Pandodyssey™ Panda Blog

This is a blog devoted to Giant Panda enthusiasts, environmental wanna-bes and peace loving funimals, world-wide.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Aww, you shouldn't have!

Crappy Souveniers Made From Panda Poo

Need a panda poo picture frame? How about panda poo paper? Bookmark? Whatever knick-knacks you desire, you will soon be able to find one of it, made from panda poo.

According to the BBC, a panda can poop up to 40 times a day. Talk about your renewable resources! Anybody out there working on a vehicle fueled with panda poop?

go fly a kite

What does a renewable energy company do when there's not enough of their renewable energy available? They do what all smart companies and investors do: diversify. FPL Group Inc., a utility company and industry leader in renewable energies, was forced to deal with exactly that question when the worst wind conditions in 13 years knocked a cool $50 million off their profit projection for wind energy projects.

Owch, on any level, but FPL Group didn't panic. Instead, they said they plan to add 8,000 - 10,000 megawatts of power to their wind portfolio by 2012. FPL plans to hedge its bets on future weather uncertainties by acquiring wind farms in geographically diverse areas.

FPL Group owns and operates 15 wind turbines in the US. The company also deals in natural gas, nuclear, solar and hydro-electric energy. FPL Group participates in the World Wildlife Fund's "PowerSwitch Pioneers" program. To read more about their focus on renewables and sustainability click here.

wherever yugo, i'll follow

Mongol Rally Update:

Team White Lightning has arrived in Ulaanbaatar without changing a single tire. This must surely be Rally history, no?

I couldn't find any updates from our little green racer, Team Eco Challenge and their cooking-oil-fueled vehicle. I hope their car was not commandeered by a West-Asian McD's.


Green Pepsi is More Refreshing


PepsiCo Inc. - owner of Gatorade, Aquafina, Tropicana, Frito Lay and Quaker Oats - announced yesterday that its largest US bottler will be purchasing green energy certificates under a voluntary EPA program.

Pepsi Bottling Group Inc., PepsiAmericas Inc. and Pepsi Bottling Ventures LLC, together will purchase 629 million kilowatt hours of green energy. This announcement propelled the Pepsis into the number 1 spot under the EPA program, ousting Wells Fargo from the top slot.

Other notable mentions on the EPA's green energy partner list:
#3 - Whole Foods Market
#4 - Pepsi Bottling
#5 - the U.S. Air Force
#6 - Johnson & Johnson
#7 - Environmental Protection Agency
#8 - Kohl's
#9 - Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts
#10 - Starbucks

GooooOOOOO Pepsi! While not my own personal soda/tap water/or salty snack of choice, I highly commend PepsiCo for emerging as a green energy leader among major corporations and as a proponent of renewable resources.

One more thing I like aboutPepsiCo is that their Chairman, President and CEO is a woman.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

you say goodbye, we say hello

Mei Sheng, a four year old male panda at the San Diego Zoo, will be sent to China in November 2007, under the terms of loan agreement between the Zoo and Chinese Panda Authorities. Mei Sheng, who was born in 2003, is only the second panda to be born in captivity worldwide. His sister, Hua Mei, in 1999 was the first panda cub born in captivity.

Mei Sheng is of special interest to the panda breeding program in China because he is the first offspring of a male panda whose genes are not represented among the present population. Genetic diversity helps an animal population stay healthy and prevents inbreeding, a common problem among endangered species. Mei Sheng and his offspring will help ensure a diverse and healthy population of future pandas.

To see Mei Sheng before he goes, click on the San Diego Zoo panda cam.


This just in: What do Nicole Richie and Mei Sheng's mom, Bai Yun, have in common?

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Friday, July 27, 2007

i feel the need, the need for Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from Nevada sent a letter to the heads of four coal companies, urging them not follow through on plans to build new coal facilities in the eastern part of his state.

