Via Green Car Congress, the following fascinating article

An international research consortium has successfully built a 300-kW pilot plant that uses solar energy to reduce zinc oxide to zinc.
The zinc can be used in zinc-air batteries or be used to produce hydrogen by reacting it with water vapor. In both cases the zinc recombines with oxygen and zinc oxide is produced, which can be reused in the solar reactor to produce zinc once more.
In essence, the process stores solar energy in a transportable metal carrier that then can release the energy as electricity or hydrogen.
The first trials of the solar power-plant have used 30% of available solar energy and produced 45 kg of zinc an hour, exceeding projected goals. During further tests this summer the team hopes to achieve a higher efficiency. The consortium projects efficiency levels of 50%?60% for industrial-size plants.
Straight thermal dissociation of ZnO requires operating temperatures above 1,750?C…However, the use of a carbonaceous material as a reducing agent…reduces the required operating temperature to between 1,000?C?1,400?C…
One side-effect of operating at the lower temperature with carbon as a reactant is the release of CO2. The research team determined that:
…compared to the conventional fossil-fuel-based production of Zn, the solar-driven carbothermic process can reduce CO2 emissions by a factor of 5…

Well, isn’t that nice. We may someday be able to use the heat of the sun to power clean electric cars. I’m reminded of the boron burning enthusiast I mentioned a few weeks ago. Or the emulsified vanadium power storage mentioned here. Apparently, exotic energy storage chemistry still has some unexplored potential. That’s a good thing. An inexpensive, high capacity energy storage system would go a long way toward allowing intermittent sources to come into their own.
Let me restate that. Windmills and solar cells become much more attractive if we can find a cheap way to stockpile the juice.
I was all enthused and hopeful about this development until I recalled that renewables can’t save us. Like the Bandar-log, James Howard Kunstler and his ilk say so, and therefore it must be true.
Here’s a relevant quote from the yoinker himself

No combination of alternative fuels will allow us to run American life the way we have been used to running it, or even a substantial fraction of it. The wonders of steady technological progress achieved through the reign of cheap oil have lulled us into a kind of Jiminy Cricket syndrome?

That’s it, short, light and sweet. No troublesome numeracy required either, which is certainly a blessed relief, me being a humanities major and all. The collective strivings of some of the brightest people on the planet are rendered irrelevant, moot, null and void, by reason of pundit fiat. Do I hear any objections?
Perhaps just a couple. Peak Oil Optimist points us toward the following review of Kunstler’s latest opus. A compressed excerpt follows…

Kunstler is a font of vitriol with a BA in theater. His book has been excerpted in Rolling Stone, he has written for the Atlantic, and he has a large following among urban planners and environmentalists.
Kunstler despises the way most Americans live, and his arguments are soaked in intolerance. The result is a book that disserves a worthy topic…meticulousness and patience have never been Kunstler’s strengths…The economists, the geologists, the energy experts?all are delusional. Kunstler’s book…has no bibliography and miserably few footnotes. None of its footnotes references scientific journals.
The real business of The Long Emergency is to describe in lurid detail the forthcoming and well-deserved collapse of suburban America…he takes clear glee in imagining the punishments Americans will endure for their profligate ways.
These punishments include but are not limited to: famine; war; epidemics of deadly disease; governments releasing viruses into their own populations to cull the weak…a return to local, even pre-industrial, economies; and?I’m not making this up?Asian pirates plundering California…
Kunstler is sometimes described as a radical…but the correct adjective for him is “puritan.” America to him is sinful…Americans have squandered their opportunities to repent…So now it is too late.
Kunstler likes to think he is telling us hard truths, but in fact he is taking the easy way out. It is easy to be a pessimist, to peddle inevitability and call it analysis…

Damn me, but that was gratifying. Reminds me of Stephen Jay Gould reviewing Jeremy Rifkin. Read the whole thing.
On a more positive note, The Ergosphere takes a look at some of the numbers involved in solar-driven zinc power chemistry and finds them good.
I can’t pretend to any degree of competence evaluating his work. I’m barely clear on the concept of moles. Something to do with Avogadro’s Number, if memory serves, so make up your own minds. While you do, I’ll dish up a few more bowls of steaming Kunstler

