2005

The Best Way to Save GasEmail This EntryPrint This Article

local web.jpgThe fastest way to save energy in this country is to build-out the Local Web. (The illustration is from the PRBlog, in a story about a local Web conflict.)

Every day I find limits in the local Web. Right now, for instance, I need a USB Bluetooth connector for my laptop. It's on the Staple's Web site, but delivery is three days away, and it's not at Staple's. It's on the Best Buy Web site, but it's not at the local Best Buy. I'm going to Fry's tomorrow (a 40-mile roundtrip) and if it's not there I'll have to wait for delivery.

All this driving would not be necessary if local inventories were rourtinely tied to Web sites (as they sometimes are at BestBuy.Com). That's one Local Web application.

There are many others.

Continue reading "The Best Way to Save Gas"

August 12, 2005

Why Is Oil So High?Email This EntryPrint This Article

peak oil.pngOil, like other commodities, is priced based on a contunuous auction, demand measured against supply. (The picture is from a primer on peak oil, courtesy Energybulletin.net.)

Supply has become inelastic. Not just the oil, but its refining. No one is building new refineries (not in this country). When supply gets really tight we actually import gasoline.

The problem is that demand has also become inelastic. I'm talking to you, mister. No one seems willing to make a change, to reduce their demand for oil, gas, and electricity. Back in the 1970s people switched to smaller cars, they didn't drive as much, they even boosted the thermostat. Now, nothing. We get in our SUVs, we take the freeway 40 miles to work and back, we drive all over hell-and-gone for various reasons (kids, shopping, etc.) and we usually leave the A/C on high while we're gone.

So we have an episode of the BBC's show Cash in the Attic.

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September 06, 2004

The Return Of Nuclear EnergyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A previously-discarded German technology called Pebble Bed Modular Reaction (PBMR) is being resurrected in South Africa as a potential answer to the world's energy problems. (The illustration is from a Science in Africa story on PBMR, published last year.)

It's pretty simple. Uranium is embedded into graphite pebbles, which are tossed into a vessel that itself is surrounded by graphite. Helium is run through the system to collect the heat of the reaction, and that helium then drives a turbine. Left alone the reaction dissipates, so the creators say there's no need for expensive containment. And spent fuel is truly spent, making expensive transport unnecessary.

To these claims environmentalists say...well it's not proper language for a family blog. But Eskom, South Africa's state-run power company, wants to move ahead, pending a November hearing at Cape High Court.

Continue reading "The Return Of Nuclear Energy"

June 21, 2004

Always-On Saving EnergyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

In my new column at Control Magazine (left) I'm privileged to learn about how basic industry works, and about the heroes who make it work.

I've also been thrilled to learn that Zigbee, an Always-On technology I've mentioned here in the past, is an integral part of that.

Continue reading "Always-On Saving Energy"

Always-On Divorced From The GridEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I think everyone would agree that the best way out of our current political box is to become independent of petroleum. (Photo courtesy The New York Times.

This story isn't about that.

Instead I'm going to describe two stories that could lead to an Always-On world divorced from the electric grid.

Continue reading "Always-On Divorced From The Grid"