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Recycling is Good for the Environment After All.

Does sorting bottles and cans really save the earth? You may have heard the rumor that the whole thing is a big sham - either a misguided to make ourselves feel better about our wasteful lifestyles, or worse a conspiracy of crystal-wearing, tree-hugging hippies. You may have noticed a number of geeky environment-related posts on Unsought Input. Some of our writers like to think of themselves as environmentalists. Now, before you click your back button, I should explain: no one here will ever tell you to stop driving and live in a cave! We are positive, progressive environmentalists who come to our green views through a love of innovation, efficiency, scientific progress, and yes, even market economics. So, is recycling a bunch of bullshit designed to make us all feel better about ourselves? Does putting glass and plastic in a green bin actually damage the environment more than help? Penn and Teller seemed to think so in an episode of their show, Bullshit. Bullshit is a great show, it's very entertaining, and they call out psychics and feng shui practitioners on their unsupportable claims. It's also filled with things that are less objective debunkery and more Penn and Teller opinion. The duo have a number of reasons for disliking recycling. For example, there is no shortage of landfills and believe recycling uses more energy than it saves. They liken it to a dogmatic religious practice. Are they right? should we give up and put throw our used printer paper in with the coffee grounds and litter box tailings? Well, according to The Economist, recycling is worth it in almost every case. For those of you unfamiliar, The Economist is hardly a bastion of feel-good hippyism. In American terms the magazine is notoriously fiscally conservative (which is sometimes called economic liberalism in Europe). In a recent article they report the results of a study by the Technical University of Denmark and the Danish Topic Centre on Waste:
The researchers then looked at more than 200 scenarios, comparing the impact of recycling with that of burying or burning particular types of waste material. They found that in 83% of all scenarios that included recycling, it was indeed better for the environment.
If you live in a community that does single-stream garbage collection, you might wonder if they really do sort out the recyclables. Chances are they do, and single-stream systems can actually be some of the most efficient:
San Francisco, which changed from multi to single-stream collection a few years ago, now boasts a recycling rate of 69%—one of the highest in America. With the exception of garden and food waste, all the city's kerbside recyclables are sorted in a 200,000-square-foot facility that combines machines with the manpower of 155 employees.
The big question about recycling is really a series of separate, somewhat related questions. First, are we really running out of landfills? Of course not, we have several deserts and oceans just waiting to be filled. Now, to ask the actually meaningful question: are we running out of landfills near large population centers that generate the trash? That answer is a lot closer to yes. It turns out most people don't want to live next to a dump, so dumps are getting harder and harder to build. Suburban sprawl only makes it worse. Second, is recycling economically worth it? Recycling is indeed subsidized in most cities. But the answer to this question depends on things like commodity prices, new technologies and innovations, and whether or not you try to count the market externalities. Finally, does recycling have a net environmental benefit? This is actually a huge question, and life cycle analysis is not easy to do. How far back to you go? If you go all the way back to the energy expended on mining raw materials, transportation, etc., then the answer tends to be yes. Now, does this one study prove for all time that recycling is worth doing? Of course not - that would be rather dogmatic. But it is further evidence, with a thorough methodology. This is how science works. For example, here's another paper that examines the significance of assumptions in life cycle assessments like this one. When was the last time a religion or superstition publish a report examining possible issues in their underlying assumptions? Earlier I called Bullshit a great show, and it is. So how did they get it wrong on this issue? Penn and Teller are absolutely brilliant when it comes to debunking flim-flam artists, because they have years of training and experience as flim-flam artists themselves. Magicians and psychics (and the like) use the exact same techniques in their work --the difference is that magicians tell you it's a trick, and not supernatural god power. When the show ventures into other topics, though, the quality varies depending on the experts they rely on. [youtube]9oloM_dSoW4[/youtube] So, to recap:
  1. Recycling? Good.
  2. Dogmatic crystal-wearing, tree-hugging hippies? Bad.
  3. Penn and Teller on flim-flam artists? Good.
  4. Penn and Teller on scientific topics? Not so much.

Hybrid Concept Cars, The Future is Now Conclusion

If you have missed the first two articles on this topic you can read them here and here. In this grand finale, if I may call it that, I will show you the best of the best (in my opinion) of the concept cars recently reported on on yahoo.com. These I thought were either really cool looking and futuristic or had really cool ideas or that I just kind of liked more than the others. Anyway, without further ado, let's start the "Hey, that's cool" category. In third place we have the Toyota Volta: hybridcars_130_toyota.jpg This car looks like it could go very very fast. It also looks like the maximum height you could possibly be to drive in this vehicle is 5'5" and that is pushing the limit. I don't know if this is the fastest electric hybrid on the market but with dual electric engines (one for each front tire) this car boasts that it has a 408 horsepower hybrid engine, the safety of all-wheel drive and can do 0-60 in just four seconds. Look at those desert dunes. This car is ready to climb them, but I am a little worried that the hills are too steep and those don't really look like tires that get the best traction. So, maybe it's not good to drive in the desert, but since no one really off roads their vehicles like they do in the commercials, I think this car might be OK.Second Place goes to GM Saab Aero X: hybridcars_130_saab.jpg How cool is this car? It's totally like a Back to the Future kind of futuristic car. Very nice, looks sleek but the only problem I visibly see with this vehicle is this: what happens when you lock your keys in the car? I really don't think the tow truck operator is going to be able to jimmy this particular vehicle. Well, I guess that is good b/c no one can steal your car that way but think about this, what are you going to do if the "door" stops working? I don't think climbing into the trunk is a viable option, either. This is cool, too: " the Saab Aero X's cockpit completely eliminating conventional dials and buttons. Instead, Saab displays data on glass-like acrylic "clear zones" in graphic 3-D images." Very futuristic. It has a 400 horse powered engine that runs completely off of ethanol. Over all this is the car of the future, as soon as we figure out how to open the door. And in first place in the "cool kids" category goes to the Honda FCX Concept  hybridcars_130_honda.jpg Look how shiny and aerodynamic. Look how many seats it has (prob the most in this category).  It also employs a concept call vertical gas flow, meaning that the car uses gravity to help it conserve energy and make it's fuel cells more productive and helps this vehicle to improve the fuel cell storage space to allow for a much roomier car.  "With these improvements, the FCX fuel-cell car now has a driving range of 354 miles—a 30 percent improvement from the 2005 model—and a maximum speed of 100 miles per hour"  Not too bad, if I do say so myself. Over all, I am very pleased to see that American car companies are taking the right step towards hybrid technology.    Hopefully we see continued competition to create more and more efficient and environmentally happy vehicles for public consumption without detrimental impact on consumer wallets.

