Will Peak Oil Lead to a Reversal of NIMBY-ism?
12/18/2006 07:03:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Cross posted from Groovy Green:

This Sunday, the Syracuse Post-Standard (my hometown paper) ran a huge spread on a potential development close to the City of Syracuse. This latest project would build a "huge energy plant" in the form of coal gasification. The plant would be built on an abandoned quarry on the outskirts of the city, and would cost $1.3 billion - no subsidies required, according to the developer.

If his ambitious proposal succeeds, the plant would be one of the first of its type in the country. It would produce enough natural gas to supply 16 percent of all residential use in New York.

Coal gasification is an old process, but it's sparking new commercial interest and technological innovation thanks to the high cost of natural gas and the nation's problematic dependence on foreign oil.

Victor, who is based in New York City, said the gas produced at his facility would be cheaper than natural gas from wells and would provide the energy equivalent of 30,000 barrels a day of crude oil.

It is an ambitious project to say the least. I was pleased to hear that the plant would produce natural gas that could be directly supplied to homes, and not used to produce electricity. Upstate NY is blessed with a wealth of hydroelectric power, is home to three nuclear power plants, and the largest wind farm in NY. As natural gas supplies domestically continue to fall, and the Canadians unable to make up the slack, natural gas for home heating will become more and more precious, and therefore more important than increasing the local electricity production.


, which is located near the Cumberland Mountains of East Tennessee (a demonstration pilot plant)

No doubt there will be opposition to such a project. "Clean coal" still produces vast amounts of waste that would have to be transported out of the area, or buried as landfill on site. We already know the devastating effects of mountain top removal coal mining. Tremendous amounts of CO2 will be produced by the process. The facility will be located within miles of a waste-to-energy facility, so air quality in the area will suffer further.

Each day, a freight train would bring in 100 rail cars of coal - 10,000 tons - from Pennsylvania or West Virginia. The coal would be unloaded in an enclosed structure, during daylight hours, to minimize noise and dust.

The coal would be fed into 10 40-foot-high gasifiers, heated to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit and mixed with steam and small amounts of oxygen. Without burning the coal, gasifiers break it down chemically into synthesis gas, composed mainly of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Further processes remove sulfur, mercury, carbon dioxide and other impurities.

In a process called methanation, the low-calorie syngas would be converted to high-calorie substitute natural gas, methane, that is chemically identical to natural gas from the earth. The methane would be pumped through 18-inch gas mains to an interstate gas pipeline about two miles away.

The slag left over from gasification - about 2,000 tons per day - is glass-like and inert. It can be landfilled or recycled into construction materials, Victor said. Initially, much of the slag would be used as fill at the site, he said

In my college years, I might have even been out there myself, protesting the building of such an environmental monstrosity in our neighborhood. Maybe up until two years ago, I might have opposed the project as an affront to the upstate ecology. Today, I must confess I feel much differently about the situation. The peaking production of natural gas in North America, is starting to be forecast. The government is trying to build enormous docking facilities for liquefied national gas (LNG) super tankers to bring in natural gas from the middle east. The ability of millions of Americans to heat their home, living in the colder climates of the country will become less secure. A project like this one, although not perfect, could provide home heating security to Upstate NY during times of diminishing supply.

This leads me to my question, will peak oil lead to a reversal of NIMBY-ism?

Would you support a project like this one in your city or hometown? What alternative ways could we heat our homes to limit our dependence on natural gas and heating oil?

Link: Syracuse.com or HERE

40.7 Percent Efficient Solar Cell Announced By DOE
12/06/2006 11:16:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Reposted from Groovy Green -

Via Cryptogon:

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner today announced that with DOE funding, a concentrator solar cell produced by Boeing-Spectrolab has recently achieved a world-record conversion efficiency of 40.7 percent, establishing a new milestone in sunlight-to-electricity performance. This breakthrough may lead to systems with an installation cost of only $3 per watt, producing electricity at a cost of 8-10 cents per kilowatt/hour, making solar electricity a more cost-competitive and integral part of our nation’s energy mix.

(Emphasis definitely freakin' mine.)

Not to out do Kevin's exuberance, this is definitely a huge deal. $3 per watt to install? A 62% reduction in installation cost for PV panels? Huge.

Billy Fuccillo Huge:


I mean a breakthrough of this magnitude, stipulating that it could be produced in an appropriate scale, could revolutionize our nation's energy grid. Currently sagging infrastructure would not need extensive repair, local grids could be set up by neighborhood. The lists go on and on. Again, that is a large stipulation, but a bummed out peak oil boy can dream can't he?

I'll leave the behind the scenes conspiracies to Cryptogon (I have to admit following through his links did give me pause). Here is the link to the original DOE release.

Great find Kevin. Thoughts, readers?

Peak Oil and Lasik Surgery
11/19/2006 07:35:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
I just have been thinking about the two. Not that they're exclusively related, but if one was to have eye surgery that could theoretically improve eyesight for the rest of one's adult life, it would seem to me a good idea in the face of an oil crisis.