Reid is taking a green stance on behalf of Nevada and says he will oppose the construction of any new coal plant that does not capture and permanently store their greenhouse gas emissions. Senator Reid also opposes nuclear power as an energy source for Nevada, and he is against the construction of a nuclear waste storage facility within the state's borders. The Senator prefers that the state of Nevada look to and invest in renewable energy sources for its growing consumption needs.

The coal companies - Sierra Pacific Resources, LS Power Group, Dynegy, Inc., and Sithe Global Power LLC - obviously all disagree with the Senator. They claim that rapid expansion and growth in the state have caused a dire need for energy and, despite the Senator's letter, all four companies plan to continue with construction. Business as usual.

This is the problem with energy corporations, especially ones that aren't diversifying into renewable sources and are accordingly and rightfully, scared $hitless. Why can't they go ahead and build their dirty coal burning plants but modify the plans to capture and contain their greenhouse gases, and bring their companies into the 21st century? I admire the Senator's efforts, but it's going to take much more than a letter to persuade these mesozoic dinosaurs to give up some profit to make a change for the better.

Of the four coal companies at issue:
Sierra Pacific Resources - touts the cleanliness and efficiency of its newest coal burning plants but has zero renewable energy projects underway;
LS Power Group - cites 1 wind project currently "under development" (out of 24 total projects);
Dynegy, Inc. - currently operates 32 power facilities, none of which utilizes renewable sources, and lists zero renewable energy projects on their website. Astonishingly, a site search of the word "renewable" brought up zero results;
Sithe Global Power, LLC - currently has seven energy projects underway worldwide, none of which involve renewable energy. Sithe LLC also has a nice long pat-themselves-on-the-back page regarding their "cooperation" with the Navajo Nation and in mining Navajo land on one of their projects. Sithe LLC cites that the estimated annual benefit to the Navajo Nation will exceed $50 million. On the surface, it sounds like a considerable sum of money, but I want to know how much Sithe LLC estimates its own "annual benefit" will be?

Some stats:
70% of Nevada's electricity comes from natural gas powered plants and 13% from coal burning plants. In the US, 50% of the country's electricity comes from coal fired plants, 20% from nuclear energy, and 18% from natural gas fired plants.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

clash of the Stephens

I'd like to take this moment for an honorary finger-wagging, ala Stephen Colbert. (The following should be read with fake newscaster outrage and contempt.)

I'm wagging my finger at you, Mr. Stephen Johnson, head of the EPA for denying my state rights! You, Mr. I-don't-Care-About-the-
Environment-I'm-Just-Warming-the-Seat-They-Gave-Me, just give my state the rights it needs and deserves to lead this country in all things green, clean and renewable!

If you'll remember back in April, the Supreme Court decided that the Bush administration was totally wrong about the EPA not having the authority to govern greenhous gas emissions (the administration's rationale? Carbon dioxide occurs naturally so the EPA can't restrict what occurs naturally. Yeah, those justices sorta saw right through that.). The justices ordered the EPA to "revisit" its decision not to regulate greenhouse gases - which, coming from the Supreme Court means "cut the baloney, do your job and regulate those greenhouse gases!".

So now that Bush knows, the EPA knows and everybody knows that the EPA has the right to regulate greenhouse gases, they are stalling on giving states permission to set their own, stricter standards, which is basically the administration's way of pouting because it didn't get its way in court. Johnson's reasoning for the delay? The agency must sift through the 60,000+ public comments plus analyze the accompanying scientific data.

Data to analyze? What's there to analyze? Is the Bush administration going to discover that reducing greenhouse emissions is actually worse for the environment? Then again, don't put it too far past them. If anyone could bend the truth(iness)(copyright 2006 The Colbert Report), it would be this administration.

I smell something funny, and it's NOT greenhouse gases. Wagwagwag.

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Green in the classroom

Last week I read two articles dealing with education and the environment.

San Jose Unified School District, Chevron & BoA are joining forces to create the largest kindergarten through twelfth grade energy efficiency program in the country. Chevron Energy Solutions will build and maintain a solar grid on district schools' premises and Bank of America's Energy Services Financing Solutions will own the equipment and subsidize associated costs.

