Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Another Breakthrough in Hydrogen Energy Challenges Fossil Fuel Dominance

Alex Pietrowski, Staff Writer
Waking Times

Researchers at Virginia Tech have developed a new process that extracts large quantities of hydrogen gas from plants in a renewable and eco-friendly way, offering us another potential alternative to ending our dependence on fossil fuels.

After 7 years of research, Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, and his team have developed a new method of using customized enzymes to produce high quantities of hydrogen out of xylose, a simple sugar present in plants.
Zhang and his team have succeeded in using xylose, the most abundant simple plant sugar, to produce a large quantity of hydrogen that previously was attainable only in theory. Zhang’s method can be performed using any source of biomass.
This new environmentally friendly method of producing hydrogen utilizes renewable natural resources, releases almost no zero greenhouse gasses, and does not require costly or heavy metals. Previous methods to produce hydrogen are expensive and create greenhouse gases. [Science Daily]
Hydrogen fuel has the potential to dramatically revolutionize the automobile market and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Vehicle manufacturers are already developing cars that run on hydrogen fuel cells, which do not produce as many pollutants as regular gasoline cars. Currently in the US, the transportation sector produces 82% of total CO2 emissions in the country.

EIA estimates that U.S. gasoline and diesel fuel consumption for transportation in 2011 resulted in the emission of about 1,089 and 430 million metric tons of CO2 respectively, for a total of 1,519 million metric tons of CO2. This total was equivalent to 82% of total CO2 emissions by the U.S. transportation sector and 28% of total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, March 28, 2012
Zhang’s method of hydrogen production will need to find its way into commercial markets, which could happen in about 3 years, before any significant impact on the alternative energy market is possible. Even though Zhang’s process addresses the previous obstacles to hydrogen gas production, including high process costs, greenhouse gas emissions, and low quality of the end product, large investment in technology development and infrastructure would still be necessary to transition to hydrogen fuel cars.
“The potential for profit and environmental benefits are why so many automobile, oil, and energy companies are working on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as the transportation of the future,” Zhang said. “Many people believe we will enter the hydrogen economy soon, with a market capacity of at least $1 trillion in the United States alone.”
“It really doesn’t make sense to use non-renewable natural resources to produce hydrogen,” Zhang said. “We think this discovery is a game-changer in the world of alternative energy.” [Science Daily]
A future where renewable energy replaces energy production using fossil fuels is inevitable. Some have gone as far as to illustrate that we have the potential to make this shift in less than 20 years, for example, Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford University and Mark A. Delucchi of the University of California, published a study that shows it is possible to power New York State using only renewable sources by 2030.

Nevertheless, governments’ support of traditional energy production via fossil fuel subsidies, which amount to $1.9 trillion per year, as reported by the International Monetary Fund, is one of the main obstacles to the growth of alternative energy sources. The IMF estimates that $480 billion of the total is comprised of direct subsidies, which have the goal of making petroleum products more affordable.
A fossil fuel subsidy is any government action that lowers the cost of fossil fuel energy production, raises the price received by energy producers or lowers the price paid by energy consumers. There are a lot of activities under this simple definition—tax breaks and giveaways, but also loans at favorable rates, price controls, purchase requirements and a whole lot of other things. [Oil Change International]
The remaining $1.4 trillion are comprised of “externalities”: “the effects of energy consumption on global warming; on public health through the adverse effects on local pollution; on traffic congestion and accidents; and on road damage.” (IMF) Current energy policies are established in such a way that fossil fuel companies do not pay for any of these “externalities”, and thus leaving these industry costs to be indirectly subsidized by governments.

Here are some more statistics about the energy subsidies in the US:
“…between 1994 and 2009 the U.S. oil and gas industries received a cumulative $446.96 billion in subsidies, compared to just $5.93 billion given to renewables in those years. (The nuclear industry, by the way.  received $185 billion in federal subsidies between 1947 and 1999.)”
Source: Forbes
With such policies in place, heavily influenced by large multi-billion dollar companies with strong government ties, is a rapid change towards renewable energy even possible? Are we ready to challenge our policies to shift financial support from harmful and damaging energy production to renewable technologies, and change our own behaviors to create a cohesive movement towards a cleaner and safer planet?

If breakthroughs in technology can offer salient alternatives to the economic stranglehood fossil fuels has on our economy, then we may realize a future of clean energy. One thing is certain, however, without practical alternatives there is no chance of changing the momentum behind extraction based energy toward clean energy.
About the Author
Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com and an avid student of Yoga and life.


This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Is Hemp A Miracle Plant That Can Save The World?



