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Sci-tech: Gaia is choking

It’s time to replace the internal combustion engine We’ve been using the internal combustion engine – your car’s engine – for over a century. And though this invention may have served us well initially, and we’ve all benefited in different ways, our collective hands are now around Gaia’s throat. This Mother Earth, Gaia, much as …


It’s time to replace the internal combustion engine

We’ve been using the internal combustion engine – your car’s engine – for over a century. And though this invention may have served us well initially, and we’ve all benefited in different ways, our collective hands are now around Gaia’s throat.

This Mother Earth, Gaia, much as your own mother, is more fragile than we realise.

The future looks bleak. Science fiction written over 10 years ago, such as by Neil Stevenson in his book “The Diamond Age, pointed to the fact that in the near future, the most expensive commodity would in fact be fresh water. This was expressed more vehemently than ever at this month’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN s top scientific authority on global warming, which referred to supertankers carrying fresh water, and not oil, all around the world in the years to come.

And that doom-and-gloom future has arrived. We’re now living in a world where even smokers and cows (not in that order) are criticized for the extra carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases they produce.

Climate change is now such a big deal that no less than the not-generally-respected Al Gore has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for the impact and increased awareness caused by his global-warming documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.

Even George W. Bush did an about-face. He has historically been a nay-sayer of the climate change notion, possibly even discouraging references to the topic in government documentation. In his State of the Union address this year though, as though it were his turn to speak at an AA meeting, Bush announced that America was addicted to oil. Not only that, but he’s hoping to “reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next ten years with new technology.

This is no joke. The environment’s in a state. And it’s your, mine, and every adult’s fault.

Although Dubya isn’t necessarily focused on fossil fuels purely for environmental reasons, an effort to move away from them, particularly with regard to transportation, would make a big difference. The main hope to date has been hybrid cars – cars that run on both petrol and electricity. They were specifically designed to produce less carbon-based emissions. They came about as a way of compensating for the inability of batteries to effectively power an automobile.

The devil’s in the details though, and the details of hybrid cars go like this: The difference between a full- or partial-hybrid engine is critical to your fuel consumption, and in turn, reducing emissions. A full hybrid is one that is able to operate on electric-only power so that the vehicle is propelled forward by the strength of its electric motors before the petrol engine starts.

The Toyota Prius is an excellent example of this know-how, as it can go up to about 15 mph on the electric power alone. Because a full hybrid can cut the engine at red lights and in traffic, fuel and pollution savings are significantly better than those offered by partial systems. The benefit to a partial system is better performance as electric motors can provide a greater boost off the line, but don’t really benefit the environment.

Honda launched its Insight model and Toyota the Prius, in the late 1990s. The tremendous success of these two models in 2006 resulted in even old-school Ford coming out with cars that had hybrid engines.

Though hybrid cars were initially dismissed by drivers for lack of performance, the 2007 Toyota Camry hybrid is built with a 192 horsepower, 2.4 liter, 16 valve four-cylinder engine, and uses a 244.8 volt nickel-metal hydride battery to supplement the petrol engine and captures braking energy to recharge the battery during deceleration. And you’ll get nearly 20 km per liter in the city. Both Honda and Toyota are developing 400 horsepower hybrid sports cars.

Initially the Prius and Insight were seen as symbols for the environmentally conscious and were immediately taken up in the west coast Hollywood scene by the likes of Cameron Diaz and Leonardo DiCaprio. Daryl Hannah likes them too, but prefers a biofuel driven car for her personal use. Another alternative to petroleum, biofuel is a bit crude if you will, made out of the waste of certain natural resources, like animal dung and crops. Think compost.

The specific biofuel known as biodiesel is said to be the most effective alternative renewable fuel available today. It contains virtually no sulfur, is non-toxic, cleans your engine, and would support farming throughout the world: It can be made from any animal or vegetable oil and requires no engine modification for its use.

Hybrids aren’t even on the radar here in Egypt, although it’s conceivable to custom-import them. The cars here using 80/90-octane, which is very poorly purified petrol, produce so much more poisonous emissions than 100+ octane petrol; they just need to be scrapped. As for natural gas, it’s a fossil fuel too, and is in no way a green alternative.

Climate change could be devastating to Egypt, with some projections having the Nile 98 percent dried up within 50 years.

So if you thought the 6th of October bridge was the largest car park in Cairo – just keep driving your petrol-hungry luxury sedan or SUV and you’ll eventually have a car park the size of the Nile – at least you’ll always find a space.

Topics: Coalition

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https://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2007/02/09/sci-tech-gaia-is-choking/
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