Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Some suggestions for bio-fuels

The world has gone biofuel crazy. Ethanol and biodiesel are apparently going to save the planet and our effluent ways of life.

The problem beings first, that ethanol is really nasty to engines that aren't engineered to cope, and secondly that we have to produce tonnes upon tonnes of biomass to convert into biofuels, and it's a loss-making sum at the moment.

We need oily plants for biodiesel, high-starch plants for ethanol, or some really clever genetic engineering or hunting of yeasts or bacteria to convert inappropriate substances to appropriate substances.

All of which has, of course, been happening.

I, however, would like to make a couple of suggestions for plants which should be investigated as source stocks, other than labour-intensive food crops like corn or rapeseed/canola:

  • Bamboo. Grows amazingly fast in the right conditions. Would need a bit of processing, I think.
  • Kudzu vine. Grows so fast that it frightens people into introducing biological controls. This strikes me as an opportunity, rather than a problem.
  • Aloe vera. Grows bloody everywhere, where it's not wanted, and fairly quickly. It's got to be useful for something apart from hippies rubbing it on their skin. I've got several patches if any processing plant wants to buy it off me.
  • Hemp. I mean, come on: People have been arguing this since before it was first outlawed - grows insanely quickly, in all sorts of conditions. And we're already really good at growing it hydroponically, so we save on farmland!
  • Grass. If we collect an entire suburb's weekly production of grass clippings, couldn't we fuel at least one Landcruiser?

Monday, 27 April 2009

Drivers die in hot cars

Road safety just never goes away as a news item. People continue to die in ludicrous numbers, the police continue to labour under the delusion that hiding speed cameras is an effective deterrent, and the media continue to not point out the obvious questions.

Take the article on the front cover of last Friday's Courier Mail: "Highway hoons on M1 race at triple the speed limit."

Now, obviously, nobody should be surprised if a small group of people decide that a wide, straight, well-maintained section of highway will make for a good bit of late-night fun. What's really interesting, however, is that these "hoons" claim to be "
middle-aged professionals and businessmen with the money to afford expensive modifications to their cars."

Question: If you can afford expensive modifications, can't you afford the entry fee for a track-day? Or, say, a dedicated race car and a competition licence?

Are you not, in actual fact, just embarrassed to admit that you can't go around corners very well?

And now we have this one: "Drivers dying in lone crashes, survey reveals."

Apparently, the police have investigated their crash data and noticed that just about half of all fatal accidents have been single-vehicle.


Superintendent Col Campbell's comment, that this
"may come as a surprise to those motorists who believed other drivers posed the only danger on the roads" is particularly fatuous.

Yes, most drivers certainly are labouring under the misapprehension that they're fine, it's everyone else who is the problem. But nobody is going to be surprised - if you're convinced that everyone else is an idiot, you won't be surprised that they keep crashing by themselves, will you?

Nobody is going to take these results as a warning to themselves, if they don't already think that they have a problem.

The really stupid part is this:

"We've looked at the causes of single-vehicle fatalities and they are the same causes as multi-vehicle crashes - alcohol, speed, fatigue, not wearing seatbelts, and you can throw inattention in there as well," Supt Campbell said.

I'm sorry, not wearing a seat belt is a cause of a crash, not a cause of getting hurt in the event of a crash?

Language such as this does not promote confidence in the authorities, it really doesn't.

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