By Jeffrey Green, Guest Writer
Waking Times

Hemp is perhaps the answer to most problems in the world. Ambitious, yes.  An exaggeration, no.

If grown extensively, its diverse uses can be of significant value to the environment, the economy, world hunger, personal health, and so much more.

For the environment, hemp can reduce deforestation, pesticide use, provide a sustainable biofuel, and replace GMO cotton among other benefits. It grows like a weed without the need for pesticides or heavy fertilizers.

Hemp does just about anything wood can do and it only takes 6 months to renew, not 20 years. It can be used to make paper, to build homes with, and as fuel for fire.

Hemp clothing is far more durable than cotton, which is an industry still operating a form of slavery from cultivation to production. GMO cotton has led to indentured servitude for Indian farmers where failed crops and debt result in shockingly high suicide rates. Hemp is simply a better material for clothing.

The oil in the hemp seed can be made into biodiesel just like any vegetable oil. Most arguments against biofuels are that their crops take up too much valuable farm land that should be used for food, and it takes more energy than it gives back when all things are considered (fertilizer, pesticides, planting and harvesting machinery, refining).

With hemp, biofuel is merely a bi-product of this crop, not it’s main use. The fiber of the plant is still an extremely valuable commodity. Whereas corn ethanol needs a lot of land with tons of intensive chemicals, and the process of turning corn into ethanol is then a net energy loss.

As today’s economy falters due to a variety of systematic problems, the world is in desperate need of a new industry. Worldwide hemp legalization and promotion would lead to a revolution in nearly all major industries. Entrepreneurs would have a field day with textiles, plastics, body care, construction, etc.

Industrial hemp’s female counterpart, marijuana, provides effective natural medicine for a number of ailments. Cannabis is one of mankind’s oldest recorded healing plants. As its prohibition lessens, modern man is only just beginning to discover the exciting medical uses of marijuana, which are provably vast already.

Cannabis can ease pain, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, PTSD, arthritis, and has even been proven to have anti-cancerous properties. When eaten or vaporized, cannabis is entirely beneficial as a natural alternative because any unwanted tars are not inhaled. Furthermore, juicing raw cannabis has many benefits and zero psychoactive effects.

Hemp alone is powerful enough to be a game changer for the environment and for human society as a whole. It’s time to unleash the hemp seed.

Please watch the very entertaining video about how hemp can save the world and share this information with everyone you know.


About the Author:

Jeffrey Green is a self-sufficiency practitioner and hemp legalization activist. He writes forNaturalBlaze.com. Follow at Facebook. This article originally appeared at Activist Post.

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Are Hemp Seeds Part Of A Healthy Diet?

Hemp seeds happen to be one of the most nutritious of health foods and appear to possess a unique combination of the healthy aspects of seeds as well as the medical benefits of marijuana.
 It might be hard to imagine how this could be, so let’s take a look at the facts.

Kent Mao, ContributorWaking Times

Hemp and marijuana seem to be popular topics in today’s society since legalization measures were passed in Colorado and Washington last November. While it’s common to hear advocates proclaim the medical benefits of marijuana, studies have shown that hemp seeds can also provide a number of health advantages as well, making them a unique dietary staple that has yet to be fully recognized.
Before we get into the plenty of nutritional benefits that hemp seeds have to offer, it’s important to note the difference between hemp and marijuana.

You see, marijuana and hemp are actually two different names for the same species of Cannabis plants. But where they differ is in their THC content. Hemp are strains of Cannabis that only contain trace levels of THC, meaning they cannot get you “high” or intoxicated in any way. Although some may still try, hemp is definitely not something that should be smoked. On the other hand, hemp seeds are fast becoming a popular health food – and for good reason, we might add.

Hemp seeds happen to be one of the most nutritious of health foods and appear to possess a unique combination of the healthy aspects of seeds as well as the medical benefits of marijuana. It might be hard to imagine how this could be, so let’s take a look at the facts.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of hemp seeds is that they contain omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) in a ratio of 4:1 – the ideal ratio recommended by the World Health Organization for fatty acid intake.

Why is this important? EFAs are required by the human body for maintaining good health, but cannot be synthesized on their own, meaning that EFAs can only be obtained through a balanced diet. What’s more, no other nut or vegetable oil contains EFAs in the same ratio as hemp seeds, which makes them one of the healthiest sources of EFAs that are known today.

But that’s not all. The oil from hemp seeds contain other healthy fats as well, namely polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). You might be familiar with PUFAs if you are one of the many who take fish oil supplements on the daily, which are also rich in PUFAs. However, plant sources of PUFAs have been found to be more tolerated by the human body, which makes a good argument for switching from fish oil to hemp seeds.

