Friday, October 31, 2008

Don't let the White House door hit you on the way out...

Just before Clinton left office, he went on a mad dash to designate vast tracts of federal lands as national monuments. The intent was to protect the areas from being opened to oil and gas exploration before the W administration took office--and done in a way that would be almost impossible to rescind. Now W is doing something similar, but in opposite, by easing environmental standards on global warming gases, drinking water safety, and mountaintop mining.

From the article:

Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.
Once such rules take effect, they typically can be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis.
"They want these rules to continue to have an impact long after they leave office," said Matthew Madia, a regulatory expert at OMB Watch, a nonprofit group critical of what it calls the Bush administration's penchant for deregulating in areas where industry wants more freedom. He called the coming deluge "a last-minute assault on the public . . . happening on multiple fronts."

Innovate or die

Chrysler and GM will most likely merge sometime within the next several days. The federal government is saying that it wont provide any money to facilitate the merger. In reality, the two companies will need billions of dollars in government aid to make this work. And they'll get it. Since the government won't allow these companies to die--and they shouldn't--we should make sure that the new GM/Chrysler is forced to innovate (namely through high fuel efficiency standards) since there wouldn't be as much incentive otherwise.

State of the car

So the Mercedes survived the trip from Vermont back to North Carolina to end the book tour. The heat definitely works, the air conditioning does not. Even with giant jugs of grease in the back, it gets absolutely no traction in the snow (which I discovered all to well while fishtailing on I-89 in whiteout conditions on Tuesday night). Both headlights are now working, though one is still pointing to the sky. A mysterious rusty piece of the car fell off somewhere in a Massachusetts parking lot, but it doesn't seem to have made a difference in mileage or performance.


So, the book tour is over. I made a mad dash through Seattle, hitting the University Bookstore, in town, and Village Books in Bellingham, Washington over the weekend. Then I flew east, where I hit Phoenix Books in Vermont, and finally St. Michael's College. At the Seattle Store, I totally packed the house with Kenyon friends, and relatives (and Kenyon friends' friends, and relatives' friends and relatives). In Bellingham, a big, random crew of avid book readers showed up. Groups of avid book readers scare me, because they ask deep questions, and take books really seriously. I'm always afraid they're going to say something like, "We've seen David Halberstam speak here many times--and you, sir, are no David Halberstam!" But serious book readers are also known to like a good Dick Cheney joke--so I threw a couple out to them in Bellingham, and that seemed to warm them up to me.

The Phoenix Books stop was filled with familiar faces--largely because I begged nearly all of them to come. It was the perfect place for the final bookstore stop on the tour. It's owned by Mike DeSanto--the northeast's Chi Running guru. I still don't know what the heck Chi Running is, but apparently Mike does.

Then finally, I gave a talk at St. Mike's College, "Your Fries Give Me Gas." Packed auditorium. Expectations were high. One of the student organizers said to me before the event, "Now, you're going to talk about all of the corporate greenwashing that's going on, and really get into stuff on the environment, right?" This took me by surprise, because I was thinking I'd just crack a couple of Dick Cheney jokes (which students also like) and get the hell out of there. So I changed the tone of my talk into an environmental one. The only problem is that I don't know much about the environment. I only know a bit about the people, places, and subjects I researched for Greasy Rider. Hopefully that sufficed for them. Sadly, no cute blond co-eds threw themselves at my feet afterward--as I had kind of hoped--so I'm not sure if I was all that inspiring.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

En Route Home to NC

No posts Wednesday.

Radio interviews

The challenge with some--but not all--radio interviews about the book is that the interviewer basically introduces me as the wacky guy who drives a grease powered car, and then starts the interview by saying something to the effect of, "Hey wacky guy who drives a grease powered car, say something wacky!" The people listening then say, "Oh, how funny. Listen to that wacky guy. I guess I already know how wacky he is, and he's admitting that he made it across the country in his car--so it looks like I don't need to read the book." It's then my job to steer the conversation toward the real message of Greasy Rider, about sustainability, and tease listeners with tidbits of information about Fort Knox, the Google headquarters, wind power in Minnesota, the Great Green Home, and all of the book's other investigations. If I don't, my radio conversation always stays put on the wacky adventure. Here's the piece that Vermont Public Radio ran today, for instance. It's a thoughtful interview, and I've always been a big fan of the interviewer. He asks some great questions, but it's clear he thinks Greasy Rider is solely about the cross-country trip--and in this case, I do a terrible job steering the conversation.

