Green Vehicles Cost More — Fact or Fantasy?

January 5, 2009

A comment recently left to an article in a national publication states:

“I love the fantasy of creating a green economy. Very few people can afford green. Green cars cost a lot more than the regular variety. Very few are sold. And the payback for the extra cost is years, years. …” — marrtyy, manhattan”

Marrtyy, allow me to retort. HOGwash! The sad part is that people still believe this sort of ridiculous rhetoric. Nearly entirely absent of fact, “marrtyy ” in Manhattan would like to derail the entire “green economy” (as he calls it). Reality: Green need not cost any more. In fact, the opposite is true, when it comes to cars. They start at under $10k, run an average of $25-30k, and can be as high as well over $100k (Tesla). Custom conversions of existing cars can be pricey, but that’s still not mandatory, and less expensive conversions are possible.

Now let’s look at the up-side. Even with cheaper gas, the cost per mile to drive an electric vehicle is just a fraction of a gasoline or diesel car. If you’re paying 2 cents a mile for your electric car, that adds up VERY quickly, when stacked against 6 cents per mile — and 6 cents a mile is for a car getting 30 mpg, with gas at $1.60 a gallon. When it goes back up again, (and you can bet it will) the gap will be even greater. Driving 20,000 miles a year, that difference alone saves you a couple car payments every year. Then there’s the oil changes you don’t need, the cleaner air you enjoy, the money NOT being sent out of the country or handed over to Big Oil, that can be spent in your own neighborhood and here in the States. Sorry to burst your ignorance bubble, “marrtyy”, but electric cars make a lot of sense, and don’t cost more. In fact, they cost less, and that’s before Green is even factored in!

It’s going to be important that we who recognize the importance of this transition are armed with the facts, so that negative ignorance like that presented as fact by “marrtyy” isn’t seen as credible. Going Green doesn’t have to cost more, up-front or in the long run. It’s also important that Green companies not gouge and make his doom and gloom illusion come true.

Iran Completes First Solar Energy Plant

January 2, 2009

Some may doubt Iran’s intentions with nuclear power, but it’s hard to argue with these results on their solar intent. The Shiraz solar power plant was recently completed, and produces a modest 250 kilowatts of electricity. The completion is four years behind schedule, but breaks new ground in its design.

Rather than photo cells, their first solar energy plant is solar-thermal. Parabolic mirrors create a trough that cradles a tube that runs its entire length. The mirrors gather and focus the sunlight onto the tube. Within that tube, a liquid transfers the heat of the sun to a generator that produces steam and electricity.

The plant was constructed of domestic materials and labor there in Shiraz, within the Fars province. This solar-thermal electric plant is the first to generate electricity, but Iran already has some 4000 smaller solar-thermal installations throughout the country, providing solar-heated water for residents and public baths.

One 40-home village in Iran gets its power from photovoltaic cells, but in the overall Iran is focusing on solar-thermal technology. Part of their wisdom is likely in that they can produce the entire array domestically with thermal-solar, rather than purchasing photovoltaic equipment from other nations. Their independence is inspiring, and may go a long way towards explaining their insistence upon developing their own nuclear power as well.

For a nation to develop and produce their own domestic system in this fashion is commendable. We salute Iran for their efforts in going Green!

Russia Cuts NG Pipeline, Leaving Millions To Freeze

January 1, 2009

About 60 percent of Russia’s budget comes from exporting natural gas westward, through the Ukraine and on to Western Europe. The pipeline has long been a risk, protected only by the potential of Russia to retaliate, and by Russia’s ability to turn the gas off at its source. Earlier today, Russia reduced the flow by about 90 million cubic meters, which is the allocation for the Ukraine’s 46 million people. The issue? Money, of course. Money and control.

Preface: Ukraine ceased importing electricity from Russia on December 1, 2008, after repairs to one of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors were completed.

The Ukraine delivered 1.5 billion dollars on Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008, and considered their bill settled. Russia’s Gazprom now claims that Ukraine must also pay $600 million in late fees before they will restore the flow of natural gas to the nation, which is in the midst of their coldest months of winter now.

Furthermore, Gazprom is demanding that Ukraine pay $250  $450 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2009, 40% 250 percent (2.5 times as much) more than the $179 price paid in 2008.*  Ukraine says they cannot pay that price unless Russia offsets the increase by paying Ukraine that same amount more for exporting Russia’s gas through their country on to Europe. Russia has promised that they will continue to export gas to Europe without interruption. Russia’s Prime Minister, Vladamir Putin, said that any interference with Russia’s gas exports to Europe would carry “serious consequences for the transit country itself.”

Russia is putting the Ukraine, a former Soviet Union country which has angered Russia by applying for membership in NATO, in the cruel position of having to surrender to the 40% increase or continue to pump gas on through their country to Europe, while they themselves are freezing but taking none of that gas for themselves.

This isn’t the first time Russia has acted against the Ukraine in this fashion. In 2006, Russia halted supplies to Ukraine for three days, in a similar disagreement over prices. When the pressure in the pipeline dropped by that allotment, the decrease was felt all the way to Italy, because the Ukraine continued to draw gas from the pipeline for their winter needs. Apparently they learned from the experience. Ukrainian authorities say they have stockpiled enough gas to hold out for three months, if the weather holds as anticipated.

Russia has perpetual negotiations with nations they supply energy to. Serbia was also in negotiations earlier this year, and Finland managed a stay of prices on wood purchased from Russia, but only after last year’s increases in Russian Export Tariffs caused Finland to reduce their demand by more than half. At the same time, Russia claims they would like to work with NATO (disagreements aside, of course.) It’s hard to avoid comparisons to a national mafia, friendly with speech, brutal and murderous in dealings with those who defy them.

Threatening millions of people in this fashion demonstrates that Russia cannot be trusted. In a time of global financial crisis, to strongarm the Ukraine for a 40% increase is clearly retaliatory and inhumane. It also demonstrates the importance of removing ourselves from dependency upon fossil fuels of all kinds. It was wise of Ukrainian authorities to stockpile the gas against this sort of threat, but their reserves will run out by very early spring, leaving nearly 50 million people freezing and without gas for cooking, heating or hot water, and electric generation. (Ukraine produces about 45% of its electricity via nuclear reactors, but relies upon fossil fuels to generate the remaining 55%, so their electric may be diminished as well.)

Germany, Italy and Turkey were amongst nations which lowered their demand for natural gas after prices were raised to $460-$520 per thousand cubic meters beginning in October of 2008. Despite that decrease in sales, Gazprom reports record revenues of $75 billion to $77 billion this year.

Energy independence is essential for all nations’ people.

*EDITOR’S NOTE: We were previously misinformed.  Russia is actually demanding $450 per 1,000 cubic meters, an increase of two and a half times the price paid last year – 250% increase.

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