Aug 18 2008

The Bumps in The Road

Published by under Thoughts

So I’m in Los Angeles today getting ready for a customer meeting and then flying back tonight on the redeye flight to Dulles (oh joy!). I figure I’ve got a little time so I stop off at the Starbucks Coffee on La Cienega right across from the Beverly Center in order to get some coffee and to sit down and get online with the T-Mobile HotSpot they have. I was scanning a story in the New York Times today about the problems some people in New York are having going green. The story mentions a woman and her fiance in Brooklyn who have started a garden and composting and discovered that if you leave lettuce in the ground too long and it went bad when they finally decided to pick it. On top of that they found maggots in their compost pile.

The story continues by recounting the problems a restaraunt on the upper east side had as well as a couple trying to renovate their brownstone and a woman who has decided to become a locavore. However, and this is what I liked, even though these people are facing these problems and complications they are persevering and feel that it is important to keep moving forward. Like them I’ve had my fair share of problems in the garden — right now it’s a combination of too many tomatoes (we should all have that problem) and, unfortunately, an infestation of spotted cucumber beetles. However, I will figure out the solution to these problems. I’m planning on getting a dehydrator to freeze dry the tomatoes and have them as a snack food for the kids (I’m also looking at building my own solar dehydrator as well). I’m looking at starting to can and preserve the excess vegetables (as well as give some of them away to friends in the neighborhood).

On the compost side of the world, animals (most likely raccoons) have been breaking into my compost piles in the back yard. The solution — build a new compost system that’s sturdier (I’ve learned my lesson — don’t go for the plastic composters at Costco — they just don’t hold up). On top of that I’m going to resolve the problem with the fence around the house so I can let the dog out into the back yard without worrying about him escaping and running around the neighborhood. He’ll hopefully mark the backyard with his scent and that might help dissaude the wild animals from coming around.

The fact is this is not a smooth road. But we must make this journey. The world needs every bit of help it can get and we need to stop priming the global warming pump. America can make an enormous difference in this area and we can definitely lead the way…even if our leaders are unwilling to lead us. I’m not suggesting that Congress or, heaven forbid, this administration draft a resolution or legislation to encourage people to grow their own victory gardens or to compost more. Hell they can’t even get tax incentives renewed for solar and wind energy projects. But it would be nice to see this government lead by example and to adopt gardens and compost piles wherever they can. It would be nice to see a vegetable garden growing on the U.S. Capital’s front lawn (or even in the Washington Mall). But alas, that’s wishful thinking.

To those who are making the effort — keep at it. The world will thank you for it in the long run…and I say “thank you” now.

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Aug 05 2008

More Wind Energy – A Beautiful Sight

Published by under Energy Policy,Thoughts

Yesterday I went with my family up to Honesdale, PA to visit my son at camp. He left in late July to go to camp and visiting day was yesterday. On the way up to Honesdale I was driving on Route 6 East when I caught sight of about 2 dozen large windmills on the ridgeline turning — creating electricity. The last time I had seen something similar was when I was flying to San Jose, CA. from Austin in May 2007 for a business meeting and I looked down while we were over West Texas to see a long line of wind turbines also generating electricity. It’s such a remarkable sight to see that we are making progress in developing renewable energy generation, albeit slowly.

Windmill in Nebrasks

(Franco, Angel, picture from “In the Hills of Nebraska, Change Is on the Horizon“, The New York Times, August 4th 2008 )

This morning, while perusing the NY Times the lead article on their website was about a change of scenery in the plains of Nebraska. It turns out that the Nebraska plains around Ainsworth, Nebraska, has wonderful, constant, prevailing winds. These winds now power 36 wind turbines that send enough electricity to a national grid to power 19,000 homes (Barry, Dan, “In the Hills of Nebraska, Change Is on the Horizon“, The New York Times, August 4th 2008 ) These 36 are the beginning of a larger wind farm that will provide more power to the state of Nebraska than the 1% it currently does. Hopefully many more of these turbines and other renewable energy plants will generate more and more of our power soon. We need to promote and encourage more renewable energy generation both an industrial scale and local, residential scale if we are ever to break our reliance on fossil fuels and to impact our greenhouse gas generation and reverse global warming.

