Archive for the conservation Category

Sarah Palin is a Self-Proclaimed “Energy Expert” Because There’s Oil in Alaska, Just Like She’s a Foreign Policy Expert Because Russia is Next Door.

Posted in clean energy, conservation, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability on October 9, 2008 by theseep

I hate to keep harping on Governor Palin, but unfortunately she deserves it.  It is imperative that the middle America that she somehow appeals to understands how utterly inappropriate she is as a Vice Presidential Candidate, making the otherwise reasonable McCain ticket a no-deal (I’d still vote for Obama, but McCain isn’t a bad guy).  In the vice-presidential debate, Palin called herself an “energy expert”, which, it seems, is a moniker earned in a similar manner to her supposed foreign policy prowess. By her reckoning, she is close to Russia, making her a foreign policy expert, and there’s oil in Alaska, making her an energy expert.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, none of our candidates fully understand the dire nature of our global energy crisis.  It’s not just climate change that we should be worried about – it’s peak oil.  Just like the economy taking a downward spiral in a “perfect storm” of deregulation, risky mortgages, bad decisions on consumer’s behalves, industry greed, and bipartisan legislative ineptitude, climate change and peak oil are intimately intertwined and we are heading straight into the eye of yet another perfect storm.   By nearly all estimates, peak oil, or the time when we cannot pump anymore oil from the earth in a day, is either happening now or will happen within the next 5-20 years.  What this means practically is that as daily oil extraction levels off and starts to decline, as long as demand continues to rise, we will see an astronomical spike in oil costs and worldwide shortages.  Let me repeat – if we continue to use oil as we do today, within the next few years to few decades, we are guaranteed to see huge oil shortages and massive price increases.  This is not supposition, it is supported by oil industry insiders, geologists, and energy experts alike and if we do not shift to alternative forms of energy quickly, starting right now, civilization as we know it, fueled by oil, will grind to a halt.  Not only that, but once the oil is gone, if we haven’t prepared ourselves, we’ll likely fall back on the other, dirtier fossil fuel that is still plentiful – coal.  This, in turn, will accelerate the already unstoppable threat of climate change.

The fact is, that offshore drilling and drilling in ANWR will give us a few measly percent of our annual oil use. The rest must still be bought from unstable Middle Eastern dictatorships, some of whom continue to funnel oil money into the hands of the very terrrorists that we are trying to defeat. We can pour money into drilling for more of a dying paradigm and building multi-billion dollar nuclear plants, neither of which will yield any power for a decade. Or, we can focus our efforts and resources on researching and building a renewable energy infrastructure for our entire country, which will protect us from the global economic collapse that will occur as peak oil hits. We will be actively fighting climate change, we will generate domestic jobs, we will wean ourselves off of foreign oil, and we can reclaim our role as a leader and innovator in the world.

Not one of our presidential or vice presidential candidates has even mentioned peak oil, and we’ve barely heard a peep about the environment or climate change. None of these people are energy experts, especially not Governor Palin, who continues to spew her “Drill, baby, drill” mantra. She will not bring you lower gas prices, nobody will. If you calculate the true cost of a gallon of gas, including extraction, refining, transport, and environmental impact, it should be around $12/gallon. For the better part of a century, we have enjoyed cheap gas subsidized by government tax breaks, political power plays, and even war, and now that we’re starting to see fuel prices rise towards what a true and fair market price would be, Americans have cried in outrage rather than taken action to become part of the solution.

At least Senator Obama and Senator McCain recognize the importance of climate change and renewable energy, at least they have an inkling of the true crisis at hand. Governor Palin is still in denial about climate change and is proposing to waste more of the taxpayers dollars on what will become a nearly obselete energy source within our lifetimes. Sorry, but this “Joe Six-Pack” needs a leader who has the intelligence and foresight to set aside their preconcieved notions, objectively evaluate the evidence and take steps to lead us into a prosperous and sustainable future, and Sarah Palin is not that leader.