The idea that my eye sight could be permanently damaged as well has delayed my decision.


DIY compost bin
10/14/2006 05:44:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

In the spirit of this newly announced competition, I put together a larger compost bin to collect our (and yes, possibly our neighbor's) leaves this fall. This will supplement our smaller secure bin that we use for kitchen scraps - It keeps the skunks out.


Killing two birds with one stone, I got rid of a good portion of my "reclaimed wood pile" (that was not Mrs. B's favorite), and built myself a fine compost bin.

A picture is worth a 1000 words, so without further ado:


(beginning of the frame)


(one side completed)


(partially complete)




(removable front slat)


(in situ)


Blending in to the fall landscape... and ready for the leaves.

The 2x4 posts were 4' in length, and the slat boards were reclaimed pine wall boards reclaimed from our basement. The final box size was 3'6" x 3'6" x 3'6" (approx).

Green is still 'in' in Syracuse
10/04/2006 06:18:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Over the past 2 days I've noticed the following stories in the local paper:

Biodiesel & Schools:

A Different Way to Go

How about firing up the yellow school bus for a mere 50 cents a gallon?

That's exactly what's happening at Oswego County BOCES. Students are making biodiesel fuel out of used vegetable oil that is running some BOCES vehicles.


Locally, Oswego County BOCES runs three small 35-gallon school buses, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz sedan and a firetruck with biodiesel fuel.


What is a Food Co-op?

From the moment you walk into the Syracuse Real Food Co-op, it's clear that this is no ordinary grocery story.

Almost one full aisle contains bulk food dispensers filled with lentils, rice, sugar and granola. Nearly everything in the store is labeled organic, including an upright cooler full of meat. Fresh bread loaves come from Pasta's Daily Bread in Syracuse and Patisserie in Skaneateles.

And everyone really does know your name first and last.

and Energy related issues:

Pataki Signs Bill, Blocks (power)Line

Wind Farm Anniversary

Just as raindrops started to fall, 10 busloads of students from Cazenovia, Canastota and Morrisville lined up in the shape of a windmill. The students were wearing white hats and carrying pinwheels that spun in the town's well-known breeze, a breeze that turns 20 full-scale wind turbines. A biplane carrying a photographer flew over the 328-foot-tall towers to capture the students on film.

The event was planned to celebrate the five-year anniversary of the town's wind farm and the opening of the Fenner Renewable Energy Education Center, a project that has been in the works since the turbines started spinning.

Just posted for your reading pleasure.

Welcome / Thanks Sean
9/04/2006 09:37:00 AM | Author: baloghblog

(a little blog love from Sean Kirst)

Other baloghblog sites:
groovygreen blog
Our Own Treehouse
9/02/2006 09:47:00 AM | Author: baloghblog

We started gathering old boards, pilfered some rusty nails from our fathers, and grabbed hammers and saws. We didn't really know what we were getting into, there were no blueprints, no plans, no expectations. I guess, in a way, we still don't know what we'd gotten ourselves into. But after a few brief introductions, kids from each side of this "upstate" town, started to get to work. The discussion was supposed to be about the group, and how we got into writing, but soon after we told our tales, we put that aside and started to lay the planks which would be our foundation. You see there is too much work to be done - There are too many problems that need to be solved - So much energy lying left untapped in this area - We couldn't just sit and talk about ourselves.

So the first planks were laid. This motley crew didn't have the same pedigree, nor name recognition, nor desire for the limelight. As one of us put it, "I am much more of a behind the scenes guy." The seven of us are all better behind the scenes, but you know? Once we started getting to some of the roots of our problems, and started discussing the myriad of solutions, I began to notice that it wasn't that hard to build a treehouse. It takes some knowledge, desire, and plenty of heart - to be able to work with what you have. I think that pretty soon, the folks in the other treehouse will start to realize that they are not the only ones that can get to those heights, and they'll start having to "share it" with everyone.

Right now our treehouse is pretty rickety. It barely has a support to stand on. If you look at it from the outside, you might even say it looks like a pile of old boards stuck up in a tree, nothing to notice yet.

But to me, it looks like our cities future.

(treehouse photo from FAS Canada)
Go read my (brief) review of Salt City Roasters
8/07/2006 07:44:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

Peak Oil Mention in Post-Standard (From a high-school student!)
8/01/2006 04:49:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Voices (P-S):

The youth of America have been lied to.

I am not referring to the myth about cracking one's knuckles, nor the belief that the only way we will succeed is if we go to college, nor the status quo that we must be fashionable and attractive at the cost of everything else.


Cheap oil does more for us than allow you to drive your car. About 10 calories of fossil fuels go into one calorie of food in the U.S. Modern medicine, water distribution and national defense are all powered by oil. So is the manufacturing of all plastics, including computers.

Alternative fuels? They require more oil to make than they give out in energy. They are outrageously expensive. And in the case of biodiesel, there is not enough room to grow both food and energy for everybody.

If you doubt any of this, go to www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net and see for yourself.

