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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 04-30-12, 11:11 AM   #1
FujiKid
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writing a paper for college and could use some help/advice- Fossil Fuels/CFC's

Hi guys,

I've been assigned to write a 5 page paper for college, and my professor has asked me to weight the cons/benefits between fossil fuels (FF's) and biofuels.
I'm supposed to...
describe each fuel ...origin, composition, how it's obtained, how accessible it is
Consider sustainability and renewability (e.g., how long are these resources expected to last?).
Consider human and environmental impact (e.g., include some stats on environmental disasters like oil spills and coal mining accidents (don't just say they happen); how using land and fresh water for growing crops to produce bio-ethanol impacts food availability and prices; pollutants emitted by combustion of these fuels and their impact - must include CO2 and impact on global warming/climate change).


So basically, my teacher knows I'm a cyclist and that I'm unlike my other peers that use their cars to get everywhere for everything. I'm only 18, so not a lot of kids
do what I do. So, I wanted to relate this to cycling if I could since it's such a strong passion in my life and something that I advocate strongly for.

I approached her after class about it, and she LOVED the idea and said that the paper was very "open" and that if I could relate it to cycling > driving, or something of the sort that it would be perfectly fine..

I was thinking of the following...
1) Using stationary bikes to power our houses (electricity, power, ect) - Would solve some electricity issues/also help with the obesity epidemic
2) Obviously using bicycles over cars for transportation, which would be better for the environment



If you guys have any other ideas, and or helpful websites for some reading that would be great!

Thank you!

Fuji
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Old 04-30-12, 03:39 PM   #2
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I can jot down a few ideas off the top of my head, but you're going to have to do your own research and come to your own conclusions, of course.

At peak loads, the human body is an inefficient machine and very prone to overheating and fatigue. As transportation, the bicycle magnifies human mechanics greatly. But the stationary bike isn't probably going to work. A professional cyclist at his peak performance puts out about 400 wats, IIRC, That wouldn't go far in a typical household.

As for bicycle transportation (compared to cars), the strengths and limitations are pretty well known. Bikes are cheaper, more efficient, better for human health and the natural world. They are quieter and take up less space on streets and parking areas. On the minus side, bikes are (in some cases) slower, and expose the user to weather and fatigue. Bikes obviously have shorter effective ranges than cars. There are many cultural and individual objections to bikes in some societies also.

The issue of petroleum versus its alternatives is a little trickier, IMO. They all have some pretty serious drawbacks. There's a ton of information on this subject. Be very careful about your research sources. Most researchers have a dog in the fight--which they often don't disclose.
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Old 04-30-12, 07:06 PM   #3
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That's actually fairly interesting. A 20" LCD takes <50 Watts, which isn't hard to produce. Laptop chargers take <100 Watts.

Getting people to pedal for power doesn't seem very feasible.

I /could/ see some parents having their children earn watt credits by biking, which could then be spent on electronic entertainment, though (bike X distance to get X watt credits). I don't think the power would actually be used, though.

We have powerplants that are pretty good at efficiently providing us with energy. Running a generator at peak efficiency may be better than having a bunch of vehicles with independent powerplants running at varying efficiency (regular cars vs. electric).
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Old 04-30-12, 07:47 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FujiKid View Post
I was thinking of the following...
1) Using stationary bikes to power our houses (electricity, power, ect) - Would solve some electricity issues/also help with the obesity epidemic

If you guys have any other ideas, and or helpful websites for some reading that would be great!
You might want to reconsider point #1 unless you use only a three-watt light. There are quite a few threads on this forum about generating electricity with a bicycle.