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Jul 28 2008

From Texas to Tel-Aviv

Published by under Energy Policy

Tom Friedman’s most recent op-ed brought to mind the efforts of T. Boone Pickens in Texas and Shai Agassi in Tel-Aviv to break America’s and Israel’s dependence on oil. And their both doing it through renewable energy. I’ve already written about T. Boone Pickens efforts with wind energy in West Texas. Shai Agassi, however, is taking a different tack. He’s doing it by building a fleet of electric vehicles – in cooperation with the French firm Renault. In addition to the vehicles, he’s looking to build a network of recharging stations all around Israel so that you just subscribe to his service — kind of like how you do with your cell phone now — and you have unlimited charges. To power this system Agassi is contracting for 2 gigawatts of solar energy from Israeli power companies! There’s an old joke about how God gave the Jews the only piece of land in the Middle East without oil underneath it. But in fact the “oil” of Israel is its brain trust, talent, and vast supply of sunshine in the desert!

I applaud the efforts of men and women like T. Boone Pickens and Shai Agassi who are helping to lead the Green Revolution — even if Mr. Pickens has some not so nice aspects to him he’s doing the right thing here. As he told Tom Friedman, he was “tired of waiting for Washington to produce a serious energy plan.” (Texas to Tel-Aviv, Tom Friedman, New York Times, July 27, 2008 ) Friedman continues by noting Pickens belives that unless ‘“Congress adopts clear, predictable policies” — with long-term tax incentives and infrastructure — so thousands of investors can jump into clean power, we’ll never get the scale we need to break our addiction.’ (Texas to Tel-Aviv, Tom Friedman, New York Times, July 27, 2008 )

Like Tom Friedman, I wonder to myself what a shame we don’t have a Congress and a President who are able to mobilize more people like T. Boone Pickens and Shai Agassi to lead us off the OPEC needle and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions instead of wasting their time with cockamamie schemes like gas tax reduction, or releasing the oil in the strategic petroleum reserve or promoting more off-shore oil drilling.

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Jul 24 2008

Oil Man Sees Wind as the Future

Published by under Energy Policy

At least one oil man sees renewable energy, in this case wind energy, as the future for America’s energy needs…and it’s not the purported “oil man” in the White House. T. Boone Pickens, who made his wealth in the oil industry has come out in favor of wind energy as a way for the U.S. to stop spending $700 billion dollars each year on foreign oil. As he notes “We have to take control of our own destiny as far as foreign oil is concerned.” (“T. Boone Pickens Plans Wind-Energy Initiative”, Newsweek, July 12, 2008, http://www.newsweek.com/id/145851?from=rss). Pickens rightly feels that the importation of 70% of our oil needs (and climbing) has been nothing short of a national disaster. His solution is to harness the wind that sweeps through the plains of West Texas and Oklahoma through a series of wind farms.

He’s even going farther than that — Mr. Pickens is spending $58 million dollars on an advertising campaign whose bottom line message is that we can’t drill our way to lower gas prices. The implication of that message is that anyone else who says otherwise is a fraud — including the Texan in the White House. He even goes so far as to describe the Republican’s energy plan to open up offshore continental shelf for more oil exploration as a solution to the high gas prices as “totally misleading.” Of course, he’s not necessarily opposed to more drilling but at least he’s got the honesty to admit that it won’t do anything to alleviate the pain at the pump Americans are feeling.

Mr. Pickens is looking forward to the future…unlike Senator McCain and President Bush who appear to be mired in the past. McCain feels that Senator Barack Obama is directly to blame for the fact that gas stands at $4 a gallon today…so much so that he’s using that message as part of his presidential advertising campaign. And all this time I thought it had to do with supply and demand! Both the good Senator and President Bush wholeheartedly believe that if we just drill for more oil here then we’ll save ourselves from the prospect of $5 a gallon for gas (The Oil Man Cometh”, Timothy Egan, New York Times, July 24, 2008). The fact is history is against these two. The number of oil and gas permits on federal land has doubled in the last five years with no impact on price or supply and the President’s own Energy Information Administration says that increased drilling would not impact the market in the short term (The Oil Man Cometh”, Timothy Egan, New York Times, July 24, 2008). Senator McCain thinks that opening up for offshore drilling would have a “psychological impact” and drive prices down. Right…and if you believe that then I’ve got some prime land on the moon that you may be interested in.

The Republicans have no vision of an oil or fossil-fuel free future (try saying that three times fast) and try to blame the current situation on the Democrats. Why not be honest like Mr. Pickens and come up with a real plan to get the U.S. off the oil needle?

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