By the way, VPR is in the middle of its fall fundraising drive. If you live in Vermont, don't forget to contribute.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Colbert's Convenientest Truth

Drivers driving much less...but will it last?

In August, Americans drove 15 billion miles fewer than during the same month in 2007. That's a 5.6 percent decline. At the same time, the use of public transportation spiked.

But the average price of gas is down a dollar in the past four weeks. So will people still keep riding buses and trains? The answer appears to be yes. For now. Commuters are looking for any way to save money, given the economy, and driving less still saves them money--even with gas prices lower.

Friday, October 24, 2008

As the turbine turns

The US added enough turbines to power 400,000 more American homes in the second quarter of this year. The wind industry in the US is expected to grow 45 percent for 2008.

As far as job creation goes, the article says "eight new wind turbine component manufacturing facilities opened in the U.S. this year, nine were expanded and 19 new facilities were announced."

What the future holds due to the current economic freakout is anyone's guess, though.

Everything will be Albright

Last night I was in Portland, OR to speak at Powell's Books. The branch of the store I went to is in the Hawthorne district of town, an extremely hip (and hippy dippy) area, where bikes are parked all over the place on the sidewalk, and crowds of people are walking between all of the stores, and sushi restaurants, and the Ben & Jerry's. So I'm thinking, "Perfect. This is totally my spot! These are my peeps! They'll come out in the thousands to listen to me! I'll be the voice of reason! I'll talk about policy and the environment! They'll be enthralled! I bet they're craving a speaker like me to come, and spread the liberal hippy gospel! I mean, what the heck else better do they have to do tonight?"

Then I arrive at the store, and look across the street at the billboard of the Bagdad Theatre. It reads "Madeline Albright. Tonight!" A mass of folks are lined up outside. Need I say any more?

The crowd that did come to Powell's to listen to my talk wasn't too bad, considering, and they asked a lot of good questions. And Powell's is a very impressive store. I enjoyed checking it out and spending some time there.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Guerilla marketing

So I've been thinking of different ways to give the book free publicity. Here's what I've come up with so far:

1) Trash a hotel room during the book tour. The headlines would be something like "Author of 'Greasy Rider' Pulls a Johnny Depp in TravelLodge." Maybe the newspaper would even run my mug shot. I don't know if I should go with the angry-and-disoriented-tousled-hair-Nicholas-Cage-look, or the Tom-Delay-smile-into-the-camera-like-you're-arrested-all-the-time look.

2) Climb the crowd fence and tackle Al Roker, live on the Today show. I'd have to be wearing a big Greasy Rider shirt, or at least yell "Greasy Rider, buy the book!" when I get close enough to his microphone.

3) Start dating Jennifer Aniston. She's available, isn't she? I'm not sure if Dr. Wife, MD, would like this one so much--but she'll benefit from the book's windfall profits. (She should really keep this in mind if she picks up a copy of US Weekly and sees pictures of me cavorting in a Speedo on the beach with Jen. )

4) Start wearing a rainbow colored wig, buy end zone seats for every big NFL game, and unfurl a huge sign for the cameras that says "Book of Greasy Rider" during every field goal try or touchdown.

5) Claim to the national media that I'm Sarah Palin's much-referenced-but-never-identified friend with "alternative lifestyles." (I don't think Dr. Wife, MD, would go for this one, either. Or better yet, I could claim that I WAS Palin's friend with "alternative lifestyles" but got cured after going to a special school. )

Any other suggestions? Feel free to send them to me, or even better, to Lindsey at Algonquin.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wal-Mart's environmental conference in Beijing

Wal-Mart announced during an environmental conference it's holding in Beijing that it's going to begin applying higher labor and environmental standards for many of its Chinese suppliers.

