Crude Oil Drops Below $50. Will that savings stop us from going Green?

November 20, 2008

Oil prices plummeted again today, futures settling at $49.62 a barrel on the NY Mercantile Exchange. It hasn’t been that low since May of 2005. Considering that oil reached a peak of $145 a barrel in July of 2008, the loss of nearly $100 a barrel in just four months is a sudden shock that is pleasinng many people. With the economy doing so badly, lower prices at the pump are a very welcome relief.

Experts have predicted that the price could drop as low as $30 a barrel, if the world economy doesn’t improve. One thing is certain: The consumer will not complain. With Exxon showing record net profits of billions of dollars each quarter this year, the public has little sympathy for petroleum providers.

Another side effect of the dropping oil is that the dollar is up — WAY up. The US dollar is the coin of the oil realm. Everyone must get dollars to buy oil. Rupees aren’t accepted. Neither are Yen or Euros. So as the price of oil rose, the value of the dollar — as told by how much oil a dollar would buy — dropped. Now that oil is back down, the dollar buys a lot more oil, and the U.S. dollar is strengthened. With global oil demands down for the first time in 25 years, it looks like American dollars are going to be even stronger as the plunge continues.

But what are we doing with this newfound financial strength? Sure, it’s reasonable that we’ll take a deep breath and maybe go for a little drive just because we can finally afford to do so again, but then what? As the global economy recovers, demand will be up, crude prices will be up, and we’ll all be struggling and taking out loans to fill up again. Let us not forget or go soft on the subject, now that there’s a little relief.

Now is a perfect time for us to invest in our freedom, in independence from oil, foreign AND domestic. Let’s take some of that money and build wind turbines. Let’s spend a bit on solar panels. Let’s go ahead and develop electric cars and tide generators. Let’s let our creative genius out to play. Let’s see to it that by the time the economy is back on its feet again, we won’t need or want fossil fuels anymore.

What about the oil producing nations? No, they’re not all rolling in black gold, but most of them have made so much that their great grandchildren will never see a financial crunch. The poorer nations’ internal supply problems won’t be solved by us buying up more oil that they don’t have, but we may be able to help them by bringing oil-free technologies to their door, if we don’t let this opportunity pass.

Enjoy the relief for a very brief while… but then let’s roll up our sleeves and continue to develop alternative energy technologies. Let’s invest in a fossil free future now!
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Iraq “Loses” 18 BILLION Dollars in U.S. Donations to corruption, theft, etc.

November 19, 2008

No mistake.  Not thousands, or millions, not misplaced.  Thirteen billion dollars is gone, and now they’re “quietly” firing the oversight committee, trying to cover up the huge “oops.”

I’m getting more than a little bit tired of Iraq. I’m tired of us occupying them, and I’m tired of hearing how they can’t pull their heads out from between their cheeks and act like adults.

US military Specialist Colby Buzzell was blogging from Iraq years ago, telling us of how they’d run for the high country when a firefight broke out, leaving our GIs to take on the Insurgents lobbing bombs on US and Iraqi targets…. and of how our own government was telling the press other versions to keep from embarrassing them. Talk about coddling!

It has been years, and trillions of dollars have been poured into Iraq, and the gush — not leak — of money continues to pour into that country. If we kept our money at home, how many millions of millionaires would have been made? How many families would never have to work again, if that money stayed at home? How many wind turbines would that buy us, taking us that closer to energy independence? And that’s just the thirteen billion that they “lost”!

After we dump all of this money into their country (when our own economy is falling like a rock from the sky,) they still don’t have infrastructure. They still don’t feel safe sending their kids to school. They still don’t have clean water. They still aren’t safe or ready to take over their own nation… and they have gotten a lot more from us than many African and other remote nations.

A part of me has been blaming us. After all, we invaded them, and had no legit basis to do so. We’ve also made reparations. LOTS of money. Enough to rebuild their capital many times over, at THEIR labor and material rates. Haliburton has scarfed up a good share of that money and failed to deliver what they were paid for. (Thanks again, Mr. Chaney. I hope your great-grandchildren appreciate the obscene wealth we’ve given them.)

Now I’m hearing that they’ve “lost” 13 BILLION dollars of our money, money given to them to repair their country. Apparently some of it was Lost to theft, corruption, embezzzlement, etc., but it’s unaccounted for now. Not 18 million, but 18 BILLION dollars, just Gone.

