Monday, March 23, 2015

Cranking Alkane

Paraffin, an alkane hydrocarbon, has all sorts of uses. Besides lubricating bicycle chains, it’s an important ingredient in candles to brighten nights without electricity and crayons to express yourself creatively, as well as coming into its own as an organic phase change material (PCM) that stores excess energy. Besides its antibiotic and insulative properties, paraffin could multiply the efficiency of heat pumps, hot water heaters, and solar arrays. Someday all residential building codes will include passive energy collectors, since fossil fuels are finite, parrafin can be synthesized, and sun will always be the primary source of energy.

In 1931 compulsive inventor Thomas Edison said, “We should be using Nature's inexhaustible sources of energy: sun, wind and tide... I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” Good stewards would also explore fusion reactors and other sustainable technologies Edison never imagined. Meanwhile individuals could preserve dwindling oil reserves by bicycling wherever they can, thus extend humanity’s chances to innovate. But is anyone working on alternatives? Does government even promote them? Lately they’re funding research into the brain, not a moment too soon given how poorly it’s usually applied by Congress.

At tax time filers get a glimpse into the lame deductions they allow home owners for reducing resource depletion. A few hundred is hardly incentive for installing a high efficiency water boiler or heater. You only get one chance to save taxes in your lifetime for converting to cleaner fuel or insulating your home, though half of Americans move every 5 years according to the US Census Bureau. This lukewarm support for energy conservation comes as a result of Big Oil bending Congress to its will. Under enlightened governments, energy policy is considered too important to be left to private enterprise. In the United States, however, corporate manipulation and federal deregulation rule. Consequently, basic utilities of cable, electric, gas, gasoline, heating fuel, and phone often cost collectively as much as income and property taxes which you falsely believe you’re paying to keep those other costs low. Bizarrely, most taxpayers and voters are well aware, yet continue to tolerate, since revolting against would require organizing, something averted by conquer-by-dividing rhetoric routinely spewed by conservative media, who “bypass skeptical reporters and wage an around-the-clock, partisan assault on public opinion... cleverly camouflaging political propaganda as independent journalism.”

Lately have been pondering Juvenal’s rara avis, metaphor of black swans, and Taleb’s Silent Risk. Have yet to think it all through, maybe never will. Ideas and inventions can become game changers, unpredicted events that upset best laid plans worse than a slipped disc. For example, new e-commerce sites provide myriad services without equipping vehicular fleets or stocking any shelves, though quality may suffer and randomness likely mount. Emerging uses for something as basic as paraffin suggests that humans haven’t fully comprehended all that nature provides, have squandered all sorts of opportunities, and ought to reevaluate benefits of old methods, like bicycling. Even a blog that attempts to demystify complexities could become a beautiful swan (Saint-Saens played on a bicycle pump) grown from an ugly duckling (The Bicycle Thief Bob Forrest). Bikes do make life better (light mural at Pershing Square, Los Angeles in 2011), if only to sort issues by priorities to avoid waste, ensure future, and secure rights.

No comments:

Post a Comment