The company also announced that "within China, Wal-Mart would aim by 2010 to cut water use in half in all stores, design and open a prototype store that used 40 percent less energy, and reduce energy use in existing stores by 30 percent. “People will judge us,” (CEO Lee Scott) said, “based on the results.”

Wal-Mart gets it. If they reduce water use in half, and reduce energy use by 30 to 40 percent, they'll save millions and millions of dollars. (Consider that in the US, they're the largest private consumer of electricity.) And the move is great for their image. It's a win-win.

Also from the article: “Meeting social and environmental standards is not optional,” Lee Scott, Wal-Mart’s chief executive, plans to say at the Beijing summit, according to his prepared remarks. “I firmly believe that a company that cheats on overtime and on the age of its labor, that dumps its scraps and its chemicals in our rivers, that does not pay its taxes or honor its contracts, will ultimately cheat on the quality of its products. And cheating on the quality of products is the same as cheating on customers.”

Good point. And makes a lot of sense from a PR standpoint. I do find it interesting that nothing is mentioned about the morality of employing 14-year-olds, who have to work in dangerous, unhealthy conditions, or of poisoning the rivers and drinking water of the people who live near these factories. I realize that "the business of business is business," but as Americans, aren't we supposed to be better than that? (Whoops, there I go again, caring about the sanctity of the lives of other humans. I guess that's the liberal hippie in me coming out.)

Last night's event

Thank you Kenyon College Alumni Association. You helped a lot in putting people in the seats at Books, Inc., last night in Mountain View, California by spreading word of the event. The first person in the audience to show up was Isaac, who graduated from Kenyon nearly 50 years ago. He's a former professor at Berkeley (I think). Extremely interesting guy--and he laughed at all of my jokes during the talk, which made me like him even more. Books Inc., is the "West's Oldest Independent Bookseller." Their store in Mountain View is in an ideal location for walk-in traffic in the evening (talk about carbon friendly), and a few people who wandered inside during my talk ended up sitting down and listening.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football vs. Greg reading Greasy Rider

So who won the battle for the hearts and minds of Boulder last night? Definitely not me.
As I stood before the crowd at the Boulder Bookstore (and I use the word "crowd" very, very liberally) I kept silently repeating to myself: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!"
The folks at the book store were exceedingly welcoming. The store is right on the Pearl Street pedestrian mall. Really nice place.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Al Gore on 30 Rock

In case you haven't seen it. The drunk David Schwimmer is funny, as is Tina Fey (as always). You have to respect people who can laugh at themselves. Even if they do live in energy-sucking 10,000 square-foot mansions in Nashville.

Interview with Northeast Public Radio

A recent interview on the environment and Greasy Rider on Northeast Public Radio.

Reader comments

Of the billions of e-mails Greasy Rider readers send here, there were two recent ones that were especially notable. One was from a guy who read about the new campus the Business School at Stanford is building. It's set to cost a little over $305 million when complete, and the whole thing will be platinum LEED Certified (which is the highest green building seal of approval). The extra costs to make the place LEED certified will pay for themselves within a decade. Meanwhile, they'll be drastically reducing energy use, water use, and solid waste, and drastically imroving air quality over normal buildings. So the savings they'll reap over the next many decades will be immense.

Another person sent this message: "A number of the things you get into with regards to current design and construction practices, (i.e geothermal heat, LEED accreditation, rainwater collection for irrigation) are items that I have encountered on recent MIT and Harvard projects. It’s great stuff and very effective. MIT has even gone with utilizing gray/rain water in the toilets at the Stata Center (they have had to leave signs above all of the toilets to explain the unappealing, slightly tinged, brown water to the users). The ongoing Harvard Allston Science Facility construction projects are filled with these ideas and implementation of energy saving methods and renewable sources. An interesting note, Harvard has gone with a European architect for the design."

European architect? Are you kidding?

Anyway, universities and colleges get it. They receive awesome PR for going green, but more importantly, they save millions and millions of dollars. They think long-term. Unfortunately, corporations don't have the luxury of thinking long term. That's why we have to provide incentives for them to think that way--and in the long run, they'll be more profitable.
This isn't rocket science.