Iraq is an oil producing nation. Until just weeks ago, we were being choked by the neck on oil prices, and this oil producing nation hardly needs our money. They can produce millions of dollars of oil per day. They can afford to rebuild their own country, and to do so far better than we can, at this point.

I have compassion for the people who have had their homes and nation turned into a war zone. I do. And I want the best for them. But before that can happen, they have to want it for themselves.

They LOST thirteen billion dollars? Thirteen BILLION dollars? I keep on repeating that over and over again in my head, but repeating that incredible figure doesn’t make me any less shocked by the notion. How do you “LOSE” that much money? Where did it go? What did it buy? Who got it all?

I’ve had it. I want us out of there, and let them sleep in whatever bed they make. I no longer care, not even a little bit, if they get taken over by warlords. They’ve had every opportunity to give themselves Freedom and Democracy. Their actions show that they’ve rejected those opportunities. Sure, they want us to keep giving them money. Hell, *I* want my government to hand me just one percent of the money given to Iraq. I’d be laughing out loud uncontrollably for weeks, then giggling for decades after that.

If a government can manage to lose thirteen BILLION of our dollars, they don’t need our money anymore. I can already hear the objections, that the thefts were performed by a few, and the common people shouldn’t be made to suffer. They don’t have to suffer. All they’ve got to to do is rise up and take their country back again. We’ve rid them of the Evil Dictator. We’ve rid them of the largest part of the insurgents. Now it is up to them to flail their arms til they learn to swim.

What do you think? Tell me here. Then tell your Senators and other representatives. I can understand misplacing 13 thousand, maybe, but thirteen BILLION dollars? That was the last straw. Read more

Electric Utility Companies Offer to Jump-Start Electric Car Sales

November 18, 2008

The big boys at a number of utility companies are considering ordering thousands of electric cars — the plug-in kind — to jump-start the auto industry into making them. The vehicles they’re interested in would run on batteries recharged from a common household outlet, with a gas alternative to extend the distance they can travel.

Power companies are in a unique position to make this happen. They own tens of thousands of company vehicles, so they can make a significant order — significant enough to gain the U.S. auto manufacturers’ attentions, and give them a possible out of their financial woes in the bargain.

It IS a noble pursuit, and one we would all benefit from. By recharging the cars during off-peak times (at night), the electric company gains, and we pay less than prime rates for the electricity. The electric company stands to gain, we stand to save, and the carbon footprint gets a lot smaller very quickly. No facts or figures to back this part up, but it stands to reason that the Grid is going to be a more efficient generator than everyone driving around with his or her own power plant. Electric vehicles also save by not having an engine running at idle.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory determined that 73% of the nation’s passenger and light-weight trucks could be recharged with the existing electrical infrastructure, providing that the vehicles were plugged in overnight to take advantage of off-peak hours. This could offset some 6,200,000 barrels of oil a day on average, which is approximately 52% of our current oil imports.

Another study, this one from the Electric Power Research Institute in conjunction with the Natural Resources Defense Council, determined that 60% of U.S. cars and light trucksgoing electric by 2050 would increase electricity consumption by under 8%, a pittance, really. Meanwhile, total U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions would be cut by at least 450 million metric tons per year, the equivalent of removing 82,000,000 cars from the streets. This is conservative, as non-fossil-fuel energy sources are bound to increase as well, cutting the carbon footprint even more dramatically.

Clearly, this is a feasible solution, something we can do sooner, rather than later. With the cooperative order of the electric companies, a $15,000 new electric car could be in our futures before the beginning of the coming decade.

Companies involved in these talks include Xcel Energy Inc., Progress Energy, PG&E Corp., Edison International, Wisconsin Energy Corp. and others. Please contact them and let them know that you appreciate and support their taking such a responsible position in leading the way towards energy solutions. Read more

Pickens Plan Leads in A Direction

November 15, 2008

For the past year or so, the site has been gathering alternate energy enthusiasts into the fold.  The brainchild of a former oil baron who has since turned to natural gas and wind turbines, the first order of business with Pickens is to get the U.S. free of dependence on foreign oil, and to stop sending hundreds of billions of dollars out of the country when we could be keeping that money here in the States simply by switching to a much cleaner domestic fuel.

What has happened since is something nigh unto amazing.  The sheer volume of interest and support, the levels and degrees to which people have become involved, would be extraordinary in any other time.  It’s still leadership, even in this unusual and historic election year.  But in what direction?

