For those interested in eBikes a new magazine is out - the online preview is linked from here.
My advice would be to stay away from anything under $1000 - probably under $1500 at this point as there is a lot of junk out there. Do a lot of research and make sure you have a local shop and a good warranty. For those who convert their own bikes, I've been impressed with BionX, but even then there can be problems. If you have a lot of money I'd look at bikes like the Trek electrics which have a dealer network and a warranty - plus they are based on the BionX system.
The magazine has a review of some of the conversions that may be useful.
In a recent presentation, Kepler co-investigator Dimitar Sasselov preempted the official announcement that the exoplanet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope has discovered about 140 candidate worlds orbiting other stars that are "like Earth."
Usually, announcements like these happen after an official press release, but during the TEDGLobal conference in Oxford, U.K., Sasselov unexpectedly dropped the groundbreaking news in one of his presentation slides.
There have been a variety of conflicting studies over the past decade that probe the EROI (energy return on investment) of corn ethanol - basically you want to get more energy out than you put in... The studies have shown conflicting results - some show EROIs less than 1.0 and some a bit over ..
Here is an excerpt from a new paper that looks at regionality.
The results from our meta-error analysis indicated that the average EROI for corn ethanol was 1.07 with a standard error of 0.1. The 95% conﬁdence interval was 1.07 ± 0.2. This result is interpreted as follows: there is a 95% chance that the true value of the EROI of corn ethanol is contained within 0.2 of 1.07. Alternatively, this calculation means that we are unable to assert whether the true value of the EROI of corn ethanol is greater than one.
EROI values calculated in the spatial analysis ranged from 0.36 in less optimal corn-growing areas, for example southern Texas, to 1.18 in optimal areas, for example Nebraska (Fig. 2). If we apply the same conﬁdence calculated in the meta-error analysis to the results of the county EROI analysis, we ﬁnd that none of the counties had an EROI that was high enough (1.20) to conclude that corn ethanol was produced at an energy proﬁt. The average EROI value across all counties was 1.01, which was 0.06 less than the average calculated across the literature. This supports the idea that the literature used optimal values for corn ethanol inputs and outputs and as such has underestimated costs, overestimated beneﬁts, or both. The distribution of EROI values followed a normal distribution skewed slightly left (Fig. 3). The vast majority of counties had EROIs that fell within either the 1.01–1.05 or 1.06–1.10 category.
Our spatial analysis indicated diminishing returns to EROI as distance from the Corn Belt increased. Counties with high EROI values were located in Nebraska and other Corn Belt states, while the lower EROI values were located in counties toward the northwest or southeast of the area analyzed, essentially northwestern South and North Dakota, and southeastern Texas, respectively (Fig. 2). As expected, the counties with EROI values within the top 10% had a combination of higher yields and lower agricultural inputs, while the counties within the lowest 10% of EROIs had lower yields and higher agricultural inputs on average (Fig. 4). We can conclude that even with a precision of ±0.2, 48 counties have EROIs below 1, as the EROI calculated for each of these counties was <0.80 (Fig. 3).
No one has shown convincing data that suggests corn ethanol is a great, or even a good, thing. At best it statistically consumes as much energy as it provides. If you look at carbon flows, the situation may be even worse.
Of course there are powerful winners who are protected by the Federal mandate to use gasoline ethanol blends and a huge tax subsidy. A sensible energy policy would remove the mandate and the subsidy - or at least the subsidy as that would make gas at the pump more expensive and might encourage a bit of conservation. That would be politically impossible.
The basic idea is sound - a simple small box to do local home energy management and to rely on other screens in the house to manage. But there are some serious rubs when it comes to how to connect people to the link. Initially utilities will use this as part of their smart metering projects, but there has been a lot of consumer resistance to smart metering.
Eventually it will happen, but there will be many failures along the way. User experience, expectations and what happens at the utility end are all critical components. Will this be an important product or something that is a stepping stone along the way? It is too early to tell.
Conservation is the lowest hanging fruit if you are trying to lower energy demand and carbon emissions. It is also very difficult to change consumer behavior.