Proof the sustainable economy works

One of the points made in Greasy Rider is that we need to give innovation on renewable energy and sustainable stuff a kickstart--through government incentivves. Here's an article on how they've done just that in California, creating 1.5 million new jobs, and losing less than 25,000. The result is that it put $44.6 billion in workers' pockets.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


My talk tomorrow night in Boulder, Colorado is going to take place right in the middle of the Denver Broncos game on Monday Night Football. I'm thinking of buying cardboard cutouts of people and putting them in the chairs in front of me. Stay tuned.

The Onion: Californian mansion owners celebrate wildfire tradition

Californians Gather To Celebrate Annual Wildfire Tradition

Denver book reading

So, I'm bascially being plagued by great weather wherever I go. It's awful. Yesterday in Denver, it was an unseasonably high 80 degrees, with not a cloud in the sky, Not exactly prime weather for people to say, "You know, I can't think of a better way to spend my afternoon than indoors, listening to that wacky guy who drove his grease-powered car across the country." Well all you sun worshippers, you missed a great talk at the Tattered Cover in Denver. Maybe my best yet. Feeling guilty now?

The Tattered Cover, by the way, is amazing. It's huge--housed in Denver's former, ancient Mercantile building, which used to supply goods to all of the settlers and towns in the Front Range. Definitely one of the country's best book stores. At the start of the talk, there were three people sitting in the audience. But after a few minutes, a bunch of others started filtering in. At most of my talks, it's clear that the people in attendance knew something about the book beforehand. Not in this case. When I was finished, I asked a few of the people why they decided to come for the talk. "We were waiting in line to see Chelsea," one of them said. "And some woman told us to come in here, because we'd enjoy listening to you."

Apparently, comedian Chelsea Handler was going to be in the store later in the day, signing her book, "Are you there Vodka? It's me Chelsea." But to be able to see her, you had to wait in line for tickets (because the demand was expected to be so great). Oh the irony! So the woman at the Tattered Cover in charge of the Chelsea event was encouraging the people in line to hear me. Heck, I didn't care why they were there, as long as I could spread the word, and hopefully entertain them. A lot of them bought "Greasy Rider" at the end, and a few took their picture with me, so I figure the event was successful enough. (Although I do have to admit that I now hate Chelsea Handler, whoever she is, because of the massive crowds she attracts and number of books she must sell.)

Hopefully I didn't let the tattered cover down. They were nice folks, who had kind things to say about "Greasy Rider."

The Tattered Cover's efforts on the environment: They've put together a reading series at the store, in partnership with the Rocky Mountain Land Library, dedicated to the Western landscape. It's called the Rocky Mountain Land Series. Authors like Steven Trimble, who wrote the book "Bargaining for Eden," and Audrey DeLella Benedict, author of "The Naturalist's Guide to the Southern Rockies," are among the participants. The next event is Saturday, October 25, when John Thiem and Deborah Dimon will discuss their book, "Rabbit Creek Country: Three ranching lives in the heart of the Mountain West."

Friday, October 17, 2008

The future is sunny

Despite the gloomy economic times, the outlook for the solar industry is decidedly bright.

Greasy Rider talk on C-SPAN's BookTV

On Wednesday Night, the Greasy Rider tour stopped at the Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vermont, just south of Burlington. It was good to be back and see friends. I've been a fan of the Flying Pig, so it was an honor to talk there. Owners Josie and Elizabeth were extremely gracious. Yet, I felt like I was going to puke before the event started because a crew from C-SPAN was there to film my talk for BookTV. It's supposed to air later this month. I'm just nerdy enough (and enough of an insomniac) to enjoy watching BookTV at random hours, so this was a big deal for me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wind Power

When it comes to profiting from wind power, the land owners and government of South Dakota get it.

