Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Strawberry moonshine and ethanol...

In my Outside column for this week...

Oil prices continue to skyrocket! Woohooo!

Crude oil is at $71 a barrel and keeps climbing.

Meanwhile the grease for my car is still free...

UN environmental chief calls for worldwide plastic bag ban

The UN environmental chief calls for a worldwide ban on platic bags. 90 billion of them went unrecycled last year. Of course, China has already banned them. (You know, China is that place with all those people, where they supposedly care less about the environment than us.) The government there says the move saves them 37 million barrels of oil.

But I thought we could just throw platic bags into the ocean and let the fish eat them...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Arugula, anyone? (Part 2)

The idea of planting vegetables in different spots throughout the yard seemed like a brilliant one, if I did say so myself. It semed very artsy and creative. But not any more. I put the corn right by the kids' basketball hoop. The plants have since been smooshed. The tomatoes and one pepper plant get only about an hour of sun a day, beneath the shade of a giant pine tree. And the arugula was apparently placed in a spot where the dog loves to pee. Salad, anyone?

Climate change is killing 300,000 people a year

According to the first comprehensive report on the subject, headed by Kofi Annan. And the numbers ain't gonna be going down in the future. Morality issue? National security issue? Whatever perspective gets you to turn off that lightbulb, or walk downtown.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A conservative (and correct) viewpoint on the environment. Believe your eyes.

An article from the conservative American Enterprise Institute called "Lose-Lose on Biofuels?"

It basically says we should stop mandating the increased production of ethanol and biodiesel from virgin sources.

"Forcing the market to produce large amounts of renewable fuel will harm consumers in two ways: it will increase prices at the pump, because biofuels are more costly than gasoline, and it will drive up the price of food, because it diverts crops into fuel. The impact of food price inflation will weigh most heavily in developing countries where food purchases comprise larger shares of consumption. Food expenditures account for as much as 70 percent of household consumption among lower income groups in the developing world."

They conclude that the best way to reduce emissions is through a straight carbon tax. Sounds good to me. But who has the guts (or suicidal tendency) in congress to propose a new tax?

(By the way, it should be noted that ExxonMobil has been big donor to the American Enterprise Institute.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sotomayor's most notable environmental ruling

From the New York Times...

In a defeat for environmental groups, the Supreme Court ruled this term that the Environmental Protection Agency may use cost-benefit calculations to decide whether to require power plants to make changes that could preserve aquatic organisms. The case mostly concerned the meaning of a phrase in the Clean Water Act that requires the power plants' cooling structures to "reflect the best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impact." Judge Sotomayor had previously ruled that weighing the costs of the changes against the value of the organisms in dollars was not permitted by the law. Instead, the EPA could consider only what cost "may reasonably be borne" by the power plants. When her ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court, Justice John Paul Stevens, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter, dissented, saying that cost-benefit analysis was prohibited by the law and pernicious in practice.

A more detailed view from SCOTUS Blog

Environmental Law: Sotomayor’s most notable environmental-law opinion is Riverkeeper v. EPA, 475 F.3d 83 (2d Cir. 2007), a challenge to an EPA rule regulating cooling-water intake structures at power plants. To minimize the adverse impact on aquatic life (which could otherwise be trapped against the intake structure or, if small enough, sucked into the pipes themselves), the Clean Water Act requires the intake structures to use the “best technology available,” without specifying what factors the EPA should consider in determining what constitutes the “best technology available.” Sotomayor wrote and opinion holding that the EPA was not permitted to engage in a cost-benefit analysis to determine “best technology available”; instead, it could consider cost only to determine “what technology can be ‘reasonably borne’ by the industry” and whether the proposed technology was “cost-effective” - which, she concluded, requires the EPA in turn to determine whether the technology at issue is “a less expensive technology that achieves essentially the same results” as the best technology that the industry could reasonably bear. Thus, she explained, “assuming the EPA has determined that power plants governed by the Phase II Rule can reasonably bear the price of technology that saves between 100-105 fish, the EPA, given a choice between a technology that costs $100 to save 99-101 fish and one that costs $150 to save 100-103 fish . . . could appropriately choose the cheaper technology on cost-effectiveness grounds.” On this issue, Sotomayor remanded to the EPA, finding it “unclear” how the EPA had arrived at its conclusions and, in particular, whether the EPA had improperly weighed costs and benefits.
Sotomayor also held that the EPA could not consider restoration measures - such as restocking fish to compensate for fish killed by an intake system - when determining the best technology available for a particular power plant. Sotomayor wrote that “[r]estoration measures are not part of the location, design, construction, or capacity of cooling water intake structures, and a rule permitting compliance with the statute through restoration measures allows facilities to avoid adopting any cooling water intake structure technology at all, in contravention of the Act’s clear language as well as its technology-forcing principle.” Finally, Sotomayor also determined that, at a minimum, EPA’s determination that the CWA provision at issue applies to existing and new facilities was a reasonable interpretation of the statute.
The industry plaintiffs filed petitions for certiorari, which the Supreme Court granted in April 2008 to review the cost-benefit issue. By a vote of 6-3, the Court reversed. In an opinion by Justice Scalia, the majority deemed “[i]t . . . eminently reasonable to conclude that” the CWA’s silence with regard to determining the best technology available “is meant to convey nothing more than a refusal to tie the agency’s hands as to whether cost-benefit analysis should be used, and if so to what degree.” Justice Stevens wrote a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justice Souter and Ginsburg. In their view, because “Congress granted the EPA authority to use cost-benefit analysis in some contexts but not others” and intended “to control, not delegate, when cost-benefit analysis should be used,” Congress’s silence on this issue did not constitute “an invitation for the Agency to decide for itself which factors should govern its regulatory approach.”


• Environment (Protection of fish at power plants): Sotomayor, writing for a three-judge panel, ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency may not engage in a cost-benefit analysis in implementing a rule that the "best technology available" must be used to limit the environmental impact of power plants on nearby aquatic life. The case involved power plants that draw water from lakes and rivers for cooling purposes, killing various fish and aquatic organisms in the process. Sotomayor ruled that the "best technology" regulation did not allow the EPA to weigh the cost of implementing the technology against the overall environmental benefit when issuing its rules. The Supreme Court reversed Sotomayor's ruling in a 6-3 decision, saying that Sotomayor's interpretation of the "best technology" rule was too narrow. Justices Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg dissented, siding with Sotomayor's position. Riverkeeper, Inc. vs. EPA, 475 F.3d 83 (2007)

The case for a gas tax

Presented here in the American Prospect...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Steroids and blogging

Even though there is no drug testing at the Greasy Rider book world headquarters, there's no truth to the rumors that I'm taking steroids to improve my blogging performance. Especially the ones that Manny took that improve your chances of getting pregnant.

