Thomas Edison, 1931: "I’d Put My Money on Solar"

OK, I’m about to cry…

In 1931, not long before he died, the [Edison] told his friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone: “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”


That, from the New York Times Magazine, is the conclusion of an excellent article on the Clean Green Thinking of America’s most famous inventor, Thomas Edison. You can read the whole article here, but the gist is that Edison worked on various green initiatives, including electric cars, wind turbines, and an off-the-grid home in New Jersey that the New York Times then called "utterly and for all time independent of the nearness or farness of the big electric companies."

From this, I learn two things. First, apparently "farness" used to be a word. Second, our reliance on cheap fossil fuels has created a kind of stagnation in the energy industry that is pretty depressing. It’s just as Edison feared, we’ve had to wait until oil and coal are running out to tackle the abundant renewable energy created by our natural environment. He wasn’t an environmentalist, so don’t let the New York Times fool you there, but he knew a good idea when he saw one. And now, finally, we’re moving forward once again.

TXTing Fuels Chinese Green Revolution

One million text messages. That’s how residents of China’s port city of Xiamen spread word to protest — and eventually halt — construction of a chemical plant on Thursday. The $1.4 billion facility was meant to produce the petrochemical paraxylene, exposure to which can cause eye, nose or throat irritation, affect the central nervous system and may cause death. Though international standards dictate that such a plant should be 100 km from the nearest city, the short text messages that mobilized Xiamen’s smart mob warned the factory would have been only 16 km away.

While the central government is clearly showing more interest in protecting the environment, local governments, eager to cut corners in the name of economics, are helping block the path to sustainable development. But the Xiamen protests, thousands of people strong, are the latest sign of people power in China, where tens of thousands of protests over tainted land and water are recorded every year, threatening the government’s dream of a "harmonious society" while pointing the way forward for environmental action in a place that seriously needs some.

That local officials in Xiamen reportedly began blocking text messages too in an attempt to stem the protests, and that the protests continued apace, is an indication that, try as it might, China’s authoritarian controls simply can’t keep up with the power of cell phones blogs, bulletin boards, and the smartmobs they might create. (Local governments are getting into the SMS act themselves, using text messages to warn citizens of floods and even stop protests.)

Clearly, stopping protests just isn’t possible the way it used to be. Between increasing countryside unrest (there may be nothing scarier to the government) and deadly pollution (China’s rural cancer rate rose by 23 percent in the past two years, and more than 70 percent of the country’s waterways and 90 percent of its underground water are contaminated ) something’s gotta give.

Since the plant’s not been completely scrapped, residents are still protesting, according to Reuters. And the more word spreads, the more likely it is that protests will continue elsewhere too. An large expansion of a chemical plant in the southeastern city of Quanzhou that produces paraxylene and other chemicals was announced in March, funded by China’s No. 2 oil company, Sinopec, Saudi Aramco, and ExxonMobil Corp. Paraxylene is a key material in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) saturated polyester polymers — the stuff of which the world’s plastic bottles are made.

Via SFGate and Asia Sentinel

Sun Power Your Hybrid for $2000

Much like the roofs of houses and warehouses, a car roof is just empty space, so why not hook up some solar cells to the latest hybrids? Solar Electrical Vehicles is looking to do just that with a solar roof module for hybrid cars. The cost is about $2000-$4000 for a supplemental battery and solar module rated at 200-300 watts. For the Prius this adds up to 20 miles per day of electric mode driving with higher-capacity batteries adding another 10 miles.

Modules in production work with the Toyota Prius, Highlander and RAV4 EV, Ford Escape Hybrid and Dodge Sprinter Hybrid. In the future they hope to integrate them with Teslas and upgrade to a 320-watt module, up from 212-watts currently.

While not adding a whole lot of economic benefit to hybrid cars, it’s an easy solution for people looking to squeeze more juice out of them. Unlike solar additions in homes, hybrid cars have the technology already built in to benefit from a solar add-on making them a simple installation.

Via: Treehugger