Archived Jul 1 2009
Transport - July 1
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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage
Auto-psy (review of After the Car)
Lynsey Hanley, The Guardian,
After the Car
by Kingsley Dennis and John Urry
From the perspective of a deliberate non-driver, the car is indefensible. It's the devil's chariot, death on wheels, the ultimate privatised commodity. Motorists, meanwhile, believe car ownership to be a right.
The authors of After the Car, both sociologists in the field of mobilities - the study of how people, things and information move and get moved - are firmly in the "devil's chariot" camp. Dennis and Urry exhibit a refreshing understanding of the sheer inefficiency and inconvenience of cars, describing them bluntly as "steel-and-petroleum" machines, and roads as the "killing fields" of contemporary societies.
Significantly, they talk about cars not as discrete objects, or tools for personal use, but as components of a system which has become more entrenched with every decision, or "disruptive innovation", and which has led to private transport almost totally displacing public transport, as is the case, for instance, between the two coasts of the US.
... The authors present several scenarios in which the car system will be affected by increasingly scant resources and human attempts to limit damage caused by climate change. The most frightening, for its depressing plausibility, is that of "regional warlordism", based on the fight for post-peak oil. We may already be living in this period.
(27 June 2009)
Looks like the first review of "After the Car" which has just been published. Author John Urry has a bio page.
Boeing's nightmare: Qantas dumps Dreamliners
Matt O'Sullivan, Sydney Morning Herald
Qantas has cancelled orders for 15 Boeing 787-9 aircraft (Dreamliner) in a move that will reduce the airline's spending by about $US2.5 billion ($3.7 billion) over the next few years.
In another attempt to navigate the worst downturn in aviation, the Australian carrier has also delayed delivery of the first batch of 15 787 aircraft by four years.
... Qantas has been in talks with Boeing since April when the Australian carrier warned of a second-half loss, axed up to 1750 jobs and deferred the delivery of its flagship A380 superjumbos.
The cancellation of the 15 Dreamliners is a huge blow to Boeing which has been dogged by delays to production of the 787 and has been forced to slow delivery of other aircraft because of airlines' precarious financial positions.
... But Qantas's boss, Alan Joyce, insisted the decision was unrelated to Boeing's latest problems, saying it was due to the difficult trading conditions. Qantas still has the largest firm order of any airline for the more fuel efficient 787.
(26 June 2009)
Sent in by EB contributor Stuart.
Why gardening is more dangerous than cycling
Chris Peck, Guardian
Despite the huge increase in numbers of cyclists on UK roads, casualties have decreased. It's all down to safety in numbers
... Official figures show more miles were travelled by bike in 2008 than for each year since 1992. Cycling has almost doubled on London's main roads in nine years and increased by 30-50% in cities such as Bristol, Leicester and Leeds.
But it's really remarkable that despite the increase in cycling, casualties suffered by cyclists are still down by around a third. To anyone who doesn't cycle this might seem a bit odd. Shouldn't more cyclists mean more crashes and injuries? As those who cycle will know, however, the more cyclists there are the safer it will be for everyone.
... Why does this "safety in numbers" effect occur? The vast majority of cyclist injuries result from crashes with motor vehicles, and most of these appear to be primarily because the driver "looked but did not see". Cyclists (and motorcyclists) have even given this type of crash a name – Smidsy, an acronym for the drivers' refrain, "Sorry, mate, I didn't see you!"
These type of crashes start to decrease as cycling levels rise.
(29 June 2009)
Related: Serious cyclists at risk of sperm damage, conference told
Feathered fuel tank soaks up hydrogen
Chris Spitzer, The Oregonian
The gas tank of the future may be full of chicken feathers.
Engineers have discovered a way to store large amounts of hydrogen fuel using carbonized downy fluff, which could help pave the way to clean, green cars.
A practical hydrogen car has been elusive for decades. Before the announcement this week by University of Delaware engineers, a nonstop trip from Portland to Eugene in a hydrogen car would need a tank bigger than 100 gallons to store liquid or gaseous fuel, even under high pressure.
Treated chicken feathers work like a sponge. They soak up large amounts of hydrogen and hold it in a small space so the tank can be a conventional size and the fuel won't need to held under dangerously high pressures. Hydrogen creates only water vapor when it burns, unlike gasoline that emits carbon dioxide, a culprit in climate change.
"It's the most energy-rich material we have," says Roger Ely, an Oregon State University professor who specializes in hydrogen, "It's three times the energy content of gasoline on a pound-for-pound basis."
The problem is that this potent fuel is hard to squeeze into small spaces. "Once somebody cracks that nut, it's really going to help," Ely says.
Professor Richard Wool and graduate student Erman Senoz at the University of Delaware believe they may have found a solution.
"The question came up," Wool said, "of what to do with the six billion pounds of waste chicken feathers" produced every year. He experimented for years with various ways to use feathers and eventually wondered if they might store hydrogen.
(26 June 2009)
Suggested by EB contributor "thorn."