Station wagon repair report

The wagon needs a new rear axle. We'll be getting it soon. Meanwhile, the mechanic assures me that we have nothing to worry about. "I've never seen one of 'em break on an old Mercedes wagon. Yet."

I'm planning to drive the kids up Mount Mitchell (the tallest mountain in the US, east of the Mississippi) in the car this weekend. We'll see how it holds up.

China may save the planet, and crush us in the process

There's no debate about global warming in China. Instead, it's about whether they should do anything about it. Now, the country is charging forward on renewable energy solutions, and if they create cheap technologies to solve the problems before us--and then sell it to the rest of the world--we're hurting.

Here's why China has an even more urgent incentive than us:

Currently, one-third of China's rivers are polluted; one-fourth of its territory is desert while another one-third suffers from severe soil erosion and drought; more than three-fourths of its forests are gone; urban residents are forced to breathe air containing lead, mercury, sulfur dioxide and other elements of coal-burning and car exhaust. The number of cars is expected to grow from 33 million to 130 million in the next 12 years and every 30 seconds a baby is born with pollution-related birth defects.
Just last year, China overtook the United States as the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide. By 2030, the International Energy Agency says China's emissions will be 41 percent greater than those of the United States.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Big Day: Grease-powered car hits 300,000 miles

The odometer passed 300,000 miles on the old station wagon today. I guess that puts the engine in its teenage years. (The body's not doing quite so well.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

New chocolate-powered race car unveiled.

From the Mail: "A racing car that is powered by chocolate, guided by a carrot steering wheel and has bodywork made from potatoes, was unveiled in Britain today."

"The car meets all the Formula 3 racing standards except for its biodiesel engine which is configured to run on fuel derived from waste chocolate and vegetable oil. Formula 3 cars currently cannot use biodiesel."

I do see a problem here: chocolate is already freaking expensive enough. I don't need car drivers sending the prices up higher. Otherwise, I'll have to find a cheaper vice, like smoking.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Annals of enviro-hypocrisy, chapter 1,823: The Edge wants to build five 10,000 square foot "green" mansions on one Malibu property. Seriously.

The Edge wants to build five 10,000-square-foot mansions on his pristine Malibu property (complete with a new mountain access road dug for them). (Why do you need five mansions? I guess one for you, and the other five for guests? Or maybe to house hundreds of displaced families from Darfur?) And he's trying to claim it's a green effort. No word on whether he's also building a landing strip for his private jet there.

"The project...calls for a cluster of five, 10,000-square-foot homes. The two-story, earth-toned dwellings would be the maximum size allowed in areas designated as environmentally sensitive habitat.
Renderings show organic design features such as a pool that encircles one home like a moat. Another house would wrap around an existing pile of boulders while The Edge's own dwelling would feature curved roof lines to simulate leaves."

He says the houses will all be gold LEED certified. The only problem is that the houses are too big, about five times too big, to receive LEED certification. What he's doing defeats the entire purpose of green building.

As Bono might say, how long must we sing this song?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Promoting local farms, and making our youth healthier. At the same time.

Spread of disease and global warming

From today's Washington Post:

Climate change is creating droughts and floods where they were not common before, and that is also altering patterns and flows of disease. In warming temperatures, mosquitoes are migrating to new areas, carrying diseases once confined to the tropics.
Chikungunya, a tropical disease from Africa and Asia that causes severe joint pain, showed up in Italy in 2006 and has infected several hundred people there. A tourist who visited Kerala,
India, is suspected to have carried the virus home. Then the Asian tiger mosquito, which is working its way north as temperatures rise, carried it from one infected person to the next.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

North Carolina to schools: Only hit students with parental permission!

Today, the North Carolina legislature is considering a bill that will bar schools from paddling kids without written permission from parents. I'm not joking. It's good to see we've finally progressed to the 1920s here in the Tar Heel state. (There's rumors that we might even start letting women vote in elections, too.)

Don't drive to Atlanta on an 85-degree day with your car's air conditioner broken

I started to try it, but didn't get very far. So I pulled into a Mercedes service garage in Fletcher, North Carolina and they charged up my AC.

Then I drove down to Roswell, Georgia for a meeting of the Green Readers Book Club, which meets at Harry's Farmer's Market. The group is organized by the store and the non-profit Keep Roswell Beautiful, a non-profit that works with the local government to improve the local environment (and is a model organization for other communities to follow).

Given that I spend so much of my time as a shut-in, I talked for about 90 minutes before I realized that no one was left in the room but me. I'm not sure exactly when I scared them off--probably sometime around the 20th minute, when I started to give them my strategies for flossing teeth properly.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

traveling this week

I'll be in Gambier, Ohio giving talks at my alma mater, Kenyon College, on Sunday afternoon and Monday evening. I'll be back to my old blogging self on Wednesday, most likely.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Create global cooling? Baaad idea

So, one of the big environmental guys in the Obama administration said that global warming may get to such a catastrophic level that we'll need to find ways to cool off the earth by spewing pollutants into the upper atmosphere. Artificially creating global cooling is such an awful idea on so many levels. For some context, I refer you here to Operation Cat Drop.

Car sales up in China! Woohoo!

More cars were sold in China last quarter than during any three month period ever. Ever! Oil prices spiked on foreign markets today, in response to the happy news.

Meanwhile, back on the Greasy Rider mother ship, the waste oil I use for my car is still free. Free, I tell you!

Yes, a four-day work week will save dead dinosaurs.

We crunch the numbers in my Outside online column this week.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

This is the best they could do? Really?

So this is the new revolutionary plug-in vehicle that GM announced it's going to be making with Segway. You remember, Segway invented that two-wheeled scooter thing that mall cops ride. It was the old "new" revolutionary plug-in vehicle, until it turned out that no one really saw a use for it, besides chasing away 14-year-old girls caught smoking in front of the Piercing Pagoda, apparently.

Gee, I really want to run out and buy one. What about you? But won't be out until 2012. And we don't know the price yet. At least it looks like it'll hold up well when a city bus rams into it.

Stop the presses! Oil companies are NOT at the cutting edge of renewable energy research

Next week's installment: the oil companies actually SUPPORT new offshore drilling, and the driving of big, gas-sucking cars and RVs.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Boo! Oil prices have dropped $2 a barrel today.

That's largely why I'm in a bad mood.

Yes! The grease car can run on animal fat!

