Wrap Up

As my early gift to you all, a few stories to help you while away your last workday before Christmas:

The Energy Bill was signed into law yesterday morning, so a decade from now cars will be more fuel efficient, appliances will be more energy efficient, and we’ll be driving more on ethanol. I remain less than thrilled about the final draft, but hey, it’s better than the Energy Bill we used to have. ZDnet reports on what the legislation will and won’t do, and what it means to regular people.

Toshiba is installing one of their tiny nuclear reactors next year in Japan. It would fit in my living room with room left over for a sofa or two, and provides energy for half what it costs to pull it from the grid here in America. They’re billed as “fail-safe” and “totally automatic”, which is always what people say in those sci-fi stories about three paragraphs before the thing fails catastrophically. Before we get all NIMBY (or rather, NIMLivingRoom) about it, let’s take a deep breath and remember that nuclear power is the most inexpensive, reliable, efficient source of renewable energy out there right now, except for that whole thing where we have no idea how to deal with the long-lived and very dangerous spent fuel. Actually, why haven’t I been writing more about nuclear power? It’s pretty interesting. Chew on this, and I’ll have more later.

Finally, click around this Wired slideshow on 2007’s “10 Craziest Ways to Hack the Planet”. In pictures and short summaries, they detail how a few scientists are proposing radical solutions for fixing environmental problems. Not enough agricultural space? Build skyscraper farms. Too much sunlight warming us up? Let’s seed the sky with clouds/shoot giant mirrors into space. Environment not soaking up enough carbon? Let’s invent new kinds of trees or fertilize plankton! Some proposals are interesting in their just-crazy-enough-to-work panache, but a few hit that why-would-anyone-ever-consider-that-ever chord. At the end, the scientists all throw back their heads and laugh maniacally. Not really, but they do end on perhaps the craziest- and only ongoing- world hack of all: our effort to change the balance of the planet by dumping gimongonourmous amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

I’ll be away for a while for the holiday, so have a good one.

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