Harnessing the Power of a Cow’s Bum

Methane (CH4) is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the UnitedGlobally, over 60% of total CH4 emissions come from human activities. Human activities that produce methane are things like natural gas leakages or raising livestock. Many animals such as cows, sheep, or camels produce methane on a large scale due to the amount of animals in the world. The methane emissions that are directly from livestock are considered human activities because we are raising them for food. Methane, among other gases are considered to be greenhouse gases because when present in the atmosphere they absorb heat which heats the earth similarly to how a green house keeps its plants warm. Pound for pound, the comparative impact of CH4 on climate change is 25 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period. This large difference is due to the fact that the bonds in the methane molecule are better at absorbing the long wave radiation that is bouncing off of the earth than the bonds in the CO2 molecules.  

The radiation absorbed in the bonds of the greenhouse gas molecules heats the earth and may even upset the balance of energy that is coming from the sun that is absorbed by the earth and that which reflects off of the earth due to the albedo effect. If more energy is coming in from the sun than what is being reflected off into space then the earth will begin to get too hot; this can cause climate change.

With the amount of methane coming from the butts of the simple cow researchers are investigating the action of modifying cows so they burp and fart less and there for produce less methane. This may not be the best idea because the methane produced by cattle can be harnessed and turned into energy! A farmer named Jerry Jennisson has created a way to partially power his farm, and to put power back into the grid through capturing the methane coming from his cows and using it to power a generator. The methane powers a specially rebuilt Chevy 350 engine. The engine turns a 37 kilowatt generator. Half the electricity created actually goes back into the process of making methane. What if instead of genetically modifying our cows to produce less methane farmers harnessed the power that comes from the cows bottom.

Love Your Wood

Everyone knows someone who owns a guitar, some people know someone with multiple guitars. Every guitar, except for the more abstract ones, has a wood neck and most have wood body as well. At least one million guitars have been sold every year since 1999, and that is just online. All of these guitars are created with wood that has been taken from a forest. For nicer guitars there are “choice woods” that give better acoustics to the guitar, and are less likely to warp. The three most used “choice woods” are rose wood, mahogany, and maple. Some prefer Mahogany in their guitars, because of its ability to give the clearest note. Rose wood makes the higher frequencies of the sounds more reverberation which is a very unique sound. Maple is favored by some because of its versatility in terms of its sounds; it can sound clear, dark, and light all depending on how you play it. Mahogany generally comes from the Caribbean and Central and South America. In Peru, the amount mahogany trees has shrunk by 50%, and, within ten years a further 28% will be logged out.

Rose wood and Mahogany are both on the Globaltrees.org’s vulnerable conservation status due to their over logging. Guitar manufacturing may not be the largest reason as to why these trees are on the vulnerable list, but when online guitar sales have been as high as the past 15 years it is apparent that the amount of wood needed to build such a vast amount is very high. Green peace has started a campaign called Music Wood, to lessen the amount of wood taken from protected forests to manufacture musical instruments. Greenpeace are currently working on bringing the forestry of south east Alaska up to FSC standards so that American guitar manufacturers will have a more accessible, and more eco friendly place to get their wood from. Currently 0 acres of forest are FSC certified, and the majority of logging is done to clear space for other businesses or to clear space for people to live in. If the Music Wood program works it will benefit the economy of Alaska, bring down the amount of wood taken from protected forests for musical instruments, and it will bring more jobs to the native people and will help their economy as well.

Renewable Energy in Your Backyard?

The main types of renewable energy are wind, solar, and hydroelectric. Energy companies around the world capture the energy available in these renewable sources and turn them into electricity. There are many of companies that turn renewable energy into electricity. Since 1995 the amount of companies that deal with renewable energy sources such as wind power, and solar power has increased by over 100% in the past 20 years.

This picture shows the industry growth of companies that deal directly with renewable energy sources.

Renewable energy is certainly on the come up and because of it less fossil fuels are being consumed and there is less pollution than there would be with out the renewable energy. The following graph shows the green house gas emissions of various energy types. On the far right the green house gas emissions of the fossil fuels is significantly higher than that of the renewable energy sources on the left.