June 12, 2005
I just paid $3.25 for a twelve-ounce diet coke in the Los Angeles airport, known by the affectionate name LAX by the locals…The truth is, LAX is just the airport code on the baggage label that they slap on your suitcase…Evidently there was an earthquake here today, but the vibe of the city (if you can call this toxic hyper-mega-burb that) is so catastrophic generally that I didn’t even notice.
I’ve been on a long book publicity road trip around California…and it’s hard not to feel hopeless about this country after being here…But I stray from my point.
Which is that what you see in California is a society with a tragic destiny. I was all over the Bay Area earlier in the week, from San Francisco to Silicon Valley to Berkeley and even down to Santa Cruz, and that was bad enough, But then I got down to Los Angeles on Friday and have been in a state of pathological reflex nausea ever since.
…life here is all about cars and it will never not be about cars — until the reality of our oil predicament falls on the hapless public like a hammer of God and the people of California die for their fucking cars in their fucking cars and over their fucking cars.
I was invited to give a talk at Google headquarters down in Mountain View last Tuesday. They sent somebody to fetch me (in a hybrid car, zowee!) from my hotel in San Francisco — as if I had any choice about catching a train down, right?

Google was probably just being polite. As the above links clearly demonstrate, Mr. Kunstler could have caught the 10:07 at 4th and King and been in Mountain View by 11:21.
The schedules are plainly posted online, but Kunstler has a low opinion of electronic connectivity. “…all this talk about “connectivity” just leads to more commercial shilling, shucking, jiving, and generally fucking with your headspace in the interstices of whatever purposeful activity one may be struggling to enact on the internet.”
Like, for instance, obtaining a local train schedule. Poor little country mouse. Can’t read the signs in the big city. So sad.

Google HQ was a glass office park pod tucked into an inscrutable tangle of off-ramps, berms, manzanita clumps, and curb-cuts. But inside, it was all tricked out like a kindergarten…The employees dressed like children. There were two motifs: “skateboard rat” and “10th grade nerd.”
I suppose quite a few of them were millionaires. Many of the work cubicles were literally modular children’s playhouses. I gave my spiel about the global oil problem and the unlikelihood that “alternative energy” would even fractionally replace it, and quite a few of the Googlers became incensed.
“Yo, Dude, you’re so, like, wrong! We’ve got, like, technology!”
Yeah, well, they weren’t interested in making a distinction between energy and technology…
The taxi-cab ride to Berkeley (on Google’s tab) ran over $160 on the meter.

More vile corporate politeness. They should have sent him back on the train. He could have transferred to BART in San Francisco, and been in the very heart of Berkeley just 21 minutes later.

In Berkeley a radical leftist grandmotherly lady interviewed me for a radio show and once that was over she began to tell me about the chemical contrails that Dick Cheney was cross-hatching across the Berkeley skies…
Flying into LA…and traversing its decrepitating central core clean out to Pasadena in the airport van, was like being immersed in an updated Hieronymous Bosch landscape of hell…
At every turn of the odometer, one wondered: what will become of this entropic socio-economic sink…I gave a talk at the closing session of the annual Congress for the New Urbanism…My message was one that readers of this blog are familiar with…we are sleepwalking into desperate circumstances…But they don’t really believe what I said to them.
The sad truth is that they are addicted to the same economic mechanisms as the sprawl-meisters…

Is there no safe haven that the rot hasn’t penetrated? No comrade to guard his back?

I hope the New Urbanists come around. They have a whole lot of very useful knowledge that will allow us to make our derelict towns habitable while we re-assign the remaining countryside for growing the food that we need locally.

Emphasis mine. Lusting after agrarian land reform is one of the classic precursor symptoms…

Ah, I admit that I am in foul and turbulent spirits. I have been into the land of the American Moloch among its Moloch-worshippers and I am brainsick from it.

Take heart, country mouse. At least one town mouse finds you fascinating. Join the ranks of such illustrious pundits as John Aravosis, and the eloquently bugling Steve Gilliard. He’s been on Air America, you know. Join that exalted, critically praised few. Feel the soothing caresses of James Wolcott’s admiring, yet manly, prose. Then sleep. Sleep, and rest easy. We will all get what’s coming to us.