Archive for January, 2008

Shell Oil CEO Informs Employees That Peak Oil is an Estimated 7 Years Out!

Posted in alternative fuel, biodiesel, clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, sustainability, transportation on January 28, 2008 by theseep

In a move that defies the stance of other petrochemical giants, the Shell CEO, Jeroen van der Veer, sent a letter to employees stating in no uncertain terms that peak oil is about 7 years out. (bold type for emphasis by treehugger)”Regardless of which route we choose, the world’s current predicament limits our maneuvering room. We are experiencing a step-change in the growth rate of energy demand due to population growth and economic development, and Shell estimates that after 2015 supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand.”

Van der Veer goes on to briefly and reasonably discuss the shortfalls of current public energy policy and renewables. Do you think they meant for this to become general knowledge? It’s time to ramp up our battery/hydrogen/cellulosic ethanol/wind/solar research, according to Shell, we’ll see a sharp increase in oil prices ($500/barrel?) by 2015!

via treehugger

Sustainable Sewer for Los Osos, CA?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 28, 2008 by theseep

San Luis County Surfrider chapter and SLO Green Build are co-sponsoring 2 public presentations and workshops in an effort to present environmentally and economically friendly ways to solve the small coastal town’s sewer problems.

Currently everyone in the town, just south of Morro Bay, are on septic systems and no further growth is allowed since they have saturated the ability of the local ground to process the sewage. There are many members of the community that are fine with less growth, but also many who feel it would be good for the town, or those who stand to make a lot of money from development. So far, a waste treatment facility has been planned smack in the center of town, in a beautiful plot overlooking the ocean. The community has been outraged at the proposal, and a few million dollars in taxpayer dollars has been wasted in order to advance the agenda of a few. Los Osos, however, has the perfect opportunity to be a model community for sustainability. Instead of each citizen having to pay $30,000 or more to be hooked up to the new downtown sewage treatment plant in addition to the costs to the county for construction, each home could be retrofitted with composting toilets and greywater reclamation systems for less than that and in the process saving water and significant amounts of money in the long run, all while being better to the environment. Sounds like a simple decision, right? Not when there’s money to be had by local developers with their pocketbooks open for local officials. Well, it’s either that, or the planning board of Los Osos is seated with stubborn, backwards-thinking codgers with no vision or reasonable thought processes. Hopefully these presentations will educate and drum up enough public support for a well-planned, sustainable water and sewer plan for this unique and beautiful coastal town.
“Sustainability…the Final Frontier!”
Can Appropriate Water Technology Help
Los Osos and other cities in our County…?

Keynote Speaker: Jonathan Todd, of Todd Ecological Design Inc. ( an award-winning water and natural resources planning firm, will be visiting San Luis Obispo County on February 6th and 7th to address appropriate technology in San Luis county including the Los Osos sewer project. Todd Ecological specializes in the development of ecological technologies for food production, waste purification and conversion, environmental restoration and systems integration ofr architecture and eco-industrial parks throughout the world. The focus is to provide clients with cost-effective aesthetic solutions to wastewater, storm water, aquatic environment management, and bio-solids conversion.

Two Public Presentations &
Sustainability Socials
(Pizza, Beer, Wine, Sweets, Raffle, & Music!)

February 6th, Weds; 6 – 9 pm
SLO Botanical Garden ($20 suggested donation)
New education & convention facility. (
(El Chorro Regional Park, across Hwy 1 from Cuesta College)
(Between Morro Bay & SLO)

February 7th, Thurs; 6 – 10 pm:
LOS OSOS @ South Bay Community Center
($5 suggested donation)
(2180 Palisades Ave, behind Skate Park)

Available at both events: Music by THE CUESTA JAZZ ENSEMBLE

By Donation (All Funds raised will assist sustainability efforts within SLO County)

• Food by American Flatbread Pizza,
• Beer tasting by Cayucos Brewing Company,
• Wine tasting, and
• Slo Chai and SweetEarth Chocolates

Examples of appropriate technology to maintain a healthy water cycle:
1. Low Impact development strategies
2. Ultra low flow toilets or high efficiency 1.28 Gpf
3. Rainwater harvesting
4. Dual Flush Toilets .9 / 1.6 Gpf
5. Grey water reuse systems
6. Energy Star Appliances (Clothes washer and dishwasher)
7. Composting toilets

