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7 Technologies that will Save the Earth in 2008

2007 is done, and with it came huge advances in materials, energy, architecture, transportation and more. But I though, before we take a look back, we’d take a look forward.

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EcoGeek is here to keep you informed of the latest technologies that are making our lives better while also ensuring that we don’t spoil the Earth at the same time. But just this once, let’s look not at what’s happening now, but at what’s coming in the near future. Here are ten technologies that I can’t wait for, and that I think we’ll see (to varying degrees) in 2008.

Cellulosic Ethanol
While America maybe got a little bit over-excited by ethanol (to the tune of wasted subsidies and spikes in Mexico’s food prices) there is a great future here. And while corn ethanol, it turns out, really isn’t a very good idea, cellulosic ethanol is looking at a bright future. With huge bursts of funding both from federal subsidies and billionaire entrepreneurs like Vinod Khosla, we should expect advances on several fronts in 2008. First, techniques for producing the fuel from waste inexpensively will continue to emerge. Second, America’s first cellulosic production plants will come online, while the benchmarks required by the recent US energy bill will spur investment in a new round of plants that will come online sometime after 2008.

LEDs
America’s love affair with incandescent lights is over. Especially considering that they will be mostly illegal by 2012. So 2008 should be a year where Philips and GE get off their asses, start producing ultra-efficient LED lights in earnest. Already the technology is more efficient, longer-lasting and more user-friendly than CFLs or incandescents. The obstacle, it seems, is the price. But finally, Americans are getting used to the idea that paying more now will save you money in the long run. And as LEDs are a bit more approachable than CFLs, I think we’ll see a good adoption rate for LED bulbs. Especially as I predict they’ll start showing up on shelves in Wal-Marts and Home Depots in mid 2008.

No One Killed the Electric Car
2008 will be the year the EV came back to life. Tesla will make its first sales, the Chevy Volt production design will be released, while the first GM E-Flex drive trains will be driving around (in Chevy Malibu bodies.) Ford will begin marketing (though not selling) it’s plug-in Escape and GM will begin selling the plug-in Saturn Vue. While smaller producers like Aptera and Phoenix will sell their EVs as well.

CDs Will Die
DVDs have a slightly longer lifespan, but physical media are on the way out. Everyone realizes now that there’s no good reason to have a CD instead of an MP3. Frankly, it’s more expensive and less convenient. And while other media (include books and movies) are going to have a longer road to obsolescence, everyone, including record companies and musicians, will agree that CDs have gone the way of the 8 track.

The Kindle will light a Very Small Fire
Speaking of obsolete physical objects, book readers will continue to advance in 2008, but they’ll only just begin their journey to supremacy. That journey will be led by the Kindle which, though uglier, bulkier, and more expensive than the Sony Reader, is more well marketed and convenient than any other ebook reader ever has been.

Solar Really Will be Cheap
We’ve been hearing for years that “solar is going to be as cheap as coal.” And while that prediction won’t come true in 2008, solar will become extremely cheap. Nanolsolar and Heliovolt’s printable solar cells will sell like hotcakes to large buyers, leaving you and me on a long waiting list for personal panels. So while the large solar plants will start springing up, distributed solar will be a bit further down the road than 2008.

There will be 30 Stories about Cars Running on Water
And each and every one of them will be erroneous.

Small Cars Will Win
While it’s great that major car companies are creating cars like the Fit, the Mini and the Aveo, it’s my opinion that they are completely underestimating the desire for small vehicles in American driveways. Which is why I think that the Loremo and the Aptera will be widely acclaimed in the US. Honda will continue selling every Fit it can build, but it will take entrants from outside the establishment to show how interested people are in less substantial cars. Additionally, the Aptera and the Loremo both will establish themselves as early favorites for the automotive X-Prize which will begin in early 2008.

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