February 28, 2013

Can Trees Offset your Car's Carbon Footprint?

Of course they can. After all, trees breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, keeping the carbon to build their trunks, stems, roots and leaves. But the devil is in the details: It's a matter of how many trees it takes.

February 23, 2013

All-wheel drive (AWD): not all it's cranked up to be.

Rain, sleet, snow: winter is here. As you're starting to feel like a nervous turtle painfully crawling down the road, you start to wonder whether you shouldn't be driving a car with all wheel drive. After all, they are advertised to have excellent traction, great for wintry conditions.

In an AWD vehicle, the engine delivers power to all four wheels. That, together with the more even weight distribution over all its wheels, is the secret of its good traction: if one of the wheels starts slipping, there are three other ones to pull the car forward. Very handy if you go off-road regularly: it helps you get through uneven terrain, and the occasional muddy creek. It gives you that macho feeling, that you're ready to take on anything: at least, that's what the ads say.

February 21, 2013

Asleep at the Wheel

Welcome to the February 2013
Natural Living Blog Carnival:
Addressing Sleep Challenges.

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project through the Green Moms Network. This month our members have written posts about how they address sleep challenges in their homes.


"You know things are grim," I said to CelloDad, "When you've had two hours of sleep and you don't even feel all that different." That was when our eldest was a tiny babe and CelloDad was just a dad, sleep-deprived like all new dads and too cross-eyed most of the time to be thinking of musical instruments.

We somehow survived those first delirious days of parenthood, but even now we seem to be carrying a permanent sleep deficit. There's always something: if not the baby, it's work pressure, family circumstances, home repairs, rather more dinner than we need, or even an exciting movie too close to bedtime.

These days, it's those Alex Rider books that CelloPlayer and I are reading in a private book club (only two members); these are spy novels for children: fast-paced page turners, they're hard to put down! Oh yeah - and the coming of the Change. I could put that down any day. At this stage, mostly it messes with my sleep.

February 12, 2013

Boys with (Electric) Toys

I'm sure you've seen it happen: a boy brings in his shiny new toy and excitedly starts extolling its virtues, surrounded by a clump of friends who are filled with equal parts admiration and envy. It's only a matter of time before one of them can't take the bragging any more and says, "Oh yeah? well, let's see what it can do!"

As the boys get bigger their toys also get bigger, but the dynamic doesn't change very much. Thus it is that among the car journalists who write polite and glowing reports on the shiniest new toy of them all, the Tesla electric car, there are always a few who push it to the limits to see what it can do.

February 11, 2013

Climate Rally: in Washington and at Your Home

Please consider joining the Forward On Climate rally this Sunday, 17 February 2013, in Washington DC to show your support for real action to stop climate change.

Of course, if you plan to go by car, please carpool: a car with all its seats filled has a per-passenger carbon footprint equal to that of a European train.

If you can't make it to Washington, take action at home: because when push comes to shove, it's up to you and me. Let us not wait for the legislative process to run its due course; soon the only thing that can be called "glacial" is the rate of progress in our legislative bodies. Let's do our bit, and do it now: It's not that hard to slash our carbon footprint.

And saving energy not only means cutting carbon emissions: in most cases it means saving money as well. The new reality: the climate IS the economy.

Get informed. Get involved. Get started today.



February 8, 2013

Review: Nissan Skyline, Infiniti G37

Infiniti's "G" sedan can be traced back to the Skyline, introduced by Japan's Prince Motor Company in 1957. The Prince Skyline was a luxury car whose 1.5L, 60HP engine could get it to speeds up to 140kph (87 mph).

The name "Skyline" was a constant through the decades that this car was marketed by Prince, then by Datsun, and now by Nissan and its luxury division, Infiniti. Both the car itself and its engines kept growing over the years, its engine now a huge 3.7L V6 with 328 HP.

The sleek lines of the G / Skyline are preserved in all its manifestations as a sedan, a coupé and a convertible; there is a crossover version as well (called the EX in the US).

February 4, 2013

Super Bowl 2013 Car Ads

I didn't see the Super Bowl. So I didn't get to see all the drama that was the game, nor all the drama in the commercials that sponsors have placed in the game at stratospheric cost. Since we don't have TV, I will also mercifully be spared the endless re-runs of all those commercials.

But I do find commercials fascinating: the ad men have spent astounding amounts of resources to figure out our buttons, so that they can push them and make us do their bidding, even while making us think that buying this or that is all our own idea. Free choice, and all that, you know? The marketing machine is frighteningly effective, endlessly fascinating, and never to be underestimated. When we are traveling I make a point of turning on the hotel TV with the express purpose of checking out the ads. Because they offer a glimpse into the nation's psyche.

So after the game I went to the Superbowl Commercials site, where you can enjoy all the game ads without being distracted by the game itself. When you see the ads all in a row, a few themes emerge.

February 1, 2013

The Carbon Footprint of a Car

A while ago, I looked into the carbon footprint of manufacturing a car, and found the GREET model (short for "Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy use in Transportation"), a lifecycle analysis developed by a team at Argonne National Lab.

That lifecycle model is process based, that is, they look at all the components of a car and ask how much energy it takes to make the steel frame (counted all the way back to the energy required to mine the iron and/or recycle the steel from scrapped cars), the glass windows, the plastic parts, the aluminum engine, the various fluids (except the gasoline) the electrical wiring with insulation - the works. This estimate is a huge undertaking.

For a "vanilla" car weighing 3330 lbs (think a Honda Accord sedan), they arrive at 8.5 tonnes CO2 for the Vehicle-cycle Energy. That's 8500 kg or about 18,800 lbs of carbon dioxide (or CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas).