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.

[snip]

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.
#36: Another Blog Spotlight - Ardent Eden
2/26/2006 10:15:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

ardentedenstream.jpgArdent Eden: I am not sure how I first picked up on this blog, perhaps it was through a statcounter visit, but I am happy that I found it. This Massachusetts blogger is dealing with the same issues that many of us in the Green Blogosphere are dealing with, and coming up with solutions that make her and her family more independent.

Here is where she started:
At long last, the time has come for me to raise my voice. I’ve been reading thoughtful, enraging and inspiring posts on other blogs and saying “Yes!” for a while now. What’s taken me so long to find my voice?

I have always been drawn to seemingly disparate causes and issues – from the death penalty to animal rights to education. As my senses have been heightened by the wonders of the natural world, protecting our environment has taken on greater urgency for me. But it’s not just that I’ve become a more ardent environmentalist. Over the years I’ve begun to put together the pieces that connect the fragile yet sustaining beauty of our earth with the catastrophic threat of agribusiness, the cancer of suburban sprawl, the soul sickness that flourishes due to human action or inaction on social issues, the mind-numbing plague of blind consumerism, and the gnawing hunger facing a third of the people on our planet.

Give her archives a read, she has been doing some of the most underrecognized green blogging out there.

Link: Ardent Eden

#25: More on NREL Layoffs/Rehire Prior to Bush Speach
2/26/2006 10:14:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

nrel.jpgRobbing Peter to pay Paul: DOE officials are trying to decide where to get the $5 million to rehire 32 workers that were laid-off when the NREL budget was cut. President Bush explained it this way:

"I recognize there has been some mixed signals when it comes to funding," Bush said in reference to proposed cuts in NREL's budget by both Congress and the administration.

"As a result of the appropriation process, the money may not end up where it was supposed to have gone," he said. "I think we've cleared up those discrepancies."

Now the discrepancies are cleared up, but the DOE isn't sure where the money is going to come from. According to this article, the preferred way would be to reassign earmarks that are currently deignated to go to other renewable energy projects.
The prospect of diverting money from one renewable project to another rankled alternative-energy advocates.

If that happens, “We have a situation where we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul,” said Matthew Garrington, field organizer for Environment Colorado. “We need to make sure renewables and efficiency programs are at the forefront and not an afterthought.”

[snip]

Marchant Wentworth, legislative representative for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit environmental and scientific group, called taking the $5 million from a renewable program “a huge mistake.”
Link: The Gazette

some original thoughts HERE and HERE

#21: We Need A Teacher Like This In Every School
2/26/2006 10:13:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

recycling.jpgA third grade teacher in Indiana has educated her students on the benefits of recycling paper, and they have now started a school-wide program where the children in her class go from room to room once a week to collect recycleable paper from each classroom and put it in a bin where it is taken to the local recycling center. This is such an impressionable age for children, and the extra effort by this teacher will lead to hundreds of future citizens who are adement recyclers.

Each Friday, teams of third-grade students will set out to pick up the recycled paper from each classroom. They'll then take the paper to a large bin, where it will be picked up by Prichard on Monday.

“I'm just terribly excited about it,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan noted that this project is a service learning project.

“It's hands-on learning. The kids are learning about recycling, but we're doing a service for our school and hopefully it will branch out to the community,” she said.

Link: The Daily World (no not Clark Kent's paper)
#19: Open Letter to Rachel Ray of the Food Network
2/26/2006 10:11:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

home composting.gifThis is a letter that I just submitted to the Food Network website.

Dear Rachel Ray,

My wife is a huge fan of your show "30 minute meals", and I have been known to watch a few times myself! I think that you have a tremendous opportunity to make a good impression on people's lives, that is why I am writing to you to ask a favor. During your show, you take the scraps of your veggies and fruits, egg shells, etc. and put them into the "garbage bowl" (garbage) as a way to keep your work area clean, and to make one trip to the garbage. I was hoping that I could persuade you to start using 2 bowls, one for any compostable material like the egg shells, vegetable and fruit scraps and another separate bowl for meat scraps, oils, and non-food items like plastic wrap, etc. Promoting the composting of food waste would save hundreds of pounds of material from going to the landfills from people's homes each year, and would provide those able to compost with rich organic material to feed their flower and vegetable gardens. Many of your viewers would notice the change, and you could be proud in knowing that you were helping the enviroment, and reducing amount of garbage that piles up each year in our landfills. Composting is easy, and there are many websites available to learn how to do it: www.vegweb.com/composting or www.compostguide.com. Please consider making this simple change on your show and mentioning it to your viewers.

