Earth on Fire: The Overheating Planet

Earth on Fire: The Overheating Planet


The reason some popular posts are tagged ‘no title’ is not because they have no title—they all do—but because the old Blogger embedded the title at the top of text, and the new software does not see that. You can see the titles in capitals at the start of each snippet. (It would be nice if Blogger introduced an upgrade program that could fix this little problem.)

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Wednesday 30 November 2005


Lord May of Oxford, President of the Royal Society, and formerly the UK's Chief Scientific Advisor, has put it very bluntly. The effects of climate-change (what an innocent-sounding euphemism!) can be likened to WMD.

Which, truly, says it all.

Amongst other things, he pointed out that last time the planet had 500ppm of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere, which is what the level is expected to have reached later this century (it is now 380ppm), the sea was 100 metres higher. Factor that into real-estate projections. And into the height the dikes will have to be in New Orleans, New York, London... Just 10 metres would be curtains. Will we get 5m? 10m? 20m? 50m? 100m? We don't know. We have never done this experiment before--the biggest, unplanned, uncontrolled experiment ever done on earth. All we know is that it is not turning out very well, and that it will get worse. Why do we refuse to stop?

Habit. Stupidity. Greed. Blindness.

We could, we choose not to. We would rather die.

We have clean technology (such as this, which uses nothing not freely available). But we prefer dirty. We do not have to use the sky as an open sewer. But we prefer to. We must; we keep doing it.

And THIS is one of the predictable, and predicted, results--the most destructive hurricance season on record. The in-denial crowd say is all just part of a natural cycle, but it cannot both be a record, an off-the-scale event, and an ordinary, natural event.

Monday 28 November 2005


This posting is a modification of EStarFuture's global press-release on Monday the 28th of November 2005. It is a call for a technological 'Orange Revolution'--but Green.

EStarFuture, unwilling to wait while the oil-barons and car-barons carry on wrecking the planet, is taking a novel, Gordian-Knot approach in its bid to develop its advanced electric vehicle as soon as possible. It is appealing for 'pennies' to the people of the planet.

EStarFuture's managing director Nobilangelo Ceramalus (pronounced noble-arn-jillo kerra-mar-liss), a native-born NZer, the scientist and mechanical engineer heading the EStarCar Project, says the predicament the Earth is in from our addiction to vehicles running on 'Black Stuff' makes the development of a truly green replacement a matter of urgency--'The monthly data from earth-watching satellites and from a myriad of scientific studies shows how dire things are getting.'

'It is imperative that we end the reign of the oil-barons and set about cleansing the world of their black stain,' he says. 'We cannot wait for the self-serving, oil-addicted carmakers whose promises of electric vehicles have a constantly receding horizon, except for a few outrageously-expensive, handmade prototypes to keep the California Air Resources Board off their backs. They are just "greenwashing" while they carry on manufacturing the same old highly profitable, planet-wrecking devices.'

He has nothing but scorn for their pretence that decades of time and billions of dollars in R&D are needed before mass-production of FCVs (fuel-cell vehicles) can begin.

'People-power and people-pennies can cut through all that nonsense. Traditional methods of raising capital are too uncertain, and too slow, and they are driven, and therefore distorted, by short-term financial greed instead focusing on the true bottom line, which is life and the quality of life--both critically dependent on the planet we live on and the sky we live in.'

The EStarCar does not just begin with people-power. That is also how it carries on. It is designed to be manufactured by small teams all over the planet rather than huge plants. Traditional vehicles--'powered by serial Molotov Cocktails'--have an inherent need for massive manufacturing infrastructures because of their complexity, but an electric vehicle is far simpler, so its manufacture can and should have a fundamentally different approach.

There is a recent historical parallel in the computing industry. When personal computers replaced the mainframe, manufacturing and support moved from a few massive monopolies to a horde of small companies and individuals, and from massive costs to small ones. He thinks the 'Big Iron' carmakers realise that their enormous power and wealth will be destroyed by the electric vehicle, and that that is the real reason why they are putting off mass-production. They naturally want to keep making vehicles that they, and only they, can make. They are like the corrupt governments who cling to their selfish ways--until people-power topples them.

The EStarCar Project is a people-power Green Revolution to end the poisonous reign of the Black Stuff.