In considering fuels, search "human-powered" transportation and compare it to the energy of oil or gas. Of course, there is no comparison. Gasoline packs an enormous energy punch, but given the right circumstances, a human can walk or ride a bicycle.
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Old 04-30-12, 08:30 PM   #5
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If you google or bing an article on the environmental impact of cycling by prof Karl Ulrich if I correctly recall his name, he has done a lot of those calculations and cited sources. That would give you some starting points.
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Old 04-30-12, 10:51 PM   #6
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If you're going to include a discussion on health benefits of cycling, you could compare heart disease and obesity stats for countries with similar standards of living, but where one country has a lot of bike use, and the other doesn't, for example the Netherlands vs. UK, or Netherlands vs. Canada. Or you could compare the heart disease and obesity rates in China in 1993 vs. now, since the Chinese don't ride bikes quite as much any more.

On a small-scale, anecdotal level, you could get a bunch of your peers to go to a carbon-footprint calculator online, and report the average carbon footprint of your sample group with cars vs. without cars, leaving other lifestyle factors intact. I'm willing to believe that simply going from cars to transit or cycling would decrease one's carbon footprint fairly significantly.
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Old 04-30-12, 11:05 PM   #7
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Did not fossil fuels come from biological products plus or minus a few million years???

I am asking this as I eat my carbon based tuna sandwich cause I know I can no longer call my tuna sandwich organic unless it was labeled so...
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Old 05-01-12, 10:27 AM   #8
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You might also investigate about not having to generate power. Trains and bikes both move people for considerably less energy than cars.
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Old 05-01-12, 11:57 AM   #9
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Thanks for all of the suggestions guys!!! I appreciate it
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Old 05-01-12, 07:45 PM   #10
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I watched a very interesting documentary just now and thought you may be interested in seeing it. I don't want this thread to get political but everyone should watch this http://www.amazon.com/Crude-Awakenin...655145&sr=1-79

If your an Amazon prime customer then it is free to watch.

The documentary is also on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sMF1...eature=related

Pay particular attention to the first few paragraphs and bottom half of this article: http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=55943

Watch the last half hour of this UCSB lecture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7h4V...eature=related
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Old 05-02-12, 11:45 AM   #11
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Again, thank you for all of the suggestions and helpful links all. I emailed my teacher and narrowed my topic down to mainly this..

Main topic at hand.. "usage of bicycles and electronic transport instead of vehicles in order to reduce pollution."

Subjects to be discussed..
- How much oil/human resources it takes to actually manufacture a car vs. that of a bicycle/electronic train or vehicle
- What types of
- How much pollution is being put into the atmosphere by our usage of vehicles
- While reducing pollution, also exploring how much obesity rates would also obviously drop if more people
road bicycles.
- How places like Denmark and the Netherlands have more commuters/bicycle riders and actually get to
their destinations QUICKER and rely less on vehicles.
- For those that aren't able to cycle or use their legs. "electronic" trains would be in every single city.
- Propose how we could ACTUALLY implement this and make it happen in every major city across the United States.

Anymore subjects I could talk about/mention in the paper?

Im very curious about electronic transport as well, for those who can't ride bicycles.

Anymore links/opinions?
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Old 05-02-12, 12:11 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zandoval View Post
Did not fossil fuels come from biological products plus or minus a few million years???

I am asking this as I eat my carbon based tuna sandwich cause I know I can no longer call my tuna sandwich organic unless it was labeled so...
Well, there's a process called the carbon cycle, which you don't seem to remember from high school classes. This explains how photosynthesis, respiration and other processes work together to balance carbon in the minerals, oceans and atmosphere. Your tuna fish, petroleum and other organic products all fit in to the carbon cycle somewhere.
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Old 05-02-12, 12:27 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FujiKid View Post
Again, thank you for all of the suggestions and helpful links all. I emailed my teacher and narrowed my topic down to mainly this..

Main topic at hand.. "usage of bicycles and electronic transport instead of vehicles in order to reduce pollution."

Subjects to be discussed..
- How much oil/human resources it takes to actually manufacture a car vs. that of a bicycle/electronic train or vehicle
- What types of
- How much pollution is being put into the atmosphere by our usage of vehicles
- While reducing pollution, also exploring how much obesity rates would also obviously drop if more people
road bicycles.
- How places like Denmark and the Netherlands have more commuters/bicycle riders and actually get to
their destinations QUICKER and rely less on vehicles.
- For those that aren't able to cycle or use their legs. "electronic" trains would be in every single city.
- Propose how we could ACTUALLY implement this and make it happen in every major city across the United States.