Thanks for your time.

Sincerely,

****** Balogh

#14: Polysilicon Shortage Putting Damper On Solar Boom
2/26/2006 10:10:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

General Solar ImageThe Solar Industry has run into stiff competition for further feedstocks of polysilicon which is used to make PV arrays. The shortage has boosted prices from $30/kg to $70/kg. Polysilicon is used to make computer chips, and historically its use in solar was only a 1/3 of amount used for chip production. With new incentives in place, solar use of the silicon will be greater than chip production for the first time.

I have noticed a trend forming at online solar stores as well. Many choices are "back ordered" until the spring or summer of this year.

Not to fear, polysilicon suppliers are investing in increased production this year. Until then, don't expect any discounts on PV panels, despite it becoming more mainstream.

Link to Article: MSNBC. Notable quote:
But there are signs that the industry is maturing, he said, and the ups and downs aren’t what matters anyway.

“At the end of the day, we’re saving the world one roof at a time,” he said.

#8: A Book Review - Walk For Your Life
2/26/2006 10:09:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

walkforyourlife.jpgMy wife picked up this book for me, since she knew I am interested in walkable communities, and it didn't disappoint.

It is filled with the history of communities, and takes a page from Kunstler's earlier works regarding suburbia and sprawl. I liked the ties that she made between our increasingly sedentary lifestyles and obesity, illness, and childhood disease. Ms. Demers discusses our dependence on cars, the hostile environment design to limit walking to desitinations. She finishes the book with some suggested solutions, for individuals, communities, and the design of future neighborhoods. Some of the information in the book I have gathered from other sources, but it is a good overall reference for walkable communities, and increasing the amount of walking that you do in your daily life. I especially liked some of the "side" stories that she had in there. For example, how advances in packaging and decreased food preparation and clean-up has made our lives easier, but has led to more time on the couch and less time that would have been spent standing to prepare a meal and then clean it up after. (That's why that fat-free cake didn't lead to my weight loss...heh heh)

It comes with a 4/5 star recommendation from me. I would have given the 5th star if there was more information on how to go about affecting change in your community (petitions, attending town meetings, etc.) Pick it up from Amazon, or your local library, for a good quick informative read.

#6: We've Got Nothing on the Japanese
2/26/2006 10:09:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

In an effort to increase public support and participation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in order to meet goals set by the Kyoto Protocol, Japan's Enviromental Ministry turned off its heating this week.



The weeklong shutdown, which began Tuesday, comes as Japan lags far behind its Kyoto Protocol pledge to cut output of gases believed to be warming Earth's atmosphere to 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. In 2004, the last year for which statistics are available, output was up 7.4 percent from 1990.


The ministry's "Warm Biz" campaign urges Japan's bureaucracy and businesses to bundle up with sweaters and scarves to cut down on energy use.


"It's actually not that cold. We're all keeping warm from the heat of our computers," ministry spokesman Masanori Shishido said, but admitted he has taken to wearing thermal underwear. Temperatures in Tokyo on Thursday were 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit).


"We can't make hot tea any more, but I get a coffee at Starbucks during the lunch break," he said. "I think we're setting a good example for the rest of the country."



long johns.JPGI can't imagine the same reaction in this country. Long underwear to work in the office? Now that is hard-core. Japan's investment in renewable sources of energy, and conservation has reduced the resource-poor country's dependence on foreign oil from 75% to 50%. We could stand to take a lesson from the commitment of these Japanese workers to cut emissions, and reduce energy use.