Boone Pickens would have us all switch over to natural gas for the interum, while we devise other functional alternatives.  But that would require massive infrastructure changes, and at least some of the economic advantage would be lost as demand on natural gas increased.  To be sure, it’s better than the status quo, but is it a broad enough vision?  Some within the Pickens Plan fold are clear in their vision of a world which no longer uses the combustion engine at all.  Their wisdom is that we must disallow any fossil fuel, and focus all of our considerable intellect on optimizing passive energy sources such as tide, wind, and sun’s energies.  In focusing upon these totally clean technologies, they insist, we will be doing more than putting a band-aid on oil by merely switching to natural gas.  This is still within the Pickens Plan fold, but goes at a different angle than Boone suggested.

What direction do you suggest we take with our alternatives to foreign oil?
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Electric Bicycles: Green Cure to Urban Blues

November 14, 2008

Gas prices may have eased up quite a bit lately, but that’s still nearly twice the price of just 3 years ago.  As one might expect, people are still looking for ways to save money and reduce fuel costs.  One company has seen the future, and brings electric 2-wheeled transportation — lots of different kinds of it — to fill that need. Eco-Wheelz, in Plymouth, a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, is the culprit behind it all. They’re bringing electric bikes, electric scooters and electric mopeds all to the market.

What’s the difference between the three groups. Electric bicycles largely resemble regular bicycles. They have pedals, an open frame, and sometimes a narrow basket (to hold the battery). Electric scooters are about the smallest, most energy efficient hybrid concept around. Each resembles a skateboard with handlebars. Some models have seats, while others ask the rider to stand, and propel the machine by pushing off with one’s foot, much as one would do with a skateboard. Small and very light, these could be idea for getting around in tight spaces and bringing up into the office with you. Electric Mopeds most closely resemble modern-day Vespa scooters or motorcycles. Each has a seat and handlebars, some sort of wind fairing, and, to keep them technically within the realm of bicycles, a mechanism that you can put pedals on.

Battery life is surprisingly good with all of these. It’s a realistic possibility to ride your electric bike to work. The Experts at EcoWheelz know their business, and are able to ship these anywhere in the country. Check out their site at Eco Wheelz
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Central American Countries Poised to Go Hydro

November 13, 2008

GristmillWhile many nations look at the best way to harness the sun and wind, Central American countries may be in a far better position to use water and gravity to generate their electricity.  Rainforest regions  with elevation very often have dramatic waterfalls.  Most of them have water flowing through them constantly, allowing the forces of nature to be harnessed to generate electricity.  Even the simplest of systems can produce vast amounts of power, as water’s weight allows higher gear ratios than wind. North Vietnam hydro generator harness

This is not a new concept.  Water has been used to push a paddle wheel for thousands of years.  Often this force would propel large geared wheels that could grind grain, for example, or even haul water back up to higher elevations.  But a generator would need none of the size, expense or maintenance.  Moreover, it can be used to provide ample and reliable off-grid power, enabling people to live well within forest canopies and in other desirable remote locations.

The technology does not need to be complex or elaborate.  In the extreme example found in the second picture, a stream’s energy is harnessed to a motorcycle’s alternator, providing a North Vietnamese village with power.  Below, we see a modern, compact hydro generator that would be used in such environments.

DoradoVista Micro Hydropower Generator

Of course, every piece of property will not have a fast stream or waterfall on it, but those which do could be made to generate electricity for others within the area.  Each little community could be entirely energy independent, and non-polluting.

Combined with Green building methods, the footprint would be nearly non-existent, and the costs negligible.  What a great way to get your creature comforts while living in paradise!

Independence from Foreign Oil

November 11, 2008

Letter To The Editor:

The most recent perspectives from the U.S. On alternative energy seem to come from a sense of feeling that they are at the mercy of foreign (read: Arab/Terrorist) sources of crude oil. Some sentiment is that they don’t care to be giving money to people who hate them, while others are more pragmatic, and simply see no sense in sending away 700 billion dollars per year when that money could stay right there in their own country, if they weren’t depending upon foreign oil sources. Whether the basis is accurate or not is debatable, since US companies like Exxon are reporting huge earnings while oil prices are high, but the bigger question is: Will they remain interested in alternative energy if oil becomes cheap again?

