March 31, 2013

The Mouse that's Roaring Less and Less: Nicaragua Works for a Green Grid

This will seem funny for me to write about a country that as of now gets more than half of it's energy from from Fossil Fuels ( CIA World Factbook Nicaragua Energy ).. but wait a second.. or a few years, and Iceland and New Zealand might have something to worry about.
I refer to the latter two because they are examples of countries that have put a concerted effort into having Carbon Free National Electrical Grids. From what I know, Iceland, with it's famous Geothermal Plants creating about a quarter of it's grid energy, and a good deal more of it's bragging rights, not to mention one of the world's coolest spas in The Blue Lagoon, the rest coming from hydroelectric dams. As far as I can tell, Iceland is alone in this distinction.

March 24, 2013

A Percolating Renassaince for The LA River

I don't want to ruin the movie magic.. I don't want to impose fact where fantasy should reign supreme, shatter the illusions that drive the American Fantasy Machine, but have you ever wondered what the heck this was?
or hows'about this Greese reprise from the cult classic Repo Man:
Oh wait, we got one more! God I miss the 70's.. how's this for a svelt action hero:
Go Cannon!
That was so random that it looks like the last time I played bumper cars at Lake Quassapaug as a kid...
So kidding aside, it's the LA River, and what makes the LA River so vital in it's current form is that, well, it's kind of a natural disaster, and it has grit, and well, grit can be in short supply in Sunny La La land, but fantasy there is a business (and tongue in cheek, I will say fantasy is a business even more so up in the San Fernando Valley where the river originates, but I will leave that joke up to the adults to figure out!). So when you are too cheap to film on location like The French Connection, why not run people through the world's biggest drainage ditch to supply a little cement bottled desperation to spice up the visual, even though Paris Hilton is tweezing her dog's eyebrows a few blocks west.. it's what's called character in the land of Sun and Fun.
But I bet a few of you didn't even ever figure that was a river, ever.. a few of you figured it was just some massive public works thing in the Home from Nowhere landscape of the American industrial nightmare, and I wouldn't blame you, but a river it is.. and it used to, and upper parts of it still do, look like this:
LA River Kayakers
Does this photo seem like they have no association with the videos above?

March 6, 2013

What's That Stink?!: Low Sulfer Diesel.. One Small Step for Man..

Soundtrack: I always thought this song was called What´s That Stink, but it's What´s at Stake, which is somehow even more appropriate for this post:
Mighty Mighty Bosstones: What´s at Stake
If I had a version of hell as a kid, it was being stuck in the back of the family Station Wagon, the seats all taken by others, trekking down an anonymous American Interstate, in the families 1980 Diesel Station Wagon. It was the Griswalds meet something out of the horror movie Hostel. The stench from the sulfur from both our car and the surrounding trucks made me want to pass out more than once, and perhaps once or twice I did, propped up between my dad´s musty suitcases and the back window, which I used to beg to have opened from 12 feet away to the front seat for air, just to have the stench kick in from the tailpipe, curling up in the icy slipstream of what was usually a New England winter, and make me realize the true devils bargain I had struck, and that we were striking with Diesel. We had a cat named Snowball that gave up the ghost on one of these trips. We assumed it was because my older sister, also once stuck in what we called the Waaay Back with me due maybe to a family friend along (she used to use her 2 years advantage in size in any way possible to avoid this fate), clogged off his little cat box breathing holes with the necessary down jacket some winter trip, but I´m now going to chalk it up to carbon dioxide poisoning in my past the environmental innocence of the 70´s´ new found awareness (this post ifs for you, Snowball!.. sniffle...). I didn´t think much about conservation at age 5, but I sure as hell knew something wasn't right. This car, by the way, became a legendary turkey, is now on the list of ten worst cars of all times, the Oldsmobile, Buick, or GM station wagons from 1980. You see, Diesel is powerful, and needs a high compression ratio to burn (1 to 9 is typical for a gas engine, like ti was supposed to be, and for a Diesel, you start at 1 to 14 minimum, and go up from there to as high as maybe 1 to 24), especially with just a glow plug instead of a spark to make it commbust, and what GM did, since it takes about 2 years to cure the steel an engine block properly, or at least did in the technology of the day, is take a bunch of gas engines they had on hand, and just call them diesel after the country went mad for fuel efficiency in the wake of the Gas shortages during the OPEC crisis.. since they were short on appropriate ones and people were clamboring for diesel. The end result, to the endless snickers of the Click and Clack´s of the world, was that the crank shaft would literally blow off the bottom of the engine after a while...
There she is.. the Cutlass Cruiser.. our´s was light blue..
should have been a warning!
So diesel, you have smelled it for years unless you grew up like Romulus and Remus.. it is the power of world ground transportation, and much of our medium scale water transportation as well..

March 4, 2013

The FARC as Forest Stewards

War is a funny thing.. loaded with unintended consequences... so what happens when the world´s longest war happens in one of the World´s most beautiful countries.. well, amongst other things, a lot of preserved wilderness.
Now this is a funny argument to make, might even be controversial, but hear me now and believe me later, the FARC have been good for the ecology of Colombia. Now before this sounds like an advocacy of the FARC, let me first say that I am not even going to pretend I advocate anything about them. I don´t tend to have much patience for cafe revolutionaries. I could compliment them.. they are tough, they can be effective, and they have held out for a long time, sadly with the aid of a lot of Cocaine Money, and even some help from old Uncle Hugo next door. I could even say that most of the FARC rank and file genuinely believe in what they are doing, I can´t take that away from them, there are a lot of kids living in the jungle with good intentions, but it has been a long 50 years, and even old advocates who saw just how oligarchic Colombia was now believe that it's time to move on from this struggle. I will say in addition that things like the Valle De Cauca Assemblia Hostage Taking, and the accident though it might have been, up in Bojaya, Choco, with the Gas Cylinder Bomb, give me chills, it was brutal, but war is a funny thing, the world is a funny thing, and somehow, I am arguing, the FARC have been good for the forests.