Sunday, September 16, 2012

Natural gas fuel for vehicles

Because of lower prices for natural gas, the recent discovery of new reserves in North America and the high price of gasoline there is a push towards natural gas powered vehicles.  This topic is covered in a USA Today article Natural gas vehicles get a second look .

CNG United provides information about the pros and cons of coverting a vehicle to compressed natural gas.  The biggest downside is that the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) tank takes up extra space.   The second is an infrastructure problem because there are not many CNG fueling stations.
The current price of natural gas to an equivalent gallon of gas is $0.63 US.   This varies up to $2.00 per gallon.

The most likely application for conversion would be agricultural vehicles and possibly long distance trucks.  Buses would be another quick adapter since they have a specified route and a central fueling station.

According to NGV global News there are plans to add an additional 1,000 plus CNG fueling stations in the US during the next three years. This is a cooperateve venture between DeBartolo Development, along with Keystone Consulting Group, a real estate investment company and Peake Fuel Solutions. 

There is also a push towards having home CNG fueling stations. This is similar to rural areas where there is no piped natural gas and a CNG tank is ues for furnace fuel.  The same tank could be used to fuel vehicles. 


Friday, September 14, 2012

Resilient Communities Project at the U of MN

In an Start Tribune article: U offering Cities a New Partnership to Solve Problems by Kelly Smith students and professors are scaling up sustainability issues from the class and bringing them to communities.  The Resilient communities project at the University of Minnesota is working with the city of  Minnetonka.

Graduate students partner with cities to address issues such as storm water managment, roof top gardens and other projects.  The work is based on the sustainable cities program at the University of Oregon launched in 2009.  The school works with a city for a year on various projects and these are integrated into the curricula.  This is an example of the classes and activities for the city of Springfield, Oregon

A request for proposal (RFP) to partner with the U of MN for fiscal year 2013/2014 will be available in October of 2012. 

 Silver Lake Park, St Anthony, MN - reverse field photo - N. Carlson

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Autodesk Sustainability Workshop

The Autodesk Sustainability Workshop produced some very unique designs for simple objects.  The goal of the class was to redsign common household products to simplify the design, use a sustainable process and make them appear to be old fashioned.

Chen Guo - Salt & pepper shakers

Robert Fish - tape dispenser - single piece of metal
The autodesk group has free software for students interested in design.

Amory Lovins - Integrative design - improving energy efficiency speaking at an Autdesk workshop

For more information about improving engineering design go to the 10xE website at the RIM

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Science-ish accurate health reporting

Julie Belluz  from the Science-ish blog   provides a list of five problems practically applying health research in an article from Macleans.CA.

Reporters sensationalize the research and don't spend enough time to do in depth reporting.  Researchers aren't paid for the time they work with journalists and do not trust them to report the information accurately.  The resultant health policies are not in sync with the best available medical evidence.

I have interviewed people as a student newspaper reporter and have been interviewed by reporters on science topics.  It is difficult to convert technical information into actionable information for the general public.  It is similar to the task of presenting scientific evidence at a trial to a jury.

As I have read articles from other journalists, I am usually let down because they only cover the moment and don't give a historical perspective or don't bring in other information to provide a depth of understanding to the topic.  I've tried to do this with the emerging swine flu H3N2 problem at state and county fairs in the US.

Joel Barker July 11, 2012 U of MN - photo N. Carlson

I attended a talk by Joel Barker as he introduced a The Implications Wheel tool at a workshop on Strategic Exploration - Learning to Explore the Future on July 11, 2012 at the U of MN St. Paul.  The implications wheel allows people to examine the implications of a policy at three degrees of separation from the policy.  Imagine five spokes on a wheel and then five spokes of a single spoke and five more spokes off of a single spoke of the new wheel.  Each spoke in the wheel is a positive, negative or neutral outcome for the policy.

This allows people to see problems with policies before they are implemented.  It works especially well when conducted with a group of diverse backgrounds using the wisdom of crowds.

Linking good science research reporting with the implications of health policy based on that research would go a long way to providing more effective and efficient public health policy.