Oct 30, 2009

Mega Farm's too big to fail

Midwest farmer speaks on rural crisis, financial collapse... community farming should be a vital part of the movement for financial reform. "Food justice might point the way to a transformation of our economy better than anything else," she said. "It can teach people a new way of looking at the world because it's caring for the Earth and waiting for food to grow [instead of demanding instant gratification]. In order to grow food, we all need to work together [and this can help change the rampant selfishness in our economy]."

"Six years ago we did a study in Logan County, right in the middle of Illinois. It's some of the best farmland in the world, and we wondered why our communities were dying. The mega-farmers in our community who spent zero dollars in our area were taking 4 million dollars out of our community every year. In the very small town that I went to school in, the only business open now in my town is the post office. Everything else is boarded up."

"A mega-farmer is a farmer who wants to be just like the big banks, big enough that he can't fail. But high-risk farming by mega-farmers is becoming a reality. Mega-farm operators are pushing family farmers off the land they have farmed for decades. Mega-farmers can do this because they farm in an unsustainable manner. They work on narrow margins of profit. The risk is so great that these mega-farmers know they can't do the right thing and make a profit, so they don't even put back the nutrients into the soil that the crop takes out."

"Therefore they are stealing from one of our greatest natural resources: the soil. The impact is felt severely. What's left is poorly maintained fields, agricultural runoff, and diminishing productivity at a time when the world's population continues to grow and we have to feed the people all over the world. Large-scale mega-farm operators are bypassing local agricultural suppliers and costing local communities billions of dollars in economic activity every year."

Read full from Energy Bulletin

Greenest Place in the U.S.? It’s Not Where You Think

Green rankings in the U.S. don't tell the full story about the places where the human footprint is lightest. If you really want the best environmental model, you need to look at the nation's biggest — and greenest — metropolis: New York City.

... This choice may seem ludicrous to most Americans, including most New Yorkers, because for decades we have been taught to think of crowded cities as one of the principal sources of our worst environmental problems.

New Yorkers have a significantly lower environmental impact than other Americans. "But that's just because they're all crammed together," he said. Just so. He then disparaged New Yorkers' energy efficiency as "unconscious," as though intention were more important than results. But unconscious efficiencies are the most desirable ones, because they require neither enforcement nor a personal commitment to cutting back.

  The average city resident consumes only about a quarter as much gasoline as the average Vermonter — and the average Manhattan resident consumes even less, just 90 gallons a year, a rate that the rest of the country hasn't matched since the mid-1920s. New Yorkers also consume far less electricity — about 4,700 kilowatt hours per household per year, compared with roughly 7,100 kilowatt hours in Vermont and more than 11,000 kilowatt hours in the United States as a whole. New York City is more populous than all but 11 states; if it were granted statehood, it would rank 51st in per-capita energy use.

The world's population is projected to increase to 9 billion during the next 30 years — an increase of seven times the current population of the United States, or roughly equal to the current population of India and China combined. We won't be able to accommodate that change by making the world look more like Vermont.

The key to New York City's relative environmental benignity is the very thing that, to most Americans, makes it appear to be an ecological nightmare: its extreme compactness. Moving people and their daily destinations close together reduces their need for automobiles, makes efficient public transit possible, and restores walking as a viable form of transportation.

Population density also lowers energy and water use in all categories, constrains family size, limits the consumption of all kinds of goods, reduces ownership of wasteful appliances, decreases the generation of solid waste, and forces most residents to live in some of the world's most inherently energy-efficient residential structures: apartment buildings. As a result, New Yorkers have the smallest carbon footprints in the United States: 7.1 metric tons of greenhouse gases per person per year, or less than 30 percent of the national average. Manhattanites generate even less.

Americans tend to think of dense cities as despoilers of the natural landscape, but they actually help to preserve it. If you spread all 8.2 million New York City residents across the countryside at the population density of Vermont, you would need a space equal to the land area of the six New England states plus New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia — and
then, of course, you'd have to find places to put all the people you were displacing. In a paradoxical way, environmental groups have been a major contributor to residential sprawl, ... Preaching the sanctity of open spaces helps to propel development into those very spaces, and the process is self-reinforcing because, as one environmentalist said to me, "Sprawl is created by people escaping sprawl."

