A Summary: Beyond Energy Alternatives
The Third US Conference on Peak Oil and Community Solutions
September 2006 Yellow Springs, Ohio
Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” He also said, “Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius-and a lot of courage-to move in the opposite direction.” I spent the weekend with genius and with courage, and I am happy to report that they are alive and well and working on our problems. Most Americans are not yet familiar with the coming tide of instability. Asleep and dreaming the American Dream, many are unaware of the issues associated with energy and environment that face our people and all of humankind. Scores of those who are aware of our troubles have convinced themselves that the answer lies in more of the same. But there are those who have another idea.
The electric car had its time a few years back and received a movie detailing its death. Investors in the next wave of electric-powered transportation are hoping that timing and technology will help prevent a sequel at the box office. Based in Europe, Vectrix is one such company banking on the power of a green, clean, electric bike to help reinvent the personal small transportation landscape — and keep oil executives awake at night worried about its potential. Groovy Green recently had the opportunity to visit the new Vectric production plant in New Bedford, Massachusetts. We test drove the new bikes (set for release in early 2007, Europe next month) and toured the assembly plant with V.P. of Technology, Peter S. Hughes. Below is our report — but stay tuned for more on Vectrix and other electric bikes hitting the scene in the next six months.
It should also be noted that all comments in this video are expressed by Groovy Green and are not the opinions of Vectrix Corp. There are also some corrections to the video: 1.) Vectrix is in fact not a European company, but an American one. 2.) The price of the Vectrix Maxi-Scooter is not $8,000 but $11,000.
We’ve moved on from the rough and tumble eco neighborhood of GroovyGreen and have setup shop in Hollywood as an independent entity known simply as www.ecorazzi.com (previously known as http://ecorazz.groovygreen.com–but our agent didn’t think it would come across that well on-screen) Sadly, that means we will no longer be updating this domain. Sure, we’ll keep our older news posted here for archives sake, but if you want to know why Leo is shaving his legs to save the whales (he isn’t, but if he ever does) you should hit www.ecorazzi.com for the latest. So…What are you waiting for?
News from the EPA:
“EPA is the first and only major federal agency to purchase green power equal to 100 percent of its estimated annual electricity use nationwide.
As of September 2006, EPA will be purchasing nearly 300 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of green power annually in the form of renewable energy certificates (RECs) or delivered product. This amount is equal to 100 percent of the total estimated annual electricity consumption at all of EPA’s nearly 200 facilities across the country enough electricity to power 27,084 homes for an entire year.”
“616,279,179 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will be avoided annually the equivalent to removing 53,824 cars from the road for an entire year.”
I think this is good news, now if the rest of the U.S. Government will follow the example of the EPA we will see some huge changes… something tells me this may be a ways off.
First Pluto gets demoted, and now I find out that a new ocean was created back in 2000. Who else missed this? Sure, Pluto gets tons of newspaper coverage, but nodoby even bothered to make a big deal that portions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian were combined to create the Southern Ocean back in 2000.
“The Southern Ocean extends from the coast of Antarctica north to 60 degrees south latitude. The Southern Ocean is now the fourth largest of the world’s five oceans (after the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and Indian Ocean, but larger than the Arctic Ocean).”
Let’s hope this particular ocean stays in the fourth position and doesn’t creep up due to melting icecaps and disappearing sea ice. The sea temperature of the Southern Ocean varies from -2°C to 10°C (28°F to 50°F). It’s home to the world’s largest ocean current, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current that moves east and transports 100 times the flow of all the world’s rivers.
Anyways, there’s your new fact for the day. There are now five oceans.
Jeffery Brown throws out a challenge to the main stream media.
“Who among you is going to have the courage to step forward and “break” the story that the lifeblood of the world economy–net oil export capacity–is now declining?”
Mr. Brown says, “I estimate that oil exports from the top 10 net oil exporters are probably now falling at a double digit annual rate.”