Through this cooperative effort, the school district (comprised of 31,000 students in 27 elementary schools, 6 middle schools and 6 high schools) estimates it will save $25 million in energy costs over the lifetime of the program, experience a 25% reduction in energy demand throughout the district, and reduce their carbon dioxide emissions output by 37,500 tons. The district will get additional financial help in the form of incentives from California's State Solar Initiative and federal tax credits.

At the university level, Stanford has announced plans to build a green dormitory on their campus. Not only is it green - it's green for the students and by the students. Blueprints include a student-designed low-flow showerhead, to be installed campuswide, and is estimated it'll save 9 million gallons of water annually. Other student innovations to be implemented includes a system of skylights and cutouts to naturally illuminate hallways and a carbon-sequestering roof lawn. Those Stanford kids. They're so SMART!

Just for fun, here are some folks I didn't know attended Stanford:
Vint Cerf - inventor of the internet - the REAL inventor of the internet
Jack Palance - Hollywood actor, badass
Danny Pintauro - 80's has been
Fred Savage - see Danny Pintauro
Adam West - the mayor on the family guy - also a Stanford drop out
Robert Mondavi - refreshing Napa Valley beverage maker
Jerry Yang, Omid Kordestani, Larry Page, Sergey Brin - all internet guys. all wealthy.

... and a bunch of athletes, astronauts, Nobel Prize winners and Supreme Court justices.

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top 10 emerging environmental technologies

Top 10 Emerging Environmental Technologies

The list of "Top 10" emerging environmental technologies comes from The commentary is mine.

10. Electronic paper
It's just like paper, but you can use it over and over again, thanks to teeny microcapsules filled with whilte or black particles to "print" your articles and stuff. This strikes me as "cool, neat" but of little practical value to anyone except those nostalgic for tangible paper. If I want to read the paper, I read it on my laptop. Though, with 55 million papers sold everyday in the US, electronic paper would definitely save a few trees.

9. Burying Carbon Dioxide
Remember back when you were little and you tried to make yourself a yummy sandwich and you accidentally spill some crumbs and make a mess? And, being young and immature, rather than actually cleaning up the mess you made, you simply swept it under the rug, hoping that time would make it "go away"? Similar concept here only instead of sandwich crumbs we're spilling carbon dioxide gas. And rather than cleaning up the mess or addressing the cause of the mess, we're looking for ways to sweep the crumbs under the rug and hope that time will make it "go away".

8. Let Plants and Microbes Clean Up After Us
Another interesting innovation in environmental clean up., phytoremediation has already been used successfully in remediating arsenic contaminated sites. Seems a little unfair to the plants and microbes, who otherwise might just be chilling.

7. Plant Your Roof
Planting greenery and gardens on rooftops can help keep your home cool and help insulate the interior, while simultaneously adding oxygen and taking away carbon dioxide from the air. Aside from taking away rooftop space from your solar cells, I don't see one thing wrong with idea, except that it doesn't strike me as an emerging technology so much as a really ancient one.

6. Harness Waves and Tides
Now THIS is what I consider an emerging environmental technology. As anyone who has been pummelled by a wave, there is tremendous power there. And since ocean covers 70% of our planet, learning to harness wave power could well be a perfect renewable energy source.

5. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion
Another innovative idea, using the natural temperature differentials at the ocean surface and at the ocean's floor to drive generators and create energy. I don't know the scientific mumbo-jumbology for this but it would be extra super cool because this technology would harness the energy in temperature differences, as opposed to harnessing energy already in motion (like wind). GoooOOOO thermal energy conversion!