Read full at Yale

Big Crash Coming?

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In More Like A Depression Every Day, I described strong deflationary pressures in the American economy despite the Shock & Awe fiscal & monetary stimulus being applied. The flow of free money is supposed to counter deflation by boosting both asset values and government spending. Economist Nouriel Roubini, otherwise known as "Dr. Doom", notes that this "wall of liquidity" is inflating asset values, not just in the United States, but all over the world.HTML clipboard

One important consequence of the Fed keeping interest rates low and its quantitative easing has been a weaker dollar. The world's reserve currency has depreciated 14.6% relative to a basket of other currencies since March 5, 2009 as measured by the U.S. Dollar Index (DXY). The depreciating dollar, combined with the Fed's stated intention to keep interest rates low for an extended period to come, has prompted investors to short the dollar—bet that the value of the dollar will continue to fall. Investors short the dollar via what is called the carry trade (and Figure 1 right).

...In absolute (2005 chained dollars) terms, real GDP is down 9% year-over-year, even after you throw in the "cash-for clunkers" program which gave an artificial boost to personal consumption expenditures.

A long history marred only by negative givebacks during recessions in the early 1990s, 2001–2002, and 2008–2009, produced a persistent increase in asset prices vs. nominal GDP that led to an average overall 50-year appreciation advantage of 1.3% annually. That's another way of saying you would have been far better off investing in paper than factories or machinery or the requisite components of an educated workforce. We, in effect, were hollowing out our productive future at the expense of worthless paper such as subprimes, dotcoms, or in part, blue chip stocks and investment grade/government bonds.

Putting a compounding computer to this 1.3% annual out-performance for 50 years, produces a double, and leads to the conclusion that the return from all assets was 100% (or $15 trillion – one year's GDP) higher than what it theoretically should have been. Financial leverage, in other words, drove the prices of stocks, bonds, homes, and shopping malls to extraordinary valuation levels – at least compared to 1956 – and there could be payback ahead as the leveraging turns into delevering and nominal GDP growth regains the winner's platform.

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There's a huge bubble, because we have zero rates in the U.S, zero rates around the world and a huge carry trade. Everyone is borrowing at zero interest rates in dollars and getting a capital gain because the dollar is weakening, so they are borrowing at negative rates. And then they invest in risky assets:commodities, equities, credit. We're creating a bigger bubble than before [Lehman].HTML clipboard

It's going to go crashing down, in an ugly way. That's the basics of the argument.

Roubini believes that continued low interest rates are inflating asset values beyond what the fundamentals dictate all over the world—a new global bubble. He argues that when the Fed finally does raise rates and the dollar strengthens, as it eventually must, there will be another resounding crash in the global economy...

....There are improving fundamentals. There is a global recovery. But that justifies oil going from $30 to maybe $50. I think the other $30 is all speculative demand feeding on it—speculators and herding behavior. Last year, when oil was at $145, that killed the global economy. I worry that oil is going to go up above $100 for reasons that have nothing to do with the fundamentals of supply and demand.

Oil at $100 would have the same negative effects on the global economy as oil did at $145 last year.

I have made many of the same points in several columns, most recently in It's Not Black Or White. Unwarranted oil price inflation is certainly a threat to a global economic recovery in the next year, but another real danger lies in the renewal of systemic risk in global finance.... Read more from EnergyBulletin

Fear of peak oil and coal date back to 1800's

Why the world will never run out of energy - by the nutty professor?
Economist Julian Simon, former professor of business administration at the University of Maryland and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, was famous for taking a contrarian position on energy resources, arguing that our perception of scarcity was not validated by the current or historical factual record of energy abundance.

Simon traced fears of energy resource exhaustion back to an 1865 book published in London by W. Stanley Jevons, one of the 19th century's greatest social scientists, titled "The Coal Question: An Inquiry Concerning the Progress of the Nation, and the Probable Exhaustion of our Coal-mines." Jevons argued that Great Britain's industrial progress would grind to a halt because industry would soon use all available coal. Jevons further concluded that there was no chance oil would be an alternative resource able to solve the problem.

"What happened?" Simon asked.

