2 very good reasons to consider solar power in NY in 2006
12/28/2005 07:16:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Reason #1:

Post-Standard:

National Grid To Raise Rates; More Increases on the Way

Utility announces average rise of $10 a month for residential customers.

Reason #2:

Tax Credits and incentives raised for 2006. [Be aware that the best tax credit is after September 1, 2006 for NY]

NY State Tax Credit (dollar for dollar reduction in taxes paid, not reduction in taxable income):

25% credit of net cost of system
The solar electric generating equipment credit has been changed to the solar energy system equipment credit. The credit now includes solar energy system equipment which utilizes solar radiation to provide heating, cooling, hot water, or electricity for use in a residence. The maximum credit is increased to $5,000 for property placed in service after September 1, 2006. The credit is $3,750 for qualified solar energy equipment placed in service before September 1, 2006.
Federal Tax Credit:

30% of net cost of system

MSN:
...Homeowners get a more limited credit. They can put in a photovoltaic system (roof panels that take in energy from the sun and turn it into electricity) and/or a solar-powered hot water system (for hot water heaters, radiant floors or radiators), and get a federal tax credit worth 30% of the systems' cost, up to a credit of $2,000 per system. There are a couple of catches: The heating system can't be for a pool or hot tub, and the federal credit applies to the net system cost after any state incentives.
NYSERDA Energy Smart initiative -

Cash incentives vary depending on the installation. When combined with other New York Energy $martSM programs (highlighted below), the cash incentives under this program could help reduce the total costs to install a PV system by 40-70%.

The three incentive levels are:

1) $4.00 per watt (direct current or the rated output of the PV panel) for a grid-connected PV system.

2) $4.50 per watt for PV systems installed on a New York Energy $martSM Labeled-Home and;

3) $4.50 per watt for any building-integrated PV system that is approved under NYSERDA's New Construction Program (PON 913).

As costs increase, my "day dreaming" about solar is moving more into the research and consideration phase. At this point we are using about 6 more kWh per day than a 2.5kW solar array would produce in upstate NY (approx 10 kWh/day). Right now I am trying to figure out where all the energy use/drain is coming from (yea Kill-a-watt). Chief suspects: non-Energy Star refrigerator, non-Energy Star dishwasher, lighting, TV and computer. We still have some lights that are not CFL, and are considering smaller lamps to read by rather than having the overhead lights blazing. I think that the refrigerator is the chief culprit, so I have been pricing lower energy models. The dishwasher is doing such a poor job lately that I think that it will be next on the list. Other energy users: washing and drying laundry = about 0.5 kWh per load, with a majority of that coming from the dryer (0.35 kWh).

I will post more on my investigation and research into PV systems and our energy use in the upcoming year. It seems to me that with these above incentives that now* is the time to buy solar. (*now being after 9/1/06)

Rough estimate of cost calculation:

2.5 kW system overall cost:
2,500 watts * $8.45/watt avg cost for solar (installed) = $21,125

Minus 2,500 watts * $4.00/watt incentive from NYSERDA (-$10,000) = $11,125

Minus 25% NYS incentive up to $5000 (-$2,781.25) = $8,343.75

Minus 30% Federal incentive up to $2000 (-$2,000) = $6,343.75 true cost of system

I will be looking into finding out how much National Grid will pay for energy produced by the PV system (net metering). This will be essential in determining the date that the system will pay itself off. I realize that this is a long term investment, but would make me feel more secure that my house could produce most, if not nearly all, of the electricity needed.

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah!
12/25/2005 08:00:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Santa was good to me this year, and brought me my Kill-A-Watt! I have some good posts planned for the end of the year and 2006. Thanks to all that have been stopping by!


the Kill-A-Watt in action with the morning coffee

Nothing on the defeat of ANWR? Nothing on the illegal wire taps by the NSA? Nothing on the Patriot Act extension agreement? Just Cheney and his tie breaking vote to cut services to the poor to pay for tax cuts to the rich. Sad. Posted by Picasa
Kirst: City's people should take priority over parking
12/21/2005 08:31:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
The baloghblog [hearts] Sean Kirst:

...So how does that relate to a Walgreens drugstore, and the long struggle by so many neighbors - including some prominent architects and planners - to guarantee the final plan put as much emphasis on their neighborhood as it did on drive-through traffic?