Whose fault is this? Everyone's. But it is the youth who are going to be affected the most. We are going to have very crappy lives, just trying to stay alive.

Read the rest of the short article. I am amazed that it made it into the paper. The writer?

Galen Velonis will be a junior this fall at Tully High School
Eating Local - Thoughts From a Tried and True Omnivore.
7/31/2006 10:31:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Cross-posted from GG, but Syracuse Area relevant:

peas.gifFirst go read The Omnivore's Dilemma. I'll wait right here.

{toe tapping}

Good - now that you're "informed", we can talk turkey. Or chicken, or beef. Grass fed, that is. When I finished The Omnivore's Dilemma I took a hard look at what I had been consuming over my lifetime. How many gallons of high-fructose corn syrup had I swilled? When is the last time that I thought about what type of life the cow or chicken led, that I was about to consume. (Did I ever?) I knew about eating local and saving unnecessary fuel to ship the food and to support local farmers, I am trying to eat organic. This book made me take my decision to a whole new level.

I really don't want to write a review of the book, other than to say that I highly recommend it. I wouldn't want to put too many pre-conceived ideas in your head.

My wife and I have made unexpected changes in our eating. We now shop at the farmers market on Saturdays. Our "big" food shop. Bread, meat, fruit, veggies. We get our CSA delivery on Tuesdays, which rounds out the vegetable department. After this we head to the local grocery store, Wegmans, which does have a large number of organic food products - we need our yogurt, grains, nuts, and chocolate. Last week we spent less than $15 bucks on food from the grocery store, the rest went directly to the farmer, and the food was all locally grown and raised.

Man, is the food great! Yes we have to plan ahead a little more, and we have to get up early on Saturdays now, but it is well worth it. We found a farm (Sweet Grass Farm) that brings in grass fed chicken, beef and locally and humanely raised pork - $21 this week for a broiler chicken, 1 lb. of bacon, 1 lb. ground beef, and 1 package of sirloin tips for shish kabobs. We buy our eggs from a lady who says little, uses recycled egg cartons, and looks straight off the farm. $1.85/dozen for truly free range chicken eggs, and she has a line to buy them. Loaf of delicious bread $2. Veggies and fruit galore? It's all there.

Dinner last night:

Local grass fed sirloin tips, with local green peppers, and an onion from a mennonite farm.

3 ears of early corn.
Fresh local wax green beans.
Dessert - homemade chocolate chip/peanut butter granola.
I'm not bragging, just excited. It is a great feeling to know that you are eating healthy locally grown food. Hopefully you'll consider hitting your local farmer's market this weekend for the "big" food shopping.

7/31/2006 10:34:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
Kirst should be the moderator.

Syracuse.com: Spitzer should meet Suozzi in Upstate debate

Well, I'll say it now, and that also goes for Suozzi, especially when it comes to the personality disorders of punch-drunk Upstate cities. I've lived in such places as Syracuse and Dunkirk and Niagara Falls. Those towns are not just struggling because of economic woes. They are struggling because of boneheaded decisions by decades' worth of shortsighted civic leaders.

Suozzi and Spitzer have said they want to listen harder to locally elected officials from Upstate. Really? You mean like the folks who ignored national precedent and built our baseball stadium in the middle of an isolated field? Or the folks who want to build a sewage treatment plant in our most vibrant downtown commercial district? Or the folks who rejected a decision by an elected body and instead tried to get a 30-year tax break for a developer approved through the back door?

(emphasis mine)

7/26/2006 09:41:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
sorry anyone who still has me on their RSS feeds, or is stopping by. There just aren't enough hours in the day to blog at 2 sites, work, garden, play and relax. Unfortunately, baloghblog has suffered.

if you're hankering for a fix, go check out my last article at GG:

America's Big Fat Oil Problem?

and you can check out some pictures of my garden this year:


Hope everyone is having a great summer and keeping cool! Look forward to returning to blogging about local things in the fall.

p.s. CSA-CNY has been delivering great fresh organic food each week, consider a share next year!

p.p.s. Go read The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. Highly recommended and good educational summer reading that will change the way that you look at your food.
Preparation for the Future (MORE Thoughts For 30-somethings )
6/08/2006 08:17:00 AM | Author: baloghblog

Updated article now posted at Groovy Green.

It is very interesting to look back at my writing, to see how I originally tried to digest the idea of peak oil. To look at my first grasping of sustainable living, and self-sufficiency.

So what have I learned over the past year? What tidbits of information can I pass on to others who may be struggling with many of these same issues?

I continue to operate in my daily life with the notion that peak oil is 5 years away. Why 5 years? It's a semi-round number - far enough off to limit despair and make me want to give up, yet close enough to keep me motivated. Who knows for certain when the actual peak will be upon us, but whether it is 5 years, 10 years or a generation away (unlikely), my efforts over the past year have been well worth it...
Groovy Green Magazine Launched
6/05/2006 07:48:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
Well, here is where all of my computer time has been dedicated for the past 2 months!

