Monthly Archives: January 2010

Gardening a year-round with a Walipini underground greenhouse

The Underground Walipini Greenhouse, developed by the Benson Institute ,  is an interesting green house for cold or adverse environments. It  utilizes nature’s resources to provide a warm, stable, well-lit  for year-round vegetable production.  The word ‘Walipini’ comes from the Aymara Indian language and means ‘place of warmth’. 

One of the main principles involves embedding the greenhouse in the earth to take advantage of the earth constant temperature  to store the solar energy collected during the day.  The solar gain comes through a light permeable material such as plastic, Visqueen polycarbinate. The angle of the panels is designed to be  90-degrees to the Winter Soltace sun ( Dec. 21/June 21, depending on hemisphere).

A thick wall of rammed earth at the back of the building and a much lower wall at the front provide the need angle sheet roof.  This roof seals the hole, provides an insulating airspace between the two layers of plastic ( a sheet on the top and another on the bottom of the roof/poles) and allows the sun rays to penetrate creating a warm, stable environment for plant growth. The upper portion of the walls are insulated down past the frost line.

Water barrels can also be used to store the thermal heat and carry it through the night or cloudy days (which are not as cold). Water is a much better thermal mass storage mechanism than soil.  The chimney system provides the highest volume air flow and the best control of ventilation.

Walipini style greenhouse is a hydronic growing system arranged in an elevated tiered fashion (tent-shaped rows). A cheap, effective  year-round greenhouse method!

Tires that change shapes…..

Environmental  friendly driving is not only a matter of  using  less fossil fuels or reducing your emissions. Very important are also the parts of the car which can contribute to a cleaner environment.  Imagine, you have a tire which can change its shape to that best suited for the conditions of the road.   This shape of the tire contains green benefits too in the form of reduced travel times to increased fuel efficiency.  And no problems with  flat tires which you have to change  in a most unlikely place!

Scientists are trying to develop tires that change shapes according to the conditions of the road. For example, farmers often have to traverse  in rough terrain and there  tires can help them in combating the problem attached with soil compaction caused by current wheel designs.   This problem has another add on too. Soil compaction leads towards losses in agricultural production nearing 20%. Tires can also be helpful in roads that are facing the problem of flooding or have mud, rocks, holes or sand.  The  remoldable wheels can easily adjust themselves to newer height and width on command.

In the race to replace Senate Climat Bill


After three U.S senators put forward a replacement cap-and trade bill last month, two more U.S. Senators jumped into the climate bill debate, laying down a proposal that would eliminate the cap and trade mechanism, and replace it with a cap and dividend system.

This legislation is introduced by senators Maria Cantwell of Washinton, a Democrat, and Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican. Unlike the climate bill passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year, financial speculators would be shut out of carbon markets created under this legislation. This market, known as “cap and dividend”, would be more streamlined than the House’s cap and trade scheme. Instead of placing carbon limits on most major polluters, the bill would focus only on producers and importers of fossil fuels such as coal mining companies and not power plants and manufacturers. The companies covered by their legislation would be required to buy permits for their carbon emissions in monthly auctions. The majority (about 75%) of the revenue from the auctions would be refunded back to consumers via tax free dividends to offset higher energy and fuel costs .At about $1,100 a year, this dividend will give a net gain to households that strive to curb their electricity and fuel use, but will be insufficient to cover the increased prices for those who consume energy heavily. As more emissions free electricity comes online, consumer energy prices and carbon dividends are to decrease in step with each other. The remaining 25 % of the cap and dividend funds will be awarded to research and development institutions specifically working on technological solutions to transport, power, and efficiency.

Recently senators John Kerry, Lindsay Graham, and Joseph Lieberman put forward a replacement cap-and-trade bill  that the trio says will win support from some Republicans and moderate Democrats for its large appropriations for nuclear energy and offshore oil development. Emission cuts are 15% less aggressive than the original cap and trade bill, and begin very gradually from zero instead of forcing a sharp initial cut that is gradually increased. The bill also allows and promotes the use of green tariffs within the allowances of global trade agreements.The three Senators signaled their climate control system would likely follow the same contours of the House-passed bill, which covered most major polluters.

Critics of the House bill and previous Senate proposals have complained they are too broad in scope and that complex carbon and offset markets would invite manipulation and abuse from financial speculators.

Senator Cantwell applauded John Kerry for reaching across the aisle to find a Republican supporter in Senator Graham, but said that his bill was unlikely to gain Republican support because it still relies on the unproven cap and trade mechanism. “I think there’s a lot of interest across the aisle in a process that is simpler and fairer,” said Senator Cantwell. “Cap-and-trade is not as predictable in its allowance system and who gets what. Republicans like predictability.”

The replacement bills will not come up for consideration in the Senate early this year.