Let me answer with a few more questions:

Why is it that so many people will park in odd places and stand in line to get bread from the Columbus Baking Co. on Pearl Street, when they could stop more quickly at P&C or Wegmans?

Why is it that so many people will drive in circles for 20 minutes to find a parking spot near the Dinosaur, and will then wait - sometimes in the bitter cold - for a table in a restaurant that's jammed wall-to-wall?

Why is itthat so many people will hunt down a parking spot and then walk a few blocks on chilly winter nights to go from tavern to tavern in Armory Square, when they could find a spot so easily in some big open lot outside nightclubs on Erie Boulevard or Old Liverpool Road?

The answer boils down to something tricky to define. All these Syracuse businesses, in their own fashion, deliver exquisite goods. But those goods are coupled with an atmosphere associated with vitality, with human beings . . .

With being in the city.

[snip]

The critical question is whether Walgreens will be remembered as an isolated fight. From now on, will City Hall have the wisdom to demand similar standards for any chain store built at a neighborhood crossroads? From now on, will big chain developers coming into Syracuse - the kind of developers who demolished a precious Underground Railroad landmark on Pine Street to make room for a Rite-Aid - understand that it's no longer business as usual?

Or do our city leaderssecretly hope the Walgreens fight was an aberration, meaning our neighborhoods should get used to windowless, car-oriented boxes with no soul?

I surely hope not. Sean Kirst is a voice for all of us who want more out of our city than a 690-81 interchange to get to CaroselDestinyUSAMall*. It is sure nice to hear someone with a bigger audience than mine, echoing many of my thoughts.

I am glad to see that Walkable Eastwood kept up the pressure and won many of the concessions that they were looking for.

I'll finish with a quote I found on Walkable Eastwood:

"Eat in diners.
Ride trains.
Shop on Main Street.
Put a porch on your house.
Live in a walkable community."
- Roadside Online

*for the record, I am not against the DestinyUSA expansion. I believe that the R&D park will bring much needed technology based jobs and make Syracuse a national hub for sustainable development. I do not believe however that this land needs to be taken by eminent domain. I also believe that city and state officials should be pressing Congel to tie his development with the revitalization of the city. Why fill in swamp land and raze buildings in Northern sections of the city? Develop in existing spaces in downtown. Follow SU's lead.


Rocky Mountain News:
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden plans to lay off as many as 100 scientists and researchers, or 11 percent of its total staff, beginning early next month as it faces drastic cuts in its budget.

The fiscal 2006 cuts, estimated at more than $20 million, or 10 percent of its $200 million budget in fiscal 2005, are the result of Congress earmarking or diverting a big chunk of federal funds toward other projects.

In fiscal 2006, Congress cut the Department of Energy's budget for all renewable energy programs by more than 35 percent. As a result, DOE, which funds NREL as well as other national labs, has cut the total amount it will give the lab in Golden. NREL does research in wind, biomass, solar and hydrogen technologies.

(emphasis mine)

More from AP/TheDenverChannel:
"U.S. Rep. Beauprez is very concerned about the potential impact on NREL and has contacted officials at the Department of Energy to remind them of the importance of NREL not only to the local economy but also to our country's energy needs, especially at a time when we need to do everything we can to help develop alternative sources of energy," Stoick said.
I have to admit, I hadn't heard much about the NREL prior to this article, but after perusing their website NREL.gov I am convinced that this laboratory does vital work to research and promote alternative energy sources. $20 million dollars is now a drop in the bucket when looking at the "billions" that gets thrown around all the time in budget discussions. ($20 million is 2% of $1 billion). With the era of cheap abundant oil passing us rapidly by, I feel that no expense should be spared when attempting to find alternative and sustainable sources of energy. It is inconceivable to me that the budget for R&D of these forms of technology would be cut 1/3 for fiscal '06.

An aside (and another positive in my eyes) is this link on the NREL site:
This site is Powered by Renewable Energy
(An unsolicited post written for sustainablog.)

Now the EPA and the enviromentalists will be to blame in 2006 for the high cost of gasoline:

Reuters:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. consumers recovering from record high gasoline costs last summer may now face a nearly 60-cent price surge next year because of stricter environmental regulations, an industry expert said.

The introduction of lower sulfur requirements for gasoline and diesel combined with a shift in gasoline additives could reduce supplies and create problems for refiners trying to produce fuel to meet the new specifications, according to analyst Trilby Lundberg.