Northshire Book Store

Two nights ago, I stopped by the Northshire Book Store in Manchester, Vermont to read from Greasy Rider. I was expecting the place to be empty, given that the Red Sox were playing that night, and since I don't know anyone in the area, so I couldn't pad the crowd with friendly faces. Fortunately, Manchester is one of those places where the locals think of author events at the hometown bookstore as a big social event, so a good crowd (for me) appeared. They asked questions. Some drove veggie cars. Some farmers even came--so Vermont. One dairy farmer grows oil crops so that he can press his own oil to power his diesel equipment, and then he uses the byproducts to feed his cows. He also drives a veggie powered diesel Mercedes wagon. Amazing. It's a sustainable setup just like Rudolph Diesel dreamed about when he invented the engine that bears his name.

UPDATE: the Northshire's sustainable efforts include a recent retrofit of lighting fixtures, so that they can use highly energy efficient bulbs throughout the store. They also have plans to add solar panels to the roof.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The car's headlamp

Since I replaced the left headlight on the car the other day, it seems to be working fine. But like I said, I think I didn't aim it properly. Put it this way: cars driving in the opposite direction suddenly swerve when they get near me. I think they might be getting blinded. Is this a safety problem? I'll have Iggy fix it when I get to Burlington this evening.

Harvard Bookstore: Greasapalooza!

There was a packed house at the Harvard Book Store the other night. Since the lights facing me on the podium were so bright, I couldn't tell if the crowd of about 50 people or so was packed with my friends, high school classmates, and relatives who all live in the area (and were begged to come). So I'll just assume that I didn't know a soul. They were definitely a receptive group, laughing at a lot of my jokes as if they were all friends and relatives. But again, I insist, they were all strangers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Innovate or die? Not in this socialist country.

There's a lot of talk about how the government shouldn't prop up the renewable energy industry, and we should let the free market rule on renewables and sustainability. The thought being that "when we need it, the market will demand innovation, and then products in the renewable energy field will appear to meet that demand." This article in the Houston Chronicle says that because of the economic crisis and the temporary dropping of crude oil prices, investment in renewable energy will be squeezed pretty soon.

Here's my response to allowing the "invisible hand" of the market determine the investment in renewable energy: it's all bunk. The people who make this argument are pretending that we live in a perfect, capitalistic, free-market system. But the last time I checked, we've partly socialized the auto, airline, banking and insurance industries recently. Let's take the auto industry. The theory goes in capitalism that you innovate or die. In the case of the car companies, there's no threat of dying--because they know the government will bail them out. So there's less incentive to innovate. As a result, Toyota (the biggest innovator) is leading the world in sales, and GM is denying bankruptcy rumors. (The same argument could be made for the airline industry.)

There's no doubt in my mind that American engineers and auto workers could make the most innovative cars in the world--if only given the opportunity. Under the conditions of the past decade, they haven't been given that chance. The companies have been resistant to innovation, even lobbying against it (in the form of fuel efficiency standards and emissions), and now--sadly--they're paying the price. (Of course, the credit crunch is compounding the situation exponentially.)

So what are we to do? Since we've already partly socialized the auto companies (thus not allowing them to die), we should set standards that force them to innovate. They've got the smart, skilled people who can do it.

Like Bill Clinton says in Greasy Rider: if we lead the world in renewable energy and sustainable innovation, our country could experience the greatest economic expansion since World War II. What are we waiting for?

Facebook group

If you're a Facebook member, join the Greasy Rider group. Just type "greasy rider" into the search box on your Facebook homepage, and you'll find it.

New England Cable News discovers that grease is the word

New England Cable News ran a story on the car and Greasy Rider yesterday. Here's the video.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Car report

The car seems to be holding up pretty well so far. It's been chugging grease the whole time, and responding fine. The stuff that I got in Georgia must have had some animal fat in it, because I've been storing it in buckets in back, and it's starting to smell really ripe. I'm going to pour it into the tank tomorrow afternoon. The air conditioning officially doesn't work, despite the repairs a few weeks ago, so the trip has been a hot one. I don't wear shorts in the car, for fear that my sweaty legs will stick to the pleather seats. At least the weather should be cooler here in the northeast. The other night, driving from Pennsyvlania to Western Mass., the left headlight went out. I tried to go to a Lowe's to get a new one before I got a ticket, but apparently Lowe's doesn't sell auto parts.

