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Hydrogen fuel cell cars - coming sooner than you think
There is, right now, yet another PR push by the hydrogen fuel cell industry, this time for the LA Auto Show (“Carmasutra” scream the billboards). It’s to prepare a public that has no idea of what hydrogen-powered cars are.
But, hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars are definitely coming. Toyota, Hyundai, Honda and BMW are all solidly behind the future prospects of this new technology and their first cars will reach showrooms over the next two years (Hyundai’s 2015 Hyundai Tucson is up first, in late 2014). Will they cannibalize the market for electric vehicles (EVs) in the years ahead or will they take market share away from gasoline-powered cars? Fuel cell vehicles have longer ranges than EVs – 300 miles or more – so that will make them very appealing.
There are some real challenges, however it looks like they all can be resolved.
The first challenge is largely one of perception: it may be some time before fuel tanks and fuel cells can be reduced in size and consumers get comfortable with the idea of compressed hydrogen tanks on board the car. The auto makers claim their stringent tests prove compressed hydrogen tanks are safe and I am sure they are right, but even consumers familiar with a propane barbeque at home may worry that a crash might ignite an explosion.
Native California gardens and windbreaks
In the school garden I manage, we have an orchard. Around the orchard swirl hot Santa Ana winds in the fall and icy winds roar in from the north in winter. The fruit trees are young and in the years ahead we will see lots of fruit but, right now, some are vulnerable to heat and some are vulnerable to cold, especially the avocados. So we need windbreaks.
I focused first on the east where the Santa Anas blow through. The problem with these winds is that they interfere with fruit trees pollinating and setting fruit. Since we want the garden to be educational (it’s a school garden, after all), and because we need to boost pollinators, I chose the following natives from Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley and Rancho Santa Ana GNN in Westwood. These names may seem technical, but it will be of interest to those who are thinking of planting windbreaks like we are doing. I will post results once they have survived their first season in the ground since who knows how they will all fare. These won’t be high windbreaks but they should achieve the objective.
The neighbor’s cat poos in your front yard?
There are signs around the neighborhood saying “Don’t let your pet defecate on my grass” or words to that effect.
It is one of the nastiest, most divisive, features of modern urban life, setting neighbor against neighbor. Not the signs… The pets! Why do neighbors permit their cats to go next door to poo?
Dog owners at least have the decency to allow their pets to poo on the street. Without picking it up of course. Cat owners have no shame whatsoever.
I can tell this is an important issue here in Encino. The signs reflect varying levels of insult, in a vain attempt to prevent their neighbors’ pets from defecating on their wilting impatiens. Occasionally there is a suggestion of poison. It’s not always cats of course. One fed-up friend installed a hidden camera to find out which specific dog was soiling his front yard and was horrified to discover it was his next door neighbor walking the dog at 6:30AM, coming next door to have a poo. The dog I mean, not the neighbor.
I do have a solution that works for me – placing bird nets from Home Depot or Lowe’s sprawling across the ground I want to protect. I have yet to fail with this tactic. Cats and dogs fear getting entangled and they go elsewhere – like my back yard. I am still working on a solution for that. More nets perhaps.
Where to look up invasive species
The website for UC Riverside’s CISR, The Center for Invasive Species Research (here) is, I find, a great resource for looking up invasive species now in California.
The biggest worry currently (a “red alert”) is Huanglongbing (HLB) since it can decimate our citrus crops. More on that here. Some other recent invaders include Red Palm Weevil, which attacks palms and is now established in Orange County; Ficus Whitefly; Bed Bugs (never popular) and the Brown Widow Spider (shown in photo – note the orange hourglass).
This more specific link (here) has these 5 and 60 more of the most recognizable and pernicious invaders. Some of these I’ve seen in my garden and the school garden I look after – Brown marmorated stink bug , Red Bug, Russian Thistle (tumbleweeds), Vine Mealybug, for example. It’s helpful to have a guide like this to look them up.
Encino411 is a website for residents of Encino, California, with information on recycling, edible gardening, environmentally friendly housekeeping, tips on volunteering in the community, disaster preparedness, elder care, markets and other green products.