January 16, 2021

Electric Cars, Algae and President Obama

Posted on 15. Mar, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Energy/Environment, Social/Cultural

I’ll be honest. I want an electric car (preferably one that goes 150 miles without re-charging so that I can make a trip to Santa Fe and back without breaking out a couple hundred ‘C-size’ batteries). I also want solar panels on my roof (preferably ones that don’t cost upwards of $25,000 and have a ten-year amortization).

Why? Because I want to stop the rapid depletion of our fossil fuel, reduce carbon emissions and eliminate our dependence on countries that despise us. I did buy a Hybrid Ford Escape back in 2008 and feel that I did something to make up for the excesses of my fellow citizens, though I still love the comfort of my Ford F-150 that gulps a gallon every 15 miles. What a contradiction!

The other day I listened to President Obama speak about algae as a possible new source for fuel, and promptly heard radio and TV commentators ridicule him for it. I guess they thought the word, algae (some called it, ‘Pond Slime’), was funny or they were too lazy to do any research on it.

This is one time I must stick up for the Chemist-in-Chief. Here in New Mexico (along our southeastern border with Texas) are millions of gallons of briny water in underground aquifers. There are also hundreds of thousands of acres of flat unused land AND ample sunshine on top of all that water.

If you decided to build hundreds of shallow beds and cover them with a translucent roof and then add the right strain of algae (with the shortest growing cycle and the highest yield of oil), our state could produce enough oil from algae which, when mixed with diesel fuel, could power the entire fleet of the Federal Government’s vehicles every single year!

That’s what the experts told me when I was Director of the State’s Office of Science and Technology back in 2008 when several pilot projects were started down in the Carlsbad area, but if you don’t believe me, just ‘Google’ fuel from algae new mexico if you want to know more.

I’m a committed recycler, and every week I make my regular pilgrimage to the massive recycling bins at the East Mountains Transfer Station on old 66 (where a great bunch of guys manage this spotless facility seven days a week).

There I recycle my plastic, tin cans, aluminum, cardboard, newspaper, magazines and glass. So you can count me in as a card-carrying member of the new world order, the one where people think about the consequences of their actions and manufacturers experiment with environmentally-friendly products and packaging materials.

I also want to stop the needless felling of trees to make the millions of books that stay on Barnes and Noble’s shelves for months on end until they’re reduced to 20% of their original price. That’s why I bought a Kindle for my wife and myself (we can even read the same book at the same time with this device).

I feel a whole lot better about downloading thousands of pages of the world’s knowledge, mirth and tragedy into a 4½” x 6½” half-pound electronic marvel that only costs about eighty bucks.

This green revolution isn’t new. Our ancestors made full use of everything they had, often re-inventing new ways to re-use things that most of us would have given up for dead. Fortunately, there’s still some of that attitude left in my generation.

Actually, we were saved from total egotistical consumption by the intervention of the hippies, Ralph “Unsafe at any speed” Nader, Paul “The population bomb” Ehrlich and others who reminded us that we were just caretakers of the Earth. They kept us from falling into the black hole of self-centeredness, and for that we should be grateful.

Today, the most important things for me to recycle are my imagination and my optimism. The thing I can throw away for good is the notion that things must always remain the same to be considered valuable.

- Editor

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