Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hybrid Cars, The Next Generation...

The hybrid car, so much has been said about it. Not until now has there been a complete shift and focus on the hybrid's emergence. With gas prices at an all time high, the economic pressure to save dollars is now forcing Americans to look at alternative money saving measures.

More and more people are opting for carpooling and the use of the public transportation system rather than driving their personal vehicles to and from work. Families are consolidating trips for everyday household errands and are even delaying or canceling family vacations. These changes have come about because of the price of gasoline in America.

Others are even trying alternative methods of fuel combustion, like the Water2Fuel craze. Anything to squeeze a few more miles out of their beloved automobiles in an effort to save money on high fuel costs.

The problem is, Americans do not "like" being forced to change their driving habits. The majority of Americans realize that the reliance on foreign oil is not a good thing and that America needs to find a way to produce its own sustainable fuel source. And then there are the concerns about the burning of fossil fuels and the damage it's causing to the earth's eco system. Price and pollution, what is the answer? Could it be the hybrid car?

Hybrid cars, such as Toyota's Prius and Honda's Insight, rely on both gasoline power and electric power. The electric portion of the powerplant is driven by very large batteries that are recharged as the car is driven. The result is less dependence on fuel with better gas mileage. Honda's Insight is reported to average 60 miles per gallon city with fewer emissions. The difference is simple - while driving in the city the electric motor is doing most of the work, thus using less gasoline. Highway driving needs more power and is where the gasoline engine does its work.

The hybrid does have its share of drawbacks. What new technology doesn't? They are smaller vehicles made up of lighter-weight materials and parts. And you will sacrifice horsepower for fuel economy (forget about towing a boat or trailer with a hybrid, at least for now). Additionally, the hybrid market is in its infancy. In 2008, the hybrid market was estimated to make up about 2% of the total automobile market. This is because many automakers have been slow to enter the hybrid market.

And there are those that believe the hybrid car is not as effective a technology solution to alternative fuel, such as ethanol, made from corn, switch grass, or even hydrogen and saltwater.

Where will the power that fuels America's vehicles come from? Nobody seems to know right now. We do know this: Steam power was replaced by electric power, and electric power was replaced by gasoline power. Gasoline power will eventually be replaced with something, hopefully before it's too late to change its effect on global warming. While hybrid cars represent an "alternative" or a means to find a replacement, they do represent a viable solution.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Global Warming Heats Up Both Earth and Arguments

Global warming is one of the most popular topics of news programs and worldwide media. The basic assertion of global warming is that the surface of the earth is increasing in temperature. That assertion also implies that human industrial activities are responsible for this temperature increase.

A consensus of worldwide scientists recently issued a statement that global warming is real and that it needs to be controlled. What exactly is global warming, and how did it get to the extent that is seen today?

Global warming is due to the greenhouse effect. A greenhouse easily lets sunlight in to warm the interior. However, the heat that is generated by the sunlight has a harder time getting out, raising the temperature inside the greenhouse.

Carbon dioxide, water vapor, and methane are greenhouse gases that trap heat inside the atmosphere, like the glass of a greenhouse. These are naturally occurring gases that are beneficial to the earth. However, global warming asserts that humanity has increased the amounts of greenhouse gases and caused the recent worldwide temperature increase.

Scientists claim that humanity's massive burning of fossil fuels is mainly responsible for the global warming increase. Fossil fuels include oil, gas, coal, and natural gas. Carbon dioxide and water vapor, among other gases, are generated when these fossil fuels are burned.

Two of the main greenhouse gas emitters are coal fired power plants and automobile exhaust. Every industrialized economy in the world is based on fossil fuel usage, so it is not possible to decrease global warming by simply stopping the use of oil, coal, and gasoline.

Alternatives to fossil fuels include solar, wind, hybrids, and even nuclear energy. These alternative energy sources emit little or no greenhouse gases. Therefore, widespread adoption of these energy sources should help reduce or slow global warming. However, some of these technologies are not mature or ready for widespread distribution. Many countries that stopped or slowed their nuclear energy programs decades ago are reviving them now.

It is pretty obvious that global warming is a real phenomenon. Polar ice is melting, hurricanes are increasing in strength and intensity, and some local climates are even changing. There may be even more sinister effects of global warming waiting to be discovered.

Even those that don't believe in global warming can recognize that migrating to alternative fuels and renewable energy sources will help the planet in the long term. The time to start is now, before those more destructive effects make themselves known.