He’s an independent petroleum geologist from Dallas by the way; not one of them economists that thinks you can put dollar bills in your gas tank and drive to work. I once told two smart friends of mine, an engineer and a medical student, that physics trumps economics and they said I didn’t understand how the world works. I don’t. But I do think that as oil is physically less available “laws” of economics are going to spin on their heads. Just a little prediction for you this afternoon. Here’s one more. It will be obvious that we’ve peaked in oil production by the end of 2006. It’ll take a few more years, two maybe, for the most optimistic of oil cheerleaders to admit so (read up on the history of the peak in production in the U.S. – 1971). Then, suddenly everyone will be saying, “Yeah, of course we’ve peaked. That’s what oil fields do- Duh!” But by then the scurry to find the next source of fuel for our mobile lifestyles and our transportation dependent economy will be on in full force. My favorite are the news headlines that read, “How Will We Fuel The Cars of Tomorrow?”, or, “Is Ethanol The Answer?” No ethanol isn’t the answer. It’s only suggested as a part of the solution because Iowa is the first stop on the road to the White House. It seems very few people are stopping to consider ways of living that require less driving. Supply-side solutions will not solve the problem of the declining rate of petroleum production.
This morning I fed my daughter Keaton carrots. Not yet six months old and I am already learning from her. The task of introducing solid foods to our baby has fallen mostly to my wife. Today is was my turn. After a few successful bites I started to think to myself, “Maybe I can feed her all these carrots without getting any on her face.” What an impossible goal! As she first began to get dirty I felt a twinge of disappointment. I wanted to feed her perfectly without any mess. The goal was not achieved. I had failed. But wait; I stopped myself and realized that I was successfully teaching another human being to eat carrots. She was learning a skill she’ll use for the rest of her life. I was introducing a healthy food and even went to the trouble of preparing it myself. I boiled the carrots and mechanically smashed them with my own two hands (I did use a masher). I was raising a daughter. Not all at once and not with individual burst of perfection but I was making progress on the road towards a happy, healthy human. What a success.
Seems as though I forgot the golden rule – “don’t believe everything you read in the paper.” Al Gore is not the man he was made out to be. He doesn’t own Occidental Stock. He does opt for green power for his home (and according to Grist – is putting up a solar PV array).
I was so glad to hear that Al is walking the talk. I am sorry that I doubted it.
This whole arguement gets into the realm of how much is enough? How green do you have to be exactly? How many lifestyle changes do you have to make? What is the threshold? I think that that answer can only be answered internally. Am I doing enough? How can I strive to do better? Should we be criticizing, encouraging, or lauding others? Or, should we be focusing on ourselves first off? All questions that I personally have been struggling with, and will continue to struggle with.
It’s too late on a friday night to sort it all out. So for pennance, I’ll leave you with a little TANKcatwhat after the jump
Please allow me this chance to reprint a letter from one friend to another.
It was good of you to write and ask about how Jenn and I have been doing since graduation. It’s been a while since you and I have been able to sit and talk on the front porch like we use to do in college. I don’t want to go getting all sentimental on you but I did enjoy those conversations. Everything’s going well here. Our daughter Kay is growing up fast (I hope you got the baby announcement- Jenn made me give her all the guys’ addresses). Sometimes it feels like if I blink she’ll be all grown up. Work’s fine and we like living in a small town. I never thought I’d say that but Atlanta just wore me out. All that driving made me feel like I was spending my whole life in the car. So we made the move. Jimmie and the NYC crowd make fun of me for living in Smalltown, USA but we like it. I can even bike to work. We’ve got a garden in the backyard and it’s been easy to meet neighbors, especially with such a cute baby girl (says the proud papa). We live in a small neighborhood on the edge of a pretty cool little historic town. There’s a tavern about a mile away and all the other stuff too that comes with a small town of course- an ice cream shop, a local grocery, the usual. Now I’m just babbling so I’ll get to the real reason I wanted to write.