In 2013 About 67% of the electricity generated was from fossil fuels. Nearly every house in america is connected to the national power supply, and this means that the majority of the houses in America are largely powered by fossil fuels. The companies who are converting natural renewable energy into electricity use large scale equipment to harvest the energy, but is it possible small scale? What if we could harvest our own energy in our back yards? Between 2000 and 2013 there had been 2,261 MW of residential solar installed. Many people have solar panels, but they only really work if your house gets a lot of sunlight. If you lived in the woods what could you do? You can set up your very own hydro electric dam if you have a stream!

It could be challenging to build a large scale hydro electric dam like the one in the picture above, but even a small scale hydro electric dam that you build your self out of spoons and neoprene magnets would be better than nothing. If every one in America that had access to a good spot to build a hydro electric dam, install solar panels, or build a wind turbine we could slowly increase the amount of renewable energy that is turned into electricity to power homes by a lot!

How Much Fossil Fuels do We Have Left?

Fossil fuels fall under the category of non renewable energy sources. There is a limited amount of oil, coal, and natural gas in the Earth’s crust. Fossil fuels are made when decomposable material, such as dinosaur bones, were buried in the earth millions of years ago. Coal is made from plants that once lived millions of years ago, oil is made from plankton that lived millions of years ago, and natural gas is mainly methane produced from the decomposition of materials in the Earth’s crust. These fossil fuels can be used to power machines, factories, and everything that requires electricity. The Industrial Revolution, from 1760 to around 1840, was what really started the world off in its fast paced consumption of fossil fuels. In the present day world, we annually consume the equivalent of 11 tons of oil. At this rate it is predicted that we will run out of crude oil reserves by 2052. We have enough coal to last hundreds of years, but if the reserves of oil and natural gas run out then coal will be used to fill that hole; this will cause the hundreds of years to be greatly lessened.


In this graph it shows that we will run out of all fossil fuels by 2088 if we continue to consume the fuel at the rate we do currently. Sixteen of the twenty largest oil reserves are already past their max capacity which means that we are not gathering as much fuel as we did now from them as we did. Fossil fuels are running out, and will be completely used up in the next hundred years or so. In the 1970s the Saudi Oil Minister said, “The Stone Age didn’t end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of oil.” He thinks that we will be moving on to greater, more efficient ways of generating energy. These ways are almost upon us with renewable energy sources such as wind power, solar power, or water power. Solar power especially has not met its full potential, as of now solar panels usually run around 11-15% efficiency, hydro-electric energy is 90% efficient, wind power is around 35% efficient, the efficiency of coal plants are around 40% efficiency. If the efficiency of the renewable energy sources can be bettered then a replacement for the consumption of fossil fuels will have been found. As the Saudi Oil Minister said it is only a matter of time before we find a replacement for fossil fuels.




Nuclear power good or bad?

Nuclear energy is cheap to produce unlike fossil fuel based energy. When nuclear energy is used there is a baseline of energy that is produced, that will stay the same no matter the conditions; unlike wind, or solar power. A plants production level can be lowered if there is a lot of energy from the sun or wind available, but it can also be raised if there is less energy available from these sources. Nuclear power plants create relatively low pollution because humans do not have to harvest resources from the ground as we do with oil. This lack of harvesting lessens the environmental impact of the nuclear power plants, but nuclear power plants are still dangerous to animals due to the radioactive waste. Nuclear power plants mainly use uranium for fuel, but other substances such as thorium. There is enough uranium available in the earth to produce energy at our current rate for eighty years. Nuclear energy is not a renewable source of energy but with the use of breeder reactors, or nuclear fusion we could possibly turn nuclear power into a sustainable energy source. With innovations in atomic fusion, we are getting closer and closer to being able to create a completely renewable source of energy. At this moment in time using these options to make renewable energy is not practical, but with time I think that they will be. The energy released in a nuclear fission reaction is ten million times greater than that of an atom of fossil fuel reacting. With all of these positives, there are negatives as well. In 1986 a nuclear accident occurred, leaving between 15,000 and 30,000 people dead. A similar incident occurred on March 18th 2011in Japan. This repeating of disasters shows that nothing can really be done to completely protect the world from a horrible accident such as the ones that occurred in Japan, and Chernobyl. Another negative aspect of a nuclear power plant is not the emissions that come straight from the plant its self, because those levels are very low, they actually come from the process of mining Uranium. Here in Massachusetts 14 percent of the electricity generated is from nuclear power. Nuclear power has many pros, and a few cons; but, in my opinion, the dangers and the pollution caused by the plants is enough to make me concerned that if too many plants are built many people could be at risk of a nuclear accident. If there was a way to cut the dangers, and the emission levels of the plants down significantly I think then it would be Ok to build more plants.