(magazine site)

www.groovygreen.com/groove (blog site)

About GG:

This is the time for taking action in our lives. We will be expanding our focus to include ways that you can become more self-sufficient, as well as challenging ourselves at GG as a way of inspiring others.

As we continue to evolve, we look forward to expanding the number of contributors to provide a broad spectrum of ideas from around the country and around the world. We strive to become the People's Green Magazine: There are a tremendous amount of great environmental writers out there, and an increasing (and sometimes overwhelming) number of "green blogs". Groovy Green will be a place where good writers can come to post articles and blog posts to a larger audience--while maintaining their own personal writing. We don't want to be restrictive--hell we want writers to promote their own site! Many good writers have a small but dedicated audience of readers - we want to recruit authors from the sea of blogs out there and give them a platform to stand together on.

Check it out and let us know what you like/don't like.
Quick thoughts on Light Rails, Gas tax caps, and Centro
5/27/2006 09:17:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
NYCO got me thinkin':

Some politician should grow a pair and come out against capping the tax. He (or She) should say, we’re not going to cap the tax, but any revenue over $2.XX/gal will go directly into revamping this region’s poor public transportation. That way when gas is $4.50/gal, we will be prepared for the increased ridership on Centro, as well as getting the masses of people down from the North Country and far exurbs into the city to work.

You can keep my $0.04/gal, as long as you promise that centro will run later than 5:30pm out of the city.

And what about a Baldwinsville –> Cicero –> Liverpool –> “DestiNY” –> Syracuse Light Rail?

Or a Chittenango –> Manlius –> Fayetteville –> Dewitt –> SU Hill –> Downtown Line? How many cars would that take off the road?

Light rails are silent, run on electric power, and would increase property value for those living near it. (PDF)

Of course, in this county no one can see past next week let alone 5-10 years down the road. So I won’t hold my breath.

Somewhere Over The...
5/13/2006 07:33:00 AM | Author: baloghblog

A little messy with the photo merge but you get the idea...

Letter To Friends About Peak Oil
5/03/2006 10:24:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
May 3, 2006:
As most of you may have heard, I attended a conference on Community Solutions to Peak Oil in NYC last weekend. If you're not familiar with the term Peak Oil, it is in a nutshell the halfway point in world production of oil. It marks the highest level of oil output that will be achieved on the planet. Some believe that the supply of oil in the world is endless, or that there are vast quantities of oil waiting to be tapped at a moments notice by the Saudi's, or by the "big oil" companies. Unfortunately this is proving not to be the case. The last major oil field discovery was 30 years ago. In 2004 30 billion barrels of oil were burned up, while only 8 billion barrels of new reserves were discovered. That ratio has worsened into 2006, as the world now uses about 6 barrels of oil for every 1 barrel of new reserve that is discovered. If your looking for somewhat of a primer on peak oil go HERE or HERE for more info. Our nation's present lifestyle is becoming unsustainable in the face of rising energy costs (this article voices the opinion of James Kunstler who is one of the most outspoken in it's level of unsustainability.) Whether or not you believe in "peak oil" or all of it's implications, the important thing to realize is that rising energy costs will begin to affect all aspects of our lives. I hesitated in sharing my thoughts on peak oil with my friends and family, initially because I hadn't sorted out my thoughts on the subject, and then more so because my fear of being the bearer of bad news. Recent admissions by the president ("we are a nation that is addicted to oil"), and by big oil companies ("will you join us" and "beyond petroleum") have solidified my belief that we may have seen the last of cheap energy costs, and the beginning of increased fuel and expenses.

I have written on the subject in the past at my blog, [edited]

My latest article, Relocalization as a solution to peak oil, is partially why I am writing this email to you. I believe that it is very important to begin the effort of reinvesting in our communities, buying locally produced organic foods, spending and investing our money ethically and wisely, as well as helping friends, family, and neighbors become more energy efficient and self-sufficient. These are all positive things in themselves and worthy of the effort. I believe that now is the time to relocalize our lives. I figured the first place that I should start is with my friends and family.
My list of things that I want to work on is HERE. Read it and let me know of any other ideas that you come up with.
I hope that I didn't freak everyone out. My intention is just to get the conversation started. I look forward to talking further with anyone that is interested in the subject or who would like to become more energy efficient and self sufficient.

Here is my post from GG:

One of the first warning signs of peak oil is upon us, the inability of oil producing nations to keep up with the increasing demand of worldwide consumers. The ability to control the price of crude oil has fallen out of the hands of the OPEC nations. The government has begun to warn us that price hikes may be less temporary than they previously had stated, now slated to last through 2007. (As you'll note in the article, no reason is given for a possible reduction in prices at that point.)

Utility_bicycle.jpgWhat is our only option for riding the peak oil production plateau and inevitable slide (or shock, as it may be)? Relocalization.

