Archive for 'Speakers'
Jim Thompson is currently the head of young biodiesel production company called Southeast Biodiesel, and Mr. Thompson is also a strong advocate for the potential biodiesel has as a fuel source in automobiles. To start his presentation, Mr. Thompson outlined the differences between a standard gasoline engine and a diesel engine. While gas engines mix the petrol with the air and use a spark to ignite the controlled explosion necessary to move the piston, diesel engines first compress the air, which will heat up, then add the fuel which ignites when it comes in contact with the heated air. Like all engines, diesel engines require lubrication to prevent damaging friction between the moving components. To alleviate this problem, sulfur is added to the fuel to help lubricate the engine, but sulfur is an emission linked to various air pollution problems, like photochemical smog. Eventually, the government started to regulate the maximum parts per million of sulfur in diesel engine emissions until it reached 15 ppm in 2007. With new legislation, alternatives to petroleum based diesel became increasingly popular and the biodiesel market was created to meet this demand.
Biodiesel can be made out of a variety of sources, most of which are wastes products from our everyday lives. Currently, the most popular source of biodiesel is used cooking oil from restaurants. Rather than throw out this organic waste it can be reused to power our cars and trucks, which adds to the appeal of biodiesel as a “cleaner” alternative to petroleum based diesel. Biodiesel also replaces the lubrication lost when sulfur could no longer be used. Unlike most fuel sources today, biodiesel is not a threat to human health or an ecosystem’s health when spilled. Contrary to popular belief, biodiesel is not flammable, it is not carcinogenic, and it readily biodegrades in an ecosystem. Theoretically, if a truck hauling biodiesel crashed and lost its cargo, there would be not risk of an explosion and all clean up crews would need to is wash it off the road with water. According to Mr. Thompson, biodiesel preforms just as well as petroleum based diesel and it will leave your car cleaner and, as a result, running longer. On top of that, regular diesel engines do not require expensive modifications to run on biodiesel. Like every other energy source, biodiesel is not without its drawbacks.
The biggest drawback to biodiesel that Mr. Thompson described was its high price. Biodiesel is typically more expensive than petroleum based diesel due to the fact that it is not widely available. Most of the biodiesel produced is used in conjunction with normal diesel fuel to reduce sulfur emissions and keep the engine lubricated. Another drawback to biodiesel is its tendency to gel in cold weather making it impractical during harsh winters in countries like Canada or Russia. Biodiesel might also clog the fuel filter. Once the industry starts to expands, the price will drop and might make biodiesel a feasible, cleaner alternative to petroleum based fuels.
On Thursday of last week, guest speaker Garet Johnson came to our class to discuss Charlotte’s future in terms of growth, planning, and the environment. Ms. Johnson graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and has gone on to become part of the Charlotte planning department staff. She started off by lying out in layman’s terms what land use planning means, helping to figure out what goes where.Ms. Johnson’s lecture was brought our classes attention to the complex planning that goes into laying out the residential, office, retail, institutional, and transportation systems of the city. The challenge lies in determining things such as: where to put residential areas and what type of housing to build, building industrial areas that are either distant from residential areas or have an adequate buffer from residential areas, and keeping development close together so as to cut down commuting time.
She stressed that the goal of Charlotte’s urban planning is to provide integrated planning services that promote sustainable growth to improve our community’s quality of life. Ms. Johnson talked on Charlotte’s projected growing population, 728,000 people and 459,000 jobs today, but by 2035 approximately 324,000 more people and 458,000 more jobs will be in Charlotte. This growth presents a challenge for urban planners like Ms. Johnson; they must find ways to maximize use of transportation systems, infrastructure, and services. Ms. Johnson focused a lot of time discussing the various transit systems that will help cut down traffic and cars on the road; the four proposed transit systems are: a light rail transit to the University area, bus rapid transit for Independence Blvd., and a commuter rail to north Charlotte. These rapid transit systems will assist in transporting masses of commuters along the growth corridors and activity centers where urban planners project the greatest amount of growth in the future, and they will vary due to environmental and community needs. Ms. Johnson discussed the importance of redevelopment and reuse in areas where there is a lot of poorly planned use and/or abandoned buildings. The main point of Ms. Johnson’s lecture was to bring to our classes attention the complex planning that goes into laying out the residential, office, retail, institutional, and transportation systems of the city.
She concluded her presentation by having us all participate in an urban planning activity in which we had to decide where to place housing, work, recreational, and institutional buildings and spaces. This activity really brought to life the difficulties of urban planning because it was hard to determine the most appropriate place for the icons on the map. Although we were crunched for time, the activity still illustrated the complexity of using land in the best possible way.
For anyone out the day Garet Johnson (urban planner) of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department spoke to the class, here is the slide deck of her presentation. BenK owes us a recap of the presentation and planning activity, so look for it soon.