For more details about this event, please see the press release

For downloadable flyer please click HERE.Los Osos Blog: SewerWatch

The Center for Public Integrity releases “The War Card”, a Tally of the Bush Administration’s Deceptions Leading to the Iraq War

Posted in Uncategorized on January 23, 2008 by theseep
An AP report released yesterday showcased a study performed by 2 non-profit groups, the Center for Public Integrity, and The Fund For Independence in Journalism that documents the incredible number of false statements made by the Bush administration that led the public to acquiesce and go to war in Iraq. The study cites at least 935 false statements by Bush, Cheney, Condi, and Rumsfeld, 532 or more inaccurate statements by Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, and press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan. Most of these statements asserted that there was unequivocal proof that Iraq did indeed have weapons of mass destruction and/or that there were proven ties between Saddam and Al Qaeda.

The Center for Public Integrity’s “Iraq: The War Card” is a comprehensive database of this intentional deception by our government and shows without doubt that the Iraq war was brought about by a carefully orchestrated media and propaganda campaign designed to utilize the tragedy and outrage generated by the 9/11 attacks as fuel for the flame.
The evidence has been available now for years and is growing in strength. So when can we start the criminal hearings for the Bush administration for fraud, deception, genocide in Iraq, and the almost 4000 wrongful deaths of our valiant U.S. soldiers that went to war to defend us from a lie.
via msnbc, Gavin W.

The Ethanol Scam: One of America’s Political Boondoggles, via Rolling Stone

Posted in alternative fuel, clean energy, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on January 23, 2008 by theseep
 Although this article came out last June in Rolling Stone magazine, it is an excellent discussion of the scam that is corn ethanol. As you know, I’m all for eco-friendliness, but through political manipulation, lobbying (ie: bribery), and as Rolling Stone puts it, boondoggling, corn ethanol has become the country’s fastest growing biofuel, while at the same time being the least efficient and most fossil-fuel intensive to produce. For every 1 gallon of fossil fuel you put in, you only get 1.3 gallons of ethanol out. Add in the chemical pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, and the fact that ethanol provides up to 20% less energy than petrol, ethanol efficiency drops into negative numbers. (previous seep post)

If the numbers for corn-based ethanol are so bad, why are we subsidizing this horrific waste of food when there are starving people around the world?  It’s an environmental and social catastrophe.  It seems that for many Americans, filling your SUV is more important than feeding a hungry family.  I know that may sound harsh and unreasonable, but when you lay it all out, that is really the choice that we’re making. 
Who has the political guts to stop allowing corporate interests to dictate national energy policy and start making rational, well-thought out decisions that will provide us with energy security into the next century?  Obama?  Hillary?
Nobody yet. 

Beck From the Dead: A Review of Glenn Beck’s Deathbed Video

Posted in healthcare, politics, Uncategorized on January 21, 2008 by theseep

I watched the video of Glenn Beck, rambling clearly under the influence of some sort of narcotic pain medication, after his hemorrhoid surgery. In the video he indemnifies the entire medical system because he feels that he didn’t get the care he deserved, fingering himself and the CEO of GE as prominent local VIPs deserving of only the upper echelon of medical care.  He compares the unbearable hospital experiences with his slightly less horrific, back alley, miscreant-style Glenn Beck days.  Maybe when he was an unnamed, unimportant “schlub”, like he refers to all of us other lowly peons. “One of the darker experiences of my life”, he said twice, comparing his experience to the horror movie, “saw”. Looking at the video clinically, it appears that he possibly had a mild psychotic break while on the medications, hallucinating and becoming suicidal. Regardless of whatever actually happened, his reaction was certainly not normal.
The video continues, his histrionically derailed trains of thought wander around, lacking any type insight or trace of intelligent analysis, never saying what was so horrific about the hospital stay. Was it the wait time to be seen? Did he feel that he should have had his pain relieved more quickly? Did he have to sit for a few minutes in a dirty waiting room with other sneezing, oozing, bleeding, moaning patients? Was it a busy ER, where he was triaged appropriately and seen as soon as the busy staff could, while they were concurrently coding an elderly cancer patient, getting report on the next ambulance coming in, trying to arrange an emergency cardiac catheterization for a heart attack victim, paging three admitting docs at the same time, all while calling the floor supervisor to stop stalling on admitting the 1 ICU, 2 telemetry, and 2 more med-surg patients that we’ve been boarding overnight so we can put 4 more of the 15 other sick people in the waiting room in beds to be seen?