The grease I collect settles to three layers: the first two-thirds is pure canola; about a quarter below that is animal fat, and at the very bottom is a small layer of water (from the moisture and frost on the chicken tenders and fries when they're cooked). It's a pretty simple process to pour the pure canola into a bucket, and then stop when you hit the animal fat. I've never used the animal fat before, though theoretically it's supposed to work in the car. Well, I was desperate for grease this week, and decided to filter some animal fat dregs and stick it into the grease tank. I was planning on driving it, but the wife got in the car before me to take the kids to a play session (which involved driving on the highway). Furtunately, the engine didn't blow up on them when they were driving 60 m.p.h. In fact, everything worked fine.

Economic downturn keeping sharks hungry

Fewer people at the beach means fewer shark attacks.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Uh oh.

The Chinese are investing bigtime in hybrid and plug-in electric technology research for cars. They want to become the global leader in the market. I raise my concerns about this in Greasy Rider. At least we've now come to the realization that we have to do the same.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Long time, no post.

A move to a new house + sick kids = no blogging. New posts should begin on Thursday.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Just got my favorite bad review ever!

This review is even better than the one I got from the climate change denier guy in the New York Post. It comes from the conservative Philadelphia newspaper, the bulletin, and is written by Mary B. Worthington.

My favorite quotes:

Between the eight episodes journaling each of the eight days of the journey, Mr. Melville reports on seven “errands” given to him by Iggy to further research various environmental topics — errands he completes in the year following the cross-country drive. These tasks are the redeeming factor of the book, which includes all sorts of cynicism and travel-companion-bashing, which I found distracting and sometimes insulting.


Though I will not give this book raves due to the off-color and demeaning content that he includes despite the fact that it has nothing to do with environmental concerns (attacks at Iggy for leaving the Catholic faith, explicit information about the homosexual relationship of a person he met on the trip, etc... ), as well as his rude remarks about his wife, I would recommend this book for persons looking for an adventurous way to read about the nation’s craze of “going green.”

Thursday, March 26, 2009

last post for this week

I'm packing up the house today and tomorrow because we're moving to a new place in Asheville.

Oil prices jump! Woohooo

Oil prices jumped to over $53 a barrel on foreign markets today, already. The rise comes as some positive numbers about the US economy were released yesterday, indicating the recession may be nearing its bottom.

If you're getting that sick feeling in your stomach about the price of gas steadily climbing again, then do something about it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The silver bullet for funding

The problem with putting up a windmill, solar panels, or geothermal heating/cooling, etc. for your home is the up-front cost. You need to get some huge loan to pay for it. Sure, the project will eventually pay for itself, but sometimes not for as many as 20 years. (This isn't a huge deal if you keep your home over those 20 years--because the loan payments each month will probably be lower than what you would have been paying in traditional utility bills.)

But let's say you're trying to sell your home after 10 years. You're on the hook for that loan, not the new owner. And it's not like you can really jack up the price of the house to cover it, because people will just decide buy the regular homes down the street for cheaper. Recently the city of Berkeley came up with an alternative: they give you an ultra low interest loan to cover your renewable energy conversion costs, but it's attached to the home, not you. Then whoever owns the house makes monthly loan payments to the city as part of their property tax bill. This way, you can sell your house at a normal price, and the new owner continues to pay off the loan with their property taxes. The benefit for the new owner: the loan will be cheaper than utility costs on a normal home that doesn't have solar panels, or a wind turbine, etc. And once the loan is paid off, their utilities will be free.

Now San Francisco is following this model. Expect other cities to follow. The cities win, too, because they make money on the loans.

Liberals: no solar in my back yard!

Senator Diane Feinstein is all for solar power, as long as it's not in a giant swath of California's Mojave desert. (To which the Governator replies, "If we cannot put solar power plants in the Mojave Desert, I don't know where the hell we can put it.")

Grease o rama giveaway, part II

I gave away the grease yesterday morning. 90 gallons of wholesome, fry-filled canola goodness to a guy who drives a beat-up old Mercedes sedan. I'm just doing my part to spread the wealth. Take that Exxon-Mobil!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Grease-o-rama giveaway

I've been stockpiling a bunch of grease over the winter, because I haven't been driving much. So yesterday, I put an ad in Craigslist, offering it free to anyone who picks it up. I've gotten 10 e-mails in the past 12 hours from people who want it. About 80 gallons of french fry oil, I think.

Like I've said before, Craigslist is the best.

Cutting down on red meat dramatically improves your health, oh, and it saves the planet.

At the bottom of a Washington Post article today on how cutting down your red meat intake dramatically improves your life expectancy, they mention the environmental impact:

In addition to the health benefits, a major reduction in the eating of red meat would probably have a host of other benefits to society, Popkin said: reducing water shortages and pollution, cutting energy consumption, and tamping down greenhouse gas emissions -- all of which are associated with large-scale livestock production.

"There's a big interplay between the global increase in animal food intake and the effects on climate change," he said. "If we cut by a few ounces a day our red-meat intake, we would have big impact on emissions and environmental degradation."

Monday, March 23, 2009

The most important person you've never heard of.

He's Nobel prize winner (in physics) and now Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
Better than anyone in the Obama administration, he understands the need and urgency to pursue renewable resources. Unfortunately, he's not so keenly attuned to Washington politics. Embittered John McCain recently skewered him about Yucca Mountain.

Here's an amazing talk that he gave a while back about climate change. 9 minutes long. (Listen to the part about refrigerators. He used an anecdote about how government regulations forced refrigerators to become more efficient. They started using one fourth of the energy, and the price of refrigerators dropped by half.)

Green co-op boards reaping the benefits

Co-ops in New York city are reaping the benefits from green initiatives like putting solar panels atop their buildings.

"In New York, city officials say residential buildings produce more carbon dioxide emissions — 30 percent — than any other large sources of emissions, such as commercial buildings or transportation. Nearly two-thirds of those emissions come from the use of electricity and natural gas.
Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, said he knew interest in greening buildings was high when he called a conference on the topic in late 2007 and a standing-room-only crowd of 500 people came.
“The green-building movement is now commonplace,” he said. “It’s a combination of economics, saving the environment and this whole notion that the measures we take enhance the quality of life,” he said."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Long lost Greasy Rider video footage, part 27

Here's Iggy trying to put the moves on a woman we met in Colorado.

But are they growing arugula?

The Obamas are planting a vegetable garden at the White House. It'll be the first one since the victory garden there during World War II. Just like then, this one has as much (or more) symbolic importance as it does practical importance. The whole garden-to-table movement is an important facet of the new environmental ethic. They're setting an example. We need our leaders to set more examples like this. Are you listening, Al Gore?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tell me more about universal health care. Please.

