Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tata to Build Electric Versions of the Indica in Norway

Some very positive news, if you ask me, from Autoblog Green: The Tatas are working hard to show fossil fuel the fist by working with the Norwegians to electrify their Indica.

Considering that the Norwegians already have a low cost electric car with a lot of hand assembly involved in its construction: I wonder when some other manufacturer would step in and license one of these designs. Bajaj, TVS etc - the country is waiting for you!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rockport Missouri Becomes First US City to Generate all its Power from Wind Turbines

I found this very interesting article on Gizmodo, an excellent website for tech freaks (though I am not one myself) about the tiny little town of Rockport, Missouri which has become the first US "city" to power itself entirely using wind power: The Gizmodo link has some nice links to Popular Science and other sources on this subject and it tells us that wind power could only substitute for 20% of the power needed to run the USA in the future. My belief is that even if this means burning 20% less fossil fuel, it would be well worth it.

On the other hand, I caught some joker on CBS while driving this morning tell the USA that there was a plot to install wind turbines all over the USA to produce power that could be controlled from "red states like Texas" who could turn the switch off to "blue states" if wind power became more widespread. The joker's ire was directed at T Boone Pickems, the oil billionaire, who is now pushing his Pickens Plan to use more wind energy and natural gas in the USA and reduce the use of imported crude. When we sometimes think that cretins do well in Indian politics, we forget that the worst morons and jokers anywhere in the world work in the US media. CBS cannot be considered a serious news channel if it employs buffons of this kind. Oh well, this is what happens when a channel offers third rate entertainment and "the news" side by side.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

When Die-Hard Business Magazines Begin Endorsing Alternative Energy . . .

Forbes has a very interesting article on wind energy at:

As a magazine that is firmly on the side of drilling at ANWR and off the Gulf and which is a strong global warming skeptic, this must be something that Forbes found interesting because of how much money could be made from this industry. And I hope that people take this endorsement by Forbes seriously. This is a magazine that has a very good eye for business. The USA would do well to take Forbes' views with the attention that they definitely deserve.

Excellent news and a fantastic way to end this week!

With Clowns Like This, is it a Wonder that Renewable Energy is Going Nowhere in India?

A senior environmental journalist in India alerted me to this article:
The writer, N N Sachitanand, is supposed to be a "commentator on public affairs." With such expertise as Sachitanand professes especially as far as solar energy is concerned, I am not at all surprised that renewable energy is going nowhere.

I find it interesting that this expert is unaware of any means of harnessing solar power other than by using photovoltaics. He has no idea, from the very limited scope of his article and the nonsensical conclusions that it draws on solar power, that there is such a thing as Solar Thermal Energy and that there are large plants being set up in Nevada, Arizona, California and even in Saudi Arabia of all places. The man also cannot seem to understand that if solar powered rice cookers were used in even 20% of homes in India to cook rice for lunch every day, that would amount to huge savings in liquified propane. Solar water heaters would save electricity in homes by decent amounts as well. But then, anyone can be an "expert" these days, it seems, and journalists cannot be bothered to check up on someone's antecedents in their enthusiasm to publish something that sounds profound even if the writer has actually strung words together in the hope that they would eventually make sense.

I cannot be bothered with sending DNA India a comment - their crappy website refreshed itself thrice while I was trying to type a detailed comment in, and they most certainly have a word limit that restricts comments to praise of writers whom they commission to write these expert pieces. At the same time, pieces like this one bring to light the fact why a country that is fortunate enough to be bathed in sunlight most of the year, still cannot find a sensible way to harness the natural gift of energy that it enjoys. In a land of uneducated politicians and sundry buffoons, any so-called "expert commentator" can sound intelligent. In the end, the whole nation suffers. Tragic, at the very least, if you ask me. In fact, it is much worse than that.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Overpopulation A Bigger Problem Than Global Warming Says UNESCO

I came across this link on Green Daily: which gives the fist to the assertion made by the crooks who rule India that the country has a great future ahead because of its population. Unfortunately, India's problems are shared by Pakistan and Bangladesh - more than half of the people in these countries are below 26 years of age. With unemployment already a problem in all of these countries, where are new jobs going to be created especially in a shrinking global economy? With the USA doing as badly as it is, how are young people in South Asia going to get more call center jobs? There are also the pressures of housing so many people, providing healthcare, of providing food etc - all of these are bound to have an impact on the environment. And none of the governments of South Asia are prepared to address any of these problems.