Hybrid Concept Cars, The Future Is Now Part 2

So yesterday our cars of the future article was on "Didn't they do this already". I think today's category is "Wouldn't be Caught Dead in This". You can try to persuade me that people buy cars based on power and performance all you want but I am pretty sure that the look and style of the car is pretty important, too. Just like no one will ever want to be seen in the environmentally friendly Hummer, I can imagine the same will be said of most of these vehicles. In third place we have the Ford Mercury Meta One. hybridcars_130_mercury.jpg You may argue that this car isn't necessarily the ugliest car you have ever seen, in fact it's okay. Work with me here for a minute, if you please. Think back to that movie about the cars that try to kill people. You know the one, the really bad Stephen King movie, Maximum Overdrive? This car will eat you. And your children. And then your neighbors and their families until it runs out of gas, which will take a little longer than a normal SUV since this runs on nice and clean " hybrid transmission with a twin-turbocharged V-6 diesel engine calibrated to run on a bio-diesel blend". You can see how I feel this is potentially hazardous to everyone, right? Just look into those headlight "eyes". Those are the headlights of a killer. Second Place in the ugly stick contest goes to the Volvo 3CC: hybridcars_130_volvo.jpg This vehicle is kind of ugly. I mean, it's nice and aerodynamic and boasts that it can run on any type of power system (gas, ethanol, hybrid or electric). But, it looks kind of...lame. Like the vision of the future that they had in the seventies where the high fashion of the times happens to be tunics and tennis skirts. And it only sits three people and quite uncomfortably, if you really look at it. And it also takes 10,000 lithium-ion batteries (like the ones in your lap top) to power. Only 10,000? That's nothing. First place goes hands down to the Nissan Pivo for obvious reasons: hybridcars_130_nissan.jpg It's electric and it swivels. Enough said. Eventually I will get around to posting the best of these concept cars. Thanks for reading!

Hybrid Concept Cars, The Future Is Now

So a recent article on yahoo.com's main page is all about green concept cars. It has some of the main players and a lot of pretty pictures. Here are the cars listed with a brief description as to alleviate you having to go to another site to read all about them. I am saving you time, thus saving you money as well so you can save it up to buy one of these awesome cars when the time is right. I am going to break these down into three categories: Drivable/hey that's cool, Wouldn't be caught dead in this, and Didn't we already do this? Um, Alex, I would like to start with Didn't We Already Do This for 200 please. hybridcars_130_vw.jpg Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce to you the 2010 VW Microbus, um I mean Chameleon. So, yeah, apparently the late 60's are back and we are all going to be peace loving pot smoking patchouli smelling hippies. At least we have the perfect vehicle for it, I mean this "new" vehicle is all electricity powered with 10 count them 10 30v batteries in the floor to power the vehicle. Oh, the surf boards are thrown in free of charge, they are fitted with solar panels for recharging the batteries. This is the vehicle for those fifty somethings to relive their youth in a perfectly environmentally friendly manner. Second place in the "Didn't we already do this" catagory is BMW X3: hybridcars_130_bmw.jpg

2009 BMW X3

VS:

2007 BMW x5

BMW X5, 2007 You know, they say that if you never change in business, you are insane. Well, BMW didn't listen. This car looks neither futuristic nor retro, meaning it just looks kind of now. It's not even trying very hard to be environmentally friendly. Instead of using a battery it incorporates a superconductor, which provides energy in short bursts. It gets an "A" for effort but nothing else. This concept car is only getting about 20% better millage than most of the cars that BMW currently produces (none of which are hybrids). This is a poor contending mom-mobile in the concept car to the future race. Third Place in this category is the GM Sequel. hybridcars_130_gm.jpg What is cool about this vehicle is that it runs on a hydrogen fuel cell and the fact that most of this car's engine components are located underneath the car and not under the hood.  It does make for a roomier car but the looks are just kind of standard, this car does not make me think that I am living in the 21st century at all.  I wonder what it is the sequel to?  Most movie sequels are not good, they are almost never as good as the original.  Just saying, it doesn't look good for this sequel, at least in my book. Check back later for the other two categories, it is sure to get interesting.

Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Hummer H2

Apparently, sales of the Hummer H2 are falling so fast that GM might even stop making them. Environmentalists will probably cheer this news, but there's another reason I would never buy a Hummer H2 or H3 for that matter. It's complicated, so I've put it into a diagram: Hummer H2 equals Humvee plus Little Tykes plastic parts