"We expect 2006's price surge to be less severe than 2005's, but more severe than any other year on record," Lundberg said in a report. "While we don't expect retail gasoline to revisit the $3 level in 2006, we do expect a 57 cent hike by July."

[snip]

But starting January 1, refiners will begin cutting sulfur content in gasoline according to regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This will be followed by the gradual phasing in of ultra low sulfur diesel requirements beginning in June.

"This ratcheting down of allowable sulfur adds to costs and also strains the refining system," Lundberg said. "In 2006, the EPA could well cost gasoline consumers more than Hurricane Katrina did."

Now from the horses mouth - The EPA website:

What are the Benefits and Costs of this Program?

Vehicles meeting the Tier 2 emission standards are much cleaner – 77% to 95% cleaner, depending on the size of the vehicle – compared with model year 2003 and earlier. The new standards also reduce the sulfur content of gasoline by up to 90 percent. The significant health and environmental benefits of the program are estimated to total more than $25 billion at a cost to consumers of between only $70 to $250 per vehicle, and these large benefits are costing only about a penny a gallon today, and will still cost less than 2 cents per gallon when the program is fully phased in, in 2006.

A little research shows that this Tier 2 program was finalized in 1999. Refineries will have had 7 years to prepare and adapt to this change. It is shocking how something expected to cost 2 cents per gallon by the government, translates into a projected 57 cent per gallon increase due to shortfalls in refining capcity.

Big Oil will push the American consumer to believe that environmental restrictions placed on them are too strict and are costing the average citizen at the pump. Undoubtedly there will be pressure placed on law makers to "ease sulfur content limitations in gasoline", or to reduce the "red tape and bureaucracy" that supposedly is preventing more refineries to be built. (The pesky red tape that protects American citizens and their descendants from soil, air and water contamination. See MTBE.)

Why I STILL love Arrested Development
12/19/2005 09:20:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
From tonight's episode:

My favorite attorney - Bob Loblaw, has a law blog.

Bob Loblaw's law blog. Say that out loud.

heh.

UPDATE: Clip here.
Regionalism - a renewal?
12/19/2005 07:18:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
York staters has yet another good comment regarding upstate regionalism:
As we attempt to solve Upstate New York’s problems, as long as we think of ourselves and our problems as primarily “American” we will be bound to a tiny number of options promoted by our centralized authorities. However, when we begin to free ourselves from what is an appropriate answer for America and identify ourselves with Upstate New York then we can begin to find new, uniquely Upstate answers.

In addition to an increased ability to flexibly respond to local problems, a regional identity would help to heal many of the psychic wounds that we possess in modern America. We are a rootless people, rarely possessing a sense of “place;” many of us even lack a spot that we can call “home.” How many of our people have no sense of where they are and who they are? How many just want to get away, but are never sure where they want to get to? While a strong regional identity would not solve all of our problems in and of itself, it would provide a solid foundation for communities to grow. As much as it is a physical place, a community is also a state of mind, a shared mental orientation.

[snip]

I feel that there is some hope for regional identities in this age of growing centralization. The last time I drove into Vermont, flying on the first house I passed over the border was the flag of the Green Mountain Boys and the symbol of the rapidly growing Vermont Independence Movement. When I drive through Johnson City, I occasionally spot a JC Wildcat flag. Perhaps someday, here in Upstate New York, locals we see no problem in flying the flags of their town, state and nation as equals in their hearts and minds.
There has been a lack of "regional pride" in the upstate region, as the sons and daughters of those stranded in the "rust belt" with lost manufacturing jobs, and an increasing tax burden as revenues from industry declined. This generation saw parents laid off, a lack of opportunity to follow in their parents footsteps, and difficulty finding work outside of the service industry. Regionalism died. Dispondence and apathy prevailed. There are still a whole group of people that live outside the Syracuse area, that take the time to post negative comments on the region and our local government on the Syracuse.com forums. Think about it, hating upstate so much that they take precious time out of their day, just to make snide remarks and discourage people from living in upstate. In a way, I don't blame them. There has been a severe lack of leadership from local politicians over the past 25 years. There was no foresight as the factories began to close, little investment in boosting technology company development that would help keep higher paying jobs in the area. Local government leadership continues to be questionable, and development while progressing, could be better.

