Engineers for the Environment

I am only a HS student, but concerning the freak weather we have had this summer, I think it is a good time to start pinpointing problems and, most importantly, solutions.

I think that global warming and greenhouse gases have something to do with it. One bad hurricane every few years or so is normal, but four bad ones in a single year is just insane. Global warming not only causes hurricanes, but also bad sea storms, snow and ice storms, flooding, drought, famine, coral bleachings, etc…

I recently listened to a lecture at Purdue, given by Prof. Richard E. Smalley, a Nobel Laureate who is currently at Rice University in Houston. He talked about the energy problem, and how MOST (over 60 percent) of our energy used today comes from fossil fuels. He mentioned that fossil fuels create pollution, but he focused more on the energy and sustainability aspect of fossil fuels.

Indeed, it DOES affect the environment in disastrous ways. Fossil Fuels produce Carbon Dioxide, a greenhouse gas that warms the planet and the seas. It also alters the flow of the seas so the warm seas can’t “vent” their heat through warm currents. The only other way to “vent” heat from the oceans is for water to evaporate (ie the first stage of forming a hurricane).
Besides adding heat, it alters natural wind cycles that bring drought to some regions, and flood to others.

But we are (or will be) engineers. We have the ability to stop the problem. We have the brain power to invent new sources of energy without the environmental and political costs of fossil fuels. We have the ability to develop microorganisms that will clean up polluted sites. It is time to think about the environment, how to save it, and how to use energy without harming it. Because if we harm it, it will destroy us.

I think that global warming and greenhouse gases have something to do with it.

Global warming is a very interesting issue. Unfortunately I have read conflicting reports of what will happen in a matter of a month. It will either get really hot or really cold. Some people believe that global warming was fairly important in staving off another ice age but we need to stop releasing carbon dioxide into the air now or else we will cause it. Then the Europeans believe global warming will cause intense droughts and heat waves. Maybe we should just wait. We are overdue for an ice age.:slight_smile:

[quote=suneel112
]

That’s why I think OTEC is such a good idea. Basically, it uses the oceans heat to fuel a Stirling-Type engine.

Here’s Hawaii’s OTEC page

I realize it’s a realtively short-term solution, but it’s still cool[/quote]

…And yet Michigan has had one of their coolest summers ever…

I am not worried about it. Not at all. (Now I don’t agree with GROSS POLLUTION [eg - untuned vehicles, no scrubbers on smoke stacks, ect…]) but with the strict pollution policies in effect I don’t see any problems.

I am quite fine with things the way they are…

You’re too young to have a clear understanding of longer climate patterns. Most of us are, actually, but some of us at least have experienced the fact that there are longer climate patterns.

I think that global warming and greenhouse gases have something to do with it. One bad hurricane every few years or so is normal, but four bad ones in a single year is just insane.

The idea of “normal” is relative. Based on records over the past hundred and fifty years, the past four decades or so have been unusually calm. It looks like a regular pattern of varying hurricane activity is entering the “highly active” part of the cycle, and global warming doesn’t seem to be an important factor.

But we are (or will be) engineers. We have the ability to stop the problem. We have the brain power to invent new sources of energy without the environmental and political costs of fossil fuels. We have the ability to develop microorganisms that will clean up polluted sites.

Engineers can invent new things all day, but at the end of the day the general public (and their lawyers) will still be averse to unfamiliar and disruptive technologies. If the goal is to produce less pollution, the answer today is simple: go nuclear. Unfortunately, that word produces an intense emotional reaction in people who can block its acceptance. Biotech is similar – any mention of “genetic engineering” sets off alarm bells that can drown out logical explanations.

The real problem is that the people with great ideas on how to solve problems using technology are distrusted by the people who believe that technology has caused more problems than it has solved. This is probably a symptom of the present poor state of public education.

I’ve heard stories that some large oil companies buy-up inventors’ patents for more environmentally friendly technologies (auto engines for example). They tend to squash the idea before it puts them out of business.

I agree that many of us aspiring engineers do have the ability to improve and promote more environmentally friendly methods of producing power. It’s a hot topic here at NU. I have a friend who loves to hike (he’s president of the outdoors club), he’s majoring in MechE for the sole reason to do work on fuel cells and other alternative energies. He’s writing a 5500 word proposal (for a class) to NU trying to persuade them to use solar panels to defray energy costs.

Alternative energies won’t really be a hot seller until engineers make it “faster, better, cheaper.” That’s why invention is so important. Eventually, the USA will have to adopt these policies, the fuel will run out. Let’s just hope it’s not too late.

I think for right now, us as consumers could help by either purchasing hybrid vehicals or producing a little of our on power for our homes. Dean has a wind generator at his house :cool:

The energy source of the future is brain power.

Solve the problem not the solution. The problem is generating power at little or no cost, in massive quantities, and to easily distribute it. Discussing fuel cells, wind power, solar power, etc… are all but solutions to the current problems of nuclear, oil, coal, and natural gas… which we thought and some think are the solution to the main problem. While it is easy to say and define what the problem is, the solution is in our minds and imaginations that are dreams that have yet to take a given form.

