Friday, May 25, 2007

Green Inventions That Aren't

The frugal traveler, in the New York Times, is driving across the states. Since I've been having snark attacks lately, I began my sincere suggestion about where he should go in Houston (Menil, Artcar Museum, Cali sandwiches, folk houses, Clayburn cafeteria if he's a veggie...) with the observation that it is neither environmentally (the whole greenhouse thing) nor economically (with the rising gas prices) frugal for one man to drive an old car across the country. (Don't you think it'd be more interesting for him to take the Greyhound or one of the posh Mexican bus lines? He could have packed a portable scooter or bike to toot around on.)

Anyway, I know precisely how expensive gas is right now because my snarkish comment is a hypocritical one: GreenDaddy, BabyG and I have been guilty of a lot of car travel ourselves these past couple weekends. Which means we saw lots of new sights, but we also saw a lot of the same old sight: concrete & asphalt.

Gruesome, hot concrete. Unfriendly, scalding asphalt.

The whole starting off complaining about the frugal traveller's gas may have thrown you off track because, god knows, we need something that isn't gas to use in our cars...but corn, soy, oil, battery, electricity, fuel cell focused people seem to be on that one.

Which brings me to the green invention that isn't: more porous roads. I declare it high time for highways to be made of pastel colored clays. For city streets to be made of pressurized moss and tree leaves. Some sort of compacted organic 'waste' product. The roads would cool cities down by degrees. They would allow the water to fall back into the earth. They would be eco-modern.

Because hot asphalt isn't. It's is the very idea we have to live in concrete jungles. It's 2007, ladies and gentleman, I am ready for some roads that feel good to walk down barefooted in August.

Do you have an idea for a green invention that isn't? Send it along to our gmail address which is greenparenting at said service.


radical mama said...

I share your dislike of concrete. Not only is it ugly and unforgiving, but it uses petroleum (right?). We want to build an eco-house when I finally finish school, and are trying to find an alternative to concrete for our foundation. I'll be damned, but I can't find any information on alternative foundations. Bah.

Fiddler said...

I absolutely LOVE the idea of roads of clay and moss :) The very idea of it makes me smile :) Thanks!

Rorschach said...

Some "green" inventions that are not:

CFL's (they are full of Mercury)

Ethanol (takes more energy to grow and distill than it replaces)

Rechargeable NiCad batteries (they have cadmium and mercury in them)

Windmills (they shred birds and the wind doesn't always blow when you need the energy and may blow too hard and force you to shut in the mill to prevent them from overspeeding. and you have to have big open spaces to build them and certain drunk Massachusetts democrats don't like seeing them from the front porch of their beach house.)

Clay roads would mean far more maintenance because they would be far less durable which takes fuel, as well as increasing the rolling resistance of the vehicles riding on them which again would increase fuel use.

MaGreen said...

radical mama: i have some friends in the same dilemma. i'll let you know if i hear anything about it.

rorschach your point is well taken. it's easy to make up an invention for the better and have it come out for the worse, or not work at all. i guess that's when you try something else...

my clay roads would be the kind that require little maintenance and have less rolling resistance. maybe i'd mix something in with the clay. you're the engineer: how do you make roads that let the water soak through & that cool things down whilst lessoning pollution?

i thought the windpower companies were working on the bird thing. they're also working on the size thing. i think it's still probably better for the birds (an the humans) in the end.

Joe said...

"how do you make roads that let the water soak through"

Drill 1/2" dia. holes all the way to the dirt about every square foot. Will also reduce water standing on surface and improve gas mileage since there is less water resistance on the tires during a heavy rain. Less accidents from standing water pockets as well. It could actually be designed into the original pour.

Tariae said...

It is funny - in Cincinnati they used a test pavement made out of something other than concrete and asphalt. It was something that expands and contracts with temperature changes. It is an off reddish brown color so I am guessing mostly made of a clay type substance. And the kicker? They laid it in 1979 and it has never had to be repaired since. Makes one think doesn't it. Obviously this is a much better option but then it would put the road workers out of business. There has been no maintenance to it and it just exists. On another note... I took my family on a trip from Ohio to Oklahoma via Amtrak. The sites we saw, not to mention the experience it was for my son was phenomenal! Trains are becoming extinct. It cost our whole family of three $300 round trip for an experience of a lifetime.


Rorschach said...

Part of the problem with porous pavement (yes, it's been out there for some time) is the problem of water undermining the roadbed. Here is a dirty little secret, car traffic does not hurt roads, truck traffic does. Roads are built to withstand 18 wheelers, cars are so light that the road doesn't even notice them. And trucks damage the roads by cracking the pavement and letting water wash out the roadbed under the pavement. If the roadbed is washed out from under the pavement then there is nothing to support the pavement. You end up with potholes.

Not only is it possible to come up with a technology that is supposed to be "green" that is not, it is also possible to damn a technology that IS green as not, causing even more damage.

Case in point:

You really want green technology? Build breeder reactors. They'll burn up their own nuclear waste and the stuff that comes out of them is radioactive for about 200 years at most and most of the byproducts are useful for things like medical imaging and cancer treatment and smoke alarms and such. (You did know that your smoke alarm is radioactive didn't you? It has Americium in it.) The resulting volume of the waste that must be stored is a microscopic fraction of the waste generated by a gas or coal fired power plant and everything comes out in one piece instead of being blown out over everything from a smokestack. That makes dealing with the waste far easier. In fact they'll even burn up the waste from conventional reactors too. This is the fuel cycle that nuclear engineers always planned on, until Jimmy Carter screwed the pooch and outlawed fuel reprocessing and put a moratorium on new plant builds. Nuclear waste was never supposed to be buried for millennia, it was supposed to be reprocessed into more nuclear fuel. France has been doing it for years and gets over 75% of it's energy from Nuclear power, we get 23%. The Canadian CANDU reactors are designed to accept reprocessed fuel as well. And the waste storage technologies that have been developed are good for over 10,000 years, which is not enough for conventional waste, but MORE than enough for reprocessed waste. It was the greens that shot themselves in the foot.

Do not fear nuclear power, fear those who would deny us nuclear power, for they will doom us all.