Why do I see a renewal of "regionalism" then? Why am I living with more hope and optimism for upstate NY?

The generation that I grew up in was born into a Syracuse that had already undergone most of the transition from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. I can only barely remember a downtown shopping district with Sibley's and Chappell's. I still had wanderlust in my blood and spent three wonderful years in New York City working and exposing myself to the world outside of upstate NY. I am among a growing group of professionals that have returned to the area, yes, under our own volition. I am also reaching an age where I am beginning to realize the potential as adult citizens, to shape the world around us. Less in the way of complaining, more in the way of discussion that will lead to action - I seem to be finding a growing niche of people that feel the same way, who are proud to live in upstate, who want to be here and make life better for ourselves and our communities.

Now all we need is NYCO to photoshop up a flag for us "regionalists".
Walsh Caves
12/19/2005 08:21:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
Votes yea for the spending cuts to medicaid, food stamps, and student loans. Oh yeah, and votes to OK drilling in ANWR in Alaska. Wasn't he supposedly against that?

Today: (Washington Post)

House and Senate GOP leaders agreed yesterday to a five-year budget plan for cutting spending for Medicaid and other entitlement programs by $41.6 billion and a separate measure to open the Alaskan wilderness to oil drilling.

The authority to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration -- long sought by President Bush, energy companies and Republican leaders -- was attached to a separate fiscal 2006 defense spending bill that has widespread support in both parties because of its funding for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rushing to get out of town for the holidays, the House approved both bills in early morning votes Monday. The pre-dawn showdown hid the House votes from public view, a maneuver that leaders have used all year on difficult votes.

[snip]

Democrats and liberal economic analysts also said the budget deal, although less dramatic than an earlier, House-passed version, would still allow states to impose significant new costs on health care for the poor, cut child support enforcement and foster care aid, and impose new work requirements on welfare recipients.

Stevens's gambit on oil drilling is that Democratic and moderate Republican opponents of the measure will be unwilling to hold up legislation that funds U.S. troops. As he emerged late yesterday from a final negotiating session, Stevens said he could not predict the outcome.

(emphasis mine)

Talks tough, standing up for what he feels as right, until the chips are on the table and he folds his pat hand.

And the best part is yet to come: (MSNBC)
Republican leaders hailed the agreements as proof that they were finally getting a handle on the federal budget after a five-year binge of new spending and tax cuts that turned record budget surpluses into a stream of massive deficits. The agreement would cut less than one-half of 1 percent from a projected $14.3 trillion in federal spending over the next five years. Depending on the outcome of negotiations over as much as $60 billion in tax cuts, the savings in spending could vanish.
So you have to agree, if tax cuts for the rich go through, these cuts in social programs will have been made to pay for those cuts, without reducing the federal deficit.

Walsh challengers - are you reading this?
Bush and Co. may have step over the proverbial line
12/18/2005 08:47:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
I used to have a quote on my sidebar from Ben Franklin, that I now see repeated often in the blogosphere:
They who give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
The arguement from the administration sounds so blatantly weak to me that I can't even stand it. We have to spy (while disregarding your freedoms protected by the constitution) on Americans to protect Americans. There are so many legal ways that this could have been done. Many others have written much more eloquently than I can on this issue. Go read Eschaton or DailyKos, or watch some clips on Crooks and Liars.

I think that this one isn't going to slide. I could give two shits what Bush is going to say on Iraq tonight. All I want to know is why he thinks that he is above the constitution. I think that others feel the same way. It is time for congress to start doing its job, and provide some oversight of the executive branch.

The American people deserve hearings on this issue, and deserve an public explanation in front of congress.

UPDATE: Go read Americablog, he sums up exactly what I am feeling.
geddesblog: On neighbors... (Round 3)
12/15/2005 08:06:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
geddesblog: On neighbors... (Round 3)

More discussion of neighborhoods and neighbors at geddes blog. Stop by for a read.
moment of zen - negative 7 degrees
12/14/2005 09:59:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

Oneida River 8:45 a.m.


View towards the lake

There were these beatiful diamond-like crystals in the air, as the evaporating water from the river instantly froze and floated along.