Dozens of presenters came and spoke their peace at the PeakoilNYC sponsored Local Solutions to the Energy Dilemma Conference. Most touted relocalization in some form, as the nation's (and world's) only hope of coming out safely on the other side of the peak. Michael Brownlee from Boulder Valley Relocalization spoke on day one of the conference, and his words on relocalization are worth reading (.pdf).

popsicle.jpgI also was deeply affected by some of the speakers who presented on economic topics. As I posted earlier, John Ikerd's speech was rousing and inspiring. Catherine Austin Fitts, although I may not fully buy into (or understand) the entirety of the Solari Model of economics, made me think outside of the box on my personal spending and investment. The important thing that I took away from her talk (avail in powerpoint), was that we have a tremendously effective way to change the society and world that we live in, by spending and investing our money in socially and locally responsible ways. We should be reinvesting in our communities, and increasing the "popsicle index" in our neighborhoods. There was so much good information on socially and locally responsible economics, that it will certainly warrant its own post in the near future.

After the conference had sufficiently filled my admittedly out of shape brain (it has been some time since I have studied a topic day and night for 3 days in a row), I took a few days off to decompress, and sort out the myriad of thoughts in my head. I was reduced from my normally talkative self to responding that the conference was "great" and "informative". So pen in hand, I began to write down what I feel that I can do to relocalize my life. (click more for the list)

From GG: More On Oil Scarcity - Go Read Billmon
4/25/2006 08:00:00 AM | Author: baloghblog


Given the fact that I am heading down for the Local Solutions to the Energy Dilemma conference in NYC tomorrow, I have oil and energy on the brain.

Billmon, (IMHO) one of the best political writers on the internet, is back from a recent hiatus. Yesterday's post delves into the United States precarious position as we face growing competition in the face of diminishing output of oil and natural gas supplies. Get a cup of coffee, or tea, and head on over for a good read. Then come back here to comment (no comments on Billmon's site).
Random notes
4/24/2006 07:40:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
Met Simon at the Ithaca Earth Day Fest. Looking forward to meeting the rest of the CNY bloggers at the great NYS fair?

Went to a gas station which had the low price of $2.99/gal. No cars their either = no wait. But wait! The station had plastic bags over the pumps, and a sign saying "Sorry Out of Gas" Wierd feeling as I drove off in search of the next gas station. This was at a Fastrac in Ithaca. (Pic coming soon)
Random notes
4/24/2006 07:40:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
Met Simon at the Ithaca Earth Day Fest. Looking forward to meeting the rest of the CNY bloggers at the great NYS fair?

Went to a gas station which had the low price of $2.99/gal. No cars their either = no wait. But wait! The station had plastic bags over the pumps, and a sign saying "Sorry Out of Gas" Wierd feeling as I drove off in search of the next gas station. This was at a Fastrac in Ithaca.

(Pic coming soon)

Local Solutions to the Energy Dilemma Conference
4/13/2006 07:56:00 PM | Author: baloghblog


I will be attending the Local Solutions to the Energy Dilemma Conference in NYC from April 27-29th. I encourage others on the east coast, and others with the means to travel to attend this conference. There is a incredible line-up of peak oil experts lecturing, as well as others focusing on sustainability, permaculture, alternative transportation and renewable energy. The schedule has been released and is available HERE. Check out more information on the speakers, and register for the conference HERE.

I will be posting updates from the conference, as well as a full run down when I get back and have time to digest it all. It is a jam packed schedule and a wealth of information on the energy crisis we face, and how we can prepare ourselves and our community for the future.(Going to be at the conference? Drop me an email at baloghblog [at] gmail [dot] com.)
4/12/2006 09:45:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Ominous Sign #3
4/08/2006 12:09:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
Times Online: World 'cannot meet oil demand'
“Numbers like 120 million barrels per day will never be reached, never,” he said.

The IEA predicted in its World Energy Outlook that global demand for crude oil would reach 121 million barrels per day by 2030, of which more than half would be supplied by Opec. The agency predicted that more than $3 trillion (£1.72 trillion) of investment in wells, pipelines and refineries would be needed to raise output to such levels.

However, Total’s exploration chief reckons the output rise is impossible, given available resources and geopolitical constraints on gaining access to reserves in Opec countries.

(that pic is supposed to be "ominous" heh heh)

Ominous Sign #2
4/07/2006 11:31:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

The cost of building roads has gotten so high, not even dirt is cheap anymore. As a result, many states are postponing scores of highway projects.

The reconstruction work from the eight hurricanes that have hit the United States since 2004 has combined with a rise in population in some states to drive up the demand for labor, material and equipment. That, in turn, has pushed up wages and prices.

Surging fuel prices, China's immense demand for concrete and steel and the reconstruction of Iraq are also pushing U.S. road construction costs higher.

I think that I remember reading this somewhere (pg 265)... Something about how the cost of maintaining the roads would become too high and roads and bridges would quickly become impassable. Maybe Kunstler was right on, on this one.

