A new beverage billed as “water with alcohol”

Many people enjoy having a few drinks after work or on the weekend. Only a subset of them actually enjoy the taste of whatever cocktail or malt beverage they’re sipping on. Others would prefer to get the buzz and inhibition release without actually choking down liquor or beer. Whether it’s that earthy pine-tree-in-a-bottle flavor of gin or the harsh burn of cheap whiskey, alcohol can be downright painful. Air, “the first water with alcohol,” provides an alternative with a light flavor profile purported to be closer to club soda than beer or spirits.

Air advertises itself as “Water + Air. Carbonated.” The taste is supposedly as simple as the tagline; the malt beverage combines water, alcohol and natural fruit flavors for a taste that’s barely there. It claims to use all natural ingredients. While we haven’t given it the proverbial swig, the description has us thinking of lightly fruit-flavored club soda spiked with alcohol…

Air distribution is currently limited to a handful of states on the West Coast of the US [of course]. A recent tweet indicates the company also plans to come to the eastern states. It’s sold in such stores as Whole Foods and Albertsons. The minds behind the young drink have been hosting launch parties in major cities like LA, Las Vegas and Portland throughout the summer.

So is Air really the Holy Grail for drinkers (i.e. all the fun of alcohol without any of the strong, acquired taste)? We’re guessing it’s more like the latest Zima or Smirnoff Ice – a fruity malt beverage that only the ladies can get away with drinking – but we’ll have to taste it to know for sure … maybe once they get around to filling liquor store coolers in our neck of the woods.

If it shows up in our local Whole Foods, I’ll give it a try. That’s about all I’ll guarantee.

A coal-fired power plant, cancer and a small town in Georgia

Robert Maddox is a bulky man with gray hair, a deeply lined face, squinty eyes and a thick Southern accent. He lives in Juliette with his wife, Teresa. The two of them invested their life savings building their home. It’s a large ranch house on several acres, and the plan was the two of them would leave it for their sons and grandchildren. They gave up that dream after Maddox’s mother developed a rare form of ear cancer and died after living at the home for three years.

“I’m not going to bring my grandchildren up in this,” Maddox says. “Anybody who does would be a fool, I think.”

The problem, Maddox explains, is now he and his neighbors are getting sick. For Maddox, the first signs of trouble would come in the middle of the night, when he would wake up with nose bleeds mixed with clear mucus. Then his muscles started twitching, and then he got kidney disease, and then sclerosis of the liver.

His doctor wondered whether Maddox was an alcoholic.

“I don’t drink,” Maddox says dismissively before ticking off his other health problems…

The neighbor who used to live in the now-empty next door house has abdominal cancer. In the house two doors over, a once healthy woman has a form of dementia that’s left her “unrecognizable,” according to Maddox.

“Besides us all being sick, we’ve all been approached by Georgia Power, with them looking to buy us out” Maddox says. “And in that house next door, [Georgia Power] has sealed the well…”

Y’know it’s coming from over there,” he says, nodding in the direction of one of the largest coal plants in the world, right across the two lane highway where Maddox collects his mail.

RTFA for a pretty typical tale of an environment distorted and made lethal by a power generation juggernaut. Georgia Power has been able to take the relatively easy way out of the death and disease they brought to Juliette, Georgia – in the name of electrification and profit. Buying folk’s homes, moving the people out of the way of any class action is always cheaper than law and justice.

But, then, this is Georgia and the concept of law, justice and politicians challenging a wealthy public utility is pretty much laughable.

IBM is developing an air battery for 500-mile range electric cars

One nagging issue with electric vehicles is range. While today’s lithium-ion batteries are much better than yesterday’s nickel-metal hydride batteries, they still don’t offer enough energy storage to take an EV much further than 100 miles without a lengthy recharge. Even if the Li-ion batteries were up to the challenge, there is still the awkward problem of where to pack 1,000 pounds (or more) of bulky storage cells into a vehicle’s chassis.

IBM thinks it has a solution with a promising new lithium-air battery. According to the technology giant, a typical Li-air battery cell has a theoretical energy density more than 1,000 times greater than today’s industry-standard Li-ion battery cell. Even better, Li-air batteries are one-fifth the size and they offer a lifespan at least five times as long.

So, what has been holding IBM back? It appears that there was a problem with the the original Li-air automotive application, as frequent recharging cycles compromised battery life. However, the engineers have recently found alternative electrolyte compounds that look very promising. The team’s goal is to have a full-scale prototype ready by 2013, with commercial batteries on sale by the end of the decade.

Bravo! I’m afraid we’ll have to replace my wife’s decades-old Volvo before an affordable EV is actually available on the car lots of New Mexico. But – I keep watch on projects like this, anyway. Maybe, we’ll get the opportunity to buy one, yet.

EPA will limit mercury, other pollutants from cement plants

The Environmental Protection Agency has completed regulations limiting the release of mercury and other toxic air pollutants from cement plants, a move the Obama administration said would save lives but that cement makers warned could drive jobs overseas.

This is the first time the federal government has restricted emissions from existing cement kilns. The regulations aim to reduce, by 2013, the annual emissions of mercury and particulate matter by 92%, hydrochloric acid by 97% and sulfur dioxide by 78%.

EPA officials said the limits would benefit children, whose brains can be damaged by mercury that makes its way through the air to water and then to fish that children eat. They also predicted the rules would stave off thousands of premature heart and lung deaths each year attributed to particulate pollution.

By reducing harmful pollutants in the air we breathe, we cut the risk of asthma attacks and save lives,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a statement.

Environmentalists said California, which is the nation’s largest producer of cement and has several heavy-emitting kilns, would see particularly high public health returns…

Cement producers said the rules would cost them “several billion dollars” to implement by installing pollution scrubbers at existing kilns. They warned that regulations could lead to plant closures and job outsourcing.

There’s more of the same from the corporate suits. Mostly crap threats.

They know that products with safety regulations governing their manufacture in the USA are just as easy to ban from import under the same regulations.

True. Manufacturers needn’t worry much about laws being enforced under a Republican administration; but, I believe we’re safe from that for another six years, anyway. Especially if the GOP continues to be led around by nose rings attached to teabaggers who wish for leaded gas, free cigarettes for schoolchildren and the return of black-and-white TV.

Building micro-bowls to capture carbon dioxide

The accidental discovery of a bowl-shaped molecule that pulls carbon dioxide out of the air suggests exciting new possibilities for dealing with global warming, including genetically engineering microbes to manufacture those CO2 “catchers,” a scientist from Maryland reports.

J. A. Tossell notes in the new study that another scientist discovered the molecule while doing research unrelated to global climate change. Carbon dioxide was collecting in the molecule, and the scientist realized that it was coming from air in the lab. Tossell recognized that these qualities might make it useful as an industrial absorbent for removing carbon dioxide.

Tossell’s new computer modeling studies found that the molecule might be well-suited for removing carbon dioxide directly from ambient air, in addition to its previously described potential use as an absorbent for CO2 from electric power plant and other smokestacks. “It is also conceivable that living organisms may be developed which are capable of emplacing structurally ion receptors within their cell membranes,” the report notes.

I like the idea of creating micro-critters from these molecules.

We could train them to migrate to high-pollution environments and clean up our mess without having to think or commit.