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Ford researchers looking at algae as a potenial biofuel

There's been a lot of buzz about algae as an alternative biofuel. Several business and university researchers are looking at algae's potential as a viable alternative to fossil fuel. And earlier this year, the House of Representatives introduced the Green Jobs Act of 2010, which offers investment tax credits for algae-based biorefineries.

Now researchers at Ford are looking into algae as a fuel source, the company announced.

"Algae have some very desirable characteristics as a potential biofuel feedstock and Ford wants to show its support any efforts that could lead to a viable, commercial-scale application of this technology," said Sherry Mueller, research scientist at Ford Motor Company. "At this point, algae researchers are still challenged to find economical and sustainable ways for commercial-scale controlled production and culturing of high oil-producing algae."

Certain species of algae have the ability to convert carbon dioxide to oil, carbohydrates, and other cell components through photosynthesis. Unlike soybeans and corn, algae is incredibly prolific; it can be grown almost anywhere in fresh or saline waters. Algae can also be grown year-round--there's no harvest season.

Earlier this year Ford researchers visited Wayne State University's National Biofuels Energy Laboratory, which is looking at suitable algae strains that could be used as a feedstock for biodiesel. Researchers at Ford's Systems Analytics and Environmental Sciences Department are also looking into other bio-based fuel alternatives such as ethanol and butanol, the company said.

"Ford has a long history of developing vehicles that run on renewable fuels; and the increased use of biofuels is an important element of our sustainability strategy now and moving forward," Tim Wallington, technical leader with the Ford Systems Analytics and Environmental Sciences Department said in a news release. "We look ahead from a technological, economic, environmental, and social standpoint at potential next-generation renewable fuels that could power our vehicles."

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Understanding the Electric Car Motor

Written by Akweli Parker from HowStuffWorks.com.

After many false starts and a lot of -- forgive the expression -- resistance from major automakers, it appears as if mass-produced electric automobiles are ready to make significant inroads on the roadways.

But with the internal combustion engine claiming nearly a century of market dominance, much of the driving public is clueless about how electric motors operate -- are they complicated? Are they safe? Thus, we present this brief guide to Understanding the Electric Car Motor.

Electric Car Motor Parts

Electric car motors work pretty much like any other electric motor. The motor itself consists of a field magnet, with north and south poles, an armature, commutator, and brushes (and very often, no brushes, as brushless motors last longer). A battery or set of batteries, when connected, turn the motor into an electromagnet.

In addition, a controller is a computerized device that allows you to determine the rate and level of energy application, similar in effect to a throttle on a gasoline engine.


How the Parts Work

Two stationary, oppositely charged magnets sit in a steel drum -- this is the field magnet. The armature, which consists of wound wiring, a commutator, and (sometimes) brushes, sits on an axle within the drum assembly. As an electrical charge is sent through the armature, it becomes an electromagnet, and spins as its ends are repelled and attracted to the poles of the field magnet. To keep this rotation going, the polarity of the charge must be reversed. In a motor with brushes, the brushes accomplish this. In a brushless motor, the parts are laid out somewhat differently and a computer controls the action.

The bottom line is that this assembly rotates about an axle at very high RPM and can be hooked up to power the wheels of an automobile.

As you can perhaps tell, electric car motors are considerably simpler than their internal combustion counterparts. There is no need for fuel lines or tanks or an exhaust system in a completely electric vehicle. And since there are so few moving parts compared to an internal combustion engine, electrics are highly efficient users of energy.

It's estimated that electric motors are able to convert about 80 percent of the energy they generate into usable forward motion. Gasoline engines typically only muster 15 percent efficiency. Where does that power go? It gets lost in the myriad movements of a gasoline engine's parts and in idling, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Electric cars used to be the pre-dominant vehicles on the roads -- back in the early 1900s, before they were elbowed out by the internal combustion engine. They've been dismissed by major automakers throughout the decades. But with worries about emissions mounting and of fossil fuels running out, it may very well be their time once again.


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Hydrogen Fuel Cell vs. Cars Electric Cars

Written by Christopher Lampton from HowStuffWorks.com.

Most people know by now what an electric car is. It?s a car that runs on a battery-powered electric motor. Unlike most cars on the road today, it lacks an internal combustion engine and uses electricity as its fuel rather than gasoline. Because it doesn?t burn fossil fuels to make itself run, it doesn?t produce any pollution while it?s in operation. This, at least in theory, makes electric cars a very green form of transportation.

But what in the world is a hydrogen fuel cell car? It?s also a kind of electric car. It runs on a motor powered by electricity. What makes it different from a battery-electric vehicle (or BEV) is where the electricity comes from. Instead of a battery, a hydrogen fuel cell car has, well, a hydrogen fuel cell. This is a device that takes hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, and generates electricity from it while the car is running. In effect, a hydrogen fuel cell is a kind of battery that makes electricity on the fly.