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Fossil Fuel Free Concert Series: Ben Harper and Jack Johnson Shows in Santa Barbara

Posted in biodiesel, clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, sustainability, transportation on September 15, 2008 by theseep

Last month Laura and I were fortunate enough to make it to see two of our favorite artists, Ben Harper at the Santa Barbara Bowl on August 22nd, and Jack Johnson at UC Santa Barbara on August 27th. Each of these trips are about a 220 mile round trip and to save money and relieve our eco-guilt, we of course drove our biodiesel vehicles in another installment of Fossil Fuel Free roadtrips. For the Ben Harper show it was just me and Laura, so we took the 2003 Jetta TDI wagon which gets 37+ miles/gallon on our homemade biodiesel. The show was fantastic, Santa Barbara Bowl is a fantastic venue, and watching Harper rock out on his slide guitar will drop your jaw in amazement as he melts your face off with his ridiculous musical talent.

For the Jack Johnson show, we carpooled with some friends and took the Vegfalia for some straight used vegetable oil transport. The Jack show was fantastic as always and as a bonus, he has the “All At Once” initiative in full swing. His mellow musical stylings always get the crowd swaying and bouncing to the beat, listening to his honest and heartfelt lyrics.  The show was a bit festival-like, with the All-At-Once tent and a circle of tents housing various environmental groups as well. Impressively, the entire concert tour is striving to be carbon neutral, through biodiesel-powered tourbuses and generators and CO2 offsets. Also, there were water stations to refill your reusable bottles, discouraging bottled water, there were recycling bins next to every trash can, the concert T-shirts were organic cotton, and if you collected enough stamps from refilling your bottle, carpooling, and visiting the environmental non-profits there, you were entered to win a JJ skateboard or to get up on stage with Jack. Also, any donations to the non-profits were matched by the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation. Basically Jack Johnson is demonstrating by example that large events and tours can have minimal environmental impact and he it seems that he is successfully converting fans to be more mindful of their consumption.
Go Jack!

Continuing Right-Wing Shortsightedness on Oil: Drilling Won’t Bring Down Gas Prices!

Posted in conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, politics, sustainability, transportation on August 19, 2008 by theseep


In the continuing media campaign to get Americans to want to drill offshore and in the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge, Hannity and Gingrich are shown here once again making fun of conservation techniques and attempting to discredit the real solution: DECREASE OIL CONSUMPTION AND TRANSITION TO ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES. It’s really that simple. The “drill, drill, drill” philosophy might get us a little more oil in the relative short term (3-5 years before we start seeing any actual oil), but by staying with our current infrastructure, demand will continue to rise, and the future result will be the same – rising oil prices and the continued “addiction to oil”.

The alternative is to change how we use oil now by conserving, and continue to develop battery and alternative fuel technology so that in the next 1-5 years your next new car will be electric or fueled with cellulosic ethanol or algae-based biodiesel instead of oil. In the same time it would take to see anything from drilling new wells, we’ll be well on our way to kicking fossil fuels to the curb.

What kills me is the continued lack of professionalism and blatant skew put on this type of reporting from Fox News and many conservatives. They scoff at inflating your tires, where in fact, keeping your tires at proper pressure can improve mileage by as much as 3.3%, which is not bad for such an easy solution. Combine that with people using public transportation, riding bikes for local trips, carpooling, and other basic, money-saving conservation strategies, and a solid plan for renewable technology implementation, and we simply won’t need to drill.

We can only hope that our future and current leaders have the foresight and wisdom to guide us there rather than staying with the reactionary, short-sighted status quo.

video via treehugger.com

White House Strongarms EPA Into Lying About Climate Change . . . Again

Posted in clean energy, conservation, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability on June 26, 2008 by theseep

NY Times article here

It seems that once again, the Bush Administration has taken to distorting facts and even outright lying in order to further their agenda.  Here’s the story:  In 2007, the Supreme Court made a ruling requiring the EPA to determine whether greenhouse gases were a danger to human health or the environment. In December of 2007, after gathering data and consensus opinion, the EPA had prepared a report concluding “that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled” and that it would be cost effective to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as well as tough fleet mileage requirements, producing an estimated 500 billion to 2 trillion dollars in economic benefits over the next 32 years. The report says basically what the entire rest of the world has embraced and started taking action about: climate change is happening, it is due to man’s actions on our planet and the burning of fossil fuels, and unless we act quickly to control it, we will see significant global economic, health, and environmental implications.  Sounds pretty on target, right?