Absolutely breath taking. (And the inside of my nose froze - that's how you know it's cold)
What is a kilowatt hour in real life terms?
12/12/2005 09:42:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Unplugged living has a good post about what that little "kWh" from your energy bill is worth in real terms:
One of the most important steps in making the move to renewable energy resources or even just saving yourself some money by cutting back is to figure out what you’re using now. Once you know that, you’ll know what you can do without and the more you can do without, the less you’ll have to generate on your own (and the less you’ll have to spend to buy the gear).
I have been taking stock of what we have been spending the most money on energy wise in our house lately. Especially after I found out that things running on "stand-by" don't really use that much energy.

Here are some more real-life kilowatt hour examples from unplugged living (from sustainable energy blog):
A kWh of electricity means:
  • 1200 electric shaves (> 3 years)
  • Slice 100 breads
  • Drying your hair 15 times
  • 4 TV evenings
  • Listening to 15 CD's
  • Using a (small) refrigerator for 24 hours
  • 20 microwave meals
  • Drill 250 holes
  • 4 evenings of light with 60 W incandescent lamps
  • 20 evening of light with 11 W compact fluorescent light
Aside: I am hoping that "Santa" leaves me a Kill-a-Watt Meter under the tree. Then I can get to the bottom of what uses the most energy in the house.

Related to energy efficiency, here is a great tool that I found that National Grid, our local energy utility provides to its customers online:


electricity use (click for enlargement) Posted by Picasa

It is a historical view of my electricity use over the last year. A good way to put it all in perspective. There is also a chart view available and the same chart and graph is available for natural gas use. The only complaint I have is that the current month is on the left hand side of the graph running back into your history of usage towards the right side. (Chronological graphs usually run the opposite direction.)

Two things you can quickly surmise from my graph: 1. That central AC unit uses a lot of power in the summer months* (but we already knew that), 2. We are doing a good job at reducing our energy use - November down 32% compared with Nov '04, and December '05 down 26% from the same month last year.

This tool will help positively reinforce the changes that we have been making to our home and in our lifestyles.

*I am of the mind that there are pleasures in life that should be taken advantage of while they are around. If, G-d forbid, peak oil comes quickly, I will have not regretted one day of central AC use in the summer. There will be plenty of sweltering summers to sweat through then... Besides, what this graph doesn't tell you is that all of our energy is from renewable sources - wind and small hydro.
Conspiracy Theory: ARE terrorists responsible for this?
12/11/2005 11:06:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
picture: Evening Star

Telegraph:

Police said the explosions at the Buncefield depot, near Hemel Hempstead, Herts, appeared to have been accidental, although many people in the area had at first feared a terrorist attack. Only two people were seriously injured.

The blasts, which began at 6am, could be heard up to 100 miles away - some reports suggested that they were felt as far away as northern France and the Netherlands - while flames leapt more than 200ft in the sky.

Windows and doors were blown in and roofs were damaged up to three miles from the depot, which is close to Junction 8 of the M1 motorway. A section of the M1 and other roads were closed and further disruption is likely today, with Junction 8 and the northbound M10 remaining shut, possibly for several days.

My question is, would the government let the info out that it was a terrorist attack? I would think that doing so would lead to some social chaos, and hoarding of gasoline. It would highlight the vast defenselessness of our major petrol storage and refinery sites. A single strategically fired rocket or mortar would be all that is necessary to begin chain reaction explosions.

A huge cloud of black smoke was hanging over south-east England last night after a series of explosions at an oil depot started the biggest fire of its type in Europe since 1945.

It will be interesting to see what did cause this major explosion and its ramification on the British people and transportation.

Will there be claims from the terror groups? Why wouldn't they take credit, even if it was an accident?

Thoughts?

Corn for heat.
12/09/2005 03:51:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

Drudge makes it sound so desparate. Posted by Picasa

AFP:

As US heating costs spiral to all-time highs, American homeowners are turning to burning corn in special stoves to reduce their energy bills. Sales of corn-burning stoves have tripled this year and distributors across the country have been sold out for weeks.

"We are actually taking deposits for products for next fall - it's all you can do," said Ed Hiscox, owner of furnace retailer Hiscox Sales and Service in Valparaiso, Indiana, in the middle of the US corn belt.

"We have customers from very high-end homes to people who are not really in any financial condition at all. It doesn't seem to make a difference - everyone has problems with gas prices."

Wait for it...

Undesser bought the corn stove about three years ago to help cut down on his propane bills for his sprawling 3,500 square foot home.

The fact that it looks great next to his handcrafted furniture and hunting trophies is just a bonus.