Link: AP via ENN.com


(Image plucked from Duke Athletic)

#4: Time to Walk the Walk Mr. President
2/26/2006 10:07:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

I am simultaneously intrigued and disgusted by the Live Green, Go Yellow advertising campaign by GM, and by the president's recent focus on ethanol. Intrigued, because I have to admit that I am pleased to see any alternative fuel campaign reaching the general public as they slurp down dinner in front of the tube. Disgusted, because I know in my heart that ethanol itself is not the answer to our problems, and with it's 1.3 (at best) EROEI, it still requires quite a bit of oil to grow the corn, harvest and process it. Similarly, this is how I feel about the presidents recent comments. Yes I am pleased that he has begun to confront the decline of cheap oil, but disgusted at the thought of 5 wasted years to date, and meager increase in funding for alt-energy research.

motorcade.jpgSo, time to put your (our) money where your mouth is, Mr. President. Time to upgrade the presidential motorcade. Run all those trailing SUV's with secret service on E85. Upgrade the armored caddy limo to be flex fuel. Make the statement for the whole country that this is in the future that you see.

Time to walk the walk.

#2: "Lunar" Hydropower Coming to NY's East River
2/26/2006 10:04:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

verdant turbine.jpgBusiness Week is reporting that this summer, six underwater turbines will begin to supply 200 kW of clean power to a Roosevelt Island supermarket - Gristedes. It is the first of it's kind project in New York City, and will supply roughly half of the store's peak electricity needs. Not only is the energy produced "green", but it is more consistent than wind energy production. Compared with solar's 6 hours of peak energy production per day, this hydropower is produced day and night unaffected by weather 30 feet underwater. (Verdant Power)

Similar projects are in store for Portugal, supplying 2,500 kW of energy to roughly 1,500 Portugese homes. (OPD)

Article Link: Here Comes Lunar Power

Blogged-out from the Blog-a-thon
2/26/2006 09:58:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
I am still recovering from the hours of blogging Fri night into Sat day, so I will cheat a little and just repost my efforts over at Groovy Green.

Enjoy.
Green Blogathon Underway
2/24/2006 10:16:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Up and running early for the Green Blogathon.

Links:

Groovy Green

Squidoo: Green Blogathon
Green Blog-A-Thon Starts Tomorrow
2/23/2006 11:19:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
I'll be posting at Groovy Green for the Blog-A-Thon, and raising money for The Nature Conservancy’s Adopt an Acre.

List of Blogs/Bloggers involved:

Shea Gunther
Musings of an Eco-Entrepreneur
24 hours (48 posts)- Friday 8pm - Saturday 8pm
Blogging for The Nature Conservancy’s Adopt an Acre • Make a Pledge Here

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg
Sustainablog
12 hours (24 posts)- Friday 12am - Saturday 12pm
Blogging for The Nature Conservancy’s Adopt an Acre • Make a Pledge Here

Kevin Humphrey
Unplugged Living
12 hours (24 posts)- Saturday 8am - Saturday 8pm
Blogging for Light Up The World Foundation • Make a Pledge Here

George Peterson- Tentative depending on if the parents are in town.
Dirty Greek
Blogging for The Nature Conservancy’s Adopt an Acre • Make a Pledge Powering Down
24 hours (48 posts)- Friday 8pm - Saturday 8pm
Blogging for TBA

Jen Kibler-McCabe
Peaceful Waters
24 hours (48 posts)- Friday 8pm - Saturday 8pm
Blogging for National Parks Conservation Association • Make a Pledge Here

Liz Hincks
Great Green Goods
12 hours (24 posts)- TBA
Blogging for TBA

Mike Papageorge
Alternative Source
TBA
Blogging for The Nature Conservancy’s Adopt an Acre • Make a Pledge Here

Michael d’Estries, Chris Welch, baloghblog
Groovy Green
24 hours (48 posts)- Friday 8pm - Saturday 8pm
Blogging for The Nature Conservancy’s Adopt an Acre • Make a Pledge Here

Pull up a chair, grab a brew (coffee or beer, your choice!) and check out some good green blogging.
Time Flies When You're Having Fun - baloghblog 1 Year Later
2/21/2006 09:08:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Hard to believe that it has been 1 year since I started blogging. First post was on Feb 17th 2005, and consisted of:
Welcome to my blog! Hope this will be the first of many posts to come...
Well, this is #327 - just under a post a day for a year... I hit 10,000 visits in September, and just recently realized that I went over 20,000 five months after that.