If the population crisis is going to cause a major disaster worldwide, it is my inexpert contention that South Asia is where things would first begin to go wrong. The rest of the world needs to look at this part of the world very, very carefully.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A New Tech Promises to Manufacture Carbon Fiber Cheaply

Gizmag, one of my favorite websites posted this intriguing bit about a new company promising to build an ultra fuel efficient lightweight car using carbon fiber componentry and bodywork:
Under normal circumstances this would have been a very expensive proposition, but, apparently, the company, Axon Automotive, holds a patent on a low cost technology for manufacturing carbon fiber and one of their directors recently wrote an article for The New Scientist on this very subject. I hope this works. It would be a fantastic way of saving fuel, even if the cars that Axon plan to manufacture would run on the stinky stuff. Axon have their own website: Let's see what they can pull off. There are bound to be some successes and many more failures in the business of green transportation, but if one idea succeeds for every ten that fail, we shall be vastly better off than we are.

THE WATCHISMO TIMES: Big Changes in the Atmosphere - Jaeger LeCoultre's Atmos 561 by Marc Newson

THE WATCHISMO TIMES: Big Changes in the Atmosphere - Jaeger LeCoultre's Atmos 561 by Marc Newson

Saw something interesting today on this blog about a watch that is powered by the changing temperature. No more batteries required and the waste from discarding them could be forgotten. Green? Certainly, though winding clocks would run this one close in green cred. That said, the inventiveness shown in this design is fascinating and I hope that there are more such ideas used to power other devices.

Monday, July 21, 2008

With One of the World's Longest Coastlines, India Could Well Consider This

The Brits have one more magnificent new technology working to provide power to their country as this article from the Daily Mail shows: It would be amazing to have this system installed across the Indian coast (and also the coasts of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh) to generate electricity quietly and without polluting anything using wave power in that part of the world. As a boy from the coastal city of Madras (now renamed Chennai) I remember going to the Marina Beach every Sunday to look at the wreck of a Greek ship, the Stematis, which broke up when the captain miscalculated the strength of the currents around my former home town. If you go to the nearby town of Mamallapuram, the currents are, if anything, stronger. In India, in particular, now that wind energy has been tapped almost fully, this could be a successful next step to take to harness cheap and pollution free energy from the earth's own forces. India has a close association with the Brits - Madras was the first British settlement in India in the 1600s - and it should be easy for the Indian government to sign an MoU with the British and put some of these across the coasts. In any case, development in India has centered along the coasts for the most part and this would be one way of supplying the power-hungry coastal regions of India with clean power.

But, as always, the million dollar question is, will the Indians do it? If I know India, the country won't. No country has a more irresponsible government and system than India does. The people be damned, the country can go to hell - the politicians will not change or do anything other than work their vocal chords in Parliament, spouting nonsense.

On a more positive note, there is one more electric vehicle that would be ideal for South Asia: The Nemo Electric Truck from Canada. With speeds that are ideal for short drives and a 1000 lb payload, it would make for an excellent substitute for tempos across South Asia. The problem is that electricity supplies are already bad in the region and governments across the region would need to invest in systems of generation first. Oh well, sadly, the positive news is not so positive after all . . . this happens very often with the part of the world that I come from.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Some Interesting Gadgets Which Would Make Life Better for the Third World

Many parts of South Asia suffer from miserable electricity supplies. Even the capitals of India and Pakistan, Delhi and Islamabad respectively, often suffer from power failures of several hours a day. And this is a part of the world where people are addicted to television for both entertainment and for the news. I have some good news for them: Sharp, the Japanese television house has introduced a solar powered flat screen TV which they could buy and use. The press release is here:

Green Daily talks about a pedal powered ambulance which, after modification, I think, would make for an excellent high tech substitute for a cycle rickshaw in South Asia: The vehicle looks certain to be more comfortable both for the passenger as well as for the rickshaw puller as it was originally conceived as an ambulance. One more way of showing fossil fuel the fist? You bet! And one more way of providing employment to the legions of unemployed and uneducated people in that part of the world? Yes!