Maybe he simply has no perspective and should discuss some of the real problems with our health system. Like how insurance companies deny patients the care that they need so they don’t lose profit margins. Or how a growing number of American citizens commit healthcare fraud, lying and faking to feed their prescription narcotic addiction, or driving gas-guzzling Hummers and Expeditions while raking up thousands of dollars in U.S. taxpayer funded healthcare bills per year. Or how the processed, industrially made, pesticide-laden foods that we feed ourselves directly contributes to obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease, and other illnesses, with many dyes, preservatives, or other ingredients causing medically significant side effects, including cancer, birth defects, miscarraiges, and others, even contributing to childhood ADD. Or how frivolous lawsuits cost millions of taxpayer dollars per year, drive good physicians out of business, causing healthcare shortages, and further drive the price of basic medical care through the roof.

I’m sure you had some discomfort, but suck it up, man! I really don’t understand how this issue became “Glenn Beck has a Harrowing Medical Experience: U.S. Healthcare in Shambles” story, as opposed to, “Glenn Beck has Transient Psychotic Break While in Hospital: Narcotic side effects and How Prescription Narcotic Abuse is On The Rise.”

6th Annual Mount Sinai Global Health Conference, “Environmental Crisis and Human Health”, 6pm, Friday, February 29th and 9am Saturday, March 1st.

Posted in clean energy, conservation, global warming, healthcare, sustainability on January 21, 2008 by theseep
I’ve just been informed that the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Global Health Center and the Global Health Education Consortium, along with Physicians for Social Responsibility and the MSSM Masters in Public Health Program have announced the 6th Annual Mount Sinai Global Health Conference, entitled “Environmental Crisis and Human Health” to be held at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. More info at INCLUDE:
Dr. Howie Frumpkin, M.D., MPH, DrPH
Director of the National Center for Environmental Health/ Agency for
Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at the US
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and one of
the leaders of the CDC’s response to climate change

Dr. Michael McCally, MD, PHD
The executive director of the Nobel Prize-winning organization
“Physicians for Social Responsibility” and a leading
environmental health expert and advocate

Dr. Joel Cohen, PHD, DRPH
Author of “How Many People Can the Earth Support?”
and Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of Populations
at Rockefeller and Columbia Universities

Robin Guenther, FAIA, LEED AP
An architect who won the Center for Health Design’s
Changemaker Award for her efforts to green healthcare,
she co-authored the “Green Guide for Health Care” and
also wrote the new book, “Sustainable Healthcare Architecture”.

Sponsored by the Rosenbluth Foundation at the
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Goldwurm Auditorium
1425 Madison Ave

This sounds like a fantastic conference but I unfortunately don’t think I’ll be able to make it out. The issue of human health and climate change as well as current exposures to environmental toxins and chemicals is a growing field and we need to be prepared for the forthcoming crises.

via Sigrid Hahn

Glenn Beck’s ER Experience: Much Ado About A Total Lack of Perspective

Posted in healthcare, politics on January 19, 2008 by theseep
So we’ve all been subjected to CNN’s poorly informed pundit’s “harrowing” ER experience. From what I can gather, he had a thrombosed hemorrhoid, waited for 40 minutes to be brought back to a room and around 2 hours for pain medications. He sobbed when recounting the event and how unfair it was that he, Glenn Beck, had to wait for medical care. Somehow, this has become a national news sensation and is being touted as an example of how horrible our medical system is. To top it all off, Beck’s hemorrhoids are now ridiculously being likened to the Edith Rodriguez tragedy, who actually died in a L.A. ER waiting room after waiting for hours to be seen.
I’m an ER doctor and although I do agree that our health care system is in trouble and is riddled with problems, Glenn Beck’s rectal pain does not showcase any of them.

