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(Questions and comments to this column should be addressed to ECO-Action, Ann Arbor News, Ann Arbor 48106.)
Q. Is there any store in the area that sells organically grown foods?
A. Only organic store we know of is Eden Organic Foods, 514 E. William (phone 663-9029). Owner Bill Bolduc is new in the business, and handles mostly dried grains, cereals, flours, rice, etc., but he's trying to get more capital to expand and handle fresh produce, too.
Some farmers in the area practice organic farming on a limited scale. Inquire at the Farmer's Market from the various vendors. Some use only organic fertilizers, and some use limited amounts or no pesticides on their vegetables and fruits.
An AP press release carried in The News this week, quoting Agricultural Secretary Dale Ball, warns people not to let children collect pesticides for disposal, and recommends burying them instead.
We have two quarrels with this story. First of all, while it may be correct not to let unsupervised youngsters collect pesticides, this may scare off, some people in the Ann Arbor area from cooperating with the pesticide pickup being mounted by the conservation classes of Pioneer High and Slauson. Both of these are well-supervised, and the kids know what they're doing and how to handle the material. If you have such poisons that you do not want anymore, call Parker Pennington at 663-2377. They will be collected and disposed of.
We object to burying DDT and similar pesticides-even the recommended 3 feet underground. Eventually the can will rust away and the stuff will leak out into the ground. Or someone might, at a future time, dig it up and spread it around without realizing it.
The only safe way to dispose of it is chemically or by heat, neither of which can be done by homeowners. The material collected in the pesticide pickup will be so disposed of.
ECO-Action has had a number of questions about auto emission control and related matters, and so will devote the rest of the column this week to that subject. Most of the information was furnished by Prof. Jay Bolt of the U-M Auto Engine Lab.
Under pressure from legislators, especially the California Assembly, the Big Three auto manufacturers-GM, Ford and Chrysler (American Motors is expected to follow shortly) - have announced that they will very soon make available to the public an "anti-pollution” kit to be attached to cars previously sold.
GM apparently is farther along (at least with their press announcements), and have indicated that the kit of parts will sell for about $10 (uninstalled). The three-part kit is designed to retard the spark, make a more ‘lean' mixture on idle, and to provide a thermostatic governor to re-advance the spark in case of overheating of the engine. All of this will make the combustion more complete, and hence give off less polluting emission.
Inasmuch as the California assembly is about to pass a law requiring this kind of installation on cars (deadline not set as of now), it will be mandatory for all autos, foreign cars included, and any company that wants to stay in business in this country will have to offer similar emission control. The kits, though expected to be available in the California market first, will be available nationwide, especially as more state legislatures pass laws requiring them.
Meanwhile Bolt suggests that there are things we can do until the new kits become available. “The principal pollutants of concern,” he says, “are carbon monoxide, unburned hydro
carbons, and oxides of nitrogen. The unburned hydrocarbons e and carbon monoxide are especially high when the engine is
idling and also when the car is operating at full throttle at | high power.
"To reduce all the exhaust pollutants one should not leave the engine idling for more than a few minutes. Idling an engine I for extended periods of time is not good for the engine, and
contrary to some opinion, it does not take a lot of fuel to restart it (perhaps the practice of letting cars idle for extended periods is a hangover from the time when one had to crank them by hand, which was a bother!).
"I have noted that when a long line of cars waits for a freight train to pass, almost none of the drivers turns off his engine; instead all the car engines are idling and expelling about 5 per cent or more carbon monoxide to help asphyxiate the driver immediately behind.
"To minimize the amount of pollutants one should try to drive at as nearly a constant speed as practical. Fuel economy would also be much better if driving is done moderately and at nearly constant speed. (Editor's note: It must also help considerably if the city of Ann Arbor would employ a good mathematician to help its computer set the traffic lights so that one could travel, at least on one-way streets, of which we seem to have many, without having to stop every block or so.)
"Owners should also have their cars tuned up at least once a year. The tune-up clinic our students conducted during ENACT Week gave evidence of what owners can do by good maintenance of their personal vehicles."
Bolt also outlined a development that Dupont Co, is working on, and which shows promise-a more efficient exhaust collector. This is expected to be made available on new cars only in the future.
Speaking of future, we got a copy of a story from Machine Design magazine, sent in by a reader-thank you about Bill Lear, known as "Mr. Steam Car.” Lear, who has spent almost $6 million trying to develop a workable steam car to replace what he calls the "infernal combustion engine,” has almost given up on the idea, even though he still spends a couple hundred thousand dollars a month on research.
He now believes that a workable family steam car is not the answer, but a more likely engine is the gas turbine. He still thinks that steam may be the answer for buses and trucks. He is outfitting a 300 h.p. steam bus which will be ready for tests this summer.
Very little work has been done on a family gas turbine car, reports Bolt. Chrysler's experiment a few years ago (they made 50 such cars and loaned them out for a trial period) apparently failed, and the company simply does not have the capital to mount the research and development necessary to make a practical engine.
Ford and GM are both working on gas turbine trucks and buses, though, and some of them should be in operation in 1972,
Lear believes the auto companies are failing the public by not going ahead on gas turbines. "Detroit,” Lear notes, "says that such an engine would take 20 years to get into production, but the facts don't back this up.”
Why? According to Lear, they have an investment of conservatively, between $2 billion and $5 billion in tooling, knowhow, and service facilities for the internal combustion engine. That would have to be written off their balance sheets some way if they started making turbine engines."
Lear also has an interim solution. He feels that a horsepower ceiling should be imposed, by legislation if necessary. "An upper limit of 150 h.p. should be established for the largest automobiles, and small second cars or urban types should not have over 50 h.p. A small vehicle with a small, relatively clean power plant would be an acceptable interim solution to the pollution problem."
Bolt agrees. "There's no reason why we should need cars with 300 to 400 h.p.” Safety experts are even more vehement on this point. “Buy a moderately-powered car that uses regular gasoline, not a high-compression auto," advises Bolt.
One more interesting development. Standard Oil Company is modifying all of its stations in the state to sell unleaded gasoline. As soon as the installations are completed, the stations will have a three-pump system-premium, regular, and unleaded. Some cars will be able to accept the unleaded gas with only minimal modifications, and this will get rid of one of the pollutants in the atmosphere.