The design of the EStarCar (outlined here) has been kept simple to minimise the cost and complexity of development and manufacture, but the fact that it gathers nine off-the-shelf sources of power into one vehicle, with a tenth being considered, underscores its advanced nature. There is no legacy thinking in it. It began with a bare patch of road. It does not follow the hidebound EV efforts of the Big Iron carmakers, who just adapt what they have always done, instead of recognising that an EV is fundamentally different to an ICV (internal-combustion vehicle) and therefore must be entirely rethought.

Vehicles are first and foremost for people and the planet, not for carmakers. The lives of the driver and passengers must be of paramount importance, but that does not just mean keeping them safe by careful ergonomic design and good engineering while they are on the road. It means protecting at all times their planet and their sky--unlike present cars, which have airbags for the occasional crash, but pollute every breath we all take.

The EStarCar is very definitely for the planet and the people of the planet, so it is logical and appropriate that people-pennies should fund its development. The return will be a better world.

The remaining development of the EStarCar is expected to take one to two years. It might be possible to do it in one but 'two' avoids a prediction that may prove uncomfortable. Development is costed at $US500,000, using off-the-shelf or easily-machined parts and straightforward software. The modest cost and two-year maximum timeframe prove how much the Big Iron carmakers have hoodwinked us into believing that billions and decades are needed.

Putting the EStarCar on the road with people-power and people-pennies needs only $US100 from 5000 people, $50 from 10,000, $20 from 25,000, or $10 from 50,000.

There is an old saying, 'Many a little makes a lot.' In this case, a lot for the planet.

Friday 25 November 2005


Oh dear! Researchers at Duke University Mecical Centre, Duke University and Cornell University have found that the level of carbon-dioxide is a trigger for pathogenic behaviour in some fungi.

That indicates that the soaring increase in atmospheric carbon-dioxide caused by human folly will alter our disease-landscape for the worse. Which should hardly be a surprise. We know that the nature of the atmosphere in a room makes it healthy or unhealthy. The planet is a very large room, but the same thing applies, so we have something else to look forward to as global overheating worsens--more disease.

Ice-cores drilled from deep in the Antarctic show that the present level of carbon-dioxide is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years.

The same report shows that the sea has been rising at a faster rate in the past 150 years than at any time in previous centuries. It is now 2mm a year.

Don't invest in any long-term waterfront developments.

Tuesday 22 November 2005


Every ten litres of petroleum fuel burnt in an ICV (internal-combustion) vehicle produces one kilogram of pollutants--which wreak havoc on the planet for years, or decades, or centuries, or millenia (different pollutants last for different lengths of time: carbon-dioxide averages a century). Happy motoring!

(In non-metrics the ratio is a pound of pollutants from each gallon of fuel.)

For a complete change of subject, moving from the nasty to the wonderful (and humbling), ponder this page.

Saturday 19 November 2005


Although EStarFuture‘s projected EStarCar is primarily a fuel-cell vehicle (FCV), the company has dubbed it an FCV+ because it is to have no less than nine sources of power. It is not unusual to have more than one source in an FCV, but nine has so far been unheard of (and a tenth is being considered). For example, it was not long before the same idea occurred to other FCV designers as it had a number of years ago independently occurred to Nobilangelo Ceramalus (pronounced kerra-mar-liss), the principal designer of the EStarCar, that putting an ultracapacitor buffer between the fuel-cell would enable the motor or motors to draw power far faster than a fuel-cell (or any battery) could deliver it, thus removing the limit on acceleration pickup.

An FCV plus an ultracapacitor array makes two main sources of power, but the EStarCar goes much further. It has three main sources and six secondary ones. By that means it gets as much power as it can from as many sources as possible, thus minimising the demand on the fuel-cell and extending the range of the vehicle.

No, the seven unnamed sources are not all going to be named here (there have to be some commercial secrets), and two are pretty obvious (conceptually at least--such as regenerative braking, albeit in a unique form), because they are used in FCV systems elsewhere. But the rest are not from Alpha Centauri, there is no weird stuff oozing green slime, they are all perfectly ordinary, off-the-shelf sorts of things that have been round for yonks. What makes the EStarCar unique is that it has interpreted them uniquely and put them all together into one transportation system. Here, the whole is definitely more than the sum of the parts.

The EStarCar has been rethought from the ground up. Take a bare patch of road and build a vehicle on it, one that will not harm the planet or its occupants (unless they drive into something solid, like a power pole or a mountain). Follow Descartes' dictum: 'Question everything.' So don't do something just because that is the way it has always been done. Don't copy the carmakers (unless they are doing something sensible).