Interestingly, this report was sent via email to the White House in December as requested by the Supreme Court. The Bush Administration, however, in an act of childish negligence, has buried it’s head in the sand and has flatly refused to open the email. Because of this and other pressure from the administration, the EPA has “been forced” to water down the report so that it only “reviews the legal and economic issues presented by declaring greenhouse gases a pollutant, ” rather than actually addressing the issue. This whole kerfuffle is being reviewed by Henry Waxman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, as well as by Representative Edward J. Markey of The House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming, and the Bush Administration has already once again evoked “executive privilege” to avoid handing over incriminating documents on the matter.

All I can say is, WTF? Why can’t the EPA simply hand over the original report to the Supreme Court and let the Judicial Branch get involved. Or better yet, release it to the public so that we can all see the true reports that our tax dollars pay for rather than a document full of irrelevant discussion and half-truths? I think that Mr. Johnson of the EPA needs to stand up and do what the American people have hired him to do: protect them from environmental hazards with integrity and honor, not bowing down to criminal political pressure. Send out the Global Warming report to the Supreme Court, every Senator and Representative, and the New York Times. I’ll take a copy as well.

What’s worse, it that this report doesn’t even have any revolutionary information in it, the U.N.’s Panel on Climate Change has pages and pages of documentation on the subject and whether or not global warming is real is no longer up for discussion. What is up for discussion is what we will do about it and if we will be a leader, or act like we’re 5 years old and hold our hands over our ears, kicking and screaming, because we don’t want to be told to clean up our mess. This type of attitude by our government simply slows down the necessary changes to deal with climate change and further discredits our country in the eyes of the global community.

Here is a link to the EPA director, Stephen Johnson’s email address and phone number, let’s all drop him a line to let him know that these types of shenanigans will not be tolerated.

via: NYT

treehugger

The Story of Stuff: An Excellent Short Movie For Kids And Adults Alike

Posted in conservation, ethical consumerism, politics, sustainability on June 19, 2008 by theseep

I had heard about Annie Leonard’s “The Story of Stuff” a while ago, and recently finally watched it. Only 20 minutes and 40 seconds long, it delivers a clear, easily followed path of, for lack of a better word, stuff. From the resource use and depletion, to the manufacturing process and toxic chemical use, to the political manipulation by corporate entities, to the disposal (or lack thereof) of “stuff”, this story is a must see for everyone. Simplistic enough for a child to understand but sophisticated enough and stylish enough to keep an adult’s attention, it is clearly designed to spread it’s message to the masses. The Story of Stuff should be standard curriculum in every home and school, reminding us that what we buy had to come from somewhere, has to go somewhere when we’re done, and every action carries some sort of consequence. Whether we choose to acknowledge these consequences and how we act on this knowledge is up to us and our own consciences.

Increase Your Public Transit Use With Google Maps!

Posted in conservation, ethical consumerism, green energy, sustainability on June 6, 2008 by theseep

Google has done it again with a new feature added to Google Maps Mobile – public transit directions and schedules. We have the NYC subway and the Boston T system wireds, but If you’re like me and don’t live in an area with a lot of public transportation, using transit systems, especially buses, when you’re visiting other places can be daunting – unfamiliar stations, unknown schedules, figuring out destinations when you’re not sure where you’re going in the first place. Unfortunately it ends up being easier sometimes to drive and use a map or a GPS.

Google has now solved that problem with the new release of Google Maps Mobile, where a second tab has been added under “directions”, allowing you to choose between “driving” and “transit” options. You can enter your location and your destination and get step by step walking instructions to the bus stop or transit station, schedules for departure, directions to your final destination, and even search ahead for the latest return trip! This should work on iPhones, Windows Mobile, Palm, as well as a good number of regular mobile phones. As a bonus, if you have a “location aware” phone with GPS, you’ll be able to use your current location to start and follow your little blue dot as you go towards your destination.

This is really exciting as it opens up the possibility of using public transportation to an incredible number of people that wouldn’t otherwise, so whenever you can, leave your car behind and get on the bus/train/bike!

via Lifehacker

News Flash: Gas Prices Will Continue to Rise! Stop Whining and Start Acting!