I don't know what the EROEI is for dried corn, but you'd have to imagine that there is a hell of a lot of petroleum products that go into the production of corn: Natural gas fertilizers, diesel tractors and harvesters. How is it that using corn can be cheaper? Is it the farm subsidies? I don't see how you should be able to heat your home with corn if the EROEI is negative. (EROEI = Energy Return On Energy Invested)
Conservation for dummies
12/09/2005 08:05:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
AP:
Oil and natural gas production in the Gulf Coast area probably will not recover from this year's hurricanes until next summer, Energy Secretary Sam Bodman said Thursday, urging conservation as the cost to heat homes is expected to soar this winter.

"The infrastructure of our country took a real blow with Hurricanes Rita and Katrina," Bodman told reporters outside the White House.

"Even to this day, we have about a third of the natural gas and a third of the oil that is produced in the Gulf of Mexico still shut-in due to the damage that was done," he said. "That's not going to be back up and online, my guess is, until summertime."

[snip]

His department's Energy Information Administration recently predicted that households heating with natural gas can expect to spend from 50 percent to 70 percent more this winter, depending on location. The agency this week scaled back its heating cost predictions slightly because of mild weather in November.

But with the recent onslaught of cold, stormy weather in the Midwest and Northeast, natural gas prices surged on Thursday by 9 percent to a new high of nearly $15 per thousand cubic feet for gas to be delivered in January. A year ago the price was $7 per thousand cubic feet.

And now for the quote I don't understand:

"The president recognizes that energy costs, if you're running a home, energy costs that you have are really the one item in your budget that you don't have any control over," said Bodman.

Of course you have control over your energy costs. You can forgo a few nights out at the TGIFriday's, and perform basic upgrades to your home (caulking windows, new door sweeps, begin upgrading attic insulation). Put off buying that new Ford Explorer (or even that Prius) and you could replace a few energy-sucking windows, or have insulation blown in. If you live in a McMansion, close off the heat to a few rooms that you never go in on a regular basis. If you're less fortunate, buy window sealing kits, and cut down on your drafts, stuff towels around door ways, and buy reminant carpet to take the chill off of the wood floors. Take a lunch for a few days, and then buy a programmable thermostat to have the heat reduced during the day and at night when you're sleeping ($30?). Replace lightbulbs with CFL (compact flourescent lightbulbs) now at a cost of around $3/bulb and 1/3 the energy use. Then there are the cost free methods, such as wearing an extra layer of clothing, using cozy blankets on the couch and snuggling up with a loved one to keep the thermostat lowered. And like my dad always said, "TURN OFF THE DAMN LIGHTS WHEN YOU LEAVE THE ROOM!"

Conservation reduces demand, and reduces energy costs.
GEDDESBLOG: Neighbors: A thought.
12/08/2005 09:23:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Just a quick thought today on neighbors.

How many of your neighbors do you know? How often do you speak to them? Do you get along with them? Could you count on them in an emergency? Do the kids in your neighborhood play with each other?

Why do I ask?

I believe that the neighborhood is one of the building blocks of America that has slipped away from us, without us even realizing it. I think that it is why the internet, IM, and blogs are so popular. People are searching for that sense of community that is lacking in our lives. We have built our lives around the comfort and convenience of the automobile, and sacrificed walkable streets, daily interaction with our neighbors, and a sense of community pride. Communities now largely revolve around the local school district, as this is generally one of the only type of events that regularly gets more than 50 members of a neighborhood together for a common purpose. (Yes, for some there is the weekly religious service, but even the sense of local residents coming together has been diluted by the automobile which allows us to travel outside of our immediate area for the service.) Will future development in this area perpetuate this trend? Will new neighborhood development come with 2 acre lots, no sidewalks, and be miles from the nearest conviences? Will we continue to try to build in all of the conveniences of the outside world into our home - movie theatres? home offices? work out rooms? craft and sewing rooms?

Unfortunately... I believe that it will.

A Skidmore Prof has similar thoughts (Post-Star):
For all of the positive attributes that owners of these new, large homes love, though, the trend is troubling for some sociologists, who say it only contributes to environmental damage and further severs ties to the community.

The term "conspicuous consumption" was coined about a century ago by the American sociologist and economist Thorstein Veblen to describe how important it was for the wealthy to be in fashion, said Rik Scarce, assistant professor of sociology at Skidmore College.