So I drove into Northampon, Mass., passing three police cruisers, without getting pulled over. The next morning (Sunday) I hit the only auto parts store open in town. Surprisingly enough, they don't tend to stock headlights for 1985 Mercedes wagons. The guy behind the counter knew of only one other place I could check: Wal-Mart. Please don't tell Dr. Wife, MD that I went there. I had no choice. My safety was at stake. An lo and behold, they stocked the headlight. I had no choice but to buy it. After a good few hours' of effort, I even managed to install it there in the Wal-Mart parking lot. (I really could have used Iggy.) Unfortunately, I didn't know how to aim the bulb properly, so it's shooting straight up, signaling planes at night, instead of pointing toward the road. But at least I have a working headlamp on the left side!

Curse you, beautiful weather!

So it was a Rockwellian fall afternoon in Western Massachusetts yesterday. The kind that's so beautiful, my mom probably wouldn't have come inside a bookstore to hear me speak. Even if she lived next door. For the second day in a row, I showed up at a bookstore filled with dread. This time at the Odyssey Bookshop, in South Hadley, MA. It's a great bookstore, right in the postcard-perfect town commons, that gets some amazing authors. On November 6th, they're hosting Richard Russo and Stephen King. Together! That's, like, an event of a lifetime. Let's just say that I didn't quite get a Russo/King-type crowd. The total number in attendance on The Most Glorious Foliage Day in a Decade was six. But they were a dedicated six, who asked a lot of great questions. And the number six happens to be six more than zero, which is what I feared would be the attendance.

Today I'm speaking in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the Harvard Book Store. But the Red Sox are playing a playoff game late this afternoon, so my reading will occur around, oh, the seventh inning or so. I'm not kidding when I say that a few of my siblings might not show. If the first four events are any indication, this one's going to be fun regardless.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunny weekend days stink for book tours

So yesterday I headed for the Chester County Book & Music Company, in West Chester, PA. It was a picture-perfect day Saturday. Not a cloud in the sky. Maybe 72 degrees in the Philadelphia area. In other words, the worst possible conditions for expecting anyone to set foot inside a bookstore. I get there early, and I'm automatically freaking out. No one is going to come, I figure. Then I start to wonder: what will I say on the blog? Will I admit that nobody showed up? After a great deal of moral wrestling, I decided that I would lie like a rug. Maybe a freak storm will hit in the next few minutes, and people will get this incredible urge to go book shopping, I thought to myself. The appointed afternoon hour finally arrived. I walked into the bookstore, and one guy was sitting at a chair, ready to listen to my reading. Thea, the extremely nice woman who organized my appearance, apologized to me about the kids raising money for charity outside. "They're selling gas cards," she said. Of all days." I acted insulted. "Well, I think I'm going to take my big crowd here and leave," I said. She laughed. The guy had brought a buddy with him, and the two are grease-heads, so we talked about our cars, and our oil sources, and stuff. We also talked a lot about the different stops I made during my trip, to the Wal-Mart, and the offices of Google, and to Fort Knox. I think I have to do a better job of explaining that the road trip was really a vehicle--for lack of a better term--for getting across a larger point about sustainability. Anyway, as I was speaking to them, other people slowly started to filter in, and listen to the discussion, and add their two cents, and buy the book. So the stop ended up going pretty well. Hopefully the Chester County Bookstore folks were pleased, considering that it was the most glorious day of the year outside. Today I'm speaking at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, MA. It's supposed to be perfect autumn weather in Western Massachusetts, ideal for gawking at the changing leaves. I'm hoping for a monsoon.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Reviews, mentions, and spreading the word

Publisher's Weekly said in its review that Greasy Rider provides a "thought- and perhaps action-provoking lesson."

Newsweek is running a short review on the book this week. You can see it here (scroll to the bottom of the page). They call it "a hopeful, goodhearted portrait of those he meets—be they Minnesota wind farmers or hippie diesel mechanics—who are getting a head start on building the post-carbon future, a tomorrow fueled by a refreshing optimism, as well as by grease."