Ominous Sign #1
4/07/2006 11:31:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
From Groovy Green: Go Green Initiative
4/07/2006 08:04:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
I found out about a great organization that is promoting recycling in school. The Go Green Initiative was started by Jill Buck, a PTA President in California in 2002. Since then it has spread to 5 states, and 5 city schools in Syracuse have just signed up! According to ENN, Ed Smith Elementary was the first to sign up last year, and it was joined by Seymour, Solace, HW Smith, Lincoln, and Nottingham (High School). As part of the commitment to the program, recycling will be added to the cirriculum, they will increase paper, bottle and can recycling, and will adopt national paper conservation standards.

To give a sampling of what this program is keeping out of area landfills, here is what Ed Smith Elementary has managed to recycle since August of last year:

  • 4.2 tons of paper
  • 35 pounds of plastics
  • 1,637 pounds of cardboard

This seems like a great program. If you are interested in starting this in your school district, go to the GGI website and find out how to get started.

Spring has sprung, and the projects have started
4/05/2006 07:01:00 AM | Author: baloghblog

Big project #1: (before) Tear Down That Wall! Removal of an old picket fence that did not keep the vermin out of the garden, and did not represent our true property lines.

(after) A little mowing and a little raking will smooth things out.

Other side of the house. Notice my nice neighbor in the background. After sharing a cold beer with him after the labor, he told me that he'd be willing to help me cut down a large dead tree on my property. (Would have cost me $1000 to have professionally removed.)

My heirloom seeds from rareseeds.com

Seeds in the 'incubators' and ready to grow! Click on image to see what I have started so far.

Thoughts on fences and neighbors. The saying goes "Good fences make good neighbors", which I don't disagree with completely. However, something inside of me felt good tearing that fence down. It didn't do anything to protect our privacy, it wouldn't have kept a dog in or other animals out - it was just a marker of this is what is mine. I don't need that in my life right now. After tearing down both fences, I looked all the way down the backyard, and clear across 4 neighbors. I thought, what a perfect place for kids to play. Anyways, it was strange the good feeling that came over me as a bashed the fence down with a big maul (the dull end). For you recyclers out there: I put the fence out in front, and within 45 mins it was claimed by someone that will continue to use it.
Another .04
4/05/2006 06:57:00 AM | Author: baloghblog

SSDD - Same Station Different Day. Aiiiieee!
3/30/2006 07:43:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

I smell $3/gal soon.
Carnival of the Green #19
3/19/2006 08:28:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Spring is upon us! 6:22pm UTC will mark the Vernal Equinox today.

Time for thoughts to shift from hibernation into action. Time to throw open the windows, air out the home (well may not yet in the Northeast!) Time to plan your garden, start your seedlings and dream of warmer days to come.

The carnival rolls into baloghblog this week, in all of it's green glory.

So grab your cup of tea, fair trade coffee, or left over "green" beer from St. Patty's Day, and sit back and enjoy the best of the green blogosphere this week.

First up, my buddy Chris at Groovy Green has a post to inspire all of us amateur gardeners out there. The Permaculture Institute of Australia takes a piece of wasteland in the Dead Sea Valley and amazingly grow food and trees on it. Follow the link for this bright spot in the tumultuous middle east.

I had a piece on new technology to use solar pyramids to create energy and hot water in India.

The Worsted Witch posts a snippet of Jonathan Schell, with an inspiring quote about shaking off the lethargy and fatigue and beginning to act. Appropriate, as we enter the season of rebirth and renewal of spring.
...arousal and action would give us access to hope, and life would start to mend: not just life in its entirety but daily life, every individual life.
On the lighter side, to go with your dose of inspiration - a dose of fashion, with a green twist. "Here are some of my favorite recycled bags, proving that keeping waste out of the landfill has never been so chic."

Have you recently traded in your fashionable bags for a diaper bag? Laura from Urban Eco posts a recently discovered link to The Green Guide's article in Mothering Magazine providing advice on finding chemical-free baby products.

Jeff at Sustainablog reminds us that exposure to nature as a child leads to having a larger interest in environmental issues when we grow up. His post "How to Turn Your Kid Into a Treehugger" brought back memories of my childhood, hiking, camping and learning about the world around me - and the influential people in my life that gave me those great memories.

Rebecca from GreenerMiami wins the big fluffy stuffed animal prize this week for her great series of posts on a "Week of Trash". This is an area that I struggle to do better in, and she may just have inspired me. She analyzes a weeks worth of refuse produced in her home. Without further ado, here's the links: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and Final Results. Her final results post is full of good thoughts on reducing your household waste.

More garbage (or should I say LESS garbage): The Blue Voice's environmental writer sings the praises of composting. This spring, if you haven't already, make the small investment in a composting system that will pay off in a dramatically reduced kitchen trash output.

Elisa from the Hip and Zen Pen, brings up the topic of corporate responsibility, An exchange between green LA Girl and a journalists illustrates that a) "corporate responsibility" is truly a relativeterm and b) bloggers can throw down and hold their own with mainstream media when they do their homework.

The Bird Flu is the "new boo" according to Harlan at Greener Magazine. His slightly tongue-in-cheek appraisal of a paranoid "greener's" survival chances this flu season, actually has some good basic preparation information for whatever disasters life may throw at us.

