Friday, May 22, 2009

Adobe Construction as an Option for South Asia

I remember reading a lot of stuff about Adobe Construction in India some years ago based on some work that was done by the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. All of a sudden, the idea fizzled out like good ideas often do in India - I don't know if a single home was ever constructed using this technology in any of the country's perennially dry areas that dot it across its length and breadth. To give the IISc credit, they did superb work working out a method using cement mixed into the mud blocks to make the idea work in rainy parts of India as well. It was appropriate work for the country, for the extreme poverty and resource deprivation that is a hallmark of India and an exercise in ingenuity that deserved much more than the total silence that it received from the Indian system.

Which brings me to The Adobe Alliance - where else but in the state of Texas - who are doing superb work in developing this technology for the desert areas of the USA: These enthusiasts are involved in what could become a revolution - their movement is creative as it explores combining ancient adobe construction skills with modern technology, political because theya re working to make this acceptable to city planners, banks who do not currently lend money for this kind of construction, and environmentally responsible in the very reduced impact that the system has on the environment in which adobe homes are built. Their workshops have received participants from several other countries - unfortunately, I didn't see any participation from India or Pakistan - though it is my hope that this will happen in the future. The idea is excellent and there is no reason why it should not become mainstream in those parts of the world that need it most. I hope that this group goes from strength to greater strength. Thanks for the good work that you're doing, guys!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Wall Street Journal Likes the Zero S

I have written about the Zero electric motorcycles here before and about how I hope that they would become more widespread - the costs would, then, come down, and with bikes like the Zero S and the Quantya Strada, there would be performance that is the equivalent of any expressway capable bike available in the West. Apart from the many dedicated green magazines and websites, there have been positive reviews from the mainstream media, this one, from the finest US newspaper of all - The Wall Street Journal:

As would be expected, this review is a very balanced one, bringing out both the bike's strengths as well as its weaknesses, mainly the short range and the charging time because of the state of today's battery technology. As there are several exciting developments taking place in battery tech at the moment, it is possible that a battery swap could become a feasible prospect at some point in the future. Hopefully, with this happening, the very limited shortcomings of these bikes would be addressed. That said, for the kind of home to work commute that I do every day, this would be an ideal bike for me - the range is more than enough for my travel every day, and, I think, for 90% of people who live in the USA. Let's see - I just might have to buy one . . .

Zero Motorcycle's website is:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Excellent Energy Options Articles and Videos on the HGTV Website

While I am not one for watching television much, especially the interior decoration and home makeover shows, HGTV occasionally has some excellent shows on energy conservation in the home, alternative energy used in the home etc and this link to their website has some superb basic articles and videos for anyone who is interested but is not very technically aware of the possibilities:,,HPRO_20196_69985,00.html?nl=HGPro_v217c_feat_AltEnery

I shall subscribe to HGTV's RSS feed here as well and am looking forward to checking out more similar pieces by them. The fact is that transportation accounts for much less use of fossil fuels than homes do. Granted, most South Asian homes don't use as much energy for heating and cooling as homes in the USA do because the weather is somewhat better all year round in most of South Asia, there are still reasons why some of the ideas here could do a lot of good if implemented there. For one thing, the frequent power cuts are a major reason why people in that part of the world may want to look at harnessing their own clean energy. Long term costs would be another reason. The possibilities are many.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The World is Running Out of Coal Too

There is a very pressing need to look at clean energy beyond the arguments of global warming etc - after startling predictions by some scientists in the past that the world's oil supplies had peaked, there is a suggestion now that coal supplies may also peak by 2035: This means that by this time, more than half of the world's cupplies of coal would have been used up. So where are we going from there on? My feeling is that the countries that begin early and prepare themselves to avoid using fossil fuels will be the best placed to take advantage of this when supplies of coal and oil have peaked. As the quantities of these fossil fuels reduce, extracting what remains of them will become even more expensive. And those nations that have learned to live without these filthy fuels, will, again, be ready to go ahead while everyone else flounders.

