I talk a big story about being environmentally conscious, drive a small car etc and etc but two days ago our air-conditioning went out. As temperatures outside rose into the 90’s, the temperature inside soared into the 80’s – and I wilted. I realized as the day went by and I got nothing done partly because of the heat and largely because I had been unable to sleep because of the heat that I simply could not live where I do were it not for air-conditioning. I am as much a child of my age as any of those folks driving their big SUV’s that I like to criticize. If we are to get serious about climate change then we all need to change our lifestyles dramatically – me as much as they.
This morning’s paper, though, brought interesting news of some research going on at the University of Texas Apparently they have invented a new micro-reactor version of the coal-to-oil process developed in South Africa 50 years ago. This process can use organic waste to produce bio-diesel so if we all convert to diesel engines we will have solved the energy problem. We’ll see whether this moves from the lab to production.
When I was growing up, we lived in a house with thick concrete walls. No matter how high the temperature rose outside, there were still cool, shady spots in the house. Our houses were designed to take advantage of the breeze so there was natural air-conditioning. Templeton at Oxford University has gone one step further and designed the roof to look and act like a malting house. Cool air is drawn in from the ground and hot air moves out of the large chimney. American houses, by contrast, are very poorly insulated with just a sheet of dry wall separating one from the elements. Breeze ways are unknown. As a result when it is 90 outside it is 90 inside and a stuffy, unpleasant 90. Yesterday, we sat outside under a tree and enjoyed the breeze. It was far “cooler” outside than it was inside our house. Surely there is room here to improve our building methods and thereby to cut back on our energy needs – with our without biodiesel fuels produced by micro-reactors.