Since I am celebrating the 1 year anniversary of my blog today, it is fitting that I have received the largest single day number of visits to by blog, thanks wholly to a link from Life After the Oil Crash by Matt Savinar. As of now the daily count is 443 456 and counting. Big numbers for a "little ol' blog" like mine.

Like I have said before, it is rewarding to me just to have people stop by and read what I have to say. My wife still can't really believe that people actually keep coming back for more, and thought that I would grow out of this months ago (heh heh)...

Well I'll stop rambling on this meta post. If you are looking for some good reads, try the permanent posts box on the right. More recent posts over at Groovy Green as well.

Comments are still open, and as always I accept anonymous readers' thoughts too.

If you're new, stop back again soon. If you're not, thanks again for stopping by!

UPDATE: As of now, Wednesday afternoon, 2,000 people have come over from LATIC to read my essays that he linked too. Damn, I am appreciative, and amazed. First of all, at the exposure that peak oil is getting, and secondly at the number of people reading my essays. I normally see 300-400 people per week. The past 24 hours has seen four times that total. Come back and see this blog again some time.
Coach Boeheim: Gerry's Heart Bigger Than the Carrier Dome
2/20/2006 10:24:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
I know this isn't a sports blog, but this game was amazing!


(final score)


(fans rush the court!)

Great job by the whole team. Terrence Roberts and Darryl Watkins played great down low and made some key shots. Eric Devendorf was on fire and kept the crowd in it. Gerry McNamara hustled for 40 mins. The defense was tight and made WV work for every shot.

I am putting my hoarse throat to bed!

Game summary here.
NREL Update: 32 Jobs Restored Prior to Bush Arrival
2/20/2006 08:03:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
From the Rocky Mountain News:
Thirty-two high-paying jobs that were terminated earlier this month at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are being restored two days before President Bush arrives to tout alternative energy.

U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard's office said late Sunday that the 32 jobs that had been cut are being restored, effective immediately.

He said Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman told him Sunday that those laid off were being called back to work. Allard, R-Colo., said the rehires were made possible by shifting unused funding from other Department of Energy accounts.

[snip]

Renee Azerbegi, past president and a board member of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society, said the timing of Sunday's announcement about restoring the 32 positions "all sounds very political."

"I think it has a lot to do with Bush's image," she said. "I don't think they want Bush to visit NREL knowing a lot of people there are unhappy with him."

I originally posted on this HERE, and the post must have been picked up by a chain email or something, because it gathered many hits.

This is obviously a political decision, and you can see how "easy" it was for them to juggle the books a little bit, and give these employees their jobs back. Now, lets hope that a few of these scientists and bureaucrats have a spine when Bush is around, and ask a few tough questions of him.

Oh, and do you really heat the NREL building with natural gas, and not renewable sources?
Posted at the Sean Kirst Forum Today
2/16/2006 08:33:00 AM | Author: baloghblog

Back to neighborhoods topic... by backtocuse, 2/16/06

Brookings Institute report released today confirms challenges for inner ring subburbs, and lack of funding compared to cities themselves.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060215/ap_on_re_us/struggling_suburbs

Syracuse is no exception. A la NYCO, we should be addressing "first subburbs" and helping residents with low income housing and first home ownership in the inner ring suburbs. We should also be increasing police patrols to improve public safety. All of this requires attention from the local and state governments, and funding. Some "first suburbs" are making a go at it themselves, like Eastwood for example. Others are struggling like Tipp Hill with the closure of St. Pat's, and decreasing home ownership and increasing crime. Still others are very neglected, like the south side.

We need to realize that there is great potential in the inner suburbs, as long as we don't neglect them. Imagine a street car down James St. for Eastwood to downtown. Or a massive revitalization program by Habitat for Humanity in the south side, with entrepeneurial grants for a business district revitalization. How about tougher policing of the near north side, still filled with residents who care deeply about the neighborhood they raised their family in.