The Scandinavians are the furthest ahead on this and Brazil is also working hard to get there. Israel has several superb new technologies that could make a difference wherever they are employed. And developing nations like China, Brazil and India all have plans though there is no saying how fast or how well they would work on these. Hopefully, in the spirit of competition, the world's nations will move fast ahead to try and wean themselves off this filth and stave some suffering off by going green. The one nation that could be an 800 ton (not pound) gorilla, the USA, is still undecided about this - I hope they decide to pursie this soon. No other nation on earth has a stronger technological base from which to work towards showing fossil fuels the fist.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Showing the Fist to Those Who Claim that Clean Energy Isn't Profitable

I have written about Ecotricity website: before. Dale Vince, the owner, is prone to a little hyperbole, but his talk of a "wind powered car" is nowhere near as untrustworthy as the lies that self-appointed "experts" seem to have come out with to tell the world that clean energy would never be profitable. This entry at Treehugger points out that Vince is one of Britain's richest men: We have also seen, in past posts, that the electricity sold by his companies is, in fact, cheaper than that which is sold by the soot producers. So why the continued crap in the media about clean energy being more expensive? My feeling is that this is because some self-important jerks have a need to lie in order to get media-time. These are usually people who love the sound of their own voice, and they also love seeing their names in print. If terrorists need to be denied the "oxygen of publicity" as Ronald Reagan put it, then these pathological liars about Green Energy deserve to be denied this even more.

Which brings me to another big lie - that green energy is expensive. Check this link out from Instructables via Treehugger about making a solar cooker using defective CDs:

Bad Economic News from India Implies a Greater Need to Focus on Renewable Energy

The New York Times has this article underlining something that I have been telling my friends about for a long time - the Indian economy is not really anywhere near as strong as the Delhi Doofuses have been trying to make it out to be. And when recession hit the USA and much of the rest of the world, India was going to hurt:

This is a Renewable Energy blog and what this blog seeks to encourage is a possible solution to at least a part, if not the complete crisis facing India at the moment. The bulk of India's foreign exchange outflow is to buy fuel - fossil fuel. Yes, exactly that filthy stuff that burns your nostrils when you walk down any Indian street and leaves the inner side of your shirt collar a thick, oily black when you return home. Indians in particular have grown so lazy about resources that they have available right in front of them that they do not want to do anything about them.

Let me point one thing out - while investment funds are not available for stuff like call centers and software subcontracts at the moment, they are certainly (and increasingly) available for Green Energy efforts. The US Exim Bank actually raised the amount of money available for Renewable Energy equipment exports to India from $ 2 billion in 2008 to $ 5.5 billion for 2009. Sadly, I doubt that more than a small fraction of these funds will ever be used. India is, after all, a country where Rs 78,000 crores worth of foreign aid is lying unused: The tragedy does not end there. The all knowing Government of India, aka the Delhi Doofuses, are paying commitment money to International lenders because they asked for this money and are now not using it.

Recently, while elections were underway, there has been more than a little noise about focusing on solar power. During the crisis while the world slowly gets out of the present recession, India needs to look at the unutilized money, look at encouraging solar power, at using the sewerage that it sends out into the rivers and the seas constructively by extracting methane from it for use as a fuel and also by processing fertilizer from it, and more. The most efficient economies eventually become the richest ones. India cannot afford to continue to throw resources away as it is doing at the moment. If it continues to do this, it will sink. If it doesn't, it could well become one of the richest countries in the world.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Not Strictly Renewable Energy But a Pioneering Operation in India that Impacts on Energy Consumption in a Huge Way

Madras / Chennai, the city that I was born in and lived in for more than 35 years, is one that is perpetually starved of water. The city authorities are corrupt and send in millions of gallons of useable rain water into the sea every year instead of trying to conserve it for use. And there is a huge industry in bringing water to peoples' homes by water tankers, making the city one of the most congested and worst polluted places on earth. While I do have pleasant memories about growing up there in the late 60s and early 70s, I shudder to think about moving back for the above reasons - the city is egalitarian in making all its residents suffer from the twin problems of water deprivation and horrendous pollution. And, these days, it has one more problem - power shortages for several hours every day, leading the State Government to co-ordinate with the Central Government of India to build ever more coal fired powerplants at Neyveli, adding to the already filthy pollution.

Amid all of this, there are committed individuals trying hard to overcome some of these problems - and succeeding in small albeit very important ways. Old friend Vasanthi Rajiv and her friend Kamla Ravikumar who has commented here recently, reminded me about one such individual - Dr Sekhar Raghavan whois a pioneer in working to popularize Rain Water Harvesting. Dr Raghavan has shown how a simple method of channeling water that is collected on rooftops into the soil could charge ground-water and make water available from borewells to city residents. Charging ground water is good for the environment - there is water available underground for plants and trees - carbon sinks in keeping with the anti fossil fuel line of this blog - and for people. Most importantly, this reduces the pollution from transporting this water from neighboring states and territories to Chennai.

Dr Raghavan's trust has a lovely website that is a must for anyone who is interested in this idea: I would hope that his ideas are implemented in all other cities, whether they are water starved or not - this is a simple practice and it is excellent for the environment to boot.