Drive 100 Miles for 1 Dollar of Electricity

To see how this works, let?s take a quick refresher course in high school chemistry. (Don?t worry; we?ll make this as painless as possible.) Hydrogen is the smallest, lightest atom in existence. A standard-issue hydrogen atom consists of two things: a proton (which has a positive electric charge) and an electron (which has a negative electric charge). The hydrogen fuel cell strips these two things apart, so that the electrons are free to go their own way and become the electricity that runs the car?s motor. (Electricity Is nothing more a continuous flow of electrons.) Meanwhile, the proton becomes a hydrogen ion -- that is, a hydrogen atom with a positive electric charge -- and will bond together with any oxygen atoms in the vicinity to form water. (Water ? or H2O as the chemistry geeks call it ? is nothing more than two hydrogen ions with an oxygen atom attached.) This process releases a lot of heat, so the water becomes steam and the steam becomes the exhaust of the hydrogen fuel cell.

The great thing ? and the green thing ? about both electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell cars is that they don?t produce any pollution at the tailpipe (unless you consider the steam being produced by the hydrogen fuel cell to be a form of pollution). So no matter whether you decide to buy an electric car or a hydrogen fuel cell car (though the latter isn?t likely to be widely available to customers for quite a few years yet), you?ll be helping to save the earth?s atmosphere, right?

Well, not exactly. While neither type of car produces pollution at the tailpipe, they both have the potential to produce pollution when their ?fuel? is created. The fuel that an electric car runs on is electricity (which is used to charge the batteries) and the fuel that a hydrogen fuel cell car runs on is hydrogen (which is used to generate electricity). That electricity and that hydrogen have to come from somewhere. The electricity will mostly come from power plants that in the majority of cases are burning fossil fuels to produce that electricity and those fossil fuels will cause the same pollution that the electric car is intended to avoid. The hydrogen for the fuel cell vehicle will most likely be produced in the future by electrolysis, which involves passing electricity through water. And that electricity will come from the same potentially polluting sources as the electricity used to charge the electric car?s batteries.

The truth is, electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell cars both have the potential to be wonderfully non-polluting forms of transportation, but to make them truly green we?ll need to move away from methods of producing electricity that burn fossil fuels. Instead of burning coal to generate electricity, we?ll need to concentrate on environmentally clean methods like hydropower, solar power, wind power and nuclear power, which produce little or no polluting emissions. When the day comes that most of our electricity comes from these sources, the electric car and the hydrogen fuel cell car will both be nearly perfect forms of green, non-polluting transportation.


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Driving a manual transmission vehical Save gas

The simple truth is Manual Transmission vehical's get better milage than automatics.  EPA estimats to show this is true.

A 2008 Honda Civic

Automatic: City - 21, Highway - 31

Manual: City - 22, Highway - 31

A small gain but there.  These are probly not the best examples of the diffrance and as with all things the diffrence will varry with car and driving habits ,but the manual transmision will give better gas milage and performance for the life of the vehicle This is because a automatic transmision has losses such as the torque convirter that a manual transmison does not. A manual transmision can be 5%-10% more fuel efficient (the Epa's testing does not acount for driver habits). It also responds better to changes in driving habits since the driver is in more control and not a computer controled transmision(as with most automatics) made to please everyone from the wanabe racer to a fuel milage minded driver or the grandma that cares about nothing but the smoothest possiable shifts meaning no one is perfectly happy , but with a manual the driver controls the charcterists of the car. The maunal transmision is normaly cheaper to buy and has and incredibly long life (1979 ford 150 350,000 miles no transmision work, ford tarus sho 230,000 miles no transmision work ,both still running) vs. and automatic (1992 Pontiac Transport Minivan, transmision failure at 180,000 miles). Manual transmisions also weigh less than automatics and less weight means more fuel milage and better performance.You can save money and the environment while having more fun driving. Who said green means slow and boring? Do yourself and the world a favor buy a car with a manual transmision. Its just going to be harder to multi-task so stop that to become a safer driver. The link below reinforces the above text.

2008 Ford Mustang with the v6 engine

Automatic: City - 16, Highway - 24

Manual: City - 17, Highway - 26

The v8 only gains one mile per gallon with the manual on the highway but that is still a gain.

If all cars in the United States had manual transmisions then we would use about 38 million gallons a day less then we do now. That is 760 million pounds of CO2 It is a rough estimate and does not acount for manual cars on the road but does hint at the potintial. At the adverave number of miles an American drives, 16,500 miles at 25 Miles per gallon in an automatic would use 660 gallons of gas and produce 13200 pounds of CO2. While the same car with a 10% effincy boost would get about 27.5 Mpg, use 600 gallons of gas and produce 12000 pounds of CO2, saving 60 gallons of fuel and 1200 pounds of CO2 just from shifting your own gears and at $2 a gallon save you $120.