Here's where you come in. If you enjoy Greasy Rider, and you think the book is thought provoking or conversation provoking, please don't let it collect dust on the shelf. Pass it on for someone else to read. Tell your friends who are in book clubs to choose it for their book club. I'm happy to do a conference call with any group that reads it. While it's true that my ultimate goal is to make JK Rowling look like a pauper by selling a billion copies of Greasy Rider, my other goal is to create discourse, open eyes, and make real change. You can help me do that.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Regulator Bookshop

So the Greasy Rider publicity tour stopped at the Regulator Bookshop, in Durham. The talk was in the basement, where behind the stage hangs hundreds of pictures of authors who visited. There's pretty impressive lineup of people have spoken at the Regulator, which was intimidating. The hero of the evening was Iggy's sister in law, who brought a posse with her. Second place were the Shahadys of Wake Forest, NC, who wore t-shirts that said, "Greasy Groupies." (Don't worry, they're entering some sort of rehab for their problem.) Also, one couple came who have converted an old Chevy pickup, and they're in the process of converting another vehicle. They both have jobs that require them to drive a lot, and they get their grease from a chicken wing place nearby. No one fell asleep during the talk, and I didn't wet my pants this time, so I considered it a victory!

So, what does the Regulator do for the environment? The most notable effort is the emphasis to stock a lot of books that are produced by local publishers. Here's a link to the importance (and benefits) of buying local.

Greasy Rider on WNYC in New York today.

I was interviewed about the book and driving on grease today on WNYC in New York. You can listen to it. It's a few minutes into the clip, after some guy talks about his novel, in which a fictional character can drive across the country without stopping at a fuel pump. Dude, Iggy and I lived it.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Malaprop's visit

So I went to Malaprop's Bookstore in Asheville last night. A huge crowd turned out. (At least huge for me, probably not so much if it was for John Grisham.) Probably about 30 people--and I didn't know a soul (even though two of them looked suspiciously like my parents; another like Dr. Wife, MD; two like my kids; and about 20 like Dr. Wife MD's co-workers and friends).

Lots of books were sold. One guy (who looked suspiciously like my dad) even bought 10 copies, telling the person at the register that he was purchasing them for his book club.

Good times were had by all, although I think the laughs were more at me than with me.

So what does Malaprop's do for the environment?
Quite a bit.
--They're in a great location, in downtown Asheville, so it's easy for people to walk, bike, or take the bus there. (You'll notice that's a common theme for a lot of independent bookstores--a huge environmental advantage.)
--They keep lighting to a minimum when the store is closed, to save on electricity.
--They use all compact fluorescent bulbs.
--They work very hard to reduce their waste in the store.
--They only give customers bags if they ask for them.
--The to-go cups they use in the cafe are biodegradeable.

On to Durham, NC today. And I'm bringin' my camera.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wind baby, wind

New Jersey has announced that it plans to develop offshore wind farms that will provide enough power for 800,000 homes by 2020. I don't understand, I thought the only way we could get energy offshore was to drill for it...

Wordsmith's recap

So I drove down to Decatur, Georgia yesterday for the first stop on the book tour at Wordsmith's Books. Really nice people there--like Russ, who put the event together--and a great store, in an old bank building. They had me park in front, so everyone could see the car through the window. Before the event, I was debating on whether or not to wear a pair of Depend undergarments, in case I wet my pants from nerves. I decided against it, because I was afraid it would look too bulky under my jeans. I brought a posse with me (known as my friend Greg, who lives in Atlanta) so that I would be guaranteed at least a one-person audience. At 7:30, my posse and I practically looked like we were the only ones there--making my whole Depend dilemma moot--and then people just suddenly appeared from behind the stacks and practically filled the seats in front of the stage. Also represented/participating at the event were Georgia Interfaith Power & Light, an amazing group that engages "communities of faith in stewardship of God's Creation as a direct reflection of our faithfulness through worship, education,and the sustainable generation and efficient use of energy," and Rob from Refuel Biodiesel (part of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy), which gave me 10 GALLONS OF WASTE VEGGIE OIL FOR THE TRIP HOME to Asheville! Unfortunately, the presence of the big crowd that Russ managed to wrangle at Wordsmith's meant that I had to try to sound half-articulate. On the upside, the audience was very attentive and went easy on me (and had a million questions at the end).