4. Sunny New Ideas
This concept takes solar energy technology one step further. By focusing photons from the sun using mirrors and parabolic dishes, solar energy output can be increased. The sunny state of California is jumping on the sunshine bandwagon by providing incentives for new solar technology initiatives. However, the even sunnier state of Arizona has yet to make solar energy any kind of priority as its constituency (consisting mostly of old folks I guess) have deemed solar panels as unsightly to the aesthetics of their planned communities. (snicker) This is one of several thousand reasons why California is better than Arizona. But that's another post entirely.

3. H Power
Hydrogen. That's all I've got to say about that because I know zero about hydrogen power. except that it has potential. When this technology grows in the future (as it should and it will), it'll be huge.

2. Remove the Salt
Present day desalination processes are imperfect and use tons of energy to bring potable water to corners of the earth that don't have it. Obviously we need to improve this technology, which has been around forever. Why isn't desalination technology better developed by now? Oh right, because providing the basic necessities of life to impoverished people in third world countries isn't a huge moneymaker.

1. Make Oil From Just About Anything
Through thermo-depolymerization, you can turn any carbon based waste into oil. The process is similar (apparently) to the way nature makes oil: carbon based waste + pressure + heat = oil! According to this site, a ton of turkey "waste" can produce 600 pounds of petroleum. Which is kinda cool given that you don't have to drill for it but would still wreak havoc on the atmosphere don't you think?

So what can we learn from this list?
- people will try to convince you that just about anything is "emerging technology";
- "environmental technologies" is too broadly defined to be a useful term- covering up old issues or sustaining present ones can hardly be defined as "environmental";

- that you really only need to look at the top half of any "top ten" list.

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walk on through to the other side

According to Professor Jesse Ausubel, professor of environmental science at Rockefeller University, renewable energy projects will do more harm than good for the environment in the long run. He claims that the vast amounts of land that would be needed to sustain the rate of the world's energy consumption would negate any benefit to the enviroment. Professor Ausubel's analysis, announced in a report on Wednesday, included such popular renewable energy sources such as wind turbines, biofuels and solar cells.

Professor Ausubel reached his findings by ranking each renewable energy source according to it's potential energy output per square meter. According to his findings, hydroelectric power in the form of dammed rivers produces the least amount of energy per square meter, at a paltry 0.1 watts. Biofuel crops and wind energy produced approximately 1.2 watts per square meter and photovoltaic energy cells produced the most energy at 6 -7 watts per square meter.

Under his analysis, to meet all the energy demands of the United States (using statistics from 2005), the US would need to build a wind farm the size of Texas and Louisiana combined. Professor Ausubel also calculated that providing enough energy to power New York City for one year would require a solar grid the size of the Connecticut.

While Professor Ausubel's analysis provides an interesting way of comparing renewable energy potential outputs to one other, it does a poor job of taking into account how these energies are practically implemented and integrated. These are technologies that can often be installed in and around existing infrastructure and would not require the dedication of new lands. For instance, solar cells are regularly installed on top of existing rooftops and buildings, and would not require additional acres of land. His analysis also does not take into account the prime rule of real estate: location location location. Meaning that wind turbines located in windy areas of the world will produce more energy than their calm wind counterparts.

Professor Ausubel's report also compares renewable energies to nuclear energy, which he unequivocally (and eyebrow-raisingly) touts as the greenest energy of them all. He claims that nuclear energy requires the least amount of land and provides the highest amount of energy output. This is comparing an energy apple to an energy mushroom (cloud that is). I'm sure he's correct when he says that one hectare of solar cells produces the same amount of energy as one liter of fuel in a nuclear reactor's core. However, solar cells - no matter how many you have - do not have the potential to melt down your neighborhood. Which, by the way, would really put a hurting on the environment. With solar cells and other renewable energy sources except for biofuel crops, once they have been installed, you "set it and forget it". There are no more investment costs to solar cells, save minor maintenance and repairs. The Professor does not go into detail about how much energy is used in creating nuclear energy, nor does he address the hazards of collecting nuclear waste indefinitely. Even Professor Ausubel admits that at best, nuclear waste can only be "contained", not neutralized and disposed of safely.