As mroe good news keeps coming in, I hope some of you readers have entre-preneurial ideas of your own to try and market these products and make money while saving the earth. Let's have some sheikhs from the non-oil based energy sector. All power to you!

Japan Creates a Zero-Waste Community

One of the most encouraging pieces of news in a long time has been this report from the BBC about the little town of Kamikatsu in Japan, the world's first zero-waste community: The little agricultural community cannot throw any of its waste away and it has to compost all food waste and recycle all other waste by segregating it into one of 34 different categories. The mayor of Kamikatsu has, in doughty fashion, invited world leaders to learn from his community's ways and, indeed, the rest of the world has much to learn from his example. In typical Japanese fashion, this community has a brilliant idea which the rest of the world could implement after modifying it to its own ends.

Now, will anyone else take this challenge up? Let's see how far this goes . . .

Saturday, July 19, 2008

One More Plus for Wind Energy

I forgot to post something in the earlier post - a very interesting Letter to the Editor of Businessweek points out how Wind Energy generation is superior to fossil fuel based power - windmills do not use water in addition to remaining smoke free. Every coal, oil or nuclear powered powerplant has to use tens of thousands of gallons of water for cooling processes. That is one lesser resource that more widespread wind energy would use were it exploited to the fullest. Excellent point, isn't it?

The Fight Against Oil Gains a New Optimism

It was with some delight that I read the news that Honda had introduced hybrid cars to India, increasingly one of the world's most filthy and polluted nations. Hopefully, this would spur their competition to follow in their footsteps. But then, this has been a week of positive news. This ABC news item is very optimistic about using plug-in hybrid cars to make oil irrelevant. I am a great believer in engineers and technology. I do think that this is achievable with the pressures of pulling off major coups in R&D being high on engineers working at developing gas alternatives in transportation, especially with gas prices where they are.

In the short term, a British departmental store has begun offering B 30 biodiesel at its pumps and Peugeot and Citroen have cleared all of their diesel cars for use with this fuel: A huge thumbs up to Morrisons and to Peugeot-Citroen! The Brits have always been nonconformists in what they do and sales of home biodiesel systems seem to be doing very well in that country as this article points out:

There are other countries that could benefit from this ingenuity - a friend who returned from Portugal brought back some pictures of rivers turning green with waste olive oil and some of the raw sludge (or whatever it is called) from the crushing process of olive oil simply poured into that country's water. What a disgrace! And Portugal has beautiful scenery and terrible pollution at the same time! I do wish that some Brit entrepreneur living there would find a way of buying up this gunk from the Portuguese olive oil millers and use it commercially or domestically. It would be fantastic!

The opportunities in South Asia, of course, are immense. With more than one and a half billion people living in the region and with so many of them buying oil for cooking (all South Asian governments import palmolein and palm oil from Malaysia and from West Africa to fry food in) there should be more than a little used oil available for running buses on. Most of it simply goes down the drain in that part of the world.

Among other things, I have found some very interesting new communities that everyone who is interested could check out: This is a very interesting new community that I would invite anyone interested in saving money and keeping the planet green to join. There are several product promotions as well as reviews based on real life use and anyone who wishes to could post their reviews after signing up free. Ecogeek is another interesting website that a friend sent me the URL of today. Some of their material can be found on other blogs but they have some original material and it would be useful to keep an occasional eye on this website if you are interested in the green movement. This is also a very interesting website with information on environment friendly technology:

I hope to have some more useful information over this weeekend for this blog. Do keep checking in and writing back to me. My special thanks to everyone who has written in with information. I would like to make this an informal, fun to read blog as you guys know, and not an encyclopedic compilation of information. if you find this fun to read, 90% of my efforts would have succeeded. The information in this is meant to be the icing on the cake. As all I do is collect this information and post it here, I am aware that you could find it elsewhere. Hopefully, my posts would make it easier to access and my writing make this a fun blog to read. Cheers!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Used Vegetable Oil in Diesel Engines

In the time I lived at the Gowri Chitra Gardens, right next door to the Vadapalani Bus Terminus I came to despise the filthy smoke put out by the State Transport Corporation buses right through the day. I would wait for it to be night and for the bus service to end so that the noise and the smoke would stop. Well, here is something that could be used to reduce pollution on our buses and also reduce the cost of bus travel, provided the government does it right: use recycled vegetable oil to drive the buses. Cheap public transport in these days of sky high fuel costs would make more people stop using their cars and bikes and reduce pollution even further, leave alone make the State Transport Corporations more profitable and the air smelling cleaner. I kid you not - try to smell a vehicle being run on recycled vegetable oil. It smells like your grandmother frying vadais.