"One of the amazing things that has happened with the growth of the American middle class is that we all now want to consume conspicuously to show how large we live," Scarce said.

"It translates into the gigantic vehicles that we drive, the enormous homes that we construct for ourselves, our grossly oversized bodies," he said. "We're a society that seems like we're prepared to explode."

Scarce said material consumption can lead to a void in social life.

"A century ago, home entertainment was having a bunch of people over and having someone playing the piano and singing," he said. "Now, it's watching the DVD player, closed off from the rest of the world, and, quite commonly, closed off in our individual rooms."

Scarce also pointed to the environmental burden of spiraling lumber, construction materials, electricity, gas and oil consumption.

"The housing boom is a tragedy for the environment," he said.
How do we turn against the tide? What can you do? Go introduce (or re-introduce yourself) to your neighbor. Maybe you could help him or her out with a little shovelling this winter. Or, if it's your thing, bake a nice tray of Christmas cookies and bring over a plate. Bury the hatchet on old disputes. Stop by your elderly neighbor's home and see if he or she needs anything when you are going out in harsh winter conditions to the store. Welcome new homeowners in a way that you would like to be welcomed.

Love thy neighbor? Let's at least start with a "hello". Maybe we can then start to improve our answers to the questions above.

Great Lakes near ecological breakdown: scientists
12/08/2005 07:02:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

From Reuters, via Raw Story:

Threats to the Great Lakes are converging, scientists who worked on the report said.

"There's widespread agreement that the Great Lakes are under tremendous stress," said Alfred Beeton of the University of Michigan. "Toxic substances ... overfishing, invasive species, changes in hydrology affecting rivers -- now we can add the effects of global climate change.

"These have been dealt with individually. What we need to do is look at the ecosystem -- the combination of stresses," Beeton said. "Historical sources of stress have combined with new ones and we have arrived at a tipping point. What we mean is that ecosystem changes will occur rapidly and unexpectedly."

The report emphasized the need for large-scale ecosystem restoration and not piecemeal efforts, coauthor Don Scavia said. Particularly important was preserving or restoring shoreline "buffer zones," such as wetlands and lake tributaries to help the lakes heal themselves.

"These are the key areas for filtering the contaminants that enter the lakes. It's also where most of the wildlife habitat is," Scavia said.

Shoreline pollution that fouls Great Lakes beaches is extending into the middle of some of the five Great Lakes, sudden drops in oxygen levels in the water threaten native species, and native fish have been crowded out by invasive species that have changed the character of the lakes, the scientists added.

I work near Lake Ontario daily. It is a beautiful lake, one that deserves to be protected for a thousand generations. Our leaders need to take steps to preserve its beauty and provide funding to protect the lake.

The body's preliminary report in July recommended $20 billion in federal, state and private funding over 15 years to upgrade antiquated municipal sewer systems, restore 500,000 acres of wetlands, clean polluted harbors and bays, and pay for other efforts.

But a federal oversight group subsequently suggested to the White House that the budget was too tight to allow additional funding. Federal spending on Great Lakes cleanup over the past decade was $800 million, according to the Government Accountability Office.

(emphasis mine) Hmmmmm. Why is it that the budget is so tight? OH yeah, that's right.

Walsh gives his contenders more ammunition
12/08/2005 06:32:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
I wrote several weeks ago -
Whoever wins the primary and faces off against Walsh I will be on the (very busy) corner of my street with a sign reading:

Walsh cuts food stamps, student loans and healthcare for the poor to support tax cuts for the rich!
That was when the original vote to cut social problems passed, on votes from Jim Walsh and Sherwood Bolhert.

Today, Jim Walsh fulfilled the second portion of that statement, when he voted for Bush's tax cuts to be extended for 5 more years.

The AP reports:
The House voted Thursday to preserve tax cuts for investors through the rest of the decade, safeguarding the centerpiece of the Republican tax agenda in a $56 billion package of tax breaks.
(emphasis mine)

50% of the tax cuts that the Republican house members fought for today, in capital gains, go to the top 1% of earners in this country, those making over $1.3 million dollars a year. (WaPo)

So Walsh has voted for cuts in student loans, medicaid, and food stamps, and then voted for tax cuts, a majority of which go to the richest 1% of Americans.

Another load of ammunition for Walsh's opponents. Will they capitalize on this?