There's a fundamental difference in harnessing energy and creating energy. Both are far from perfect energy sources. However, there is something infinitely comforting about using a resource that already exists, capturing it for human use, and finding ways to make it sustainable indefinitely. At its core, it is recycling energy and you can't get any greener than that.

Nuclear energy, on the other hand, consumes vast amounts of energy to create and, while the output has the potential of being hundreds of times greater than the input, there also exists the potential of destruction hundreds of times greater than the input as well. The fact that we have not yet developed a way to dispose of nuclear waste is proof that it is not "green". As of right now, nuclear energy is more an imperfect resource than anything else. I have great hope that one day in the distant future, nuclear energy will be THE energy resource that Professor Ausubel claims it to be, and it should be studied carefully. I just don't believe that we are there technologically and may not be there for several decades. If researched responsibily, it SHOULD take decades to perfect. In the meantime, we have simple technologies that really work, that are sustainable indefinitely, and are truly renewable. In the scheme of things, renewable, not nuclear, energy, is the near future and nuclear (hopefully if all goes well and we don't blow ourselves up trying) is the distant future.

Professor Ausubel makes some great points in his analysis, however he is touting nuclear energy as "green", decades prematurely.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

the price is wrong

While I only recently jumped on the Rosie O bandwagon (wholly and solely due to her consistently putting a royal WWF-style smackdown on that ex-survivor twit's support of the current administration), I gotta say that the thought of coming on down and giving Rosie O'Donnell a kiss on the cheek gave me the heebie jeebies. Can't say as though planting a juicy one on the chubby dorky cheek of Drew Carey is any more appetizing. I can't hate on Drew too much though since nobody can fill those loafers. TPIR should've called it quits when Bob retired. Now we get to watch the best game show in the history of television succumb to viewer indifference, and then spiral into a death coma until CBS mercifully pulls the plug.

If you've ever dreamed of appearing on TPIR, listen to keller william's "bob rules". The lyrics are awesome and he's playin a 10 string in this particular vid.

Help control the pet population. Get your pet spayed or neutered!


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yay environment! I think?

Ecuador's Innovative Environmental Shakedown

In a way, Ecuador's president Rafael Correa, is leading the world in "outside the box" thinking as to alternative policy proposals on oil. In essence, he's asking the international community to pay Ecuador NOT to drill for oil under a rain forest within Ecuador's borders.

Under Correa's plan, countries would pay up to $350 million a year to leave untouched the estimated 1 billion barrels of oil underneath the 2.4 million acre Yasuni National Rain Forest. $350 million comprises about half the revenue that Ecuador estimates it could make from extracting the oil.

Environmentalists are applauding - in the spirit of carbon offsetting, Correa's innovative plan seems to contain all the answers. Wealthier nations that are concerned about the environment have a way to save the rain forest, and Ecuador "exports" offsets instead of oil, while simulatanously bringing in revenue for its people. Today, 6 in 10 Ecuadorians live in poverty.

However policy analysts and others disagree that this plan could even work, and cite Correa's political woes (not his environmental concerns) as the real catalyst for his proposal. There is disagreement over the estimated worth of the oil under the forest, with detractors claiming that there is not enough there to warrant the hefty $350 million price tag. Other detractors look to Ecuador's political environment and turmoil over the past 10 years and doubt whether, even with the best of intentions, Ecuador could keep its promise to the international community over the long haul.

Is this the most innovative environmental policy proposal ever, or is it merely an attempt at shaking down wealthier countries? I honestly can't say but I think it's at least a step in the right direction. And who knows? Maybe countries like ours could afford to be shooken down if we weren't wasting money on a senseless war.

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HEY HEY HEY it's faaaaaat pandas

Panda gives birth to chubby twins
On Monday, a seven-year-old giant panda at the Chengdu Research Facility in China became a first-time mom, birthing twin cubs. The cubs, a male and female, weigh approximately 200 grams and 176 grams, respectively, which is considered overweight for newborn panda cubs.