What is astonishing is how simple an FCV+ is, compared with an ICV (internal-combustion vehicle). No one in his right mind would attempt to build one of those from the ground up. But although it is not exactly a walk in the park, an FCV+ is comparatively straightforward. No complicated metallurgical variations across a zillion bits and pieces. No grill, no radiator, no cooling fan, no fanbelt, no engine, pistons, valves, conrods, crankshafts, etc., no gearbox, no driveshaft, no differential, no axles (each wheel has a stubby strut, but there is nothing stretching right across the car), no steel to go rusty (all-alloy construction), no mechanical linkages to speak of--and motors with just one moving part delivering pure rotary motion and lots of torque, right from zero revs. The wonderful list goes on and on; the horrible list is empty.

Click to see the EStarCar page. Two mockups are shown, a four-wheeler and a six-wheeler (four- and six-wheel steering). But the EStarCar's bolt-on body can be customised to any shape that fits its chassis, so those are only two of an infinite number of possible four-metre shapes. The chassis is also extendible, so longer vehicles can be configured, with more wheels if necessary for more traction and/or more power (all-wheel steering no matter how many wheels).

Thursday 17 November 2005


'It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out where the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood. At best, he knows the triumph of high achievement; if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.' -- Theodore Roosevelt.

This poem on a parallel theme, by Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861), was a favourite of Winston Churchill:

Say not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke conceal'd,
Your comrades chase e‘en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.
And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!
But westward, look, the land is bright!

Monday 14 November 2005


Some may think the phrase 'murderous liars' used in earlier posts, aimed at those who are doing nothing about global-overheating, was a bit much. Sadly, no. Those who carry on doing nothing to stop it, whilst having habits such as driving internal-combustion vehicles (ICVs), are participating in the biggest act of mass murder ever seen on earth. The bodies are not yet lying all over the place, and the speed at which the murder is being committed is slower than the slowest snail in bottom gear, but the result, ultimately, will be billions dead. And the perpetrators are in denial, which is a fancy way of saying that they are lying to themselves about what is happening and what they are doing.

The phrase is blunt, yes, but precisely true. Would that it were not so.

The point is underlined by yet another story in the increasing avalanche of global-overheating stories, this one published today, showing the accelerating effects of the way we have been trashing the planet by shifting the black stuff out of the rocks back to the sky.

We humans are at the top of a disintegrating food-chain.

If you add to that the results of another study published today, that shows temperatures accelerating due to the increased amount atmospheric moisture, particularly in places where there is water on the ground (which obviously includes the oceans), and you can see a very nasty feedback mechanism beginning to kick in.

Friday 11 November 2005


How often do you read nowadays that hydrogen is not a fuel or a source of energy, just an energy carrier? The ultimate version of that nonsense has been reported in the Korean Herald (4/11/2005), where Kim Yeon-ji is quoted as saying, 'Actually, hydrogen is not an energy source, but an energy carrier largely dependent on fossil fuels such as natural gas.'

The woman is barmy, misinformed or ignorant, or all three. First, if hydrogen is not a fuel, how is it that it burns (at 2000 degrees Celsius)? And how is it that we can put it through a device called a fuel-cell and get electricity and heat? And how is it that in both cases it oxidises, to form hydrogen oxide (commonly known as water)? How is it that the Space Shuttle blasts off on a tank of hydrogen, a tank that NASA calls a fuel-tank? That's no carrier. That's a fuel. A carrier is a carrier. It carries, but is itself unchanged--like a truck carrying a parcel or a wire carrying a current. But the hydrogen becomes a compound: water. That's no carrier. That's a fuel.

The 'carrier' myth is just misinformation on steroids. After all, we knows that it's only da Boys from de Black Stuff what can supply us with fuel. Right?? ;-) So anything else has to be called something else. ;-) Right? Not a fuel. Never a fuel. No, no, no. So, enter Giant FUD, stage-left. Surprise, surprise...