The power to implement these ideas and dreams yes fall to the people but it is the engineers who hold the true power. We have to convey and sell our ideas to the masses where the public must accept and trust it. It is not a result of a system of poor education, rather it is the lack of people who have the '“correct” knowledge and sharing it. The educating of the masses properly is up to us in order to create a better future. To say it is the system is to blame yourself, you are a part of the system. You are a part of humanity. It is not just the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, Mexico, Cuba, France, or any single member of the nations of this world. It is not up to the UN, the EU, or any other global organization. It is every nation of this planet whose peoples need to be properly educated and given the proper tools and technologies to wage the battle for a cleaner, more healthy Earth.

Remember….
“Ad Astra Per Aspera”
(A Rough Road Leads to the Stars)

[quote=Michael R. Lee]The energy source of the future is brain power.

QUOTE]

isnt’ that at epcot w/ ellen and bill nye the science guy???–the jeopordy final question–lol

but yeah brain power will get us tons of places–just think and great ways to help our lovely planet-- we have a few more decades i know we all would love to way

and ppl recycle too :slight_smile: and save as much as u can[/quote]

Pssshaw!
You’re like what, less than 200 years old? You don’t know jack about weather. :smiley:

The educating of the masses properly is up to us in order to create a better future. To say it is the system is to blame yourself, you are a part of the system. You are a part of humanity.

This whole issue of global warming irks me a bit. Scientists can’t even figure out what will happen and they give out conflicting opinions. How is anyone going to trust them if they say completely opposite situations is going to happen?

I have a friend who loves to hike (he’s president of the outdoors club), he’s majoring in MechE for the sole reason to do work on fuel cells and other alternative energies.

Umm… This may sound like a stupid question but wouldn’t an electrical or chemical engineer be better suited to do work on fuel cells. A fuel cell has no moving parts. Im confused because Im going into electrical engineering for the same reason as you stated.

Engineers can invent new things all day, but at the end of the day the general public (and their lawyers) will still be averse to unfamiliar and disruptive technologies. If the goal is to produce less pollution, the answer today is simple: go nuclear

The real problem is that the people with great ideas on how to solve problems using technology are distrusted by the people who believe that technology has caused more problems than it has solved. This is probably a symptom of the present poor state of public education.

Umm… Your solution to the problem of less polution probably is the reason why the public trusts scientists less. Im not sure which era this stems from though. It has to be either your parents or your grandparents. Anyway nuclear power was supposed to be the solution to all our problems. Health, energy, and practically anything you could think. Unfortunately everything scientists was telling us was a bunch of hogwash. That’s probably where the synisism towards nuclear energy stems from. I could go into it with more detail but it’s nine and I need to get two my dorm though there is a whole book on it.

Starting a rumor like this is as easy as just making it up and telling it to someone. There’s really no substance to these rumors for one main reason. US patent law states that if an invention is not dilligently pursued by its owner, the patent will be cancelled. This is exactly to stop the sort of thing you’re talking about.

I think rumors like these just come from people who hate big companies, and like to pretend that they are conspiring against people every day.

If oil companies are really doing this, then why is Toyota selling so many hybrid cars that it can’t even make them fast enough?

There has been a breakthrough in Cold Fushion, take a look! :slight_smile:

http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/WEBONLY/resource/sep04/0904nfus.html

Cause people are tired of paying high prices for gas. Also (and please no offense to the teams supported bu US Automakers - i.e. GM, Ford, etc…) these Japanses Automakers in some ways are making better vechicles than that in the states. These cars were popular due to their fuel economy in the 1970s oil crisis and in some ways have held on to the market. The msot popular cars today are Toyotas and Hondas. A part of this issue is the fact that people buy a gas guzzling SUV or two where 5mpg is the norm. Unfortunately, there are people ok with it. That is in part to Detriot’s response to public demand for bigger SUVs… hence vehicles like the hummer are out on the road. If we wanted fuel efficent cars, they’d produce them. It has nothing to do with Oil companies other than the price at the pump and how much you want to spend on gas.

There is no such thing as a stupid question. But I am not going to claim expertise in fuel cells either. I do know however there are issues that ME’s are needed or are qualified as a fuel cell can be and is in some cases considered a thermal system to generate power.

Yes, but you’re just proving my point. If Oil companies were really doing what Erin said they were, then they would be paying Toyota not to produce hybrid cars, or buying the patents for hybrid components, or something like that.

I agree with basically everything you had to say about the car companies–and I think that more and more people will buy fuel efficient cars because they want to. If GM and Ford want to remain profitable, they’ll have to put more research into it. Its just another good example of how transitions to better technologies will take place on their own, very efficiently and without government mandates.

I wasn’t disputing your point of why is Toyota selling so many hybrids. Also US companies are putting money into developing such vehicles but they are behind on the development side of things and are suffering for it… though hopefully not as bad as Kodak and the use of digital cameras.

Oil companies are buying components for hybrid, fuel cell, etc… vehicles, except not for what Erin said or Greenpeace or others would like us to think. Yes we call them oil companies but really they are fuel companies, providing us with oil to heat our homes and offices, generate electricity, etc… The next generation cars are going to be fuel cells, hybrid and the like. If they are going to survive they need to change their products. Also some of these companies make things like plastic which itself has parts that are from refining crude. To pay Toyota to not make hybrids is stupid on their part. Even a little amount of gasoline sold is better than none at all. Also it gives them a chance to still make money while developing better fuels tailored for the cars of the future, whatever that fuel maybe. Cars and oil companies may not agree on things but they need one another to survive. Oil companies know that one day we will run out of fossil fuels thus they are turning to brain power to engineer the “fuel(s)” to power the world of tomorrow today.