This was the start of a conversation I had with the customer service rep of our health care provider, which has suddenly become reluctant to pay one of our big medical bills.

Me: Hi, I'm calling because I just got a letter from the hospital, saying you're refusing to pay a $14,000 medical bill for my family. They're now asking me for the money. As you can imagine, I'm quite concerned here.

Health care company rep: What's your account number, and the date of service?

Me: It's...(I give her the number, and the date of service).

Health care company rep: Sir, I don't see what you're talking about. I only see a charge of $13,999.30 on that date.

I kid you not. That's how the conversation started. It went downhill from there...

Governator announces Green Job corps for at-risk youth

The program, announced yesterday, will provide jobs and "green job training" for 1,000 inner-city kids aged 16 and up. Fortunately, the governator gets it regarding the "green economy," and California is poised to be at the leading edge. Some day. If the "green economy" ever comes to fruition.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A roof made out of solar panel shingles.

Coming to your house soon? Find out at my Outside magazine column.

This just in.

Gas prices rose 8 percent last month. Woohoooo!

Every penny rise at the gas pump makes me a little bit smugger.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Maldives going carbon neutral

The Maldives plans to be carbon-netural within a decade. Pretty amazing. Of course, most of the Maldives are less than one foot above sea-level.

What a bunch of liberal commie hippie alarmists over there in the Pacifindian Ocean Sea, or wherever the Maldives are. They probably like Obama, too. Don't they watch Hannity?

This cheap crude is killing me.

Crude oil is trading at about $44 a barrel. The only folks who want that price to skyroket: OPEC, Putin, Hugo Chavez, EXXON, Jed Clampett, and me.

Get your best 5-k time, or get injured trying!

Looks like I'm training for a 5-k that's being held six weeks from now. Dr. Wife, MD is browbeating me into it. It begins today, I'm calling it the "Blaze of Glory Training Program." I'll run three miles today, take tomorrow off, and hit the track on Wednesday.

Invest now in ocean-front Vermont!

A new study shows that the northeastern US is going to get hammered most from rising sea levels. Apparently, it has to do with ocean currents sending the waters higher there than in other places. But somehow we're "mortgaging our kids' future" by paying now to prevent Boston and New York from being underwater, according to some critics. Whatever.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Craigslist is good for the earth. Not so good for newspapers.

We're moving out of our current Southern Mansion in a couple of weeks, so we've been cleaning out some of the stuff Dr. Wife MD and I don't use anymore (or stuff the kids have grown out of). Craigslist has allowed us to find new homes for most of the things, so that we're doing our part to reduce waste and allow other people to reuse stuff.

As an old newspaper guy, I'm sad to see that Craigslist is singlehandedly killing newspapers by destroying their classified ad business. I'm not so sad to boycott Craigslist, considering it can save me a few pennies. Hell, Dr. Wife MD and I sold our house in VT on it.

Oh, one other piece of advice. If you sell your jogging stroller online, don't let the kids see when the buyer comes to pick it up. I learned this one the hard way.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rest in Peace, Best Life magazine

Rodale announced it was going to cease publication of Best Life magazine with the May edition. If you haven't been one of the half-million people who bought the magazine each month, you were missing a quality publication.

They've been very, very good to me. In fact, they were the magazine that originally assigned me to drive across the country in the veggie car. The article was eventually changed to be an essay on the car itself, rather than on the trip. Here's the final version. It won't be online for much longer, because Rodale is closing down the web site, as well.

New England power plants puking out less carbon, thanks to...recession.

Emissions dropped by 9 percent last year, to their lowest level in 9 years.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Report: Mass transit use hasn't been so high since Ward Cleaver took the train every day.

American mass transit use hit a five-decade high in 2008. That translates to 10.7 billion rides.

Yet most transit systems across the country are facing budget cuts for this year.

Saving trees means creating jobs. 10 million of them.

The UN estimates that investment in sustainable forestry projects could create 10 million jobs worldwide. Forestry isn't just about saving trees, it's about harvesting forests sustainably, making them healthier, creating lumber, and, uh, SAVING THE PLANET.

A piece of trivia: Asheville is the birthplace of American forestry. To be more specific, the Biltmore Estate in Asheville is the birthplace of American forestry.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The gas tax, and the NCAA secretly tracking my whereabouts.

A couple of times on my book tour, people accused me of being a tax evader, because I don't pay gas tax on the grease I burn. My argument is that my car is actually a hybrid. I start it on regular diesel, and then the engine switches over to grease when it warms up. You tax me extra for my great mileage, and you've got to tax every hybrid, battery-powered, and plug-in electric car. Now it appears that some states are on the verge of doing just that. They want to put GPS monitors in cars, and tax us based on the miles we drive, not on the gas we burn. The Obama folks oppose it on the national level. I'm against it simply because of the really scary Big Brother aspect to it. I don't want a mileage monitor in my car. I'm all for paying a tax on the miles I drive, but have the mechanic check my odometer when I get the car inspected, and don't be putting in some GPS chip that's sending my whereabouts to the NSA, CIA, FBI, NCAA and NFL.

Long lost Greasy Rider road trip video footage

Iggy is the one who looks remarkably like a young Jack Nicholson. I'm the one talking to him. We were camping out, and I hadn't shaved in a couple of days.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Will the stimulus really buy us super-fast trains?

That depends on how much the $8 billion pie gets divided. If it's focused on just a few corridors, we may see train travel that's faster and more convenient than plane travel between some cities.

"Some experts are pushing for a massive investment in the New York-Washington, D.C., route, Amtrak's most successful. Chicago is also considered a good candidate, with routes to St. Louis, Minneapolis, Louisville, Detroit and Cleveland. (Handicappers believe Chicago is a good bet for funding, in part because Obama and his transportation secretary Ray LaHood both hail from Illinois.)

Greasy Rider named one of the top books for college bound

Once every five years, the American Library Association publishes a list of "Outstanding Books for the College Bound." Greasy Rider is among them for 2009. You'll find it here, just below Bill McKibben, and just above Michael Pollan.

Climate skeptics, meet this week. Will they be trashing Greasy Rider again?

The annual Heartland Institute conference on climate change is being held this week. It's a chance for the world's dwindling number of global warming skeptics to get together and grab a few seconds of media coverage. As always, the event is noticeably lacking in actual climate scientists.

Grist magazine gives a rundown on the top-billed attendees, and how none of them have a background in climatology.

Last year, one of the event's big speakers was Kenneth P. Green, the guy who reviewed Greasy Rider for the New York Post in the fall. Surprisingly enough, he wasn't a big fan of certain elements of the book.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Traveling this week--and not in the grease car

I'm traveling this week. Posts will be much less frequent.