Anymore subjects I could talk about/mention in the paper?

Im very curious about electronic transport as well, for those who can't ride bicycles.

Anymore links/opinions?
This sounds pretty interesting. Maybe you'll publish a link to the paper when you finish it? I would be interested in reading it.

A couple minor nit-picks:
  1. For bicycle advocates, the use of "vehicle" to mean a car is jarring. We say that bicycles are vehicles too, and legally they are in most jurisdictions. Cars and trucks are called "motor vehicles." Bikes are "human powered vehicales" or "non-motors."
  2. Check your use of the word "electronic."
  3. Remember that additional food is an energy imput for bicycles. We argue about this a lot on this forum. Some people say food calories are a significant input--almost as much as gas for cars. Others (including me) say it's a much lower input---especially in a society where everybody is already eating too much.
  4. Trains might not be the answer for every city. Also, they're very expensive. I think you should lump in electric buses, trolleys, and newer ideas like bus rapid transit and personal rapid transit.

But overall I think you're developing a good grasp of the topic.
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Old 05-02-12, 04:51 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FujiKid View Post
Again, thank you for all of the suggestions and helpful links all. I emailed my teacher and narrowed my topic down to mainly this..

Main topic at hand.. "usage of bicycles and electronic transport instead of vehicles in order to reduce pollution."

Subjects to be discussed..
- How much oil/human resources it takes to actually manufacture a car vs. that of a bicycle/electronic train or vehicle
- What types of
- How much pollution is being put into the atmosphere by our usage of vehicles
- While reducing pollution, also exploring how much obesity rates would also obviously drop if more people
road bicycles.
- How places like Denmark and the Netherlands have more commuters/bicycle riders and actually get to
their destinations QUICKER and rely less on vehicles.
- For those that aren't able to cycle or use their legs. "electronic" trains would be in every single city.
- Propose how we could ACTUALLY implement this and make it happen in every major city across the United States.

Anymore subjects I could talk about/mention in the paper?

Im very curious about electronic transport as well, for those who can't ride bicycles.

Anymore links/opinions?
The Ulrich article I mentioned covers the energy comparison of a car vs a bike, and on what the impact might be on health.
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Old 05-03-12, 09:37 AM   #15
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The Ulrich article I mentioned covers the energy comparison of a car vs a bike, and on what the impact might be on health.

From what I researched he also points out the fact that in a world where people use bicycles over vehicles.. that it would actually be WORSE for the
enviroment/planet because people actually live LONGER and consume require more food/resources/ect.

So that goes against my point that I'm trying to make, that a world full of bicyclists would be better than a world of vehicles.
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Old 05-03-12, 06:32 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FujiKid View Post
From what I researched he also points out the fact that in a world where people use bicycles over vehicles.. that it would actually be WORSE for the
enviroment/planet because people actually live LONGER and consume require more food/resources/ect.

So that goes against my point that I'm trying to make, that a world full of bicyclists would be better than a world of vehicles.
In the first draft of the essay he said biking might make the environment worse, but in the final version he said biking creates a tiny environmental benefit.

I was actually recommending the article because it had some estimates of the relative energy costs of cycling versus driving, which I thought you were looking for.

At them same time, I think it's always good in an essay (and in real life) to look at things from a balanced and whole-system perspective, and not just believe or cite the sources that support one specific, narrow point of view. I suspect your prof will be impressed if you mention differing opinions on the topic.

Ulrich makes a good point. If the only environmental thing someone does is switch from being a couch potato car-commuter, to a bike commuter, then their impact on societal energy consumption is negligible. You have to do more than just that, to make a difference.

Last edited by cooker; 05-03-12 at 06:38 PM.
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