Now, my dilemma is, how do we get the chowderheads who rule the various South Asian countries to watch these videos and get their brains running enough to collect and use used cooking oil to run buses? Oh well, this is a beginning . . . This is a Mythbusters video where the Mythbusters experiment with filtered vegetable oil in a diesel car This is the first part of a BBC Top Gear video on using used vegetable oil, but here it is processed before being used One week after adding the solvent, the BBC's motor mouth Jeremy Clarkson tests an old Volvo with the used vegetable oil. Sadly, the BBC's usual incompetence shows on Youtube where they have not bothered to upload the whole video. if you thought India's Doordarshan were a bunch of jokers, the BBC is a thousand times worse! My regards, though, to whoever posted this as it somewhat completes the episode that the BBC chowderheads begin on Youtube before sitting back to warm their collective cushions with their arses like they do. This is a video put up by a Canadian who makes biodiesel from used vegetable oil at home. Those who are technically inclined could try and set something like this up. That said, there are several kits available for the non technical types from companies in the USA and Brazil though there is no reason why they should not be assembled by a company in India that wants to offer these. They look simple enough even to a completely non-technical person like me. This company is Canada's largest manufacturer of biodiesel for ccommercial sale and the Chairman was interviewed on Shal TV, a Canadian channel at: Some very interesting insights here though some of the extreme cold that the Canadians experience would not be a problem in South Asia. This is a lecture on the safety aspects of biodiesel etc at a seminar in Oregon:

There is a caveat, though. Some companies in the West are using cooking oil to make biodiesel without using it to fry anything first. This is criminal. On the other hand, there are technologies for using certain non food plants like hemp (ganja for us Indians) or certain types of algae (the filthy green stuff in our sewage carrying rivers) to make biodiesel.

We have some of the world's best engineers in our IITs and other engineering colleges. And Indians have a way of making their voices heard wit their votes. Our neighbors in South Asia also do much the same that we do. Any suggestions, now, on how to drum this and other sounds into the ears of our selectively common-sense-deaf policymakers?

More on Microgeneration

In an excellent blog in the Times, John-Paul Flintoff writes about homes that produce their own energy: There is a trend towards such homes in the West aided by subsudues for putting electricity back into the grid, but if such a policy were implemented in South Asia, it would have its own benefits. Even without putting power back into the national grid, this would ensure, if reliably done, that the homes in question have reliable power round the clock and free of most costs associated with buying power from your local utility once the cost of the equipment and installation is taken care of. Ind India, as far as I know, the goernment allows 100% depreciation on renewable energy systems in just 1 year, probably the best subsidy for this purpose anywhere in the world.

As fossil fuel prices rise (and they do not seem to be likely to come down anytime soon) an investment in freeing homes from local power grids is likely to be a very good investment in the long term. Sri Lanka has started offering 100% financing for renewable energy systems though I am not sure if this extends to home units like these or is meant for large projects that feed electricity into the grid. If someone is aware of similar projects in PAkistan or Bangladesh, please do let me know.

In the meantime, if this could work for you, do give it a shot. You will make your money back soon and also preserve the earth for the future. And, last but not the least, don;t go by the renewable Vs gasoline prices from the time when crude sold for $ 17 a barrel. Very soon, it will go up to 10 times that price. And those who have renewable energy systems powering their homes will go laughing to the bank.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Conserving Water Through Hydroponic Cultivation

As we find water resources becoming increasingly scarce, there is, without a doubt, a need to conserve water resources like other valuable resources that we are now slowly learning to conserve and use better. Once again, here, a major failure as far as South Asia and particularly India is concerned, shows up: Hydroponic cultivation of vegetables, something that works very effectively for vegetables like tomatoes for example, was something that was actively experimented with by British scientist James Sholto Douglas in India in what came to be known as the "Bengal System" of agriculture. I have no idea how many tomatoes or any other vegetable are hydroponically grown in India but the percentage cannot be very high.