The first suburbs are the "middle child" in the proverbial city family. Much attention is paid to downtown like the "first born" that it is, and again to the outer burbs development as the "baby" of the family. If the city's "family" works anything like my own growing up, the only way the inner ring middle child is going to get any attention is to start MAKING SOME NOISE.

We need natural born leaders to start coming out of the woodwork and leading this huge block of voters (there are very few people who actually live in downtown, remember) to get their fair share - and help guide these communities forward in a positive direction.

Just my $.02.

baloghblog http://baloghblog.blogspot.com


Groovy Green: Center of Excellence Construction Begins in Syracuse
2/15/2006 10:44:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

drilling for coe.jpgGroovy Green:

News 10 Now is reporting that 400 foot test holes have started to be drilled this week in preparation for an ambitious geo-thermal heating/cooling system.

...the center started test drills for a new geothermal energy system.

"We'll be drilling these holes 400 ft. deep and circulating water up and down holes. When the water goes down, it'll come back up at about 50 degrees. We could use that water for heating in the winter time or cooling in the summertime," said Dr. Ed Bogucz, Center of Excellence Executive Director.
The building will be located on East Washington and Almond St. in Syracuse a prominent downtown location, visible from Rtes. 690 and 81. More information on the Center of Excellence

From the Post-Standard via SU (syr.edu):

Officials hope to open the Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems by fall 2006. A firm is expected to be selected by mid-April, and firms within New York state will be given preference, Edward Bogucz, the executive director, told about 70 people at the Thursday Morning Roundtable at Drumlins.
"We're looking at the project as an opportunity to benefit companies in New York state that design and construct high-performance buildings," he said.

Bogucz spoke about the potential for the Syracuse center to become a world leader in environmental technology. The roundtable is a weekly event sponsored by SU's continuing education program.

The Center of Excellence connects university faculty with local companies that could manufacture products coming out of academic laboratories. Pataki has designated five regions as centers of excellence: Albany, Buffalo, Long Island, Rochester and Syracuse. Each focuses on a different technology.

Syracuse's center focuses on how people's health and productivity are affected indoors by factors such as temperature, sound and lighting. It also focuses on renewable energy sources, such as solar power.
Beyond Panic, Peak Oil Revisited
2/13/2006 10:05:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Many blog posts and much time has been spent discussing post peak oil scenarios, and what you should do to prepare yourself (and your family) for peak oil. A majority, in my experience, deal with mostly "doomer" scenarios, and caution you to learn basic survival skills, food storage techniques, how to get along with little fuel to heat your home, and even less to travel by. Some threads on bulletin boards even discuss "packing heat" to ward off hungry neighbors from your homestead's garden.



I completely understand the abundance of these posts and the urgency that many feel after learning about peak oil, and its ramifications.

It first hits you like a cheap shot in a bar brawl. "Damn, I missed that one coming?" I was stunned. I searched everywhere for info. I was an original lurker at The Oil Drum. I got on the doomer websites, and still keep many in my blog roll to this day. There are many great blogs out there with a wealth of information on peak oil, and people's perception of where it will lead this nation and the world in the coming years. I read James Kunstler, I became more engrossed. Now I am in the fight. I figure the best offense is a good defense. I decide to learn as much as I can so I can prepare my family... I start fighting back, I start a food pantry, I am learning about insulating my home, and looking at my car with disgust every time I have to get in it for work. I research Eco-villages. I am mentally preparing for the end of civilization. Hey, can you blame me? This is seriously scary shit here. Flash forward to several months later, and many blows to the preverbial body (more bad news - Katrina, the Iraq mess, etc.) I am starting to become numb. Why prepare at all? If the world is coming to an end, what the hell am I going to do about it? Gas is over $3.00 per gallon, and $100/barrel oil is 'right around the corner'. Predictions for the winter heating season are dire. Shortages are pending late in the heating season for natural gas. Financial impediments curtail my preparation, which slows to a halt. A depressive haze sets in. Blogs have lost their luster. The Oil Drum, once my addiction, now becomes a passing reminder that I have little control over the destiny of the country. "Conserve," I thought initially - now I hear that conservation only prolongs the enevitable, and provides cheaper oil to our competitors (Jevon's Paradox). So I spent the next lull between rounds contemplating "what next?" What is important to me, in life, in work, in spirit? I take a break from it all. It did me a world of good.

