Bill Nye, Science Guy

While L. was taking a shower today, I was flipping through channels while reading the newspaper online. I stumbled upon ‘The Eyes of Nye‘ hosted by none other then Bill Nye, the Science Guy. I caught Episode #11 re: Transportation and of course in the 4 minutes that I watched found it incredibly interesting. Some takeaways:

  • Gasoline-powered engines are 20% efficient. Hydrogen fuel cells are 40-60% efficient.
  • Transporation accounts for more then 67% of the oil we consume in the United States.
  • Today our country imports 54% of it’s oil supply. By 2010 it’s estimated that it could increase to 75%

Well, why does this creep me out a little? Well, for one I’m a firm believer that ‘peak oil‘ is right around the corner (read: 5-7 years away). What does that mean? At some point, the world is going to finally use more oil than it produces. And I think that should cause some concern for all of us. Eventually, it’s going to cost a whole heck of a lot of money to extract what petroleum is left in the world thus driving up the cost of oil in general. We’re a transportation driven society and by that I mean it in not just terms of cars but buses, trains, airplanes etc. Peak oil would have a cascading effect across all portions of society, for example in commuter cities like St. Louis and Atlanta where the public transit system is limited, it could be disatrous. In places like Chicago and New York, transit rich areas the burden might not be as bad – but it would still be an effort.

I don’t want to go all granola or anything on this – I do drive an SUV 1.5 miles to work everyday, so I’m definitely the kettle in this case, but I think the government needs to do more about this then just pay lip service to renewable energy sources
and really focus and commit to bringing the US into the 21st century. What lip service?

  • The President’s Coal Research Initiative
  • The President’s Solar America Initiative
  • Developing More Efficient Vehicles

See these are three cases where I don’t agree with Dubya. For one, I think it’s insane to throw coin @ trying to make coal burn cleaner. We’re already killing the environement (see Feburary in Chicago 2005/2006) and even if we could make coal burn cleaner, it’s still hydrocarbon-a-rific.

Solar energy seems like it could be a logical direction, but what about locations in the Northern United States that don’t see the sun as often. I think cities like Chicago and Seattle aren’t really going to be solar power candidates.

Develop more efficient vehicles. I like how this is mentioned and yet American car companies are still trying to figure out how to make their businesses run. Look @ Ford and it’s recent plant shut downs and look @ how it’s lagging behind the Japanese to figure out how to make better cars.

Anyway – this is going anywhere, but I would like to hear what the crew thinks of all this.

Comments 11

  1. vfike wrote:

    The Coal Research initiative is unbelieveably disingenuous. While promoting cleaner-burning coal (low-sulphur), the administration has relaxed mercury emission standards from coal plants. The idea is to “get a baseline reading” of how much mercury is released from coal plants.

    Answer – any mercury is too much fucking mercury!!

    Bush is selling this package by saying that to retrofit these coal-burning plants will make them less effecient, and cost more, at a time when Americans are paying too much for their energy. Maddening tautology.

    The same argument was his excuse for not signing the Kyoto Protocol – I think he called it trading away our economic advantage. And the same reason why the auto industry has been able to resist any mandatory increase in fuel effeciency – it’ll make the cars cost more and Detroit is already losing to foreign-made cars. Oh, and SUVs are trucks and therefore exempt from minimum fuel standards.

    Illinois’s EPA chief is now a coal lobbyist. The head of the Mines Administration is married to the head of the Department of the Interior. This is such a close-knit industry….

    Here’s another thing – Fuck GM for saying their cars can use gasoline blended with 15% ethanol. ALL cars, except for diesel, can run on ethanol blended gasoline. And all of our cars have been for years. There’s a newnewable fuel standard in the greater Chicago area.

    No question – energy crisis is looming.

    Posted 23 Feb 2006 at 2:31 pm
  2. theffer wrote:

    I think hydrogen cell cars well outside of reality right now. It would require a massive infrastructure overhaul – and that cost burden will ultimately be passed along to drivers. plus it takes energy to make hydrogen. that means more coal plants, more oil, more of just about everything we are trying to avoid in order to product hydrogen in sufficient quantities to make hydrogen cell cars a reality.