Hydroponics is basically a method of growing vegetables in a nutrient solution and without soil in tanks either built for the purpose or adapted from other use like old car batteries etc. There is some rough aggregate, usually gravel laid out at the bottom of the tank for the plant's roots to hold on to. The system is considered environmentally friendly because it reduces the possibility of soil borne diseases in plants as there is no soil used. Also, in conventional agriculture, water that is poured into the soil to water plants gets wasted to a greater extent than the water that is stored in tanks for hydroponics. Finally, better utilization is made of the nutrient fertilizer as some of it cannot leach away into the soil as can happen in conventional agriculture.

There are several websites dedicated to hydroponics as a hobby and someone who is interested could grow vegetables for home consumption on a domestic terrace if they wished to. Some websites taken from the net at random include: and There are also somewhat more advanced sites like this one which discusses the early failures and problems with hydroponics and the current successful methods of using hydroponic cultivation.

For those who want to try this out, please check the following links: and In any case, a Google search should throw up tens of thousands of websites on hydroponics as well as communities from which information could be received.

Hydroponics will NEVER replace conventional agriculture because grain crops, the most important ones as far as food is concerned, cannot be grown hydroponically. But in parts of the world like S0uth Asia where as many as 7 in 10 people traditionally work in agriculture, there is a strong possibility of maximizing efficiency in the use of water by training more people in the use of hydroponic techniques especially in growing vegetables.

As a final note, I buy hydroponically grown tomatoes at DOminicks and Jewel-Osco whenever they are available. Those who know me know how finicky I am as far as taste is concerned. I have never found any problem with taste or texture in hydroponically grown tomatoes. Their considerably lower cost does not hurt either!


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Absolutely the Cutest Moped in the World!

As many of my friends know, I have a soft corner for motorcycles and the past four years when I did not own a motorcycle for the first time since I was fifteen, have been depressing. But, all is not lost . . . In two weeks, I go for the motorcycle riders' program and I should have my license by the end of the month. After that, it is going to be an exercise in mental torture as I try to figure out what fuel efficient good weather transport I pick. This moped is going to be very high on the list of vehicles that I consider! With a fuel efficiency of more than 80 Km per litre, this should be a most fashionable way to get to the university and back through the summer. I do wish, though, that I were in Houston or Atlanta instead of Sh1tc@go! The shorter and warmer winters there would let me show a little bike like this off for longer periods every year!

Oh, well, here's hoping that I get my degree asap and leave this filthy place at the earliest!

Cogeneration - Something South Asia needs to look at

As I try and learn more about renewable energy, there is always something fascinating that comes up and which looks like yet another good idea that we could use in SOuth Asia, a fast developing and horribly polluted part of the world. Cogeneration, which I learned about, is an interesting idea that is now catching up in the West as well as In Japan. Basically, this is a matter of using the heat from generating electricity using any conventional means to do useful work. This use of the generated heat, makes regular engines more efficient because it puts the heat to uses like heating water, for example, instead of letting it out into the air through an exhaust. But let me post a link to a Scientific American page on the subject which would explain this better than I ever could:

There is, also, a very interesting page at the Rochester University website at: with information that even a non technical person like me can understand and with some invaluable links to other pages talking about this very interesting subject. The site also has a buyers' guide to the various types of cogeneration plants and accessories available worldwide at:

Interestingly, they list an Indian company Jain Rotodyne Pvt Ltd who are based in Delhi. M/s Jain Rotodyne have parked their domain but don't have their website up yet. Congratulations, guys! Have your website up and running soon. I am sure that there are many who would be interested in looking at it in detail. In addition are several companies who have branches in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and I wonder if any of them sell this equipment in South Asia. I also wonder if cogeneration systems could be built around conventional diesel gensets like those that are already manufactured in India? Hopefully, one or another of the engineers here would answer this question . . .