They most likely control your cell phone, have used the talents of Darth Vader to promote their image, and now are harnessing the power of fuel cells to control their destiny. Yes, I’m speaking of Verizon Communications–who recently completed their first year of using Fuel Cell technology at their Garden City facility on Long Island. From the article,
“Verizon’s Garden City project is unique because it uses fuel cells as its primary source of energy. Seven fuel cells generate power for a 292,000-square-foot facility that provides telephone and data services to some 35,000 customers on Long Island. And it’s connected to the commercial power grid as backup. This is a complete paradigm shift for a company that traditionally uses diesel-fueled generators as backups to the commercial grid.”
Now this is a little more like it. It’s amazing what can occur when an actual government gets behind renewable energy. In a step that’s sure to please environmentalists while making RE investors salivate, the ‘Government is proposing changes to the Building Regulations which will make the use of renewable energy compulsory in all new builds from 2008′ The new changes will apply to all new homes, company, and public buildings making solar hot water, roof photovoltaics, and small wind generation madatory in under two years.
Almost four thousand households will benefit immediately from the new systems. Those families on low incomes will also receive 100% grant assistance to install solar hot water systems for more than 500 homes. From the article,
‘Launching an 8 million renewable energy Household Programme, Peter Hain said that Northern Ireland is leading the rest of the United Kingdom in green energy. I Am fully committed to the use of renewable energy and I know how effective it can be. In my home in Wales, I have installed PV panels on my roof and this has resulted in my energy bill being halved. As a Government, we are also moving forward in changes to the building regulations to help and encourage greater use of renewable energy.’
This is your last chance to submit names for the 10 urban chickens we’re raising here at Groovy Green. The winner of our contest to “Name That Chicken” will receive one of these sweet T-shirts. Reply below with one or more names you think we should use on our animal additions to my backyard.
The chicks themselves are doing fine. They’re growing with great speed and it’s becoming obvious which ones are roosters and which ones are hens. Can you tell the ladies from the gents? I’ve started to give them time outside of their enclosure when I get home from work. They stay close by. When I first started to raised backyard chickens I thought they would do their best to escape but in reality they never wander to far away. At the first sign of danger they take off towards the safety of their chicken house. They did eat several seedlings from the garden. I have to remember to keep them out of newly planted areas, but for the most part I like to let them wander through the garden. They eat bugs and deposit fertilizer and are just fun to watch.
Be sure to leave a few names in reply and who knows, maybe you’ll win the coveted chicken T-shirt for your efforts.
Life is filled with choices. Many of them are daily, some are monumental, others take us in new directions. We use our decision-making skills to forecast positive end-results for our own lives and the people around us. Choices, however, are not limited to the mortal coil–we can also make choices now that will decide our impact on the planet well after we’re gone.
I’m not talking about wills or trust funds, but more your organic relationship with the planet. In the United States, most people lean towards traditional burial: a nice casket, flowers, tombstone, concrete vault, and a small plot. We intentionally exit the planet in much the same way we lived on it; above nature. People readily embrace the notion of ‘dust-to-dust’, but then fail to let that very act occur. Do you believe that air tight vault with the air tight coffin is going to preserve your body? And what the hell are you preserving it for? Is it vanity? Is it fear? Are you thinking that someone might open you back up one day and you’ll be embarrassed by what they see? Since most of the world believes the human body is simply a container for something larger (think: soul), why worry about what happens to it? Why spend thousands on beautiful wood that’s placed in the ground? Why bother with expensive accessories and adorations?
Can you imagine if the U.S. posted that type of initiative? Hey! You in the back that still believes the U.S. is the smartest country in the world, sit down. China’s economy isn’t the only thing roaring to life. Their renewable energy initiatives are quickly eclipsing anything close to what the U.S. is considering and American companies are eager to partner up and get a piece of the action. Sadly, if the U.S. does eventually wake up, most suppliers will probably be tied up in China! From the article,
“Beijing wants a tenth of its energy to come from environmentally friendly sources by 2010 – a desire driven by soaring air pollution and chronic environmental degradation that is swelling medical bills and provoking discontent.