The savings below does not reflect the innital savings of buying the manual transmision car.

reference link: http://centsprout.wordpress.com/2007/12/05/fuel-efficiency-with-a-manu

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Living On The Edge? Being a New York Pedestrian

An ambitious new study by New York's Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) took a look at over 7,000 crashes that occurred in New York City between 2002-2006 and that resulted in the death or serious injury of at least one pedestrian. Its conclusions can help us identify the biggest threats to pedestrians in New York, and by extension, in other big cities. This data will hopefully help NYC and others to make the streets safer.

Walking while being Green may be Hazardous to your Health (at least in New York)!!

What to look out for:
Men seem to be more apt to hitting pedestrians than women. "in 80 percent of city accidents that resulted in a pedestrian's death or serious injury, a male driver was behind the wheel. (Fifty-seven percent of New York City vehicles are registered to men.)" The most dangerous kind of maneuver is the left turn at an intersection, with 3x the risk of a deadly collision compared to a right turn.

Some of the ways to alleviate these issues are to remove parking spaces on the side of the streets in certain places so that drivers doing left turns have better visibility, and to encourage pedestrians to favor sidewalks to the right of moving traffic and to be particularly careful at intersections.

Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons.

Here are a few other key findings of the study:

Traffic fatalities in 2009 were down by 35% from 2001.Traffic crashes cost the City?s economy $4.29 billion annually.Pedestrians are 10 times more likely to die than a motor vehicle occupant in the event of a crash.NYC?s traffic fatality rate is about a quarter of the national rate and less than half the rate in the next 10 largest U.S. cities.Driver inattention was cited in nearly 36% of crashes resulting in pedestrians killed or seriously injured.27% of fatal pedestrian crashes involved driver failure to yield.Pedestrian-vehicle crashes involving unsafe speeds are twice as deadly as other crashes.80% of crashes that kill or seriously injure pedestrians involve male drivers.79% of crashes that kill or seriously injure pedestrians involve private vehicles, not taxis, trucks and buses.Most New Yorkers do not know the city?s standard speed limit is 30 m.p.h.

But page 7 (pdf) of the report puts things in perspective: New York isn't particularly dangerous for pedestrians, ranking near Copenhagen and Portland, but it isn't as safe as it could be. Cities like Stockholm and Berlin have 2-3 times fewer fatalities per capita, and that should be the target.



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Join the Greenpeace Call to Facebook: Unfriend Coal

Facebook is changing its carbon footprint it is planning to power their new data center in Oregon with coal.

Facebook is also not giveing people the option to like or unlike that plan, so Greenpeace is doing so instead.

Greenpeace is inviting people to join Facebook protest groups that call on the social networking site to "drop coal and commit to 100 percent renewable energy, cutting its carbon footprint and helping in the struggle to prevent catastrophic climate change."

From Greenpeace:

Facebook can control where it builds its infrastructure; the power purchasing agreements it enters into; and how it uses its brand's power to advocate for strong policies that promote clean energy. Given all of the control Facebook does have, it can make a commitment to phase out coal and show the rest of the IT sector that it can be done...

At current growth rates data centers and telecommunication networks, the two key components of the cloud Facebook depends on, will consume about 1,963 billion kilowatts hours of electricity in 2020. That's more than triple their current consumption and more than the current electricity consumption of France, Germany, Canada and Brazil combined.

Visit Greenpeace to learn more or join the call on Facebook to clean up its environmental record.


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Swedish general election strengthens the Greens

Peter Eriksson and Maria Wetterstrand, political leaders of the Greens in Sweden, during a conference earlier this year.

If you have been reading this blog for a while now you probably know that last night it was election time in Sweden. This was an election with clear differences between the different political sides. The right-wing government (see explanation of the different political parties in Sweden below) who have been heavily criticized for their awful climate wrecking track record was up against a redgreen coalition including Sweden’s biggest political party the Social Democrats, the smaller Left Party and the Green Party. Unfortunately when the election night was over the right-wing government had received a majority of the votes and it seems that they will be able to remain in power. But none of the two main political blocks gained a majority of the votes.

This means that the climate was the big loser in this election as the current governments climate policy have been called a failure by heavy environmental organisations and even won greenwash awards.

But nonetheless the Greens in Sweden managed to get 7,2% of the votes, or 25 of the 349 seats in the parliament. The best election result ever for the Greens in Sweden. This is an 2% increase since the last election and it results in the Greens becoming the third major political force in Sweden.

Monica Frassoni and Philippe Lamberts, Co-Spokespersons for the European Greens, said in a statement that:

"This is an excellent result for the Swedish Greens and we would like to congratulate the Greens’ leaders, Maria Wetterstrand and Peter Eriksson, and all the party’s activists and staff, for waging a strong and positive campaign which appealed to a large part of the Swedish electorate."