His answer: "Because of the perceived future need for coal and because of the potential profit in meeting that need, prospectors searched out new deposits of coal, investors discovered better ways to get coal out of the earth, and transportation engineers developed cheaper ways to move the coal."

Similarly, Simon traced the fears in the United States back to an 1885 U.S. geological survey that declared there was "little or no chance" oil would ever be found in California. In 1939, the U.S. Department of the Interior argued U.S. oil resources would be exhausted in 13 years. Then, when that prediction proved a false alarm, the Department of the Interior revised its estimate and declared that it was from 1951 that U.S. oil would be exhausted in 13 years.

Simon argued gloomy predictions about running out of oil, coal or any other energy resource including natural gas, were typically wrong for several reasons...

"Simon's energy resource analysis essentially maintains that we will be running automobiles with nuclear batteries long before we run out of oil," Corsi wrote. "Another point consistent with Simon's analysis is that technologies have been developed permitting the clean burning of coal, while coal resources in the United States yet remain among the most abundant on the earth. In the final analysis, nuclear power is the final inexhaustible energy resource.

"Moreover, the development of nuclear power plants to provide electricity to U.S. cities on a scale developed in nations such as France would serve the dual purpose of providing infrastructure jobs that conceivably could match the jobs created by President Eisenhower's decision to build the interstate highway system, while providing cheap, safe and efficient energy to satisfy our municipal needs indefinitely."

Today, the U.S. Navy runs ships around the world predominately on nuclear power, without a history of life- or environmental-threatening accidents.

Corsi noted that the one energy resource that is truly renewable and sufficiently robust to produce the energy required in the 21st century is nuclear power.

Why the world will never run out of energy

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Fossil-future not necessary and may not even make economic sense.

Can the whole planet really get 100 percent of its energy from renewables in just two decades?

Yes, according to new research, and for cheaper than coal.

The paper, "A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables," was published in the November issue of Scientific American. HTML clipboard The magazine is no foreigner to printing clean energy moon shots. In December 2007, it grabbed global headlines for its solar grand plan, a roadmap for getting 69 percent of America's electricity from sunlight by 2050.  

According to the research, the world will need 16.9 terrawatts (TW, or 1 trillion watts) of power by 2030, up from 12.5 TW today. Meeting that with coal alone would require 13,000 new facilities.

Under the Jacobson-Delucchi plan, the total amount of energy needed worldwide would drop to 11.5 TW.

Why? In most cases, electrification is a more efficient way to use energy than combustion, the authors write. Take electric cars:

"Only 17 to 20 percent of the energy in gasoline is used to move a vehicle (the rest is wasted as heat), whereas 75 to 86 percent of the electricity delivered to an electric vehicle goes into motion."

Still, the up-front costs of virtually eliminating greenhouse gas emissions through new energy would be enormous. Construction costs "might be" $100 trillion worldwide over 20 years, the authors admit. And that's not including the costs of transmission.

They claim the investment would be paid back through the sale of electricity and energy. And they make the case, as many others have before them, that a business-as-usual future would be costlier in the long run: $10 trillion in thousands of new coal plants, not to mention the tens of trillions in health, environmental, security and other "externality" costs. 

But the world has its work cut out for it. Currently, less than one percent of clean technologies needed for a 100 percent scenario are in place.

Here's what governments must do:

    • Eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, such as tax benefits for their exploration and extraction.
    • Enact feed-in tariff (FIT) programs that cover the difference between generation costs and electricity prices.
    • Tax fossil fuels or their use to reflect environmental damages.
    • End "misguided promotion of alternatives" that are less desirable than wind, solar and water, such as farm and production subsidies for biofuels.
    • Invest in long-distance, robust transmission systems that can carry large quantities of clean power from remote regions to consumption centers.
    • Build smart grid systems that reduces consumer demand during peak usage periods.

The main obstacle is the political will to implement these policies, the report claims. The second biggest hurdle is the shortage of vital materials.

Some materials are scarce, while others are subject to price manipulation. Rare-earth materials are the biggest looming problem, namely neodymium used in wind turbine gear boxes. The material is concentrated in China. Beware, say the authors:

"Countries such as the U.S. could be trading dependence on Middle Eastern oil for dependence on Far Eastern metals. Manufacturers are moving toward gearless turbines, however, so that limitation may become moot."