Projects will need turbines, blades and other power components, which is why General Electric Co, Vestas Wind Systems and Gamesa, as well as homegrown firms China Solar Energy Holdings Ltd. and Suntech, are expanding capacity in the country. “Renewable energy will likely become China’s next boom sector with oil at historical high prices,” said Norman Ho, a fund manager at Value Partners, which has invested in Chinese wind energy components supplier Nanjing Gearbox.”
Wind developers in all areas from manufacturing to design have got to be especially pleased; the compound annual growth rate of China’s wind power capacity will be 39% in 2004-10 and 20% in 2010-20! Hit the jump for more!
Coming up this Sunday evening set aside some time to check out the Discovery Channel’s feature on global warming:
Discovery Channel visits global warming tipping points across the planet, talks to the world’s leading experts, and examines the latest evidence about global warming in GLOBAL WARMING: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. Produced by Discovery Channel, the BBC and NBC News Productions, and hosted by award-winning journalist Tom Brokaw, the two-hour special presents the facts and leaves it up to viewers to determine their own opinion about global warming. GLOBAL WARMING: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW premieres Sunday, July 16, at 9 p.m. ET.
Starbucks talks the talk but can they walk the walk? “Beginning to use post-consumer recycled-content hot-beverage cups is an important milestone for Starbucks in addressing the environmental impact associated with our paper-buying practices,” said Jim Donald, Starbucks chief executive officer.
Yesterday I listened to a four-minute radio story about the new Starbucks coffee cup. Apparently as the company became successful in the 1990’s, more and more customers developed a wasteful habit known as double cupping. Customers started using a second paper cup to keep the hot liquid in the first paper cup from burning their hands. It sounds like a simple solution to the problem of carrying around a scalding hot beverage. The practice however instantly doubled the amount of waste created by drinking Starbucks coffee not to mention the additional trees and energy necessary to make all those second cups. The company began looking for an environmentally sensitive solution back in 1996. It came up with a sleeve made from 60% post consumer recycled paper. However, the hunt for the prefect coffee cup continued.
Why is America trying to treat its oil dependence problem like it is trying to solve its weight problem?
Americans are getting fat. This is not breaking news. I myself could spare to shed a few pounds. As I began the endeavor to lose weight and get in better physical shape, I began to see the corollaries between how the American public attempts to shed pounds and the way that we are trying to solve our dependency on oil.
First off, lets look our “oil addiction”. We are addicted to oil and its derivatives: gasoline, diesel, kerosene, etc., as much as we are addicted to corn and all its derivatives: corn chips, cereals, and the vast amounts of high fructose corn syrup hidden in our foods. Both are very abundant in the US. Gasoline may be expensive, but it is highly available. We have built our society around the excess availability of both food and oil products. Many areas, we know, cannot be accessed without a vehicle now, and one can find very few towns who have not been afflicted by the homogenizing effect of fast food restaurants and national food brands.
Many great minds have written recently on the energy crisis and the obesity epidemic that faces our nation, lets just stipulate that.
A recent article on the illegality of selling raw milk caught my eye.
“Arlie Stutzman was busted in a rare sting when an undercover agent bought raw milk from the Amish dairy farmer in an unlabeled container.”
On the surface it would seem that the government agency responsible for this sting has way too much time on its hands. Further investigation into unpasteurized milk reveals that it can carry harmful bacteria. It is also true however that the pasteurization of milk does has negative effects that are seldom discussed in the press.
The pasteurization of milk:
While catching a few minutes of t.v. tonight I saw a commercial for the Woods Solar Powered EZ-Tent. This tent sets up quickly, and has intregrated L.E.D. lighting system that is charged by a solar panel on the top of the tent. The led lighting on the interior also has a removable L.E.D. flashlight for those late night trips to the outhouse. “…will take approx 4-6 hours of direct light to yield 2-4 hours tent light; 8-10 hours of indirect light to yield 2-4 hours tent light” and you can also use the solar panel to charge additional batteries.