Maybe the pregnant panda mom ate too many orange chicken panda bowls from Panda Express? To conduct some independent and highly unscientific research, we went to the local mall's food court. At 880 calories and 29.5 grams of fat, (you have to add the individual components together to get the total caloric value - shady) Panda Express has managed to turn what could have been a moderately healthy lunch into a blind orgy of caloric excess all smothered with gooey orange deliciousness. Just guess what popular and notorious fast food item has the same amount of fat and fewer calories? A Big Mac. The numbers. They don't lie. What other havoc is being wreaked upon society's health in the mall food court? At the rate of 175 new Panda Expresses annually, it's not as though Panda Express is hurting. Wish I could say the same about the effect on america's waistlines and cholesterol levels.

The more I pay attention to where my food comes from and what could possibly be in it, the more I begin to understand veganism. It's not so much about hurting poor animals as it "What the &*$@ has corporation X put into my lunch today?" I'm no foodologist (? tm, just in case) but I am definitely paying more attention to what I put in my mouth and in my belly because Panda Express Inc. is not in the business of looking out for my health. Come on Panda E! It's a new day and your consumers are not the ignoramuses we once were in the days pre-internet. Plus we are seriously jonesin' for some orangey delicious goo. Just make it low-fat, low-sugar, low-sodium, transfat-preservative-and chemical-free, and throw in a little vitamin C for good measure. That's all.

On the flip side, you have Panda Candy. All natural licorice, with hardly any chemicals, preservatives, etc., this is a company that is riding the nutritional wave, experiencing 30% growth over the past year. Panda Candy is doing so well, they're redesigning their packaging to tout all the nutritional goodness that is inside. Now, if only they would redesign the taste of licorice.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

I'm late but what else is new?

DID YOU MISS ME?????? cuz I missed you pandodyssey(tm). (HUG.)

It's been so long, I had to go back and re-read the last post to remember why I stopped.

1. "large-scale writing project" - didn't happen, surprise! I thought about it a whole lot (like 5, maybe 10 minutes) and then suffered my first case of large-scale writing project writer's block, and couldn't write for eight months afterwards. Apparently, I can't handle the pressure so no more "projects" of "scale". Just blog posts.
2. "mid-tacular elections" - Did I win? Where's my prize?
3. "knit a scarf for the homeless" - I actually DID knit one, but gave it to my mom for christmas. She's not homeless so far as I know, but she really needed one and this one also happened to be red, which is a good color on her. I also knitted an alpaca wool hat for E but there is surprising little need for alpaca wool hats in southern california. He's never worn it so I doubt the homeless want it either.

So, with all the old news addressed, here's the new news: Mongol Rally 2007 is underway! The Amazing-est Race started July 21. The Rally Rules are simple - there are only three:

1. your car must be a POS with an engine smaller than 1 liter;
2. you must raise 1,000 pounds (insert squiggly L) for the sponsored charities;
3. you are ON YOUR OWN, meaning all those papers that you didn't read but signed anyway at the start of the race won't help you at any stage of the rally. Rallyers better be prepared, creative, resourceful, and hopefully lucky.

This year's event is even bigger than last year with 186 teams competing for the top prize - the top prize being avoiding getting arrested and/or detained in a -stan. If you're looking for a more goal-oriented race, the Tour de France is showing on Versus.

As far as Rally team names go: Team Panda Khanage and Team Prancing Pandas receive obvious honorable mention. Other clever-ish names are Team Starsky & Clutch, Team Bataar-Mobile, and Team Are We There Yet?

And now... the pandodyssey pick for Mongol Rally 2007 ... the sweet filly on which all (none) of my money will be riding on is ... Team EcoChallenge! This brave duo from Spain will be showing off their eco-know-how by racing/pushing a vehicle that runs on used cooking oil from London, England all the way to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia - a capital that needs to learn vowel conservation.

Spread the word - it's Rally season!

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