What the heck is cap and trade?

Here's a very brief rundown on, and number crunching, of Obama's proposed cap and trade system. Apparently, gas taxes and energy prices will tick up slightly as a result, and the country's greenhouse gas emissions will plummet. We'll see how this gets through congress.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Tax and health care burden combined: the rich make out better.

Okay, I know that the tax rates and health care have nothing to do with the environment, but this is a pretty important issue.

Here's something people don't realize: really high income people complain that too much of their income instantly vanishes into taxes (almost 32 percent for the highest echelon). But if you add tax payments and health care payments together, they're shouldering a smaller burden (percentage-wise) each month than middle and lower income people.

Here are the tax rates:

Lowest quintile: 4.3 percent
Second quintile: 9.9 percent
Middle quintile: 14.2 percent
Fourth quintile: 17.4 percent
Percentiles 81-90: 20.3 percent
Percentiles 91-95: 22.4 percent
Percentiles 96-99: 25.7 percent
Percentiles 99.0-99.5: 29.7 percent
Percentiles 99.5-99.9: 31.2 percent
Percentiles 99.9-99.99: 32.1 percent
Top 0.01 Percentile: 31.5 percent

Now let's add the cost of health care to taxes.

For instance, my family just falls into the middle quintile. So we pay 14.2 percent of our income in taxes. This year, with good health insurance coverage (and my wife being a resident MD), we're still paying 20 percent of our income to health care. So 34.2 percent of our income automatically disappears for health care and taxes. For someone in the top .01 percent (meaning they're making well over a million dollars a year), health care counts for well under 1 percent of their income (but we'll be generous, and round off the number to a full 1 percent) So their tax and health care payments equal 32.5 percent of their income.

Taxes and health care for me: 34.2 percent of my family's income.
Taxes and health care for rich: 32.5 percent.

Who's getting ripped off now?

Coen Brothers direct Clean Coal ad

Here's an ad for Clean Coal directed by the Coen Brothers.

New York Times plagiarizes the Greasy Rider blog. Again.

Once again, the New York Times is looking to the Greasy Rider blog to lead its news coverage. Here's my column on Outside magazine's web site from two weeks ago, on tissues and the environment. Here's the NYT's coverage of the same subject yesterday.

George Will just wont quit on this global warming thing!

He wrote another column today, defending his misleading one from last week. Honestly, I hope George Will is right, and that 99.9 percent of the world's climatologists are wrong. I hope that global warming really isn't happening. I'm just wondering when he became a scientist.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Grease-powered car loaded up and happy

The car is now all loaded up on grease, and driving happily around the roads of Asheville leaving the scent of french fries behind it. Now that the weather is warming up, the car is heating up faster, which means I can switch from diesel to fry grease more quickly.

Again, the brakes seem a little testy. I'll really find out how they're doing when I head to Black Mountain with the kids on Saturday. We've got to drive down this really steep, windy mountain road.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why does George Will get his panties in a bunch about global warming?

When Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Price, columnist George Will compared him to Hitler in his back-page Newsweek column. Personally, I thought the analogy was just a wee bit of a stretch. Then, in a piece tearing into global warming scientists that he wrote last week for the Washington Post, he totally exaggerated facts, and even attributed statistics to an environmental organization that never released such numbers and knew nothing about them. Here's a rundown of his errors.
Why is he so panicky about denying global warming? Is he secretly cheering for the earth to heat up so his beloved baseball season can stretch longer?

Clean coal? Come on.

The president mentioned "clean coal" as part of the country's energy solution. That was pretty much a pander to western Pennsylvania. There's no such thing as clean coal. Google it and see for yourself.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

If the economy's going down the toilet, will it at least reduce our carbon emissions?

Sadly, the anwer appears to be no.

"Figures for the past five years ­suggest carbon emissions have risen by 2.5% each year, which indicates they could still rise by 0.25% this year, despite the economic downturn. The rise will continue to be driven by ­coal-fuelled economic growth in China and India, Bowen said, but more slowly than before.
Pieter Tans, a scientist with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which ­monitors CO2 in the atmosphere, said: "I see no sign of any slowdown of the global trend." Carbon dioxide levels have risen by between 2 and 3 parts per million (ppm) each year over the past decade. Tans said a 6% drop in emissions — equivalent to a near 7% drop in GDP — would reduce that annual growth rate only by 0.24ppm. "This is well within the year-to-year natural variability of the CO2 increase we have observed over many decades."
Preliminary measurements show the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere reached a new high of 386.6ppm in December 2008."

How does a person living off the grid dispose of trash?

Deep thought

Now that the Republicans in Washington are irrelevant, I miss being angry at them. It's like a piece of me has died.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire edition of today's blog

In honor of last night's Oscars, I present this statistic:

The carbon footprint of the average person in India is one-seventeenth smaller than the carbon footprint of the average American.

We should still be freaking out about the breakneck pace at which India is consuming coal-fired power plants. But they use one-fifth of the amount of electricity, in total, that our country does--even though their population is three times larger than ours. Let's get our own house in order.

Pitching green in China

When the US tries to tell China to reduce its carbon emissions, the people there have a pretty effective response. They usually say something like, "You heedlessly polluted the air for more than a century, starting with the industrial revolution. Why are you trying to hinder our industrial revolution?"

It's a pretty effective argument. So last week when Hillary went over there, she countered with a new approach. She said, something to the effect of, "You have a right to improve your standard of living, but we'd like you to follow greener practices so you don't make the same mistakes (regarding the enviroment) that we've made." It's a surprisingly humble approach.

Viable plug-in electric? Let's just say I won't be selling my grease-powered car anytime soon. Sadly.

Plug-in electric cars may be hitting the market soon. But it's going to be a long time before they're built at an affordable price. (The battery alone costs "in the tens of thousands.") So the car companies will have to subsidize the cost for buyers. Good thing Detroit is in such good financial shape. It should be no problem for them to take a loss on a whole segment of car sales.

Here's a lively, well-reported NPR segment on it this morning.

On a very petty, personal level, this makes me happy. It means my grease-powered car won't be obsolete for a while, and I can keep being really smug.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The good news and bad news about my grease-powered car

The good news is that when Dr. Wife, MD, and I moved to Asheville a short while back, we found a place that was centrally located. So we could walk and bike more to places with the kids, rather than drive.

The bad news is that we're not driving much so I'm stockpiling lots of grease in the garage. Lots of grease. We're moving in six weeks to another house, so I'll be giving much of this stuff to the local biodiesel cooperative before then (and using the rest). In the new place, there's no room for me to stockpile (there's no garage), so I'll be sending the stuff straight to the coop, and I won't be storing any of it. Would it be a sin for me to get all my fuel from the coop once I move? (No more fuss, but I'll have to pay for the fuel.)