Let’s see: a conservative court, a conservative congress, a conservative administration—something tells me this isn’t going to change anything. Up for discussion is whether or not the Bush Administration must regulate CO2 to combat global warming. A dozen states, several cities, and environmental groups have convinced the Supreme Court to take up the case–after a divided lower court ruled against them. The administration continues to push forward on the claim that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant under the Federal Clean Air Law–and even if it was, the EPA would have discretion over whether to regulate it or not. (Riiiggghhhttt…I’m sure the EPA in not influenced in any way by this administration) From the article,
“In their appeal, the states argued that the case ‘’goes to the heart of the EPA’s statutory responsibilities to deal with the most pressing environmental problem of our time’’ — the threat of global warming.
This is something Dr. Evil would have planned: “Give me one MILLION dollars, or else I will unleash the worst pollution on Earth–the crap frozen in Siberia.” There’s a reason I’m not involved in writing scripts for Hollywood–but nevertheless, this is pretty disturbing. From the article, “Ancient roots and bones locked in long-frozen soil in Siberia are starting to thaw, and have the potential to unleash billions of tons of carbon and accelerate global warming, scientists said on Thursday.” Supposedly, this vast carbon resevoir (one of the few oil companies are loathe to pursue) is loaded with 75 times more carbon than all that is released into the atmosphere each year through the burning of fossil furls. Covering nearly 400,000 square miles, Siberia has about 500 billion tons of carbon to hand out. “You have anthropogenic (human-generated) carbon that’s making things a little bit warmer, and that causes the permafrost to warm up and carbon is then released from the permafrost,” he said. “It goes into the atmosphere and makes things warmer yet again, so then more permafrost thaws.” So, for those of you that believe nature is causing global warming–hey there may be some actual truth to that. However, whereas thawing permafrost may be the bullet, you can bet sure as hell that we’re the ones pulling the trigger.
Cell phones are cool and all–but most people simply shove them in a drawer–or worse–chuck ‘em when they’re finished. In fact, almost 130 million surplus cellphones are created each year in America–weighing in at clost to 65,000 tons! Well, TerraPass has some up with a unique way of solving this problem by partnering up with RIPMobile. From the press release, “RIPMobile recycles used cell phones and PDAs. They also happen to be leaders in their industry for environmental best practices. Unlike many recyclers, RIPMobile will accept any used cell phone, regardless of economic value. They’ll even pay your postage. RIPMobile handles all materials according to EPA standards and in compliance with the stringent requirements of the Basel Action Network.” The great thing about this new partnership is that TerraPass will pay you in gift certificates for your old phones. So, if you’ve been delaying off-setting your SUV with some carbon credits, now’s your chance to kill two birds with one stone! Almost every phone will net you some type of value–from a lowly old Motorola for $2 to a new RAZR for $75. (My expired Samsung came in at $32–not too shabby!). Check it out at TerraPass and–while your’re there–get that car taken care of!
Anyone else here dig the TV Series, “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer“? Giles and the gang always foiled evil plots to destroy the world while Joss Whedon integrated humorous banter and creative twists to the storyline. Awesome show..but I digress. Anyways, apparently California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine is a fan of the show, since his aptly titled “The Vampire Slayer Act of 2006″ has recently been approved by the California Assembly. From the release, “AB1970 would force companies to put labels on devices that tell consumers how much energy is being used while the device is in standby mode. AB1970 supporters claim that the average household will pay an additional $200 per year due to electronics on standby.” In the other corner of the arena are the Vampire Sires, the Consumer Electronics Association, Electronic Industry Alliance, etc. They’re all claiming that such a move will simply confuse consumers; just like the early complaints issued by the Tobacco Industry when health warning stickers were placed on cigarettes. C’mon–anything to save a few bucks is worth it and I would love to know what’s eating from my outlet well after I’ve turned off the lights. If Assemblyman Levine has any trouble at least Buffy and the gang are a stones throw away in Sunnydale. Nice job, CA!
