ESL (the lightbulb, not the language)

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For several years, LEDs were supposed to be the next big thing in consumer lighting, and they're still coming.

But a post this week at GreenDaily touts Electron Stimulated Luminescence as a quicker comer. They are supposed to be equivalent to CFLs in cost and lifespan, but to overcome two of their shortcomings: They use no mercury, and are dimmable.

Has the future of LEDs arrived?

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Eric Taub of the Times has a story this morning saying that the coming age of LED lights is just about here, but I don't know if he hit it just right.

The story touches the usual points about LEDs — very expensive, but lasts longer, has no mercury, and can generate any color — but on the question of white-light intensity, he devotes no more than an aside: "L.E.D. bulbs, with their brighter light and longer life, have already replaced..."

A blast of fresh idea

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At a semi-indy movie theater chain I frequent, they use old-mode hand dryers in the bathrooms (well, in the men's room, at least), the ones that are ineffective but noisy. Signs on them attempt to blunt what must be a common plaint: "We don't like them either, but they're the best devices for the environment." Or something like that. I haven't done any of the math, but I'm willing to accept that the chain owners have — more willing, anyway, than if it was Sony or AMC or one of the other moo-vie conglomerates.

Trash to energy

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The idea of getting energy from waste has been around at least 30 years, when I covered the periphery of a bid for a trash-burning plant in northeastern Ohio. But it was, at best, an immature plan at that time, and still today is a poor solution for resource efficiency.

Flue gas in, methane out

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That's the idea presented this morning by Stephen Jewell of Composite Energy Ltd, a UK firm. They are investigating whether it can be profitable to inject flue gases into the coal stratum underground, with the dual advantages of forcing out the methane that is found in coal deposits, which can then be burned, while depositing CO2 in its place.

Cynara cardunculus, the miracle weed?

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It is a weed, also known as cardoon, also known at artichoke thistle. It has been around long enough that Homer cited it in the Iliad, as a fuel, no less. That is, according to Nicolas Danalatos of the University of Thessaly in Greece, who touted it as a prime source of biofuel.

Among its benefits, he pointed out that it needs no weed killers, "because it is a weed." He said it also requires no pesticides, will grow without irrigation, and is a perennial. He said in diesel equivalence, it costs one fifth the price.

The big payoff

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Even among those of us who want to be part of the solution to global climate change, there is a lot of confusion on how to get there. Buy a Prius? Put a solar cell on the roof? Grow your own vegetables? All helpful ideas, but is any of those the best way to proceed?

The problem, of course, is that there is no one right answer. It's true that if you take one of those actions, you'll likely be helping. But we're on a deadline here: The level considered safe is 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and we're already at 385 and growing by 2 ppm a year.


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