Loving Lovins...and Other Cool Stuff

Earlier this week, The Economist published its Technology Quarterly, an amusing smashup of defense innovations (the ultimate camouflage, plus special sensors for detecting chemical weapons), techno-geek observations (“humanoid robots may make people feel more at ease”; archaeologists can find buried stuff from space) and some interesting green things. Increasingly, technology seems to be tending toward energy efficiency. Then again, maybe it always has. Wasn’t that the point of the electric mixer? 

The greenest abode:
It’s not surprising that Jeff Rogers, founder of New England Green Building, has one of the eco-friendliest homes in the country. But I guess I didn’t expect it to look…normal. It’s just a clapboard New England home—charming, yellow—but it’s got the goods, from low-flush toilets to geothermal heating, LEDs, and a roof made out of sawdust and recycled plastic. One of its coolest features is electrochromic glass—the kind that changes its opacity according to how much light is coming in. (A kid I used to teach in ski school had eyeglasses that I guess were electrochromic, and they were kind of funny. They changed immediately to sunglasses when he went outside, but when he came back in there was a lag time, so he looked like the three blind mice in that old Disney cartoon...)

Hydrogen pipe dreams:
There’s an illuminating (if depressing) article about the ever-funded-never-appearing hydrogen fuel cell car. In case you’re wondering: Since 2003, the U.S. has spent over $1 billion for hydrogen research. Europe’s not far behind. Ford and GM have announced repeatedly that hydrogen cars are imminent, and yet…The Economist explains:
Why build cars if there is nowhere to fill them up, or hydrogen filling-stations if there are no cars to use them?

My hero:
Amory Lovins is the father of the environmentally-minded efficiency movement: It was more than three decades ago when he argued that, in The Economist’s words, “what the world needed most was not new energy supplies but more efficiency.” Well, isn’t that a breath of fresh air! Instead of drilling in places that will get us enough oil to quench our thirst at most for a few days, why not get more bang for our buck? To a degree, we are—people are driving less now, for one thing. Will that vanish when oil prices, inevitably, drop again? Let’s hope we can be as entrenched in our newfound conservation tendencies as we have been in the past with our SUV-style consumption.

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