Thursday, August 27, 2009

Will algae oil save the Earth?

In our green real estate section we usually try to focus on environmentally friendly advice for our homes. But this text will be focused on an interesting research, which may lead to helping us if we are feeling guilty because of our cars eat up too much gas. Oil is an crucial part of our everyday lives. Nowadays, the crucial part of a life in the developed world is a car, and nearly everybody has one. So do I, of course, as a realtor who drives around daily. Without our dear cars, the life would be so much harder. Of course, the two crucial issues of driving are well-known: prices driven up and down because of unsure oil supplies, and the environmental harm made by fuel burning and emissions of carbon dioxide.

An American biologist Craig Venter is also a successful businessman, who founded The Institute for Genomic Research. Genetic engineering is the main interest of his work, that has provoked a great deal of heated debate by his latest project.

Algae are known for creating natural oil, which is already part of a number of experiments with biofuels. But Craig Venter is ready to find out more than that. He is trying to find out if it's possible to change the genomic make-up of algae in order to make them create oil of almost the same structure as the traditional crude oil. This possibility is so much better, as you can use current oil industry infrastructure like refineries, and even produce plastics in the same way as from crude oil refining employing the same production plants that are currently being used. As Exxon Mobile, being one of the most successful oil producers in the world, heard of all this, they gave Venter a $600 million subsidy to go on with his research.

And now you may be demanding, OK, but what is so great about it from the ecological point of view? Well, just this. Oil production based on algae could quite likely be the solution to one of the most serious threats facing the world today. During the photosynthesis process, plants take the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it to produce the oil, which is later burned and turned into oxalates. Of course, this miracle solution won't be available this or next year, but for sure it is a good way to go. The team of Craig Venter are trying to win where others have tried and failed, but this time there is a good chance of success. There are many people in Canada and elsewhere that would love to protect the environment, but due to their occupation, it is very difficult for them to stop using cars, just like so many of my Toronto real estate colleagues can't.

Photo: Saab Aero by gmeurope

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Restructuring of Public Transport in Toronto: Finally!

In the Ontario region a vital public transport restructuring has been hugely expected by the public since 2007. GTA will mainly benefit from the ‘MoveOntario 2020’ project. This 12-year plan comprises of 52 transit proposals including the growth of various subways, train, and bus lines and selected highways. From the real estate point of view this reorganization will ultimately have some real decisive effect on the real estate demand in the affected regions, alongside with the environmental consequences on the life of Torontonians.

Rising real estate values

Accessibility to a property is an important variable when measuring property prices by real estate agents. Various studies have analyzed that nearby railway station significantly raises the value of property. For example in Portland, houses within 500m range of light rail way station sold by over 10 per-cent more than houses positioned further away. Overall the positive ramification of new stations on the property prices rise is recorded in a half-mile range.

Improving air quality: A genuine environmental impact.

Unsafe elements of exhaust gases harm our bodies. Long term these gases cause serious disease and possibly premature death. The parts of the body most afflicted are the lungs, heart and veins.

Since the air we breathe is not pure, the pollutants and fine specks enter the body through mouth or nose and part of it stays in our lungs, causing its aggravation or irreversible damage. Air pollution can either cause or worsen asthma or bronchitis or other lasting respiratory disorders, it can cause blood clotting or heart attack and of course it can eventually lead to premature death. Research is continuing but at the moment, in Toronto, about 1.700 premature deaths are associated with air pollution each year.

The affect on automobilist

The shake-up plan claims to be designed to cut greenhouse emissions by replacing about 300 million car trips. Can it work? Is this the best idea to have cleaner air? Day to day drivers must not be ignored, but this proposal aims to focus on the public transport system. This includes railways, bikers and pedestrians supporting people to use these modes of transportation. At the moment, automobilists in Toronto spend about 67 hours in traffic jams every year. A study into congestion has found that 70% of all excursions in Toronto will still be made in cars in 20 years. This is although the increased capacity of other means of transport. For example, I know for sure that most of my colleagues working as real estate agents will never give up their cars no matter the cost or availability of public transport system.

Exhaust gas emissions are higher when traffic is stopping and starting. Cuting out congestion and improving traffic flow will improve air conditions. Or maybe the way to go is to find ideas in the recent plans of Israel or Denmark. These countries decided to heavily advocate electromobile vehicles by exemptions and by building a giant system of charging stations throughout the country. Expanding the public transport system should not be the only upgrades GTA makes. It has to answer the needs of those who chose cars as their main means for transportation.

(picture by ithinkx)