Solar Sales, Oil Alternatives, and Other Energy News

This installment of an ongoing energy news feature includes stories about the effect a proposed tax credit has had on solar equipment sales and a symposium of chemical engineers in Toronto to discuss oil alternatives.

054 oil alternatives energy news

At an energy symposium in Toronto sponsored by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, diesel fuel distilled from coconuts was one of the proposed oil alternatives.

PHOTO: PAULISTA/FOTOLIA

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The following energy news stories were drawn from multiple sources


Solar Sales Delayed

President Carter's proposal that tax credits be given to people who use solar energy systems has backfired. Many people now plan to wait until Congress acts on the measure to buy their solar equipment, and, as a result of this "hesitation" in the market, nearly 30% of all American solar energy firms have gone out of business since the Presidential plan was announced last April.

Oil Alternatives Symposium

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry sponsored a gathering of 750 scientists and engineers in Toronto recently. All of this brainpower was assembled to discuss potential chemical substitutes for fossil petroleum. Although the meeting covered such possibilities as diesel fuel distilled from coconuts and the direct hydrogenation of poplar wood, no one solution met with unanimous group approval. The assembled "experts" did agree, however, that the chemical industry need not perish with the world's oil supply.

Marijuana Power

The Eugene, Oregon Water and Electric Board recently burned nearly six tons of "high grade" marijuana in its downtown generating .plant. Oregon utility officials aren't yet ready to commit themselves to confiscated grass as a fuel source, though. "Despite this material's excellent burning qualities," says one spokesman, "it is doubtful that federal drug enforcement can meet our needs."

Independent Energy Systems

Independent Energy Systems, INC. is a firm that sells direct-drive, slow-speed, wind-driven electrical systems and components from their own modern solar- and wood-heated, wind-powered factory. The company can completely convert your home or farm to wind power, handling everything from site evaluation to delivery.

Sewage Methane

Raw sewage is a gas, or will be anyway, once Western States Explorations, Inc. completes the methane production plant that the firm is constructing in the Baltimore area. The installation should be able to process 50,000 pounds of raw sewage a month into 1 million cubic feet of methane.

Solar Powered Poultry

Solar and wood heat for poultry growout houses may soon be available. Georgia Tech engineers have developed prototypes of the two systems as part of a research program funded by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Both the wood-burning and solar-powered systems are being tested at private poultry farms in the Atlanta area.

Wind Powered Radio

The world's only wind-powered radio station operates out of Oak Creek, Colorado. The station, KFMU, gets its energy from a Jacobs Model 2700 32-volt generator built in Minneapolis in 1947 and tries to apply the "natural" approach to its programming as well. KFMU uses no "canned" music or announcer tapes, and limits advertising to one two-minute period for every half hour of music that is broadcast.

Microwave Hazards

Low-level microwaves may be dangerous, according to animal studies now being conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency. Early results from these tests indicate that microwaves may affect the immune system, cause hernias of the brain, and produce a trend toward lowered performance—heavy prices to pay for a 30-second hot dog.

Future Energy Prices

The early 70's energy crisis weren't nothin', says Daniel Yergin of the Harvard University Business School. Yergin predicts that if present fuel consumption trends continue, energy prices will double or triple by 1985 or '86, causing the national standard of living to nosedive.

Dangerous Ground

Some "lost" nuclear waste has become a headache for the L.B. Foster Company in Washington, West Virginia. The firm recently completed construction of a $2-million facility, only to find that the land around it is contaminated by a highly flammable mixture of radioactive and chemical wastes. "The ground pops and sparkles if you rub the soil," says plant manager Walter Pavlo. At present the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is trying to figure out how the dangerous material got there.

In Brief

A group of Nebraska farmers have formed FATLE (Farmers Against Transmission Line Easements) to control the proliferation of high-voltage powerlines .... The Northern Cheyenne Indians have successfully blocked construction of two 760-MW coal-fired plants at Colestrip, Montana .... Dartmouth College is planning-with the aid of several other organizations-construction of a 50-MW biomass-burning power plant to serve northern New England .... For the past two winters, Pennsylvania State University's 100-cubic-meter methane digester has processed the manure from a 50-cow barn to produce 26.6 kwh worth of methane a day .... A study done by citizens' groups in Washington, D.C. shows that "Nuclear" utilities generally receive larger rate increases than conventional power companies .... passive solar retrofit opportunities are described in "Passive Solar Retrofit for Homeowners," available from Citizens' Energy Project.