Plant picture

facts on MA

Energy Informative

rising carbon emissions

Singapore is a city in south east Asia, It’s pollution level is one of the highest in the world. The government in singapore has limitations on the amount of private cars driven through taxes. When a private car is purchased in singapore the person has to pay up to 1.5 times the commercial value of the car to be able to drive it; not every one can afford these prices so this causes the amount of cars driven to decease. These taxes may help to decrease the amount of emissions from cars but the port of singapore is the 5th most busy port in the world. This constant amount of ships in the singapore port from all over the world more than cancels out what the taxes that the government put on the purchasing of private cars. I think that if other countries implemented the taxes that Singapore does then it would greatly decrease the amount of cars that add to the rising carbon emission problem.

Carbon emissions dont just come from cars and boats, they come from any form of combustion. energy plants(especially coal burning energy plants), and increases in deforestation are also large contributors to the rising carbon emission level. Without drastic change in the regulations on carbon emissions, this will be a hard obstacle to conquer. To upgrade a factory or power plant to lower carbon emission is very expensive and not alot of companies are willing to do it if not required.

Governments are taking steps to reduce the amount of pollution coming out of daily commuting, trade ships, trains, and other forms of transport, and on emissions from factories and power plants. In america Cars are inspected every year to see if the emissions levels are too high, and if they are you are required by law to fix your car. In india there are road blocks set up by the government to catch cars that have higher emission than the maximum legal level. There are precautions being taken by governments to lower emission levels, but the carbon emission level is still rising.


Carbon Emissions 

2013 9.9 billion metric tonnes (GtC)
2012 9.7 billion metric tonnes (GtC)
2011 9.47 billion metric tonnes (GtC)
2010 9.19 billion metric tonnes (GtC)


8.74 billion metric tonnes (GtC)  


8.77 billion of metric tonnes (GtC)  


8.57 billion metric tonnes (GtC)


8.37 billion metric tonnes (GtC)






Cultural influences and how they negatively affect society

Different cultures have different social pressures. In america there is little to no pressure, any more, to have a lot of children. In India there is a high social pressure to have many children. The fact that India is a developing country is a large factor in why the pressure to have kids is the way it is. When you are living in a poor country like India the health care isnt as good as somewhere like the USA, you have babies knowing that there is a chance that one or more could die. When you have multiple children, once they grow up, they could help the family’s income by getting jobs. In the USA there isn’t as much of a need for raising one’s children with the idea that they could work for the family.

The crude birth rate in India in 2014 is currently 19.89 births/1,000 population, while the crude birth rate in the USA is lower at 13.42 births/1,000 population. In india there is an intense social pressure to have children and it has a negative impact on pollution, the economy, and the population size. It might sound like a brilliant idea to just tell the people in India to stop having so many kids, but it doesn’t quite work that way. The culture in India has been the way it is for years upon years. America used to be this way, in 1910 the birth rate was at 30.1/1,000 population. The birth rate was so high because back then a family would be better off bigger because the kids could help out on the farm or in the family business. This high birth rate declined as industrialization, and advances in society slowly grew.


“I did not want to have children now. I want to study.” said by Nineteen-year-old Kalawati Kumari is an important quote because it shows that people in India do want change. She was married into an arranged marriage, and had children when she didn’t want to. I think that the presence of people like Kumari in India will slowly begin to change the long standing culture into something similar to the birth culture in the USA. The change that went on in the USA went along with a change in economy, and a different way of thinking because of it. If the way of thinking that Kumari has could spread to many other Indian people I believe that the problem of overpopulation, caused by a high birth rate, would be diminished. If the overpopulation problem was solved then the economy problems in India would be easier to solve, the pollution problems in India would be easier to solve, and the culture of pushing people into marriages and to have children that they might not want would slowly start to fade.