Cheat-Seeking Missles

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Science Once Again Laps The Warmies

When NASA didn't budget for a round of scientific satellite missions to measure global warming indicators, the Warmies howled.

But wait ... I thought the debate was over. If it is, then do we really have to apply science to down- to- the- micron measurements so Warmie scientists can argue over the climate equivalent of the number of angels on the head of a pin?

If (and that's a HUGE if) the science is settled on climate change, then what role should science play? Apparently the Warmie answer is that science should exist so grant applications can be written. A far better answer is this: Science should exist to solve the problem.

And, if there is a problem, science is solving it. Here are two recent examples, first from the U.S. Dept. of Energy:
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner today announced that with DOE funding, a concentrator solar cell produced by Boeing-Spectrolab has recently achieved a world-record conversion efficiency of 40.7 percent, establishing a new milestone in sunlight-to-electricity performance. This breakthrough may lead to systems with an installation cost of only $3 per watt, producing electricity at a cost of 8-10 cents per kilowatt/hour, making solar electricity a more cost-competitive and integral part of our nation’s energy mix.

“Reaching this milestone heralds a great achievement for the Department of Energy and for solar energy engineering worldwide,” Assistant Secretary Karsner said. “We are eager to see this accomplishment translate into the marketplace as soon as possible, which has the potential to help reduce our nation’s reliance on imported oil and increase our energy security.”

Now that's where the government science budget is better spent, don't you think? Sure, we could have gigabytes of new data from space on temperatures, with each byte endlessly debatable -- is it accurate, is it distorted, can we conclude this, can we conclude that -- or we can actually, you know, build something that works.

Next, let's turn to that respected journal of the scientific community, Car & Driver, in which editor Csaba Csere writes (not on-line; buy the July issue) about a smart application for E85 ethanol fuel. (There are plenty of bad applications of E85, which you can read about here.)

Csere notes correctly that E85 isn't particularly fuel efficient, but that doesn't stop a scientist, it merely challenges him. And Csere's got a friend/scientist who has found an answer: Take advantage of ethanol's high octane and low burning temperature, using it as an intermittent fuel.

The idea is to take a small engine, give it an insanely high compression ratio and lurid turbo boost, enough to shred a gasoline-fired engine. But this engine would use gasoline only when the engine is humming along as engines usually do, then kick in ethanol from a separate tank only when some serious horsepower is wanted.

That means cars could have high performance with smaller, more efficient engines:

To replace a conventional gasoline engine, one would employ a smaller EBS [Ethanol Boosting Systems] engine. To see how, imagine using this technology instead of a modern 3.5-liter V-6. Such a V-6 produces about 260 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque.

Motivated by 22 psi of [turbo] boost, an EBS engine of perhaps 1.8 liters, barely half the displacement of the V-6, could easily achieve such output. The beauty of this approach is that modern cars and trucks rarely use their full power. Instead, they are loafing down the highway working at one-fifth or less of their peak output.

When asked to deliver 25 to 50 horsepower, a 1.8-liter EBS engine would be running with no boost, consuming no E85, and most important[ly], burning much less gasoline than the 3.5-liter V-6 it replaced.
Once again, the free market trumps the command and control mindset of the Warmies. They should just stand back, stop imposing their expensive will on the world, and let us get on with living smarter by making smarter stuff.

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