Sunday, September 03, 2006

Who's Got Energy?

Rev Up Our Engines

"Brew Better Ethanol" ["The Future of Energy," July] is a very good idea, but the approach should be two-pronged. Modern engines are horribly inefficient at extracting the energy from ethanol. If ethanol is going to be a viable alternative, engines must be redesigned to take advantage of the alcohol's burn characteristics. To get similar power and fuel economy from ethanol and its lower energy density, engines should have higher compressions, better computer controls, direct injection and forced induction.

--Erik Lorentzen

Harness Hemp

I think it's worth mentioning that industrial cannabis hemp could be a valuable crop for the production of cellulose. Hemp contains up to 77 percent cellulose, is easy to grow, aerates the soil, and is superior to other cellulose sources (wood, corn, sugar cane). This cellulose can be distilled into ethanol or, as "Brew Better Ethanol" describes, fermented with enzymes found in termite guts. Unfortunately, farmers in the U.S. must acquire a federal marijuana permit to grow the crop, even though it cannot be used to produce the drug form of cannabis.

--Sameron Decker Harris

Go Nuclear

It is an unmitigated, self-imposed disaster that 75 percent of our electricity does not come from safe, clean, economical nuclear power. This would provide the power for your electric cars and to manufacture solar cells and wind generators, which are useful but not currently economically competitive with conventional sources.

--David M. Herring

Charge Our Cars

You missed one perfect alternative: electric cars. They're fast, good-sized and ready to go but were pulled by several car companies. One example is GM's EV1, the focus of the recent documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?. Ford also had an electric Ranger truck; my son had to fight Ford to keep his.

--Sheila Raboy

Lay Off the Luxuries

Nine of your steps to increase available energy are like trying to end traffic jams by building more lanes: They only delay the problem. The more energy made available, the more people will use. Your 10th step, efficiency, is one where we have a lot of room for improvement. In my home, for example, many lights are LEDs, which cost a bit more than compact fluorescents but last longer and use far less electricity than standard bulbs. My whole home is as small as is practical and comfortable. Americans need to learn the difference between luxury and necessity.

--Bakari Kafele

Hang It Out to Dry

Everyone is always looking for high-tech solutions to energy problems, but what about low-tech solutions that already exist? We would save a tremendous amount of electricity if everyone used clotheslines to dry their clothes.

--Michel Czehatowski

By: Lorentzen, Erik, Harris, Kameron Decker, Kafele, Bakari, Popular Science, Sep2006