Moving across the carnival pond, Al dissects the buyout of the "green" Body Shop, by the not so green L'Oreal, and it's pros and cons. Al @ CityHippy explains why he thinks this deal is a good thing for both parties, people and planet and crucially why Anita Roddick is not a sell-out, well no more than the rest of us anyway. As Al puts it: Being green is just not that black and white.

Time for another round of Green beer! The Dirty Greek brings two breweries to light that are producing brown colored beer though green practices.

Now that you've had a few green beers your ready to go take on the snark over at Jon Swift, who wanted to make sure that he let us know that he didn't believe in global warming, but if it actually does exist, he'd like to speed it up by driving his SUV, and growing a rice paddy to increase methane production. (Blame this one on Al, he's the one that said I had to be all inclusive!) Just take it easy on him, k?

Enrique Gili at commonground brings up the touchy subject of gentrification and government involvement, in this case as it affects inner-city neighborhoods in Houston, Texas.

Other tasty tidbits:

The FIR Project blogs about a rain forest on a US Territory, the Carribean National Forest (El Yunque) on the island of Puerto Rico. Check out in-depth information on this topic, including a video, and links to explore the region by satellite.

Terry, submits a post that they feel is "not technically on the environment, but more on soical justice generally. A piece that contrasts hollywood with the Millenium Development Goals. It's called "An Annotated Terry Entry About The Oscars" An interesting comparison between the excess of the oscars and ways that the money could be spent to better the world.

Greenthinkers posts on an interesting idea in Denmark to promote the use of bicycles for tourist and residents by placing them throughout the city and charging a nominal fee, that is returned when the bike is returned.

The Rose Mountain Farm blog, has a post up on the latest doings at the farm, including a Shiitake Mushroom Workshop that was a great success. Click on over for other information on their production of fresh organic food.

Philobiblon worries about accelerated global warming and ice melt, and whether we might be in the fall of the modern roman empire. On a less worrisome note, she has had a small victory in the prompting her library to reuse plastic supply bags, that normally would find their way to the garbage to strewn around the cloak room.

UPDATE: Late Entry Post. fiftyRX3 chimes in with a great post. It goes to the heart of something that really bothers me, "holier-than-thou" environmentalists. I'll let her words describe it:
I wrote a response to a comment by a reader who suggested my efforts to wear more sustainable clothing was less worthwhile than other endeavours and that it was easy "to just talk about being green". I really feel drawing lines to divide people in the environmental movement weakens the cause. I went on to explain how I've tried to do my part on a personal level and that this is the area I've chosen to focus on in more of a professional/ activist level. His suggestion that I never use a/c and walk everywhere I found to go against the practical solutions we need to offer for the masses. I think the people over at Grist and Fast Company agree...http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/103/essay-resources.html

Thanks so much if you can include it. I would really like to get other people's responses. I find it frustrating not to be taken seriously just because I have chosen to focus on style and design. That said, I also feel the fashion world doesn't take me seriously because I have chosen to focus on sustainability. I would love to hear any thoughts readers may have on this in the comments section of this post.
Phew, that is it! I am getting off this crazy ride, until next week that is! Hope you've enjoyed this week's carnival at baloghblog. You can find last week's edition at Dirty Greek, and look for next weeks Carnival of the Green at Greener Magazine.

For information on hosting the carnival yourself, click HERE (City Hippy) or HERE (Triple Pundit)

*on a personal note, I've "come out of the blogging closet" so-to-speak, and will now be posting full time over at Groovy Green. baloghblog will still exist, and I will continue to post on local issues here (and the occasional long peak oil rant), but if your jonesing for a little baloghblog, head over to GG and subscribe to the RSS or bookmark the page. Thanks for everyone's support and continued interest in my writing.
Quick Post: Spring has sprung!
3/10/2006 09:59:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

Outside of the Syracuse Fire Dept FCU this afternoon (3/10!)

weg meat.jpgMy post at GG:

Recent news items have reported that carbon monoxide has been used to enhance the appearence of packaged meat in US grocery stores. The FDA is defending this policy as safe. The fact that this process allows meat to appear red and fresh for up to 30 days, despite possibly high levels of bacteria or masking meat that has spoiled, has many concerned. I personally use the old "sniff test", but have to admit that meat that is red and fresh looking is most appealing to the eye in the store while shopping. Removing the plastic wrap to get a good inhale of the meat while in the cooler aisle, will get you good meat, but also gather a few strange looks. I attempted to contact 3 local grocery store chains this afternoon, and I am still waiting to hear from 2 of them. I am happy to report that a customer service representative from Wegmans told me, "there is no carbon monoxide enhanced meat sold in Wegman's stores," and despite use of MAP packaging (bubble packs) for ground turkey and meat patties, that these meat products do not contain CO either.

Please call your local grocery stores to inquire about this practice and to give them feedback that it is not something that you want sold in your local grocery store. Then tell them to buy local and support local agriculture!