So what does Wordsmith's do for the environment? Well, for starters they're in an amazing, pedestrian and bike-friendly location in Decatur, surrounded by other shops, bars, and restaurants in the middle of town. That makes a huge (and often overlooked) difference in lessening carbon impact for local shoppers. They have a great display of environmental books at the front of the store. And, they serve as a town hall for groups like Interfaith Power & Light, and Refuel Biodiesel, and people like me, to discuss environmental issues with an engaging and involved audience.

Tonight I'll be at Malaprop's in Asheville. I'll report tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Book launches today

Greasy Rider officially launches today! Get your copies now!
I'll be speaking at Wordsmith's Books in Decatur, Georgia this evening, and blogging tomorrow about my trip there.

Renewable energy tax credits made permanent

Early last week, I mentioned how Congress was about to let all of the tax credits expire for people who invest in solar, wind, or other renewable energy projects for their homes or businesses. This would have been a massive blow to green projects, and green technology companies, across the country. Well, buried deep within the massive $700 billion economic bailout plan, Congress made the tax credits permanent. Problem solved. But still, given that it was a piece of candy added to a huge, deficit-busting, our-kids-and-grandkids-will-be-paying-for-this bill, I'm not sure how to feel about this.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Reviews piling in

Publisher's Weekly says today that Greasy Rider is "a thought-, and perhaps action-provoking lesson in alternative fuel."

Greasy Rider World Tour begins tomorrow

That's right, Greasy Rider officially launches tomorrow. I'll be stopping at these amazing independent bookstores, and colleges and universities on the World Tour!

Tuesday, October 7---DECATUR, GA---Wordsmith’s, 7:30pm
Wednesday, October 8---ASHEVILLE, NC---Malaprop’s, 7:00pm
Thursday, October 9---DURHAM, NC---Regulator, 7:00pm
Saturday, October 11---WEST CHESTER, PA---Chester County, 1:00pm
Sunday, October 12---SOUTH HADLEY, MA---Odyssey Bookstore, 3:00pm
Monday, October 13---BOSTON, MA---Harvard Bookstore, 7:00pm
Tuesday, October 14---MANCHESTER CENTER, VT---Northshire Bookstore, 7:00pm
Wednesday, October 15---SHELBURNE, VT---Flying Pig Bookstore, 7:00pm
Thursday, October 16---BURLINGTON, VT---University of Vermont
Saturday, October 18---DENVER, CO---Tattered Cover, 2:00pm
Monday, October 20---BOULDER, CO---Boulder Bookstore, 7:30pm
Tuesday, October 21---MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA---Books Inc., 7:30pm
Thursday, October 23---PORTLAND, OR---Powell’s, 7:30pm
Friday, October 24---SEATTLE, WA---University Bookstore, 7:00pm
Saturday, October 25---BELLINGHAM, WA---Village Books, 7:00pm
Monday, October 27---ESSEX, VT---Phoenix Bookstore
Tuesday, October 28---COLCHESTER, VT---St. Michael's College

New York Post article

In order to tamp down the flamethrowing over yesterday's Post review, and for the sake of fairness, I've taken down the posts and comments regarding it.


The "cartoon eco-villain."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Google this

Google is proposing an ambitious renewable energy plan in the US that would slash our carbon dioxide emissions in half, kick the oil habit, and--by the way--SAVE us $1 trillion in gas and energy bills by 2030. Have I mentioned how this whole hippy dippy tree-hugging stuff actually makes for sound capitalism? I have? About a million times? Oh yeah.

Early reviews

Two new, positive reviews of the book came out yesterday. One from the Mountain Xpress here in Asheville, and another from Creative Loafing, the alternative weekly in Atlanta.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Edifying digression for Wednesday...from the pages of Greasy Rider

Wal-Mart is the largest private consumer of electricity in the US, and owns the nation's second-largest trucking fleet.

Page 232.

Gas crisis easing

My dreams for a Mad Max world of gasless cars in Western North Carolina has vanished, because the fuel crisis appears to be fading. Although stations are still running dry, the lines are largely gone, and prices are dropping from their astronomical levels of last week. Nothing ever goes my way.