As far as his 40 minute wait time goes, certainly he was in pain and this should be treated as expediently as possible, but I’m sorry to inform the general public that a 40 minute wait is really short! Although our hospitals only have a 15-30 minute wait, most hospitals routinely have 2 hour or longer wait times, sometimes 12 or more hours for less acute issues! It is unfortunate that he had to wait 2 hours for pain medications, but I would assume that in a busy ER, there were likely much more pressing issues from other patients like heart attacks and people trying to die. There are multiple reasons for prolonged wait times in emergency departments. The most common is because of triage protocols. From all of the patients presenting to an ER, we must take the sickest patients back first – strokes, chest pain, active bleeding, respiratory compromise, sepsis (severe infections), etc, come back first. Unfortunately there are many people that present to ERs that do not actually need emergency care and these people must wait for the more acute complaints to be take care of.
Bonus rant: These are patients with coughs, colds, rashes, some chronic conditions, and a plethora of other complaints that should be treated by primary care as an outpatient rather than in an emergency department. Some come because they couldn’t get into their primary care doctor or don’t even have one, some come because they didn’t want to wait for primary care, some just want immediate gratification, and some just have noplace else to go. Regardless of the cause, primary care complaints clog up the department so poorly informed pundits screaming in peroneal agony need to wait until the other patients are cleared out. We are actually mandated by law to give a medical screening exam to any patient that presents to the ER, regardless of their complaint, be it emergent, chronic, or completely ridiculous. All this without requesting any information about ability to pay or insurance status, we must see them all. The most frequent abusers of the emergency system tend to be those on our public assistance programs, MediCal here in California. These are “heavy utilizers”, people that choose to go to the ER for even minor complaints, because they know that they can be seen quickly and they don’t have to pay a copay. Now the taxpayers get a $500 ER bill for what would have been a $75 primary care visit. Unfortunately, since there is no personal accountability built into our public health system, there is no incentive to use the system properly. In the same vein, a surprising number of patients utilizing our public health system are smokers, spending the equivalent of a low-cost heath insurance policy on a pack of cigarettes per day (~$150/month) and incurring billions of dollars collectively in smoking related healthcare costs and lost wages. These patients cost the system and the taxpayers a ridiculous amount of money and often will keep other emergency patients from being seen in a timely fashion.
The problem with our healthcare system today is not with the physicians, nurses, and other staff, we all strive to give our patients the best care we can considering the circumstances at any given time. We’re there to help, and even though we didn’t sign up to be spit on, cursed at, swung at, vomited on, sprayed with blood and other body fluids, plus have ridiculous lawsuits filed against us, we go to work anyway and try to give some help to whomever comes in, regardless or race, creed, disease state, wimpitude factor, or ability to pay. Many of you have seen Sicko, so you know that insurance companies are a big part of the problem. I think two other major contributors to our healthcare crisis are frivolous lawsuits (often from unreasonable expectation of care), and a lack of personal responsibility from a patient perspective. If insurance coverage is made non-profit, medical liability is reformed, and people have to pay the health costs of their lifestyle choices (ie: smokers pay for smoking related illness costs, obese patients contribute extra to care for cardiac disease and diabetes, etc), we’ll see a significant decrease in cost to everyone and more efficient care. Leaving healthcare up to the free market is a recipe for disaster – right now we outspend every other country in the world by far, yet our health system ranks 37th!
How’s that free market working for you?

Bombproof Argument For Taking Action: Climate Skeptics Please Watch And Consider!

Posted in global warming, sustainability on January 6, 2008 by theseep

This is a simple discussion on a 4-square graph where we look at the two agreed upon scenarios: 1. Global warming is real, 2. Global warming is not happening. He then takes our two options, action or inaction, and plots out worst case scenarios. If you’re a skeptic, take a look and see what you think. If you’re on board, take a look and pass it on.

New Belgium Brewery Tour Review: A Beer-Loving Ecovangelist’s Mecca

Posted in clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, green energy, recycling, solar, sustainability on January 4, 2008 by theseep

While visiting family in Ft. Collins, CO, on our winter attempt at a fossil fuel free road trip, we had the pleasure of touring the New Belgium Brewing Company, makers of Fat Tire Ale, Mothership Wit Organic Ale, 2° Below, and other tasty concoctions. Located a stone’s throw from old town, this sustainable brew house is now the 3rd largest craft brewery in the country, only behind giants like Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada.

I was already a fan, knowing that the brewery was completely wind-powered, that their fat tire beer is pretty darn good, and that we would get free samples. I really didn’t see how I would be disappointed, but I didn’t know what wonders that I was to behold on the tour.