(Yes, I know that I should really go vegan for my health, and to cut down on fossil fuel use, and that there are eco-friendly meat options out there.)

Update: P&C foods returned my call and assured me that they do not sell CO treated meat as well.
Green Blog-a-thon
2/26/2006 10:27:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
You'll find my contributions to the hopefully first-annual Green Blog-a-thon below. It was a great success, and I had a good time doing it. All the crew's entries can be found at Groovy Green, or go to the Squidoo lens for the event which has links to all the participants. I had a great time chatting with everyone as the night wore on, and met some great people.

There is still time to make a donation, see this page for details. We did it for a great cause:
to raise money for the Nature Conservancy’s ‘Adopt-An-Acre’ program for rainforest in Brazil. Each acre costs $75 and we’re hoping to hit at least one!
Well we hit more than one acre for sure so far. Michael will be posting the tally tomorrow.
#46: New Fuel Cell Dedicated at SUNY-ESF
2/26/2006 10:24:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

Fuel cell to provide 250 kW of continuous green power to SUNY-ESF, and will co-generate heat and hot water for buildings on campus. This has been in the works for over a year now and is a result of sizeable grants from NYSERDA, US Dept of Defense, and the Electric Power Research Institute. If I remember correctly, I think that this fuel cell runs on the gassification of biomass.

esf.gifFuelCell Energy of Danbury, Connecticut, manufactured the 250-kilowatt fuel cell, which is designed for large-scale industrial and commercial applications. Carbonate fuel cells operate at higher temperatures and greater efficiencies than other fuel cells. All fuel cells use a chemical process, instead of combustion, to generate electricity.

The SUNY ESF installation, which is expected to reduce oil use by 3,500 barrels a year, is the fourth carbonate fuel cell at an American college. The others are at Yale University in Connecticut, Ocean County College in New Jersey and Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

Link: EmpireStateNews.net
#44: Eating for Credit - New York Times Op-ed
2/26/2006 10:22:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

This Op-ed from the NY Times (not Times Select) has an interesting approach to how schools should approach the lunch period in schools. Alice Waters suggests that we should be teaching "lunch" for credit. This could be approached the way that physical education classes became status quo in the 1950's. She helped establish a program in her school district called the Edible Schoolyard, which combines education on gardening and cooking.

102-0280_IMG.JPGSchools should not just serve food; they should teach it in an interactive, hands-on way, as an academic subject. Children's eating habits stay with them for the rest of their lives. The best way to defeat the obesity epidemic is to teach children about food — and thereby prevent them from ever becoming obese.


Our program began at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School 10 years ago, with a kitchen classroom and a garden full of fruits, vegetables and herbs. A cafeteria where students, faculty and staff members will eat together every day is under construction, and the Edible Schoolyard has become a model for a district-wide school lunch initiative.

At King School today, 1,000 children are involved in growing, preparing and sharing fresh food. These food-related activities are woven into the entire curriculum. Math classes measure garden beds. Science classes study drainage and soil erosion. History classes learn about pre-Columbian civilizations while grinding corn.

This sounds like an amazing program. I would love to see inner city kids who haven't had the opportunity to grow a garden and see where food comes from directly to have that chance. And horizontally challenged grade-school PSP addicts could put down the cheetos and the games for an hour, and help learn the benefits of healthy eating at an early age. Yes, I know the alternative arguement - "the parents are the ones that should be doing that." Well, not every parent was given that opportunity or information when they were growing up either.
#43: More Thoughts on CFL Bulbs for Everyone
2/26/2006 10:16:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

102-0277_IMG.JPGAlong the same lines as CFLBulb's push to try to get a CFL bulb in the hands of every child, I have been thinking about starting a charity drive in my neighborhood, and plan to try to find corporate support to donate CFL bulbs to local food pantries, so they can be passed out with the boxes of food. Perhaps someone out there has a relationship with a CFL bulb distributer, that I could hook up with for a bulk rate? I was hoping to speak with some of the local priests and pastor/ministers in the area to appeal to their parishoners for donations of a bulb with their food drives. Given the recent attention to high energy costs, this seems like an optimal time to approach something like this venture. I was happy to see that there are people like Ken Luna who are dedicating time and effort to the issue. I wish him luck in getting through to Oprah, even for a mention on air, which would reach millions.

If anyone has any interest in attempting this grass roots attempt to putting CFL's in the hands of the poor (who can least afford the higher energy costs on a fixed income) contact me in the comments or at baloghblog aat yahoo.com - Ken I hope to hear from you, and would love to go over some ideas/approaches together.

UPDATE: I have spoken from someone from CFLbulbs.com (who has been very enthusiastic and helpful, and have sent out feelers to the Syracuse Greens on this issue. Michael from Groovy Green is also looking into leads as well. The charity push has be initially named F.L.A.S.H. Bulbs (Flourescent Lighting And Sustainable Homes). I am looking forward to pursuing this endeavor, and hope to post an update soon. If you have any interest in helping in the CNY area, or have interest in doing something similar in your home town, contact me at the address above.