    Now an interesting factoid. The big US auto makers are already making engines in the many of their models that are capable of running on E85 – the Ethanol/Gas blend that people talk about. GM has 1.5 million cars on the road today that run on this junk. They do this so that they can get a break on emission standards. That means if you are one of the people that own one of these cars you could already be gassing up with E85 – which is cheaper than regular unleaded – and tool around the US. Plus E85 is less harmful than the old regular unleaded gas we are using anyway.

    and yet no one is really talking about E85 as a viable short term option to reduce our dependence on imported oil. If we made the switch from gas to E85 the pundits claim that we could be saving about the same amount of oil that we import from the Saudi’s.


    More from GM on their E85 cars:

    Posted 23 Feb 2006 at 3:04 pm
  3. csh wrote:

    I agree that more efficient cars need to be developed but there already plenty of decent ones out there. Not to criticize but does one really need an SUV in Chicago? I don’t know what model SUV you have but if you really need/want one, why not try a hybrid?

    Posted 24 Feb 2006 at 9:36 am
  4. csh wrote:

    Also, about solar power… from what I understand, the latest technology doesn’t require that much power – it’s probably not going to supply power for an office building in Chicago but used in conjunction with other power sources, it could supply a good proportion of the power required to heat/cool a house.

    Posted 24 Feb 2006 at 10:09 am
  5. theffer wrote:

    they got the xterra during the height of the SUV craze. no foul imo.

    Posted 24 Feb 2006 at 11:19 am
  6. terryp wrote:

    Yeah – I have mixed feeling about the xTerra every now and again. However, as a homeowner nothing is better then having something where you can strap something to the roof or throw a bunch of stuff in the back. And the other thing, is that when we go down to St. Louis the car is packed with people, cats and luggage – so it works in my opinion.

    Posted 24 Feb 2006 at 11:44 am
  7. T Bone wrote: ’nuff said

    Posted 24 Feb 2006 at 11:58 pm
  8. von wrote:

    First, Bill Nye rocks.


    Answer – any mercury is too much fucking mercury!!

    Well, yes and no. We don’t live in a world where it’s cost-free to reduce mercury levels; every reduction in mecury levels carries other costs (both financial and, in some cases, environmental). It’s a cost-benefit analysis: what are the health benefits of that last few points of reduction? What are the costs?

    (BTW, clean coal probably is the short and medium term solution for most of our energy needs.)

    Third, I fucking hate SUVs. But I’ll find it in my heart to forgive Peppers.

    Finally, I’m skeptical of e85′s future. For too long, biofuels have been an expensive pork boondogle, a de facto subsidy to farm state voters.

    Posted 26 Feb 2006 at 9:21 am
  9. theffer wrote:

    We have reason to be skeptical about any of the alternative fuel solutions. And it’s going to stay that way without direction from the US Government. Instead our politicians promote a wait and see culture. And that indecision forces energy and auto companies spread their R&D funds thin on a number of options with minimal public or private support.

    But hey – all interested parties can impress the public with their good faith effort to find a socially and environmentally responsible solution to our growing energy problem.

    Unfortunately all their good faith effort accomplishes is an ever increasing financial risk to any party willing to invest significant money, time, and effort into one solution today.

    Our Government can say HDTV is the path forward. And that has allowed all interested parties to safely invest their resources to make HDTV for everyone a reality tomorrow.

    Why cant we do the same with alternative energy in the auto industry?

    Posted 27 Feb 2006 at 2:46 pm
  10. thomas wrote:

    did anyone watch the special on 60 minutes last night? the segment reporting on the Gov. of Montana and his support for a new method for burning coal? the theory sounds interesting, but costly. this method of using coal would ween the U.S. off the oil from the Middle East and create a cleaner diesel fuel.

    anyways, it was pretty interesting. especially the part that explained why diesel fuel is much more efficient than regular gasoline.

    Posted 27 Feb 2006 at 5:57 pm
  11. terryp wrote:

    I did see that Tom, sounded interesting but very very one-sided and optimistic. @ some point we’re going to have to consider these alternative energy strategies – I just think it’s sooner as opposed to later.

    Posted 28 Feb 2006 at 9:05 am