This is my very high-tech and complicated filtering system. I pour the waste grease through this felt filter bag and into a bucket. Then I pour it into the car's grease tank. Voila!

This is the back of the car. Now you know why Dr. Wife, MD, calls the Mercedes the "junky car." As in, "I don't have to drive the junky car today, do I?" She prefers our Toyota Highlander hybrid.

Long Lost Greasy Rider Video Footage Found! Part III

This is a clip from when Iggy and I were in the Midwest. We were trying to lash our oil supplies on the roof. As you can see, it didn't work out so well...

Home solar getting cheaper

By about 28 percent in the past decade, and it continues to drop. But installing solar panels on your roof is still prohibitively expensive without big tax breaks by state and federal governments.

Right now, the only cost-effective use of solar on the home (without the tax breaks) is to install a solar water heater. It'll pay for itself within five years, and then you'll be getting your hot water (which is a huge part of your utilities) for free.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Swiss bank account names revealed. I'm in so much trouble!

UBS, the Swiss bank, is being forced by the IRS to release the names of some of America's richest people, who have been stashing money in the bank to avoid paying taxes.

What happened to the sanctity of being able to hide your dirty money in a Swiss bank account? I'm in so much trouble now. That's where I've hidden my billions in profits from Greasy Rider. (I feel I can admit this now, because the truth will soon come out, anyway.) To soften the blow in the eyes of the public, I'm planning to hire A-Rod's public relations agency.

I'm already practicing my lines: "I was young and stupid. My cousin hid the money in the account for me. I didn't know I was evading taxes. I was too young and stupid."

Coal ash spill cleanup could cost $825 million

The coal ash spill from that TVA power plant in eastern Tennessee in December could cost $825 million.

I love that coal.

Greenhouse gas pollution endangers public health and welfare. No duh.

Well, to the US government, this is a big revelation. If greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare, then the feds can regulate emissions. The Supreme Court said gave them this power just a couple of years ago. But the Bushies, for some strange reason, decided not to act on it to protect the environment. There's a shocker. The Obama people, on the other hand, are expected to announce soon that they will. This is huge news.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

GM needs Steve Jobs

A mere year ago, Bob Lutz the chairman of GM North America said he thought global warming "is a total crock of shit." He added that hybrid cars "make no economic sense."

Yes, that was just a year ago. Today they're asking for $16 billion more taxpayer dollars to dump down the tubes.

Why don't I have a lot of confidence that this guy is the visionary to lead the company back to viability? They need a Steve Jobs of cars. Or Steve Jobs (if he's still alive).

The biggest energy bill in history

An editorial in the New York Times today points out that the stimulus could be called the biggest energy bill in history, because it allocated $80 billion to transportation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. It also points out that much, much more needs to be done to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The new renewable economy

A lot of renewable energy companies that were freaking out over the economic meltdown are now hopeful they've weathered the storm, as Obama signs the stimulus bill at a science and energy museum in Denver today. He'll no doubt be emphasizing the great potential for private sector development of renewable energy, and how the industry has the potential to carry our economy in the future. It's almost as if he's read Greasy Rider.

Samsung's new solar-powered, recycled-plastic, touchscreen phone

It was unveiled yesterday. It's made from recycled water bottles, and contains no toxic chemicals. This is no gimmick. You'll be seeing more like these.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The sky really is falling, part 3,684

The Washington Post reported this weekend that climate scientists now believe the planet is warming much more quickly than they thought. It's being spurred mostly by coal-fired power in India and China.

Start freaking out any time you like.

Coal, I wish I knew how to quit you...

In Sunday's New York Times, coal power's death is greatly exaggerated. Still, I'd like to see it happen. The 600 coal-fired power plants in the US account for one-third of the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Throw away that tissue, or flush it down the toilet?

Find out the answer on the latest posting of my Outside magazine online column...

Long lost Greasy Rider road trip video footage found! Part II!

Here's footage from when Iggy and I picked up a hitchhiker, and decided to sing.

Here's what made the cut in the stimulus bill

Energy transmission and alternative energy research:
$11 billion for smart grid
$7.5 billion for renewable energy and transmission-line construction
$400 million for the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Project Agency for Energy for the development of alternative energy sources and efficiency
$4.5 billion for energy-efficiency improvements to federal buildings
$6.3 billion for local government energy-efficiency grants
$2.25 billion for energy-efficiency retrofits for low-income housing
$2.25 billion for the HOME Investment Partners Program to retrofit community low-income housing
$5 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program for efficiency in low-income households
$510 million for energy-efficiency retrofits for Native American housing programs
$420 million for energy-efficiency improvements at the Department of Defense
$300 million for Department of Defense research on energy efficiency at military installations
$300 million for the appliance rebate program for Energy Star products
Mass transit and advanced automobiles:
$8.4 billion for transit capital assistance programs
$8 billion for Amtrak and intercity passenger rail
$300 million for the purchase of more alternative-fuel and hybrid vehicles for the federal fleet
$300 million in grants and loans for technologies that reduce diesel emissions
Green jobs training:
$500 million for green jobs programs through the Workforce Investment Act

Here's what didn't.

Say it ain't so, king coal. Looks like so-called "clean coal" funding has been stripped from the stimulus. So has about $50 billion for nuclear power plants. I still don't know what to make of nuclear power. It is carbon-free, and could drastically reduce greenhouse emissions if we switched over to it. Then again, there's the impact of mining uranium (which is massive), and the problem of nuclear waste.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Greasy Rider named one of the 10 Best Environmental Books of the Year

Booklist, published by the American Library Association, named its Top 10 Books on the Environment: 2009.

What was included in the list? Greasy Rider, of course--right above Tom Friedman's "Hot, Flat, and Crowded."

Here's the blurb:

"Melville’s larky tale of a coast-to-coast road trip in a car running on french-fry oil, including stops at a wind farm, a renewable energy lab, and a green home, is splendidly entertaining and educational. "

Corn-based ethanol is on life support. And here's why you should be bummed out about it, even though it was always a huge corporate boondoggle.

Here's an excerpt on the industry's troubles from today's Times:

VeraSun Energy, one of the nation’s largest ethanol producers, has suspended production at 12 of its 16 plants and is planning to sell production facilities. In recent days Renew Energy, Cascade Grain Products and Northeast Biofuels have filed for bankruptcy protection. Pacific Ethanol said it would suspend operations at its Madera, Calif. plant.
Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group, estimated that of the country’s 150 ethanol companies and 180 plants, 10 or more companies have shut down 24 plants over the last three months. That has idled about 2 billion gallons out of 12.5 billion gallons of annual production capacity. Mr. Dinneen estimated that a dozen more companies were in distress.