President Bush did something for only the second time in his two-term presidency: he created a national monument. No, not with building blocks, but by invoking the 1906 National Antiquities Act and protecting over 139,000 square miles of largely uninhabitated islands, reefs, and atolls. Once under jurisdiction, the area would be protected by the strongest environmental laws available and actively monitored by state and federal agencies. While not certain to happen, a ban on commercial fishing in the area would “create the largest no-take marine reserve in the nation, second in the world only to the Great Barrier Reef.” Currently, there are ships in the area that use the coral-damaging “bottomfishing” technique to troll for snappers and seabass. Such a ban would help alleviate stress on the reefs and wildlife. While conservatives will certainly use this latest good news to prove to environmentalists that Bush is paying attention to the natural world, one should note that President Clinton created 19 national monuments and expanded existing legislation to set aside 5.9 million acres in the West. It’s nice to see that the administration is following in his footsteps by expanding existing legislation created under his tenure….at least until natural gas is discovered under the sea-floor.
Think picking the color of your new car is tough? Try picking a car that will still be road-worthy 20 years from now and use the latest and greatest in alternative fuel technology. Well, Volvo–the leader in ‘inherited’ vehicles–is solving that problem with a concept car that runs on FIVE different fuels. “The Volvo Multi-Fuel is a five-cylinder, 2.0-litre prototype car (200 bhp) that runs on five different fuels; hythane (10% hydrogen and 90% methane), biomethane, natural gas (CNG), bioethanol E85 (85% bioethanol and 15% petrol) and petrol.” This feature effectively allows you to run your car on any fuel source, anywhere in the world. “The idea is to make use of the fuels that are produced locally, says Mats Mor’n. This means that less fuel needs to be transported between continents, and you can fill up the car on the fuel that is available wherever you are.” Excellent idea and wonderful ‘transition’ vehicle towards whatever fuel becomes the standard down the road. Let’s hope this vehicle becomes a reality one day. Your unborn children one day heading to college will thank you for this fully functional “hand-me-down”!
I wrote this article 13 months ago, and while I am proud of the steps that my family has taken over that time, I can see that I still have many goals to accomplish. I am republishing it in its original form, with an update, and a few more “thoughts for 30-somethings.”
Well, I have been digesting The Long Emergency, by James Howard Kunstler. It is a bleak vision of the future of America, with declining oil supplies. I, like the author, would not live to see many of the changes that he describes in his idea of the future, but I do believe that there are many things that people in our generation could do to prepare to face any eventual hardship. I will lay out what I plan to do personally to get myself, my finances, my family and my home more self sustaining, and ready for whatever may come our way.I, and others my age have grown up in a time of plenty. Most of us are used to an abundant opportunity of education and employment, compared to any time in our nations history. Born after Vietnam, witnessing the end of the cold war, seeing decisive victories in the first Gulf War, no causalities in the Bosnian conflict, we have seen little in the way of war growing up. (No disrespect for those who have lost their lives fighting for our country during our developmental years.) Our battles were fought in our imagination with sticks and toy guns, or against aliens on video games. The Dow Jones Industrials were at 703.69 on Jan 1st 1975, and as I type the Dow closed at 10,471.91 this past Friday. This is a 1,448% gain in my lifetime. Energy prices, unemployment and interest rates fell. Home ownership, investment in the stock market and personal wealth increased.
Potatoes without effort: Aaron tells how to grow a high calorie food in your backyard. Click for a food you’ll never tire of.
Any time I talk to people about growing their own food whether it’s in the context of gardening for fun, farming for food post peak petroleum, or freeing themselves from the grips of agrobizcorp giants like Monsanto I often get one of two responses- “I can’t grow things!” or “I don’t know where to start”. Here is an easy way to dip your toe in the waters of home food production.
One of the side effects of our automotive way of life is an inordinate amount of old tires lying around. They are great for growing things. I applaud those who work to rebuild the depleted soil around their homes through composting and the addition of organic material. I do this work myself. But I also grow potatoes the lazy way- right on top of the ground.