I left the "bar brawl" and headed for the local coffee shop (fair trade of course...)

I focused on local issues and attempted to become more involved in the community. I started a local blog, then joined a regional one at Groovy Green. I immersed myself in work and have attempted to supplement my normal income. My wife and I have decided to make our home more energy efficient, and to eventually qualify for the Energy Star rating. We are looking into solar as a real option for the house. All of this for our good? Yes, in the short run, but also to help market our home if we sell it. (Anyone in the market for a nice rancher in upstate NY on a 1/3 acre with all the energy efficient ammenities in about 2-5 years?) I started to eat organic and locally grown foods as a majority of my diet. Positive changes happened at work, and I will be working locally in about a week. Instead of putting on the 120 miles a day on the road, I hope to put on 30-40.

Like I said, the past few months have helped me refocus my energy.

Now, I feel peak oil creeping back into my thoughts and into my life. I get nervous when Bush mentions our dependence on foreign oil as an addiction in the State of the Union. Yes, I totally agree with him, but on the other hand, he's supposed to be the "big oil" linked president. If he is starting to believe that America is on the wrong path, or at least willing to put it in the SOTU speech, I think that maybe I really wasn't going crazy and peak oil could be coming sooner rather than later. I get nervous when I hear the war drums start beating over Iran. They have a real army, with real missles, and real WMD's. They hold a swing portion of the oil supply and the loss of their production through sanctions or worse, war, would be devestating to the world economy. Again more punches from multiple sources.

This time, I am ready to fight. I did my upside down sit-ups ala Rocky IV, and have done my homework. How am I prepared to tackle peak oil again as a topic?

I know what I want from life. I know what to worry about, and what my limitations are. I can't solve it all, I can't prepare the problem away.

I fear the big oil shock, but prepare for the slow decline.

My prediction is that the decline in cheap energy will hit in waves. Waves of unemployment, reduced travel and recession. Government will not be able to spend itself out of the situation. Attempts to improve fuel economy, conservation and increased energy efficiency will be relatively fruitful in the short run. This will only prolong the inevitable, and make the next wave only more painful for many. Housing values will be inconsequential, as there will be very little buying and selling of property. The false sense of wealth created by inflated "equity" will decline, as will spending. The fact that we fail to physically make anything anymore in this country and depend on doing services for each other in exchange for a paycheck will become apparent as spending declines and sets off a new wave of layoffs. The baby boomer's retirement savings and wealth will keep providing a crutch for the economy, as money is spent to take care of the aging population's health. Healthcare will increase in the percentage of GDP. As social programs become increasingly burdensome, the government will be forced to cut services and raise taxes. Socialized medicine will come about after the first bankruptcies of the large insurers who will take in less money from young workers, and will be burdened with older and sicker individuals and a increasing outflow of money. Gasoline and home heating will become very expensive and subsidies will increase as an initial response. The price of oil and natural gas will wax and wane with the convulsions of the economy. Global insecurity will keep the price elevated overall, and despite the cooling economy will only pause before rising again. I believe that this will happen over the next 35-40 years.

Fairly grim, I suppose. Painful for many. Nothing that I wish to happen certainly.

What suggestions do I have? What path to follow? Only these:

- Imagine that you have 5 years of time where you can continue to live the life you lead now. What would you do with it? Balance preparation with enjoyment, that's what I say. Sure, you could save every dime you earn for the future, put it into gold and guarantee your self money in the dark times ahead. Or you could blow all your money, travel the world, see all the sights, and do all the things that make your life exciting. I imagine the best course of action is somewhere in between the two.

- Imagine your livelihood 10 years from now. What will you be doing? What will provide you with job security and income in a time of increasingly expensive energy? Will your profession be in demand? What would you do with your life if you could start all over, or to pick the job that appeals to you most? Are the two compatible? Do you really enjoy what you do now? Do you have a choice? All questions that you will have to answer, I suggest sooner rather than later. Like I said above, I believe that healthcare will continue to thrive for a time, even in the face of recession. Care within the community will be important as people are less able to travel throughout the area. Not scientifically inclined? There will be a spike in demand for home health aides and companions, and, I believe, for medical advocates, that help facilitate a patient recieveing the care and medicines that they need. Healthcare not for you? What are some other areas that you believe will be in demand in a post-peak future?