The important part of all this is that regular intake of PUFAs and EFAs has been linked to the prevention of diabetes and various forms of heart disease. They are also believed to help prevent and even improve the outcome of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which are two of the most common ailments among the aging population.

If this still isn’t enough to convince you to scribble hemp seeds down on your grocery list, consider this fact. Hemp seeds contain all 21 known amino acids, which makes them a more complete source of protein than eggs, meat, milk, and soy. Vegetarians, take note.

What’s more, hemp seeds are also rich in soluble and insoluble fibers. Fiber is another key component of a healthy diet, helping to reduce blood glucose and cholesterol levels as well as regulating movements of the bowel.

Finally, hemp seeds contain a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, including the highly coveted Vitamin E. Vitamin E is one of the most well known antioxidants and is commonly available as a dietary supplement. Antioxidants also provide tremendous health benefits and have been shown to reduce the risk of diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and arthritis, among many others.

Whether you happen to be a diet fanatic or not, the bottom line is that hemp seeds are one of the most nutrient-rich health foods on the market today. While hemp cultivation is still prohibited under US federal law, almost half a million pounds of hemp seeds are imported by the States every year and are commonly available in grocery stores in the form of shelled seeds, oil and flour. It might be just hearsay, but they taste great too!
About the Author
Kent Mao runs the excellent website TruthOnPot.com, an online resource for medical marijuana facts, information and research. TruthOnPot.com actively engages in the online discussion of marijuana research and policy. You can learn more by visiting www.truthonpot.com

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Toothless Progressive Caucus "Deeply Opposed" to Social Security cuts.

Recent history suggests that this Progressive Caucus is a toothless tiger that
issues empty threats: and that when it comes time to cast a vote, these representatives
do not have the cojones to stand up to the President and their party.
By Frankly Speaking
In an otherwise fine article on Salon.com today entitled "Liberal groups threaten primaries over Obama budget", contributor Alex Seitz-Wald writes:
Over 100 Democratic House members — more than half of the caucus — have already signed a letter pledging to vote against any bill that includes entitlement cuts, meaning Obama may well have to rely on Republicans to pass his budget.
This is actually a mischaracterization of the contents of the letter.
The letter itself only states strong opposition to these proposed cuts. In no place do they pledge to vote against them, they merely offer to work with the President on an alternative.
Here's the strongest statement they make on the issue:

...we remain deeply opposed to proposals to reduce Social Security benefits through use of the chained CPI to calculate cost-of-living adjustments. We remain committed to making the changes that will extend solvency for 75 years, but Social Security has not contributed to our current fiscal problems and it should not be on the bargaining table.
In a related article, "107 Dems try to take entitlement cuts off the table", Seitz-Wald writes:
Ellison and his colleagues are hoping to head off that possibility (switching to the Chained CPI) with this letter. “I think it’s a big deal. There’s a consistency in the Democratic Caucus and I wouldn’t be surprised if we get even more,” he said. “We’re hoping that it’s enough to stop it. But if a bill comes on the floor, there’s probably enough Republicans, and even some Dems, who might still favor cuts to these vital programs. But at least consistently within the Democrats, I’m hoping our caucus won’t participate in that.”
Wow. That's pretty inspiring rhetoric, is it not? Ellison is "hoping our caucus won't participate", there's "consistency" and they’re all also “deeply opposed”. Oh yeah... and they’re “committed”.
The President must be shaking in his boots.

I can’t say that I’m impressed. These are many of the same people who threatened  to vote against the Affordable Healthcare Act if it did not include a public option.  Well, guess what? They almost all voted for the bill. I don't have enough fingers and toes to count how many times Progressive Democrats have “deeply opposed” something or  made a “committed” stand and then caved under pressure and vague promises from party leadership.
There's no telling if the House GOP will even allow this to the floor, but I wish I could believe that if it does make it to the floor of the House, these people will stand up for their values and for the American People and vote against cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it would signal to the President that he cannot take the House Progressives for granted anymore: and perhaps in the future he would not be so quick to sign on to right-wing Bush era thinking on Social Security, healthcare or any number of issues. 
Recent history suggests, however, that this Progressive Caucus is a toothless tiger that issues empty threats: and that when it comes time to cast a vote, these representatives do not have the cojones to stand up to the President and their party.
The numbers are there. Over 100 representatives signed this letter. That's a sizeable bloc of votes. Now if only they had the strength of their convictions to follow through on these issues, we might have a strong Progressive Caucus in Congress that could influence legislation and votes. Then, and only then, they could take a real stand and make a meaningful difference in the fight to reverse the ongoing dismantling of the New Deal and its related programs.