We Need More Power Captain

I've always had my doubts about electric cars being 'greener' than gas cars. To me it seems all you are doing is changing where the dirty work gets done. The power you need to drive to work is the same whether it comes from an internal combustion engine or from a nice compact cord in your garage wall. The electricity flowing from that cord comes from a coal fired power plant, or a nuclear plant, or some other source. You just get to feel better because you can't see the pollution coming out of the tail pipe. You also have all those nasty chemicals in the batteries. Those batteries are going end up leaking in some landfill eventually. (Maybe the battery acids could take care of all that garbage.) Hybrids are probably actually a good compromise because my understanding is that the batteries for the electrical motor get their energy from the gas motor and the turning of the wheels.

This came up because I ran across this opinion piece which mentions the same sort of thing. The writer makes the case that if electric cars become widespread energy demand from the municipal power grid will go up as people quit getting energy from their car's internal combustion engine. The major issue here is that generation at most power plans is pretty water intensive. According to some research done at the University of Texas, electric powered cars would consume approximately three times as much water as gasoline powered vehicles. That's water that is lost for other uses. If you look at the amount of water used and put back, then electric cars will use about 17 times as much. That's not good these days when water is becoming a premium commodity in a lot of places. Georgia may be in a real bind due to their combination of low water supply and high commuter supply.

Of course their is a ray of light in all this. The next article I read brings up the point that clean energy is getting more efficient and, as a consequence, cheaper. (Though the commenters do dispute the numbers used in the article.) So as the energy supply grid gets greener, so will our electric cars.

Personally, I think solar power is on so early 00's. Lunar power is the wave of the future. At least until we discover dilithium crystals.


What's A Growing Family To Do?

This post by Kathy reminds me of my current real estate situation. When we got married, I moved into the small house that The Mrs. already owned. 1100 square feet seems like a lot until you put two adults who've been on their own for a decade into it together with a giant dog that constantly sheds. I think we adjusted pretty well, but it definitely resulted in a cluttered house. The spare bedroom became just a really big combination closet and junk drawer. The curve ball really came when we had to convert our spare bedroom for a new use. 1100 square feet was small for two adults and a giant dog, but it's absolutely tiny for two adults, two infants, and a giant dog. Babies take up a lot of space.

So now we're looking to trade up and have a similar dilemma to most people looking to buy their second home. Back when I was buying my first one it was easy. Just save up a down payment and write a check at closing. Now though, most of our cash is tied up in our house. We can pay for closing, but very little beyond that without selling our house.

So we should sell our house, right? I'm naive enough to think our little house might do okay on the depressed market. I'm hoping the small size will be an asset and the price tag will look appealing when people might be afraid to take on a bigger mortgage. It's definitely a starter house, perfect for a single person, or maybe a couple starting out. But one thing I remember clearly from when I sold my bachelor pad.... buyers are picky. If you're trying to sell a house it has got to be sparkling clean. Anybody want to speculate on how hard it would be to keep a house clean enough to show when it has two infants and a giant shedding dog that live in it? I even considered renting it for awhile until the real estate market improves, but then we run into the speed bump of not having a down payment unless we sell the old house.

The Mrs. and I have just resigned ourselves to buying a new house before selling our old. Now my research passion is figuring out how to make that happen with great credit, but little cash on hand. So far the only options to present themselves are to stick it out and try to save (very slow since we have one income and four mouths to feed) or finance 100% on the new place and pay a huge amount monthly until we can sell the old and refinance. Anybody know of a middle ground?


Dog Pile On China

On the heels of the toys with lead paint scandal, China is getting a bad rap for another unhealthy export.

Turns out that a newly emerging area of study has been enabled by all our satellites. These days the scientific rage is tracking intercontinental clouds. There's a lot of research being done on dust clouds that blow up in various far flung parts of the world and where they end up. Apparently they're finding out that the clouds can have industrial pollution on top of all sorts of living micro-organisms and may be potential disease vectors.

According to this WaPo article, dust from the Sahara desert is ending up in the Amazon rain forests, the Caribbean, and the southeast US. The Gobi desert regularly dumps on the US northwest, and Japan and Korea regularly get noxious clouds out of China. The funnest part... perennially smoggy Los Angeles has finally found a new scapegoat.

Authorities in Los Angeles estimate that on some days, one-quarter
of the city's smog comes from China

Back when I was in grad school in those hallowed orange halls of Knoxville a lot of grad students were basing their theses on the idea that the Smokies were being degraded by pollution blowing in from western North Carolina. I found it plausible enough at the time, though it seemed like a blaming your neighbor to get out of fixing your own problems. This new dust cloud tracking is an extension of that to a world wide scale.

The article didn't mention where our dust and crap end up. I'm thinking we should apply the 'whoever smelt it dealt it' rule that every junior high age boy knows well. For all you folks that weren't teenage boys... this rule states that the first person to complain about noxious air is automatically awarded blame for said noxious air.

Since I couldn't decide between my two ending jokes, you pick the one you prefer.

Joke 1 - This is great news for Nashville. It means that the brown ring of pollution that always shows up in the summer can now be legitimately blamed on Memphis. Stacey Campfield will be filing a bill anytime now to offically blame Memphis, GA.

Joke 2 - The SciFi channel is in talks to option this as their next disaster of the week movie.