And where is the story in the Post-Standard? How can they let this one pass by without comment?
going to sneak preview of Syriana tonight
12/06/2005 05:21:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Got passes from a local business for a sneak preview tonight. (hasn't been released yet in central New York) Will post a short review.

UPDATE: go see this movie. It is complicated, and "dense" (as Lynn Samuels put it), but worth the watch. It wasn't everything that I wanted it to be. But was subtlely brilliant, and was a strong character driven movie with good acting. The trailer is a little misleading, I don't want to be a spoiler, so go see it and then in a few weeks we can digest it.
Warmth for poor consumers
12/06/2005 08:09:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
From the NY Daily News Juan Gonzalez:
Low-cost heating oil is about to start flowing to the South Bronx under Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's fuel-for-the-poor program.

Three Bronx groups will announce today an agreement with Citgo, the U.S. subsidiary of Venezuela's national oil company, to receive heating oil shipments this winter at 40% below wholesale price.

[snip]

As soon as he heard about the Chavez offer two months ago, Belle contacted his local congressman, Jose Serrano (D-South Bronx), who has spearheaded talks with the Venezuelan government over the program.

"We anticipate a savings of between $300,000 and $400,000 in our fuel costs for the winter," Belle said. "From a practical standpoint, it's a great program."

[snip]

Unlike a similar program that Citgo launched last month in Massachusetts for thousands of low-income homeowners, the Bronx version targets apartment buildings run by nonprofit groups.

That's because Chavez doesn't want private landlords to pocket the fuel savings.

According to Serrano, Citgo officials insisted that all fuel contracts stipulate how individual residents would benefit.

"We're going to take a portion of the savings and pass it on to each tenant as a credit on their monthly rent," Belle said.

and the kicker:

And that leads us to the big question: If Chavez and Citgo can forgo a small portion of Venezuela's windfall oil profits to make life a little easier for America's poor, what are our own oil companies and our leaders in Washington doing?

(emphasis mine)

Damn Chavez, and his "helping the poor", and "foregoing a profit." Bastard.
Peak Wood Pellet?
12/01/2005 09:45:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
From Channel 9 in Syracuse:

Homeowners hoping to save money on heating bills this winter by using a wood pellet stove are running into a big problem.

They can't find any wood pellets because most retailers in the Syracuse area are sold out, and they are not expecting shipments any time soon.

A few months ago, stores couldn't keep wood pellet stoves in stock. They became a popular alternative to off-set the rising costs of home heating oil and natural gas.

The stoves sold out, then the pellets did too.

The Pellet Fuels Institute says the sale of wood pellet stoves was unprecedented this year, and pellet manufacturers haven't been able to keep up.

Video HERE

No snarky comment necessary.
GEDDESBLOG: Sustainable community defined
12/01/2005 08:14:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
From GEDDESBLOG: (which as I get off the ground is taking a little more of my time)



There has been increasing talk, and "buzz" about building sustainable communities, and how DestinyUSA will be "working towards creating a sustainable future."

What does sustainability mean actually? Here is a good definition for those unfamiliar with the term, from the Office of Environment Assistance in Minnesota:

A sustainable community can persist over generations, enjoying a healthy environment, prosperous economy and vibrant civic life. It does not undermine its social or physical systems of support. Rather, it develops in harmony with the ecological patterns it thrives in.

Sustainable development is an ambitious process in which a community develops attitudes and ongoing actions that strengthen its natural environment, economy and social well-being. Benefits include more livable communities, lower costs and an environment safe for future generations.

A growing number of communities across America have begun this process, gathering a number of local initiatives under the umbrella of sustainability. They are bringing preventive, integrative strategies to bear on crime, health, jobs, land use and community values.

Sustainable development means development that maintains or enhances economic opportunity and community well-being while protecting and restoring the natural environment upon which people and economies depend. Sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

(emphasis mine)

Let's leave large scale "sustainability" to the dream that is DestinyUSA. For those living in the Fairmount/Geddes area, we need to take care of ourselves and our community first. We need to dream big, but start small. Most of all we need a vision of progress for Geddes that doesn't involve more strip malls and "big box" stores. We need local business, local jobs for our residents, and a more enviromentally secure vision of the future. It is time for people to step up, and shape their community in the image that they would like to see it.

This blog (geddesblog) is an attempt to do just that.