No biggie, right? I mean, the corn-based ethanol thing was always a giant corporate boondoggle for the mega agribusinesses to make even more money off of corn. This is the market correcting itself.

Well here's the bad news: research for cellulosic ethanol (or ethanol that comes from plant waste like sawdust, or corn stalks, or grass) is suffering greatly as a result of the overall industry's collapse. And cellulosic ethanol could be one huge key (or maybe THE huge key, along with plug-in hybrids) to solving our fossil fuel (and emissions) problems. This is a big and disappointing setback.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

W's economic advisor with a sensible stimulus proposal?

Greg Mankiw, a respected economist, Harvard professor, and former chairman of George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, proposes an interesting stimulus that involves raising the gas tax. He's not as shrill as Paul Krugman, but probably just as smart. Here's one snippet, but read the whole thing for yourself.

I would institute an immediate and permanent reduction in the payroll tax, financed by a gradual, permanent, and substantial increase in the gasoline tax. I would make the two tax changes equal in present value, so while the package results in a short-run budget deficit, there is no long-term budget impact. Call it the create-jobs, save-the-environment, reduce-traffic-congestion, budget-neutral tax shift.I recognize that some state governments are now struggling in light of the macroeconomic crisis. For the next two years, I would let each state governor have the authority to divert a portion of the payroll tax cut in his or her state and take the funds instead as state aid. This provision would essentially be giving governors the temporary authority to impose a payroll tax on his or her citizens, collected via the federal tax system. Those governors who think they have valuable infrastructure projects ready to go would take the money. When designing a fiscal stimulus, there is no compelling reason for one size fits all. Let each governor make a choice and answer to his or her state voters. It is called federalism.

Why is the idea of imposing a gas tax always such a non-starter?

Bernie Sanders, senate's new Green Jobs chairman.

Vermont's independent senator, Bernie Sanders, is going to head a new "green jobs" subcommittee in the Senate. I have no idea what this means.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The future of sustainability? Look on campus.

You want to see the future of sustainability, go to your nearest college campus. You'll find students leading the charge to promote recycling drives, proposing energy efficiency measures, and working with the school to reduce its solid waste and consume biodegradable cleaning products. You'll also find the schools completely embracing these efforts. The students have an eye to the future of the planet. The schools have an eye toward economic sustainability--they're forced to squeeze as much mileage out of a penny as they can, and they realize the tremendous cost savings in energy efficiency and waste reduction.

Kill the vampire: Your semi-daily sustainability tip, and hypocrisy meter

About 5 percent of the energy consumed in the US is from electronics that are still sucking your power when they're turned off or in sleep mode. This costs people about $3 billion. A plasma TV can cost you $160 alone each year. A DVD player: $9. A desktop computer: $35. The clock on the microwave: $3.85.

Now they sell power strips that will basically shut off all power to peripherals when the TV or computer is not in use. So if you shut off the TV, it'll kill the electricity to the DVD player, and the stereo receiver, etc. If you use it on the computer, it'll shut off power to the monitor, printer, speakers, etc., when not in use.

In the long run, these power strips will save you money--and they're just one of many examples of how simple energy efficiency can dramatically reduce our energy needs and carbon footprint.

Hypocrisy meter: I'm mid- to high-range on the hypocrisy meter for this one. I turn cut off the power to most of my computer peripherals, though I do leave the modem and router on (which I shouldn't do). My old TV doesn't suck power when it's off, but I don't cut the electricity to the DVD player when it's not in use. I've been meaning to get some of those power strips, like this one. It's about time I finally did it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Obama visits RV capital of the world today.

To sell the stimulus and the need to create 21st century green-oriented jobs while weaning our country off the dependence of foreign oil, the president is headed to the RV capital of the world, Elkhart Indiana. It's where a bunch of the big manufacturers are based, and where unemployment has risen from 4.7 percent to 15.3 percent in a year.

I point out Elkhart in Greasy Rider, and frequently mentioned it in my talks about the book. In many ways, the town tragically epitomized our unsustainable free-spending lifestyles during the housing boom--and passing through it was the beginning of my awakening about the importance of sustainability.

From the book:

All Hail the RV.
By that time, the rain subsided and we were in northern Indiana, where the board flat scenery shifted from Ohio's farm fields to golf courses and woods of oak and pine. In Elkhart we passed a muddy construction site behind a giant sign that read THE FUTURE HOME OF THE RV HALL OF FAME. When completed, the building would house about fifty-six thousand square feet of floor space, an area slightly larger than Notre Dame Stadium's football field in nearby South Bend. It would serve as a celebration of recreational vehicles, motor homes, and the visionaries behind the RV industry's growth and innovation. If I was searching for some sign of newfound energy awareness along America's highways, this future monument to unleaded-chugging behemoths wasn't one of them.

"I wonder if there will ever be a hall of fame for veggie-oil cars," Iggy said, staring at the site from the driver's seat.

"I've got to hold on to this wagon here, so that the future, massively endowed Greg Melville Foundation can donate it some day," I said, knocking on the dashboard.

Soon we crossed into Gary indiana, where billboards overhead tempted us with bargains (CIGARETTE DISCOUNT OUTLET), a fun night (SHOWGIRLS, DOLLS), even self-help (BED-WETTING?). As close to Shangri-La as these signs made the city seem, we forged into the sprawl of Chicago and turned onto I-80, headed southwest in the thick of the evening commute. A passing thundershower congealed traffic flow even further. We exited the highway in Joliet, by a spot paradoxically named Wilderness Mall. The deeper into the side streets we penetrated, the more bulldozers and dump trucks we spotted on former farmlands soon to be reseeded with housing developments and shopping centers...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Senator Susan Collins, what are you smoking?

Susan Collins of Maine is one of the small handful of Republican senators negotiating on the stimulus bill. She wants to shave $100 billion from it before she'll get on-board. One of the big cuts she's demanding: $5.5 billion to make federal buildings more energy efficient.

What is she smoking? One of the big goals of the stimulus is to spend money now on things that will create jobs, AND IN THE LONG RUN, WILL SAVE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND TAXPAYERS MONEY. (You know that whole saying about an ounce of prevention...)
More money in the federal budget goes to heating and cooling bills than any other expense. Yes, you're reading this correctly. Making federal buildings and military installations more energy efficient will create jobs, save us money, wean us off our oil dependence, and help the environment. Read the chapter in Greasy Rider about the example the Fort Knox Army Base is setting in this regard.