"We know that the Swedish Greens will continue to focus on real solutions to the problems currently facing Sweden and will fight hard for environmental sustainability including increased investment in renewables rather than dangerous and inefficient nuclear power, the Green New Deal and an economy that serves citizens’ interests."

If you want you can learn more about the Swedish Greens over at the European Greens website.

But another very tragic and sad effect of the election yesterday night is that Sweden now has joined the many other European countries with far-right extremist parties in their parliaments. The Swedish Democrats, which is a political party based on racist and nazi values, gained a shocking 5.7% of the votes, or 20 of the 349 seats in the Swedish parliament. So it’s a very sad day for democracy in Sweden as well as around Europe that these dark forces gains more and more power.

The election result is still very uncertain as none of the two main political blocks gained majority. So we will have to wait and see until at the end of this week how the new political landscape in Sweden will look like.


Government (right/centre-right):
Moderates (M)
Centre Party (C)
Liberal Party (FP)
Christian Democrats (KD)

Opposition (left/centre-left):
Social Democrats (S)
Green Party (MP)
Left Party (V)

Opposition (extreme far-right):
Swedish Democrats (SD)

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Go Green - Save Green - 125 Secrets - How To Save Money By Going Green

Make a difference and help the environment in the least costly way possible. Discover how "125 Secrets - How To Save Money By Going Green!" puts money in Your pocket and helps to protect the environment too.

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The 'Hockey Stick' Lives

Two new studies support conclusions related to a graph prepared by a prominent climatologist.Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Two new studies support conclusions related to a graph prepared by a prominent climatologist.Green: Science

Few images in the climate change debate have stirred as much controversy as the storied “hockey stick” graph, which shows average temperatures in the northern hemisphere holding roughly steady for 900 years or so, until the 20th century, when they rise sharply.

First unveiled in 1998 by a paleoclimatologist, Michael Mann, the graph became an icon of global warming after it was featured in the summary of a crucial report by a United Nations climate panel from 2001. A version also appeared in the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”

The validity of Dr. Mann’s graph has been under attack by climate skeptics ever since, with some contrarians going so far as to claim that data was deliberately manipulated or omitted to produce its signature shape.

(A 2006 report by the National Research Council endorsed most, but not all, of Dr. Mann’s findings, which he later refined.)

“The label was always a caricature, and it became a stick to beat us with,” Dr. Mann said later, according to The Guardian newspaper.

Yet while the attacks continue, the “hockey stick” graph’s basic premise — that the planet’s recent warming is unprecedented over at least the last millennium — continues to draw support from a growing number of independent studies.

Two new studies bolstering the “hockey stick” hypothesis were published just recently. One that appeared this month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters analyzed seashell deposits on the North Atlantic seafloor and determined that 20th-century warming in the region “had no equivalent during the last thousand years.”

Another study, in The Journal of Geophysical Research, analyzed ice cores from glaciers in the eastern Bolivian Andes dating back to 400 A.D.

“The last decades of the past millennium are characterized again by warm temperatures that seem to be unprecedented in the context of the last 1,600 years,” the researchers concluded.

A study published in September 2009 in the journal Science, meanwhile, found that temperatures in the Arctic in the last decade were likely warmer than any time since the birth of Christ.

The findings, which drew on the work of 30 researchers from six countries, analyzed lake sediment cores, glacial ice and tree-ring records and refuted the theory proposed by some skeptics that the recent warming was the result of small changes in the Earth’s axis of rotation.

Rather, it found that man-made emissions had in fact reversed a slow pattern of cooling caused by an orbital shift that began two millenniums ago.

“It’s basically saying the greenhouse gas emissions are overwhelming the system,” David Schneider, a climatologist and one of the study’s co-authors, said at the time.

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A Picture is Worth… How our economy is killing the planet

The graph below clearly shows that something is seriously wrong with our economy. Our overconsumption and fixation for more and more growth is killing our planet. You can click on the image to see it in more detail or explore the data behind the graphs here.

How our economy is killing the Earth

The graphs comes from New Scientist who recently did a special report on how our economy is killing the earth. In the report several “key thinkers from politics, economics and philosophy” gave their opinions about why they disagree with the current growth dogma. They write:

“Most of us accept the need for a more sustainable way to live, by reducing carbon emissions, developing renewable technology and increasing energy efficiency.

But are these efforts to save the planet doomed? A growing band of experts are looking at figures like these and arguing that personal carbon virtue and collective environmentalism are futile as long as our economic system is built on the assumption of growth. The science tells us that if we are serious about saving Earth, we must reshape our economy.”

Unfortunately you need to be a New Scientist subscriber to be able to read the actual articles.

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