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 property...in 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.