- Imagine your optimal living situation in a post-peak world. I imagine a modest home, superinsulated (I am in the Northeast), with alternative sources of energy production - solar panels for electricity, a materials burning stove compatible with wood, wood pellets, bio materials, etc. Hot water provided through solar heating in the summer and woodstove pre-warming in the winter. Landscaping taking advantage of passive heating and cooling strategies, and 50-75% of the lot dedicated to food production, including fruit trees, and vine fruit trellises. My optimal location is in a community with walking distance to town hall, food stores, and a strong sense of community. All located within 5 miles or so of CSA farms.

- Imagine your optimal community. Involved and participating in local government, a variety of professions, networks of friends and family in the area. My philosophy is this: Burdens are less heavy when shared with others. Dedicate some of your time to getting involved in your community, attend town meetings, and community events. Donate time or money to local charities, especially those involved with feeding the hungry. Can you imagine consistently missing a meal a day? Or surviving on junk food that is less expensive than healthy wholesome vegetables and fruit? Work to make this a memory in your neighborhood, and to help put in place a system that could be expanded in the future if peak oil interrupts food shipping networks. Just think, your local food pantry would have the experience of dividing and distributing food, if a larger food shortage ensued. Or consider volunteering for Meals on Wheels - a program that helps to feed elderly shut-ins that can't make meals for themselves. Work for a little "karma" ala My Name Is Earl and hope that the effort that you put in today will be mirrored in someone if you get older, shut-in, and need help.

Maybe these solutions are not for you. Perhaps purchasing a 3 acre homestead and learning to become completely independent in food production and living off of the grid makes you feel like you can handle what ever comes your way. Perhaps it's living in a planned community or eco-village. Maybe you are still in the bar-fight stage of peak oil and think that the end is nigh.

Who knows, maybe the end is nigh. I could be completely off base. I just know that I am more comfortable with my plans and dreams going forward than I was 6 months ago, and it was time to revisit the topic of peak oil.
Carnival of the Green now at Groovy Green
2/12/2006 10:14:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

Come on over to Groovy Green for some great links from the green blogosphere.

FYI - I'll be hosting the Carnival on March 20th! Click HERE for more info on the Carnival of the Green. Started by City Hippy and Triple Pundit in November 2005.
Question for the Walsh Watch blogger
2/08/2006 07:27:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Walshwatch:

When is the last time that James Walsh held a "town-hall" type meeting that his constituents could attend?

Has he ever?
city hall.jpgCross-posted from GROOVY GREEN:

The Post-Standard in Syracuse ran a front-page article today reporting that investment in energy efficient measures throughout the city and in city hall will reduce energy costs over $1 million per year. The article reports that there was a $2 million initial commitment by the city in upgrades, but that over $537,000 was refunded by a NYSDERA program for changing traffic lights to LED from incandescent. Another large portion of the investment was in replacing city hall's windows with high energy efficient double paned windows, which combined with other improvements to the heating and cooling is projected to save the city $300,000 to $350,000 per year.

This program shows that municipalities can obtain significant savings in energy bills through initial investments in environmentally friendly practices and materials. If the math on this program is correct, a $1.5 million dollar investment (after rebates) will save the city $1 million dollars per year as a conservative estimate. A one and a half year ROI? It's a no-brainer.

More specifics on the programs below the fold and link to article HERE.

Syracuse is among 84 cities worldwide to sign the Urban Environmental Accords, a set of environmental guidelines for the world's cities endorsed by the United Nations.

By signing, Driscoll committed the city to completing 21 specific actions in seven areas by 2012.

So far, the city has started or completed 12 of the 21 actions to become greener, said Paul Thompson, Syracuse's energy coordinator.

(snip)

A $543,000 project to install a new computer-controlled energy management system and water-cooled chiller in City Hall. The Carrier Corp. chiller replaced two cooling units from 1978.

When complete this spring, the move is expected to save the city 15 to 20 percent on its cooling bill in the warm-weather months, Thompson said.