The wise move on the part of OPEC would be to bring the prices down, to accept a far smaller margin of profit, and hope that this will cause the United States’ citizens to put aside their concerns about developing alternative energy sources. The profits are still huge at much smaller per-barrel prices on crude. Once the world develops alternatives to crude oil, though, it will be very much a buyer’s market for the product. Plastics will still be in demand, but alternatives to plastic may be the next Green movement.

The smartest thing for OPEC and the other oil producing nations to do at this juncture would be to bring per-barrel prices VERY low. This would appease some of the anti-Arab sentiment, and cast a clarifying light upon the real culprits of high gas prices. Meanwhile, a lesser percent of profit is far better than none at all.

Hollywood Walks the Talk with L.A.’s First Green Community

November 10, 2008

MasterCraft Homes is behind the genius of The Gatsby Hollywood, a neighborhood which is designed from the ground up to be a Green, or ecologically friendly, community. All of the homes share a number of Green advantages and features. For example, they’re built from recycled products, and very well insulated, to keep the heat and cool in the buildings. Each home has an array of solar panels, which is a smart move considering that L.A. has LOTS of sun and California has lots of rebate incentives for solar installations.

Amongst the designs of this Hollywood community is that the homes are tied into the grid, which allows the solar productivity of the home’s array to be fed back into the grid, running the meter backwards, per se, which offsets any on-grid energy which might be used during a high demand time period. Theoretically, one could have no electric usage at all. At this time, though it is unclear, it is not likely that the power companies will be issuing checks to the homeowners for power generated in excess of their overall use, (a Florida city is approaching a vote to do just that,) but it’s still a step in the right direction.

Other smart moves include using Energy Star certified appliances, dual pane windows, and energy-efficient lighting. There’s also a computerized monitoring system to keep the homes operating at peak energy efficiency, and alert the homeowners and the developer in case there is a problem. It is expected that data gained from this monitoring will help make even more efficient homes in the future.

As Kermit would say, it’s good to be Green! Cudos to the developers and to Hollywood for leading by example.

City of Los Angeles Leads By Solar Example

November 9, 2008

The first week of November, 2008, has been one which will long be remembered.  First the historical win by Barak Obama, and then, at the end of that same week, the city of Los Angeles City Council announced its decision to install solar energy systems on rooftops  all over the city.

Although the city council does not need to put the solar program to a vote, they  will be doing so, putting forth the Green Energy & Green Jobs For Los Angeles proposal on the ballot for a March, 2009 vote.  This February, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had already announced the Solar Jobs Initiative, which would fund increasing solar capacity on city-owned and commercial rooftops, creating 350-400 jobs, at a cost of about 270 million dollars.

If the Green Energy & Green Jobs for Los Angeles proposal passes, the resulting solar systems would produce some 400 megawatts from the sun’s rays, which is the consumption of about 108,000 customers.

Why are they putting it to a vote if they don’t need to do so?  They want to ensure that the program continues beyond their terms in office.  A vote by the citizens would mandate the program, ensuring its longevity.  “It’s been expressed that this would represent buy-in from the public in investing in solar,” said the city’s Chief Legislative Analyst, Gerry Miller.  But this proposal is a lot bigger than the one that the city council just approved.  If passed, the project would cost somewhere between 1.5 and 3 billion dollars.  Revenue Bonds, private capital and Federal and State grants would provide the funding to put sunny Southern California in the Green. Read more

European Union Mandates Unreasonable Renewable Energy Installations

November 8, 2008

Solar energy systems are about to be big business in Europe.  The EU has mandated that, by the year 2020, at least 16 percent of a European’s energy consumption should be from renewable sources.  They’re even willing to foot 70 percent of the bill – up to 200,000 euros.

The EU is picking up most of the tab, so what’s the problem?  For one thing, not all bureaucracies are created equal.  In Spain, acquiring the required permits is a relatively straightforward process, and takes about two weeks, all told.  But in smaller countries which are less in tune with the far Western world, the tale is considerably different.  In Bulgaria, for example, those same permits take between six months and a year to procure.

That’s not the only concern.  There are some confusing aspects of tax law that suggest investors may have to pay additional taxes.  If that wasn’t enough, the grants and bank loans within the country will require repayment within 10 years, while the value of the energy produced by those solar panels will require considerably longer to be in the black.  In short, the way things are right now, the numbers just don’t add up.  Even with the incentives, it doesn’t seem to pay for investors to put their cash into solar energy.   So who’s going to comply with the mandate?  The answer will most certainly be found in how one defines the concept of Renewable. Read more

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