OT: A product from my University

CLIFFORD ILKAY clifford_ilkay at dinamis.com
Fri May 30 11:51:41 EDT 2008

Sten-Erik Björling wrote:
> HI all,
> Some thoughts...
> - One cannot expect to replace the current levels of fuels for 
> transportation with biofuels - cannot be done.

Even the most ardent supporters of biofuels aren't claiming this. To 
wean ourselves off petroleum, we need a mix of energy sources, and yes, 
changes in behaviour.

> The only viable 
> alternative is to change behavior. And to start changing the societies 
> to be less dependent on fossil fuel transportation - more rail, public 
> transportation, urban planning centered on zoning supporting more local 
> communities using IT-based communication for knowledge workers lessening 
> the need for traveling long distances to work etc.

Nice in theory but you also need population density and reasonable 
distances to make many of these things work. Many parts of Europe have 
that so these things will (and do) work there. That doesn't always work 
too well in places that have low populations and vast distances, like 
Canada for example. To put things into perspective, Canada is the second 
largest country in the world, after Russia, and has a surface area of 
almost 10 million square km with a population of about 33 million for a 
population density of 3.3 people/sq. km. The most densely populated EU 
country is Malta with 1274 people/sq. km and the least densely populated 
one is Finland with 16 people/sq. km. While averages can be quite 
deceiving and not necessarily relevant, they are a data point. You would 
never know that Canada is so sparsely populated if you were on the Queen 
Elizabeth Way heading into or out of Toronto. It is the second busiest 
freeway in North America after the Santa Monica Freeway in Los Angeles. 
Most of Canada's population lives within 100 km of the U.S. border with 
38.5% of it concentrated in Southern Ontario alone. In my immediate 
area, we have good opportunities (that are squandered) for better public 
transit but that is not the case for many areas of this vast country. 
Inviting another 400 million or so of our best friends to come live with 
us does not seem like a likely solution to the problem either.

> - Much of the current price hikes on oil is tracked back to hedge fund 
> speculation and speculators in commodities.

I have read such allegations and in the short term, I can see it 
happening but in the long term, such attempts to manipulate prices will 
fail. Not even nations have enough money to corner the market on oil 
futures so anyone foolish enough to try will meet the same fate as those 
who tried to corner other markets, like the Bass brothers who lost 
billions  when they failed to corner the silver futures market in the 

> - The alternatives that will come up during the next couple of years 
> will be fragile - fuel cells technology will have to mature enough to 
> support engines with greater usable times than 200 - 400 hours before 
> replacement, battery technology will have to catch up to support large 
> scale production of high capacity and safe batteries for electric cars 
> and the issue on ethanol is covered already.

All true but you have to start somewhere. Early gasoline-powered cars 
were not particularly reliable either. These alternative technologies 
will improve over time and not necessarily in a linear or predictable 
fashion. This does not even take into account the "next big thing" that 
is still a gleam in someone's eye today. Perhaps the problem with all 
the alternatives is that they don't change the paradigm. To take an 
extreme example, if quantum teleportation were not the stuff of science 
fiction, why would we need cars? I'm not suggesting that cars will (or 
will not) be replaced by quantum teleportation. I'm suggesting that 
something equally incredible could change the course of history. We just 
don't know what that is yet.

> - If I would buy a car today then it would be a diesel - and a diesel 
> that is certified for running biodiesel. Unfortunately the latest cars 
> with particle filters are not certified for using biodiesel - only some 
> brands supporting EU 3 classification can run 100% biodiesel. One source 
> for biodiesel that does not compete with food production and gives a 
> large number of positive side effects is jathropha - a bush that can 
> grow on soils that are not suitable for most other vegetation, demands 
> relatively less water and which fruits not only supply vegetable oil of 
> high quality but also eatable "waste products" after extraction of the 
> oil. The remnant products from the fruits can be used for feeding cattle 
> or other livestock, the bush give cover for the soil (preventing 
> erosion), can be used to hinder expansion of deserts and other parts of 
> the bush and the fruits can be used for other products as well. One can 
> invest in jathropha - www.biofuel.no.

I'd never heard of jatropha <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jatropha> 
before. It sounds interesting and it probably could grow here but I 
wouldn't be surprised if it would be considered an invasive species.

> - One large contribution one can give to lower the CO2 - contribution is 
> to avoid eating meat - especially beef from cows and bulls. This due to 
> the fact that this livestock generates a lot of methane - a climate 
> change gas that is about 20 times stronger than CO2. 100 g of beef 
> generates in total about 25 kgs of climate change gasses - and of more 
> than half is related to the growing up of the cow and the methane it 
> generates during its lifetime. Then is the issue of what the cow eats - 
> if it is not grass while "strolling around" then that production of feed 
> for the cow generates about a quarter of the production of climate 
> change gasses for the cow. CO2 from transportation in both consumer 
> layer and the production / distribution layer has a relatively small 
> impact. So look more at eating chicken if you are to eat meat...

Perhaps we should just wipe out the human race to eliminate this deadly 
"climate change" gas we produce too. We'd have a perfect "Mother Earth" 

> - A pig generates about 10 times more feces than a human. Eating port 
> thus generates a lot of problems for the environment - not only methane 
> generation but also threats to ground water aquifers and water supply etc.
> - Isolation of houses can contribute a lot - one can isolate against 
> heat in the same way as one can isolate against cold. Chilled air can be 
> maintained more in well isolated houses than not-so isolated ones. And 
> one great cost in the future will be air conditioning. And one might 
> look into new ways of cooling ones house - it will be warmer in the 
> future.  In about 100 years time it is estimated that the Mediterranean
> area of Europe will have the same climatic zone as northern Africa has 
> today. This will present extreme problems for the populations in that 
> region and one will have to really re-think how one will modify 
> buildings, urban planning etc  since one cannot be dependent on 
> additional cheap energy. I think you will have the same problem in the 
> US and other areas of the world.

If the "climate change" cult is right, Ontario will become a very 
temperate place to live all year round so I say "Bring on the climate 
change!" :) I recall many scientists being on a "The next Ice Age is 
coming!" bandwagon in the mid '70s. What happened to them, I wonder?

Clifford Ilkay
Dinamis Corporation
1419-3266 Yonge St.
Toronto, ON
Canada  M4N 3P6

+1 416-410-3326

More information about the omnisdev-en mailing list