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Korean government seeks endless, non-harmful energy source
Ko Kyoung-tae, The Korean Herald
In "The Hydrogen Economy," a best-seller written by Jeremy Rifkin, the author envisions the dawn of a new economy powered by hydrogen as a "forever fuel" that will end the fossil-fuel era.
The renowned U.S. economist said hydrogen never runs out and produces no harmful pollutants, freeing people from a looming oil shortage and global warming crisis.
As the fossil fuel-based global economy is increasingly threatened by soaring oil prices and environmental degradation, Korea - the world's third largest oil importer - is increasingly looking to hydrogen fuel cell development as a solution to the problems.
...Despite recent technological innovations and the eagerness of domestic companies and the administration, Korea still lags far behind advanced economies in fuel cell development and commercialization.
...Some environmentalists, however, raise concerns over the prevalent optimistic views among developers and bureaucrats about the fuel cell business.
Kim Yeon-ji, an activist with the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, asserted hydrogen cannot be a fundamental alternative to fossil fuel.
"Actually, hydrogen is not an energy source, but an energy carrier largely dependent on fossil fuels such as natural gas," she said.
She claimed it is prohibitively costly to develop marketable fuel cell products, adding that it is estimated to take 40-50 years for them to reach widespread commercial acceptance.
"Recyclable energy sources such as solar heat, geothermal heat, wind power and bio mass are much more economical and feasible alternatives to fossil fuel," she added.
(4 November 2005)
Building roads won't fix transportation woes
Michael Testerman, Roanoke Times (Virginia)
Virginia needs straight talk on roads.
Ronald Kosh of AAA posits these data: "In the 1990s, Virginia's population grew by 11 percent. . .but the number of cars on the road increased by 22 percent. Even more problematic, the number of vehicle miles traveled rose by 32 percent."
These astonishing numbers deserve our most strident attention. Kosh has evidently given them much consideration, as he concludes we must "immediately devote the resources needed to expand and improve Virginia's highways."
While the data may be indisputable, I think an alternative conclusion might be more in order.
The recent history of our nation's transportation patterns, primarily over the last 50 years, has emphasized automobile travel to the near-total exclusion of other means. For almost any trip -- to the store for some milk, Kevin's soccer practice, Sally's dance lesson, Tom's Kiwanis meeting, vacation at the beach or Granny's house in Richmond -- chances are you use your car.
Transportation has always driven the design of communities. Today's vast highway network, combined with a seemingly endless supply of affordable fuel, has transformed our communities from tightly packed, pedestrian-friendly cities to endless sprawl development. Cars dominate our lives in significant ways and virtually no construction, either residential or commercial, is done without addressing the needs of cars ahead of people.
Today's suburban development, according to social critic William Howard Kunstler, represents "the greatest misallocation of resources in human history."
(3 November 2005)
Beijing lowers thermostats to avoid energy crunch
BEIJING - China's capital will keep thermostats at a maximum 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) this winter to avoid another energy crunch, the Beijing News said on Friday.
Last winter, Beijing halted gas supplies to some industries and homes and asked hotels and office buildings to lower their heating dials after demand outstripped supply from Beijing's only source, PetroChina.
The city has 300,000 tonnes of coal in store for this winter, but heating systems in most modern office and apartment blocks are gas powered.
...Beijing is forecast to nearly triple its use of natural gas to 8.5 billion cubic metres a year by 2014 as it battles to clear its often smoggy skies.
(4 November 2005)
Sea-based windmills could blunt eyesore criticisms
Alister Doyle, Reuters via ENN
OSLO — A novel windmill floating on the high seas is likely to generate electricity from 2007 in a shift from land-based turbines often denounced as eyesores, Norwegian energy group Norsk Hydro said on Wednesday.
Out of sight over the horizon, parks of non-polluting windmills could eventually supply power to coastal cities or to offshore oil and gas platforms anywhere from the North Sea to the Gulf of Mexico.
Hydro said it aimed to go ahead with a project to build a prototype -- an upright steel and concrete tube about 200 metres (660 feet) high with 80 metres jutting above the water and rotor blades 60 metres long -- after successful laboratory tests.
Some nations have parks of windmills that stand in shallow waters offshore but none have windmills far from land. Hydro said that it had been measuring wind conditions over 30 years of North Sea drilling.
(4 November 2005)