February 18, 2013 - Falling under the heading of "Science Fiction No More," materials scientists now say we are within two years of commercial development of use-anywhere solar panels. Because the price of solar cells has fallen at a rate of 6% annually since 1998, money is no longer an object. The second roadblock to mass production was also financial: the cost of installation. With the advent of cheap, durable materials being used to manufacture flexible solar cells, that roadblock will soon be dismantled.
In fact, scientists at MIT are working on this next generation of solar panels. They are organic, thin-film cells, made from abundant, "robust" materials that can be produced inexpensively, relative to first-generation silicon cells. Coupled with ongoing research at Stanford, where engineers are bent on producing a peel-off solar panel, the days of static solar sources of energy appear to be numbered. The Stanford prototype adheres to paper, plastic, and window glass. We're in for yet another dramatic, qualitative change in our lives.
As if that weren't enough, who knew Mitch McConnell wanted to grow hemp? Actually, it's highly unlikely McConnell gave hemp any thought at all, until recently. Somebody decided to point out to the Senate majority leader that hemp is ridiculously easy to grow (so much so that even Kentucky soils are no problem), wonderfully useful, and - because of these two factors - unlikely ever to be cost prohibitive. McConnell took note, and, after conversing with the unlikely duo of Oregon Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, decided the federal law making hemp-growing illegal had to go. Add to that already disconcerting mix Kentucky's other senator, libertarian Rand Paul, and you'll need no further proof that politics does indeed make for strange bedfellows.
While the Chamber of Commerce's endorsement ("be afraid, be very afraid") may not necessarily be what it takes to sway hemp doubters, Toyota's backing just might. The Japanese car manufacturer, which builds Camry's in Kentucky, wants to incorporate hemp fibers, for added structural integrity and insulation, into their cars. Oregon has already passed a state law allowing hemp production, but its farmers could still be prosecuted under federal law. After having hamstrung ourselves lo these many decades with a pointless law, it's kind of startling to see the R's and the D's coming together, at this particular juncture in our history, around hemp!
It was inevitable that one day, after 15 years of marketing based on a plethora of lies, product integrity based on perpetual legal harassment, and corporate soundness underpinned by government officials on the take, GMO's would have to stand and deliver. As critics have long espoused, it can't happen. Now, once-duped farmers are joining critics' ranks. As a result of increased pest resistance and crop failures, genetic engineering (GE) has lost many American farmers' confidence. Though GE seed costs $100 more per acre than conventional seed, yields today are the same as a decade ago.
In addition to the added cost, pest resistance has developed 25 years earlier than anticipated. This has caused the application of insecticides to sky-rocket, adding even more to the cost of GE seed. While American farmers have watched their yields decline, yields in China have improved. GE seed is not used in China.
With thanks to Farmers Weekly, Scientific American and NBCnews.com