But what makes her version even worse nonsense of the ultimate kind is that Kim Yeon-ji says the main source of hydrogen is natural gas (which will earn her a big kiss, or ki$$, or both, from the Black Stuff Boys), which means she is ignoring the recent discovery of the electrolyis of water (actually it was 1800, but perhaps she is bit behind with her reading). She also overlooks/ignores the small-but-important fact that if hydrogen is extracted from natural gas, petrol, coal--any hydrocarbon, even methanol--you get carbon-dioxide as a byproduct, and we need more of that on this planet like we need bullets in the head. Even worse, the hydrogen made that way combines with the oxygen in the air thus further reducing its present percentage of just under 21%. If we keep reducing it, as we are, we will get down to 18% or below, at which point we all die of asphyxiation.

Which makes it very dangerous misinformation on very nasty steroids.

Remember that old joke/urban myth about the man who invented a car that would run on water, but the oil companies bought him out so that it would never get to market? But it is no joke and no myth for us all to be living the middle of a situation in which the Bad Boys from the Black Stuff ARE trying to buy a monopoly on the hydrogen future that will be far more damaging to the planet and all who live on it than their present insane monopoly on global energy (they're insane to want to destroy the planet and we're insane to support them while they do it).

Wednesday 9 November 2005


A report that originated in the South African Business Times and has been copied in various other places quoted Jeremy Benthan, the Chief Executive of Shell Hydrogen, a division of one of the Big Black Stuff multinationals, as saying that 'Vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells would become affordable and widely produced between 2015 and 2025. But he also cautioned that a decade ago respected commentators predicted there would be mass availability of fuel cell vehicles by 2005. He told the 18th World Petroleum Congress that that had not yet materialised, although hundreds of prototype vehicles had been developed.

The newspaper added that the emergence of hydrogen as an 'energy carrier' had particular relevance to South Africa, which has about three-quarters of the world's known global platinum reserves (the most efficient catalyst in converting hydrogen to electricity).

[FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Throwing it at any threat to your corporate wallet is an old defensive trick. An infamous example in the bad old days of IBM, years ago, was for its salesmen to say 'Nobody every got fired for buying IBM', a line that frightened decision-makers enough to turn away from the superior products offered by other companies and cling to 'safe' IBM.]

Tuesday 8 November 2005


A recent report in the New Zealand Herald said: 'Sixty-five per cent of Americans believe the US Government should make a major funding commitment to transform the automotive industry from a petrol- and diesel-based system to a hydrogen-based system.

'Fifty-nine per cent identified hydrogen-powered vehicles as those with the best chance for long-term success, compared with 23 per cent for hybrids and 18 per cent for traditional petrol-powered engines.

It would be astonishing if 65% of New Zealanders even knew about FCVs, let alone realised that they were THE future, but it is encouraging that even in the most profligate nation on earth, 65% believe in hydrogen. Sadly, though, not for today--only 'long term.' And sadly, they are not pushing the technology like the Moon-shot, so as to get if for themselves and the rest of the planet ASAP--as if without out there was no tomorrow. But, even more sadly, the US government is not listening to the people. Or to the planet. True, it is working on the technology, but not at the breakneck speed, not on the war-footing that we need. Far more money is going on status-quo stuff.

Nor is Honda listening, because it is now trumpeting a system that will produce hydrogen for its FCX from natural gas. But that still makes carbon-dioxide as a leftover, chaps, which is doubly bad, because it increases the level of the major greenhouse gas, and because it still keeps taking oxygen out of the air it keeps us heading down the 17.5-18% at which we would all be asphyxiated. It still clings to the Black Stuff monopoly.

Nice fuel-cell stack, Honda, and 5000psi bottles, and ultracapacitors between the stack and the motors, but, oh dear, why of why are you waiting till you can get get the thing can start at minus 30 degrees Celsius before you think about masss-production? Vast swathes of the planet never go down to anything like that, so stop making feeble excuses. There is no need to have a car that will start at the South Pole before you release it to the rest of the world. Especially with global-overheating hotting things up.

The real reason why carmakers are in no hurry to get FCVs rolling off their production-lines is that it would dump them on the scrapheap of history. Their empires would quickly cease to exist. Electric cars are easy to build, so countless companies could build them, but with ICVs (internal-combustion vehicles) the car companies have the monopoly. With FCVs they would be just another player--and others would be better at it because they would not have all that legacy thinking holding them back and distorting their designs into pretzels.

Friday 4 November 2005


In recent years there has been much talk in backward-looking power-utility circles of 'co-generation.' By which they mean that all the little dummies like you and I will be allowed to help the clever Big Iron blokes a bit by generating a smidgen of power at your place and mine to add to the Real Power being generated in the high and mighty National Grid.