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face...

Dodge the drafts: your semi-daily sustainability report, and hypocrisy meter

About 60 percent of annual energy use in the US goes to heating. So plug the drafts in your house. Weather-strip the doors, seal cracks in the windows, and--most importantly--go to your basement and place insulation between wooden beams above the concrete foundation (that's a HUGE energy-sucking spot).

You can reduce your heating bills by 10 percent by doing that. Over the years, that adds up to quite a bit.

HYPOCRISY METER: I'm a big hypocrite on this one, but there's a caveat. Almost a year ago, Dr. Wife, MD, and I sold our home in Vermont, and moved down to North Carolina with the kids for her residency program. We're renting a house, and I feel like I'm out of bounds investing in these types of improvements for a house someone else owns--even though I know I'll get that money back in energy savings, and I'm helping the environment.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

9 degrees in Asheville this morning

The old grease-powered station wagon was none too pleased to start this morning, though it did start. I had to swear at it alot during the whole process. That seemed to help. The car was especially responsive to f-bombs, I found.

Climate change bill? Whatever.

Barbara Boxer said yesterday that a climate change bill, creating a cap and trade system for carbon emissions, could come out of the Senate within weeks. Good luck with that.

At least Rush Limbaugh is intellectually honest about the matter.

I'm for the basic stimulus plan, as heavily flawed as it is. I want to see a new energy grid, and a push toward sustainable energy sources and more fuel efficient cars.

But if I were a Republican member of congress, especially in the Senate, there's no way in hell I'd support the stimulus. I'd want to see Obama go down in flames. Country (and environment) be damned. After the New Deal pulled us out of the Depression, the Democrats remained in control of Congress for four decades. So if this ambitious and sweeping stimulus works, there's the chance that no sitting Republican member of congress will ever wield any power. Ever. No committee chairmanships, no speaker of the house, no majority leader, nothing. The lobbyists won't even kiss up to them and offer them free golfing trips to Scotland anymore. Most members of congress are power-hungry and ambitious. I don't mean this in a bad way. But they wouldn't get elected if they werent. At least Rush Limbaugh is intellectually honest about it.

That's why I can't figure out Republican senators Snowe and Collins from Maine. They're both essentially liberals. If they help the Democrats pass this bill, they might as well flush their chances at any leadership posts down the drain. But if they don't pass the bill (and Maine is hurting right now), they'll totally be acting against their liberal convictions. They might as well just become independents, caucus with the Democrats, and be done with it. They're popular enough (and Maine is turning liberal enough) that it won't hurt their reelections.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Step away from the Cascade! Use phosphorus-free dishwasher detergent. Your semi-daily sustainability tip.

The big-name dishwasher detergents contain high amounts of phosphates--ingredients that kill the oxygen in waterways, and promote algae growth. (A recent study by the state of Minnesota found that dish washing detergent makes up 2 percent of the phosphorus found in its waters.) Meanwhile, Consumer Reports has found that all-natural, biodegradeable dishwater detergents work just as well as the standard phosphate-filled ones.

Hypocrisy meter: I escape unscathed on this one. We use Seventh Generation all-natural dish detergent. It works great. No streaks or spots. (We buy a giant box of the stuff at Costco. As for the environmental impact of shopping at Costco, we'll save that for a later date.)

Wind turbine projects across the country halted. Industry praying for bailout bonanza.

Wind turbine projects are being put on hold just about everywhere due to the Great Recession. The renewable energy industry is just one more group of people praying for bigtime help in the Bailout. According to reports, the Senate plan being crafted is much more generous to renewable energy (about $109 billion in subsidies) than the House one.

Democrats and paying taxes

It's pretty hard to take the moral high road on not reducing taxes when your cabinet members mistakenly forget to pay theirs.

Just a thought.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Going skiing. In North Carolina.

It's my birthday, so I'm cutting out, taking the day off, forcing my six-year-old daughter to play hookie from kindergarten, and going skiing. In North Carolina. On a mountain with all human-made snow (which uses an unconscionable amount of energy to create). But if skiing with my kids on my birthday is wrong, I don't want to be right...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hang it all! Your semi-daily sustainability tip (and hypocrisy rating).

You can reduce your electricity bills by more than 25 percent if you hang your clothes to dry, as opposed to putting them in the dryer. Your carbon footprint will also be drastically reduced.

You can even do it in the winter, by putting up a drying rack in the basement or in the bathroom.

Practice what I preach? Between June and October, we didn't use the dryer in our house at all. Our electricity bills plummeted. Much more than 25 percent. But in the winter, I've largely been using the dryer. Dr. Wife, MD, puts clothes on a drying rack (she's much more conscientious than I am), but I've been doing most of the laundry lately. I'd give myself a mild to moderate hypocrite rating on this one, given that for half the year, the dryer sits lifeless in our basement.

California discovers that green technologies create jobs. No duh.

The number of green jobs in California grew 10 percent between 2005 and 2007, a new report says. About one-fifth of those jobs were in manufacturing. (Of course, the landscape isn't quite so rosy in 2009.) The report also notes that the companies in California that were the most energy efficient were also immensely more profitable as a result of their efforts.

So let's see:

--Green technology production is rapidly creating jobs--including a sizeble number of manufacturing positions.

--The use of green technology makes companies more profitable.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Largest US Venture Capital Investments in 2008

Here are the seven largest venture capital investments in the country last year. Notice a trend?

1) Nanosolar Inc. (San Jose, CA) $299,999,700 - Produces solar electricity through solar-cell technology.
2) Solyndra Inc. (Fremont, CA) $219,277,800 - Designs and manufactures photovoltaic technology for solar energy.
3) SolarReserve Inc. (Santa Monica, CA) $140,000,000 - Develops utility-scale renewable energy solar power plants.
4) OptiSolar Inc. (Hayward, CA) $132,000,000 - Manufactures photovoltaic modules and produces power.
5) Range Fuels Inc. (Broomfield, CO) $130,000,200 - Develops cellulosic ethanol production technology.
6) BrightSource Energy Inc. (Oakland, CA) $115,000,000 - Develops utility-scale solar power plants.
7) AVA Solar Inc. (Fort Collins, CO) $103,999,800 - Manufactures thin-film photovoltaic (PV) modules.

Get it while supplies last!

The Washington Times is selling a commemorative coffee table book on the W. presidency.
“W” is packed with gripping pictures and stories all beautifully presented in this historical keepsake presentation of all eight years of the Presidency of George W. Bush. Be the first to own this memorable book and be proud to share it with your friends and family.
They're also selling a W. commemorative cigar. No word on if there's a Clinton cigar, too.