Walking up to the New Belgium Brewing Company, the flagship brew Fat Tire comes alive through long rows of bike racks, filled with the chubby-wheeled bikes of employees, who are encouraged to bike to work and given one of the logo-clad gas-savers after one year of employment. Once you enter the bar/tasting area, further clues of their mission abound – stained concrete floors, stools and chairs made from recycled bike wheels, the shrine to bicycling, to the eco-tips article clipped to the bathroom stall wall. The mood in the tasting room is fun and jovial, the employee-owners (yes, 1/3 of the company is owned by the employees!) wearing holiday garb, their verve for working at New Belgium apparent in their expressions.

The Tour:

We were able to jump on to the last tour of the day and since we didn’t have time to choose our 4 samples, our server gave us a primer sample of 2° Below, the deep caramel –colored, mildly spiced and satisfying winter brew. With our whistle wetted, we headed off with Erin, our energetic and impassioned employee-owner tour guide. As we walked to brew house 2, the new facility, capable of 700 bottles per minute, Erin pointed out the porous concrete walkway for drainage, the LED/recycled bottle chandelier, and the massive skylight, solar tube, and reflector system to maximize daylight. We watched the armies of bottles being cleaned, filled, and packaged for shipping on the slick new assembly line. New Belgium uses B20 for all local shipping, and is looking into ways to make long-distance distribution (which they must subcontract out at this point) more eco-friendly such as the use of trains rather than trucks when possible. In fact, the thing that impressed me most about this company is that they have built a successful business model as sustainable as they could from the beginning, and are constantly trying to move forward, improve, and innovate, to hopefully make everything in their process, from cradle to grave, have as small of an environmental footprint as possible.

Erin spoke about the brewery with a near religious fervor, referring in awe to the founders, Jeff and Kim, and of the sense of family that had been engendered there. As we continued the tour, we climbed some stairs to the top of the vats where wort was stewing in one and barley was being cracked in another. I was surprised to find that what would have been a bare and warehouse atmosphere anywhere else, was adorned with sculptures made from recycled parts, and each of the 3 tanks was surrounded by a different mosaic, the first of which had embedded, “To make our love and talent manifest.” idealistic prose, straight from the mission statement of this visionary company.

The Beers:

Once we finished the tour, we headed back to the crowded and cheerful tasting room and ordered our 4 samples each. All of the beers are based on Belgian style beermaking, but New Belgium has creatively expanded upon the former standards. The flagship, Fat Tire is a good, basic, medium ale with a tasty and solid flavor, a minimally bitter aftertaste, and is just as comfortable quenching your beer-thirst after a grueling bike ride as it is at your favorite social gathering – plus, you definitely get extra points these days bringing an environmentally friendly brew to a party. Mothership Wit is a 95% organic wheat ale that is light and refreshing, but to me has a much fuller flavor than most Belgian wheats. It has a hint of citrus and it’s slight turbidity makes you feel like you’re drinking a natural, organic beer. 1554, a reproduction of the oldest known recipe of dark Belgian ale, dug up from the depths of the ancient Brussels’ city archives, is a dark, chocolaty concoction that gives you a wonderful array of flavors up front, a satisfying aftertaste, and a stoutish feel without being to heavy. The Frambosen is probably one of the best fruit-tainted beers I’ve had, ranking up with Magic Hat #9. The beer is somewhat dark, with a full body and just enough raspberry to make it out of this world. Although I could only sample 4 of my own, I sneaked some sips of a few others as well as cleaning up some floaters from other family members. The Trippel ale that Laura ordered was unexpectedly interesting but good, with a yeasty and slightly sour flavor, making me feel like I had just scored some of the best 16th century mead the knighthood could buy.

After the tasting, we signed up for the Wunderbike team, pledging to ride to work at least twice a month (which we do anyway) and getting some sweet pant-straps in the process. We also picked up New Belgium bike socks, a growler of Frombosen for the holidays, and Laura bought me a cycling jersey because the whole experience had been so exciting to me. We had just had the pleasure of touring this wonderful company that makes great beer in a sustainable way, in a creative, caring atmosphere. If I wasn’t already an ER doc in CA, I would be tempted to submit my application! Did I mention that the owner/employees get a case of beer/week during the holidays? To Jeff and Kim and the rest of the New Belgium family, keep up the fantastic work, we’ll be enjoying plenty of Fat Tire in the future.