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Ask the EcoGeek: Walking Worse than Drivng? NO!

I just saw a kinda disturbing article on and wondered what you would think of it. Could walking really be worse of the environment than driving?


When I read your question, I assumed that there was no way the article had any credibility... that it was written by an angsty high school student who was sick of people telling him what to do. But I was wrong, and that is scary.

Someone took the results of get viagra in canada a scientific study on how inefficient our food production system is, did some really bad math, and then found themselves a glorious headline that would send shock waves throughout the blogosphere. You could call it sensationalism...I just call it evil.

Here's the "scientific" basis for their thesis:
"Driving a typical UK car for 3 miles [4.8km] adds about 0.9 kg of CO2 to the levitra dosage atmosphere ... If you walked instead, it would use about 180 calories. You'd need about 100g of beef to replace those calories, resulting in 3.6kg of emissions, or four times as much as driving."

Now I hope we can all see some gaping holes here, but maybe not all of them at first glance. So let's go through the five I came up with one by one.

Most obviously, this assumes that 100% of the calories we use to walk come from beef. Actually roughly 75% of the calories most people burn come from plants (usually in the form of carbohydrates.) Plant calories are much less energy intensive to create. This leaves out Atkins dieters...but I hope they're offset by vegetarians.  

Ask the EcoGeek: Can I Have My EV Now?

Dear EcoGeek,
Who killed the electric car? Seriously, why can't I buy one yet and when will I be able to?

Alan Carney
Dallas, Texas

Hey Alan, Much love to the people who made Who Killed the Electric Car, because they got a lot of stuff right. It wasn't any one person, corporation or technicality that killed the EV1. As with all product failures it was a combination of tons of factors.

The reason major auto companies aren't making electric vehicles look like this. First, Americans were looking for SUVs, not ultralights. Second, the technology was primitive, the biggest problem being that batteries could only take cars a hundred miles before they needed to spend hours at a charging station. Third, major car companies were too foolish to see that, in the next decade, electric cars could quickly become technologically viable and extremely appealing, so the abandoned their projects completely.


Ask the EcoGeek: Durable Bio-Plastics

Dear EcoGeek,
Have there been any developments in the pursuit of sustainable, cost-effective alternatives to plastics? I am aware of the recent gains in using corn starch to produce biodegradible plastics (chocolate candy trays, shopping bags, etc.), but what about durable goods such as toolboxes, exercise equipment, or any other product made from plastic that is designed to last.
Thanks for your time and expertise.

Hey Jim,
It does seem a bit silly that we wouldn't solve two problems at once here. I mean, as long as we're removing oil from the process, why don't we move away from our foolish disposable-everything culture as well?

But this all becomes more clear if we ask a different question. Instead of “why aren't there durable bio-plastics?” we should first ask “what's wrong with durable petro-plastics?” Lets start by listing the brand viagra over the net reasons why oil sucks.

Ask the EcoGeek: Green Driving at Six Feet Tall

I'm considering purchasing a 2007 Mercedes Bluetec e320 Diesel. My question is "Is this car really green?"

My 04 Prius has 60k miles and is worse for wear and I'm too tall to comfortably drive it any longer. I can't help but think the Bluetec is a step in reverse for me personally and that I really want to move forward with a Plug-in Hybrid or full EV, but no options exist. I'm tired of driving a constrictive tiny car built for the 95% of Japanese people, I'm not willing to generic viagra softabs accept a hybrid SUV, the notion is ridiculous. I want 50mpg+! and I want to stop BURNING fuel. What's my next car?

Hey Lex,

Is the Mercedes Bluetec e320 Diesel green? Well, one thing's for doesn't feel as green as a Prius. Unfortunately, it's hard to get both the green feeling and the headroom. Green cars aren't small because they're built for Japanese people, they're small because to be efficient, cars need to be light, and present a low profile to the 70 mph winds that constantly buffet highway cars.

Of course, that's one reason why diesels are an intriguing option. They may not seem green, but they do provide more power while producing less CO2. The e320 Diesel is a great car, and while you might not look green, you will look good while getting almost 40 mpg. The carbon savings are there, but, you're absolutely right, it's a step backwards from a Prius.

The real question is, what are the options for folks who want efficiency as well as comfort. Unfortunately, for a real choice, you're going to have to go small or wait. I seriously would suggest halving your budget and going to your Honda and low cost alternatives to viagra Toyota dealerships to united healthcare viagra check out the Fit, the Yaris, the Civic, the Altima and even the viagra from canada Corolla. These cars aren't really built for the same markets as a $50,000 BluTec Benz, but while your friends might think you're crazy, they won't when you tell them how much you spend on gas.

If the second option, waiting, sounds more pleasant, then you might very well have some nice options coming down the pipe. The 2008 Prius will have a different body, so you might find it more comfortable than the '04. Additionally, the 2009 Prius might very well offer a plug-in version that will allow you realize your dream of not burning fuel anymore. At least until you hit 40 mph. Also, I should mention that the new body is absolutely beautiful.

Into the 2010s I promise you'll start seeing vehicles that will not only burn less (or no) fuel, they will also have folks drooling at the sweetness of your style. Plug-in and hybrid options will start popping onto the market in all shapes and sizes and full EV cars might not be too far away.

I'm afraid those are your options. The ultra-efficient BluTec diesel engines allow for big beautiful cars to get pretty decent gas mileage. I understand wanting to lay your cash down there, if you've got it. But if you really want to look, feel and be green...go small...or wait.

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Ask the EcoGeek: The Energy Cost of Solar

Dear Mr. EcoGeek,
I've heard that it takes more energy to produce photovoltaic cells than the cells will ever produce throughout their lifetime. Is there any truth to that, or are those naysayers just saying nay?

Spokane, WA

Short Answer:
Those naysayers are just saying nay! But that doesn't mean there's not more to this story.

Long Answer:

This myth was probably perpetuated by studying solar panels created for NASA. If you need something extremely efficient for use in outer-space, yes, then it doesn't matter how much energy you use to create the cialis daily uk panel. But for use hear on Earth, it's ridiculous for anyone to say that solar panels consume more energy than they produce.

Of course, doing anything in this world takes energy. Whether it's building power lines or shipping oil from Saudi Arabia, it takes energy to make energy usable. In fact, there's a nifty number that puts all of this into perspective. It's called the “energy balance”, and it is, in short, the amount of energy you get out divided by the energy you put in.

So, for corn ethanol, for example, we get 1.3 units of energy for every 1 unit we put in, so its energy balance is 1.3. Whereas for Brazilian sugar cane ethanol, we get 8 units of energy for every one we put in. As for gasoline, its energy balance is about 5.

So what does this have to do with solar? It is a bit incorrect to apply energy balance to solar panels, because they don't actually contain the energy, so it's not something that I've ever actually seen done. But I think it makes sense to fudge it a bit in light of your question.

Data from a study(pdf) from Energy Environment and Economics Inc. showed that the average solar panel gets five times more energy out than was originally put in. Roughly the same “energy balance” as gasoline. 

Still, no one is satisfied with that number.

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