A new energy management system installed at City Hall will eventually reduce energy costs by up to 15 percent at about a half-dozen city properties.

(snip)

A $155,000 project to replace all of the windows in City Hall. The new double-paned, insulated windows contain argon, a colorless, odorless gas that reduces heat loss.

A $1.2 million project to make traffic lights more energy-efficient. The city replaced traditional bulbs with 10,057 light-emitting-diode, or LED lights at 354 intersections.

The new, brighter lights are safer for motorists and pedestrians, and reduced energy costs by about 90 percent. The project, which started in 2003, saves the city about $223,762 a year in energy and labor costs, Thompson said.
These investments will boost Syracuse's standing as a progressive community:
As an added benefit, the effort may raise Syracuse's profile nationally as a progressive community.

Parin Shah, director of Generation Earth, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that partnered with the U.N. to help implement the accords, said word quickly spreads globally of cities and their innovative environmental practices.

"It is perceived that Syracuse is a better place to live and is sort of at the cutting edge," Shah said.
I think that it is a great example for other small cities across the nation, as not only a way to look towards the future, but as a way to be fiscally responsible, which should be appealing to members of all political parties.
Groovy Green: Natural Gas Running Low? Try to Score Some Grass...
2/06/2006 08:46:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

switch.jpgCross-posted from GROOVY GREEN:

Researchers at the Grass Energy Collaborative have completed a day long burn of grass pellets at Shelburne Farms, as they study the development of grass as a source of alternative energy. While recent attention has been paid to growing grass to create ethanol as a fuel for our vehicles, this test proves more promising as a method of heating our businesses and homes in the near future. Increased national demand and reduced natural gas production in the United States due to Gulf Coast hurricanes boosted natural gas prices to historical highs in late 2005. Warm weather in the month of January has reduced demand in the US, and prices retreated. However, providing affordable methods of heating northern homes and businesses in the future will be of growing concern. Renewable sources of energy such as switch- and other grasses could be grown in fallow fields, harvested, and turned into grass pellets for gassification and combustion in specially designed or retrofitted furnaces and boilers. This technology sounds more immediately beneficial to our nation, and I hope that government and business leaders will consider further funding of this research. More information below the fold and complete article link HERE.

Marshall Webb of Shelburne Farms and Treasurer of the GEC believes that the entire farm could be heated by grass pellets next year, replacing thousands of gallons of propane and fuel oil:

Webb said that Shelburne Farms is committed to switching to renewable sources of energy, and producing as much of that energy as possible on the farm. Grass energy, he said, could conceivably replace the 20,000 gallons of propane and 24,000 gallons of fuel oil currently used annually for heating, as well as a significant portion of approximately 675,000 kilowatt hours of electricity.

(snip)

Next heating season, Shelburne Farms hopes to heat the Farm Barn entirely on pellets made from grass harvested on the farm. All the participants stressed that the technology is in its development stage and that Friday's burn was designed to show whether any modifications need to be made to the Farm Barn furnace to efficiently burn this fuel. A more extensive two day test will occur in about three weeks time. Members of the collaborative are also hoping to raise funds to develop a portable pelletizer that could be moved from farm to farm.

We will certainly be keeping our eye on this promising technology at Groovy Green and will bring you more information on it as it becomes available.

Amen.
2/02/2006 11:38:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
From Ryan at the Higher Pie:
My Mom recommended that I find the video of Bono speaking about AIDS at the National Prayer Breakfast this morning. Here it is (about 22 minutes). ABC has excerpts (about 4 minutes). It's incredibly moving stuff.

Also, the full transcript of his remarks (scroll down a bit):
Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives.

Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone.

I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill... I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff... maybe, maybe not... But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house... God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives... God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war... God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.
I caught a few sound bites on Sirius today. Amazing stuff. I have been known to read the bible, and I have found that there is more writing in there (especially in the "Christian" section of it) about feeding and clothing the poor, giving to those less fortunate than you as if you were giving to G-d himself. Whether you believe or not, or whether I believe or not is not what is important - there are people dying and starving out there. Do well by others. Give to charity.

Amen.