Wrong. The new national grid will be everyone's place interlinked. And that is not co-generation. It is generation. It is to electricity what the PC and the Internet were to computing, eliminating the rule of the Big Iron mainframe. It is millions of Little Iron generation-sites all hooked together replacing a few Big Iron sites way out there. Unless those Big Iron sites are hydroelectric sites, or wind, or geothermal or some other natural means of generating power. In that case they will become feeders to the Little Iron sites, which will store their power as hydrogen. But all the consumer generation will be done at the point of consumption.

Whichever way it works, Little Iron will be king. That is where the true power will lie, in every meaning of the term.

Just as you once had to have a dumb terminal hung off a distant Big Iron mainframe if you wanted computing on your desk, but now you have your own PC connected to the Internet through which you can access whatever data you want or need, and through which you can pool whatever data you generate, so we now have the technology for you to generate all the electric power you need, and via a pooling/sharing national grid access other repositories of power large and small from which you can store what you need or what may later be needed to be shared with/sent to others in your electricity village (like the global village, but smaller).

Every point of consumption of electricity will also be a point of generation, and thus generation will automatically keep pace with consumption instead of always trailing behind it by a country-mile. No longer will we all vulnerable to the failure of some humungous national grid.

Instead it will be a zillion silicon solar cells on a zillion roofs( silicon is the second-most plentiful element in the earth's crust and you can drink the water off it), and a zillion electrolysers and fuel-cells in a zillion basements. The electrolysers will split rainwater using the solar-generated power off the roof, plus the power off the hydro-electric resource, thus ensuring that not a drop of that capacity is wasted. Thus the latent power from lakes will be stored in every basement in the country, where the resource cannot evaporate and does not need to be poured away over spillways during heavy rain. Likewise all the power from wind-farms, tidal generation, etc., will be stored for use right where it is consumed instead of wasted.

Generation will be everywhere generation is needed. No more generation at a distance from consumption. The national grid will be there to link us all together instead of there to link us to Big Iron. Which is how things should be.

That generation will not be just the generation of electricity. It will also be the generation of transportation energy. The hydrogen-making resource in every basement will also be making the fuel for the fuel-cells that will power all the fuel-cell vehicles on our roads.

The only pre-requisites are: (1) Shoot the oil and coal companies; (2) Cure the global addiction to the Black Stuff. Hmmmm...

Wednesday 2 November 2005

2020 VISION :-((

A media report that came in via Google Alerts this morning said we are unlikely to see FCVs (fuel-cell vehicles) mass-produced before 2020, and that GM, which used to say it would be doing that by 2010 now only says that it will have a validated FC power-train by then. Toyota has already said that it does not expect to be making FCVs en masse till 2030.


Because they do not care sufficiently for the planet or their children. They care more for the profit they can make from mass-producing the death-machines that by their very nature they have a monopoly on. They must have realised that once electric cars, specifically FCVs, are THE form of tranpsort their monopoly on vehicles will evaporate. They day they switch from ICVs (internal-combustion vehicles) to FCVs is the day they sign their death-warrants. So they would rather sign ours. The tragic irony of course that they are also signing theirs. Global-overheating is global: car companies will be just as affected as their victims.

Dead people cannot make cars. They cannot buy cars. They cannot contribute to the economy. They cannot work. They cannot buy things. They cannot sell things. All they can do is lie about under ground or sit in urns. The true bottom line of all human activity is human life and the quality of human life. Not money. You can make money from life; you can make it only if you are alive. You cannot make life with money. If life and the quality of life are not regarded as the bottom line the ultimate consequence is always death--the death of countless people, the death of your company.

We have the technology to make FCVs now. We know they work; we have proved them over and over again with hundreds of test vehicles. For instance, the small world-wide fleet of FCV buses running on Ballard fuel-cells (which are not the best because they have graphite bipolar plates) has just clocked up a million kilometres. How many million does it take to prove the point while global-overheating accelerates?

We licked the problem of making bipolar plates out of metal, and thus also the problem of mass-production. We licked the problem of high-pressure storage bottles. We have had electrolyte membranes, the PEMs (proton-exchange membranes), for years, and Du Pont has announced even better ones, as have other manufacturers. So we can get all the bits off the shelf, which means we can--right now--make fuel-cells by the zillions. Why aren't we? Because profit, profit-by-death, is preferable to life and the quality of life.

Insane but true.