There is also a US Corporation now acquired by a Canadian company who run several power generation businesses in the USA and Canada. I shall look forward to visiting them when I visit Canada next. Their website is: and it would be superb if they could be brought to South Asia.

Let's see if I could keep up my newly reinvigorated pace on this blog. I'll try my best! In the meantime, anyone who has any idea / suggestion is most welcome to respond and get in touch.

Cheers and have a clean environment!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

California's Million Solar Roof Initiative and Lessons for South Asia

The greed displayed by the Saudi Arabian sheikhs is promoting new interest in renewable energy and one of the most significant steps taken in recent times has been the California Million Solar Roofs Initiative which you can read about at: Basically, this is a plan to cover the roofs of all government buildings in California and also the roofs of private buildings whose owners are interested in this program with solar photovoltaic systems and to feed the electricity into the state's power grid. I keep wondering when the Indian government would come up with something like this. India has sunlight available across the country and such a system would help immensely in alleviating the severe power shortages that we have in the country. I am sure that the situation in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka etc is no different. There is a tremendous amount of money to be saved especially with oil prices rising by the day and pushing coal prices up as well as they rise.

And this movement is catching up elsewhere in the world as well. General Motors has installed the world's largest solar roof in its plant in Zaragoza in Spain and Volkswagen are planning something similar in their plants in Europe as well. The Reuters news release about this is at: Indian companies have huge tax incentives already to use renewable energy - they can depreciate these systems at 100% in the first year of operation under current laws. And some states have very progressive approaches to this - Haryana, for example, buys electricity generated from renewable sources at Rs 15.96 per kWh. Hopefully, some entrepreneurs would go ahead and do something about the opportunities available in South Asia and make some money out of this business. They deserve to!

In other matters, this is the second post that I have made this week and I am happy to be less tardy than I have been before. Hopefully, I can keep the momentum up and get more information out. Do mail back if you ladies and gentlemen have any information for me. As always, bouquets and brickbats are equally welcome.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Terribly Late but Hopefully with Some Good News

Well, my plans of posting here everyday have flopped as I guessed they would. There's just been too much work to do and a lot of other BS now that its another hot Chicago summer and miserable as ever in this headquarters of the mafia. But that's another story altogether...

I do have several new toys that the alternative energy geniuses have brewed up. One of the most interesting is the Anaconda Bulgewave system developed in the UK. It would be an incredible product to use in my former hometown of Chennai in India: The system could also be a very interesting one to use in Lake Michigan whose waters are as treacherous as Ill-Annoy politicians and especially the ruling Chicago mobsters are. But, unless someone hires a lawyer with a name like Daley or Obama, of course, this will never come to be in Sh1tc@go.

The development of rooftop and backyard wind turbines continues apace. One new company that a friend brought to my attention has a very advanced design that looks like an abstract sculpture of sorts: India's interior and exterior design crazies would not mind at all having something like this on their roofs. And, when they have this, there is another high tech device that they could consider; the Solatube This is the advanced version of glass lights in the roof that many of us who have traditional homes in India know about. The tubes collect sunlight during the day and dstribute them in the interior of a home thereby negating the need for daytime use of tube lights, bulbs or whatever else. They could also be used on multi storey buildings by placing the lights at atrategic positions and letting them carry light in to the upper floors of a building.

Considering the pace at which new buildings are being put up in India these days, it might make sense for Indians to look at utilizing these systems in the country. They have a lot to gain by avoiding depending on the State Electricity Boards to whatever extent possible. And speaking about houses, there is an incredible new building technology that I would like to talk about: Thermasave I have spoken to the Thermasave system's inventor Hoot Haddock and he is a very nice man who knows his product very well. The system is being used in Afghanistan - no one else in the world can build low cost homes with the ability to withstand earthquakes going up to 10 on the Richter scale - and it would be eminently useful in India and Pakistan considering the earthquake prone-ness of both countries. There are rival systems made in Austria and in Canada but nothing matches the simplicity and cost effectiveness of the Thermasave system. Yes, he is loking for an India distributor for this at the moment as well.

What would a Thermasave home with Solatube lghting and a Helixwind Turbine be like? Enough to give the Saudi Sheikhs a heart attack and a stroke if they become popular, I am sure.

For that, alone, this needs to succeed . . .