Monday, December 6, 2021

Salton Sea a hopeful source of lithium


“Extraction of lithium from geothermal brines is expected to be particularly challenging,” the lab explains. “The brine is extremely hot when it comes out of the subsurface, and it contains a rich stew of many dissolved minerals in addition to lithium.”

To visualize how complex and delicate the extraction process is, imagine you are flipping for baseball cards, except all of your cards are stuck together and they are on fire.

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Still, it's very tempting to try to get at this ready source of lithium with a power source at hand as well.  At this time, lithium is needed for electric vehicles for their batteries.


Sunday, December 5, 2021

electric cars use much less material in their livest than ICE vehicles


"The study by Transport and Environment reveals that traditionally fuelled cars use a significantly higher amount of resources to be produced and maintained, from production to eventual scrappage.

Only 30kg of raw material will be lost over the lifecycle of a lithium-ion battery used in electric cars. By comparison, over 17,000 litres of oil is used in a fossil fuelled engine over the same amount of time...

 Battery cars are predicted to use 58% less energy than petrol cars over their lifetimes and emit 64% less carbon dioxide, according to the study.

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The only legitimate argument I've heard against electric vehicles is that they are just switching the fossil fuel burning from the car engine to the coal burning plant.  But if electric vehicles use less material through their lives, and require less energy, just that is a powerful claim.  And once coal-fired plants are replaced with renewable energy sources, then we're finally on our way to cleaning up the air.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

We're drowning in plastic waste


"Plastic waste has increased sharply in the US since 1960, with the country now generating about 42m metric tons of plastic waste a year, amounting to about 130kg of waste for every person in America. This total is more than all European Union member countries combined. The overall amount of municipal waste created in the US is also two to eight times greater than comparable countries around the world, the report found.

Recycling infrastructure has failed to keep pace with the huge growth in American plastic production. Littering, dumping and inefficient waste disposal in landfills has caused up to 2.2m tons of plastic – including everything from plastic bottles and straws to packaging – to 'leak' into the environment each year. The total waste may be even greater than this due to data gaps in tracking it.

Much of this plastic ends up, via rivers and streams, in the world’s oceans."

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NPR this morning stated that 10 million tons of plastic wind up in the ocean every year.  Aquatic animals eat it, get stuck in it, and die. My solution would be to REPLACE plastic with something biodegradable, such as mushroom-based packaging.  Recycling does not work.  Only 9% of what you put in a recycling bin actually gets recycled.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Work on methane before Co2 for climate repair


The collaboration has proved fruitful. In data gathered over the first two years of Tropomi's operations, scientists discovered major leaks of methane in the oil and gas fields of Turkmenistan, most of which were completely preventable.

Oil and gas fields must build flare installations that prevent methane from leaking into the atmosphere, and Aben said that these leaks suggest those installations are not being used properly.

"These emissions actually relate to flare installations that are not being flared in the oil and gas industry," said Aben. "Flaring is meant to get rid of the methane gases by burning them. It would obviously be better to capture the gas, but they are not even burning it. It's just methane pouring out, and that is not normal operations."

The Tropomi measurements revealed thousands of kilograms (in some cases even tens of thousands of kilograms) of methane leaking from 29 plants every hour. 

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There is a way now to find such leaks and fix them.  This is more important than Co2 as methane is a greater danger to the environment.


Sunday, November 14, 2021

small town grocery stores try innovating


Main Street Market is not Amazon Go by any stretch. But it follows the same principles of offering convenient access and self-service.

The lower-tech approach is also much less costly to operate. Instead of computer-vision cameras, the store lets shoppers scan items and pay with their phones, or use a self-checkout terminal. Main Street Market offers a selection of mostly conventional goods, including soda, frozen pizza, cold cuts, snacks and sports drinks.  

One obvious potential problem is theft. The store has security cameras in place to monitor the aisles, but owner Alex Ostenson said the business mostly relies on the honor system to ensure customers pay for all the items they select. He said he has the ability to disable an account from his phone at any time.

“If people buy a year membership for $75, would they really risk losing it by stealing?” he told the Enterprise. “We know who is coming and going as each person has a unique access code.”

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 I was just in North Dakota and listened to public radio discuss another new concept in the northeast part of the state.  It would not be a store per se but a storage locker for individual orders that are brought in all at once.  Each order would be put in a storage locker for the purchaser to pick up at their convenience.  The only town name I remember is Hoople, but I think it was 3 towns in that area planning to try this.

It's impossible at some population point for a town to have a profitable grocery store, so these innovative ideas will be worth watching to help out our rural areas.


Saturday, November 6, 2021

Where can you pee in public during a pandemic?


As with so many other aspects of American life, Covid-19 exposed and exacerbated the American bathroom gap: While the affluent purchased increasingly ornate fixtures for their homes, delivery drivers and other essential workers struggled with ever-more-limited options. In cities with high rates of homelessness, efforts to install temporary hygiene facilities during lockdowns often met resistance from community members and city officials, even as frustrated local businesses locked their restrooms to prevent use from unhoused individuals.


Toilet co-editor Harvey Molotch, an emeritus professor of social and cultural analysis and sociology at New York University, also sees the pandemic as an opportunity to reconsider how public restrooms are built — particular with regards to airflow. Modern heating and ventilation systems and electric lighting made this less of a priority in 20th century public restroom design, which was typically windowless; Molotch hopes to see a reversal of that trend, by adding windows, skylights and other openings. 


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I noticed this during the pandemic, that all the public restrooms in my city were locked and marked closed due to potential virus spreading.  But people still have to pee.  Homeless people have no place to choose from.  It's very strange that the US seems to ignore this issue.



Wednesday, October 27, 2021

solar panel recycling is a problem


Part of the problem is that solar panels are complicated to recycle. They’re made of many materials, some hazardous, and assembled with adhesives and sealants that make breaking them apart challenging.

"The longevity of these panels, the way they’re put together and how they make them make it inherently difficult to, to use a term, de-manufacture," said Mark Robards, director of special projects for ECS Refining, one of the largest electronics recyclers in the U.S. The panels are torn apart mechanically and broken down with acids to separate out the crystalline silicon, the semiconducting material used by most photovoltaic manufacturers. Heat systems are used to burn up the adhesives that bind them to their armatures, and acidic hydro-metallurgical systems are used to separate precious metals.

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Oh boy.  Nothing is as easy as it seems.  For a long time I thought solar panels lasted basically forever.  Nope.