Posted in clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on May 31, 2008 by theseep

We’re all tired of hearing everyone complain about gas prices. Besides the everyday complainers, we have truckers protesting, middle class families in suburbia going broke driving to work, and now McCain and Hillary are pushing a summertime “gas tax holiday”. Although it is unfortunate that so many people are being effected by the rising prices of fuel, the reality is that our days of cheap, government-subsidized cabon-based fuels are at an end. To put it in perspective, Germany just hit $8/gallon as the already expensive fuel prices throughout Europe continue to increase.
Peter Schwartz, PhD., a local Cal Poly Professor of sustainability calculated that the true cost of a gallon of gas, when you factor in extraction, refining, the environmental impacts, transport, associated human and health impacts, and every other estimatable cost, is around $12/gallon. As we approach this true cost, people will be forced to reconsider how they are utilizing energy resources.

Because we have manipulated the market for so long and fought wars for “energy security”, the U.S. has enjoyed falsely lowered fuel prices for half a century. This cheap gas market allowed the expansion of suburbia, the cheap transport of goods and services, the rise of the unparalleled American car culture, a booming vacation and travel market, and an incredible number of other unsustainable luxurious activities. It has also allowed us to waste an incredible amount of energy and resources because they have been so cheap. We have built grandiose, inefficient stick houses with poor insulation, installed energy-sucking appliances, and we drive down the street in our image-conscious, 12mpg SUVs, all choices based on what many people call the “free market”, but what is in reality a subsidized, racketeered, bastardized version of capitalism. The oil subsidies unto themselves are incredible, with an estimated $17.8 billion in tax subsidies and between $38 billion and $114.6 billion in government program subsidies, according to an article on treehugger.com.

Many conservative economists, would like us to “stay the course”, saying that this “free market” will direct where our money goes, ie: as consumer demand for renewable energy, efficient and electric cars, and sustainable business increases, we will see more of these products available. Although they are correct in basic theory, their entire paradigm of capitalism has been so twisted by political deals, unfair trade agreements, the aforementioned fuel subsidies, and a lack of accountability for the impacts of industrial production, that the basic tenets of the conceptual free market no longer apply. If not for these modifying factors falsely lowering the prices of certain goods and services, opening access to unsustainable development, as well as the effect of psychologically based marketing to sell us wasteful, often toxic products and foods, we would have likely been well on the way to being sustainable 30 years ago with the first energy crisis. If we had been paying European energy prices as we should have been, we would be living efficiently in closer communities, with less waste, public transportation, and more local food production, the very direction that we need to move in immediately if we are to decrease the looming effects of our self-induced climate change.

I recently saw a few minutes of Glenn Beck on a near-sighted, unthoughtful rant on why we should start drilling in Alaska to get us more cheap oil. This is the same lunacy that brings us the gas tax holiday and the “economic stimulus package”, maneuvers that don’t even prolong the inevitable, they don’t even actually help anyone, except that they make some of the more oblivious public feel like something is being done. For us to actually make any progress, each individual must first take responsibility for their energy use and carbon footprint: If you haven’t dumped your SUV yet, do it! Change your lightbulbs, install solar, bike more, compost, start your garden, stop buying things from China and overseas, buy local, organic foods, consume like you give a damn!

We also need to pass sweeping changes in legislation, here are a few examples:

1. Immediate moratorium on new coal-fired or nuclear power plants with required emissions-reducing equipment on all existing plants.

2. Home and industrial efficiency requirements to meet LEED certification on ALL new construction and a program to require and assist in efficiency retrofitting on existing homes and industrial buildings.

3. Increased support for renewable energy research and infrastructure with

4. Standardization in electric vehicle battery and/or charging units to allow for swappable battery packs and the deployment of universal charging stations.

5. Better subsidies for residential solar and electric/plug-in hybrid vehicles with significantly increased fees/taxes on non-industrial/non-farming vehicles getting less than 25mpg (this should quickly increase to 30+mpg)

6. Integrated waste management systems with greywater recycling, green waste reutilization for biomass digestion and composting, extensive recycling programs, and increased tariffs for waste and refuse.

With significant conservation initiatives and continued development of existing renewable energy technologies, we can negate the need for new coal power plants, we can avoid drilling in the arctic, and we can decrease some of the effects of climate change. I doubt that any of our current legislators have the courage to make many of these changes, so it is up to us, the citizens, to first do our part, then support our leaders in taking the steps needed to protect our society, our people, and our environment.