Photovoltaic solar cells also rely on potentially scarce materials, such as amorphous or crystalline silicon, cadmium telluride, and copper indium selenide and sulfide. So do next-generation cars. There are: lithium for batteries, platinum for fuel cells and earth metals for electric cars.

  Read full at SolveClimate

Emissions Cut to Cost 3% of Global GDP, Pachauri Says

(Bloomberg) - The cost of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the impact of climate change may amount to 3 percent of the world's economic output, said Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"The cost to the global economy in 2030, so that's 21 years from now, will be no more than 3 percent of the global GDP," he told the CarbonExpo Australasia conference on the Gold Coast, Australia today via video link.

Water war in Pakistan causes 50 percent declined in electricity generation

TOD -  Thin water flow in Mangla and Tarbela dams is causing 50 percent declined at in hydal electricity generation, whereas the unavailability of furnace oil has forced closure of thermal power houses. As a result, 8 to 15 hour electricity outages persist.  Read full from source

Birth of the Urban Development Bee Project

The Ginza Honeybee Project -- Urban Development Inspired by Beekeeping
Ranked with the Fifth Avenue shopping district in New York City, Japan's Ginza district in Tokyo is one of the world's leading downtown districts, complete with high-class department stores and designer shops. Today, bee honey collected from hives there is starting to attract people's attention. Ginza honeybees are nicknamed "Ginpachi" (short for "Ginza bees" in Japanese), and recently they have become somewhat of a new mascot for the district.

Birth of the Ginza Bee Project
The aim of the project is to interact with the local environment and ecosystems in Ginza through beekeeping. Although Ginza, which is located in the middle of Tokyo, has some small green areas, these groups are trying to learn more about how a sustainable society and the local environment operates by working with honeybees and using the honey they produce.
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Is it really possible to keep honeybees and collect honey in an urban area such as Ginza? Many were suspicious. Honeybees are said to fly within a three- to four-kilometer radius from their hives to collect nectar. Fortunately, parks rich in green space are located within two kilometers, such as the Imperial Palace, Hibiya Park, and Hama-rikyu Gardens. Furthermore, many roadside trees are also good sources of nectar. The amount of honey collected has been increasing steadily,

The honeybee is said to be an environmental indicator species because it is extremely susceptible to pesticides, which are used on vast areas of farmland in Japan, and are causing the survival rate of bees to drop. Meanwhile, in Ginza, which is in the central part of metropolitan Tokyo, the use of pesticides is avoided because of the growing number of people with allergies. So Ginza has ended up being a bee-friendly environment, and the high-quality honey-producing Ginza bees have made people aware that the district has a rich natural environment.

Since the bees were brought to Ginza, cherry blossoms that had previously not been pollinated began to produce cherries. People began to see birds eating the cherries, and small insects began rejuvenating the environment around the area.

The extraordinary combination of Ginza and honeybees has attracted attention from the public and media since the start of the project, and more and more people are enjoying Ginza honey. People began thinking of not only the bees and the honey they produce in Ginza but also the natural environment around the whole region.

Read more of Ginza Green Project Focused on Growing Local, Eating Local by Yuriko Yoneda

Passivhaus: The Top 5 Barriers to Growth In The US

Are most homebuyers interested in purchasing a home that saves 90% over a traditional home on heating and cooling costs and requires only a small active heating system the size of a hairdryer? The Passivhaus movement is an exciting building design concept that offers tremendous energy savings due to reliance on passive heating systems.

In Germany, passive houses cost only about 5 to 7 percent more to build than conventional houses.
PHIUS estimates an additional upfront investment of approximately 10 percent over a code compliant home in the US. Estimates of actual costs in US construction range widely and are difficult to nail down due to the few houses actually constructed in the US.

In terms of long-term energy savings, passive houses seem very likely to create a significant cost savings. Once the ventilation systems and insulation are in place, the only costs outside of basic maintenance are the small, in some cases unnecessary, active heating systems. No one is seriously challenging the claim of a 90% reduction in energy costs related to heating – that's the beauty of a passive system. US green building groups such as the LEED certification system have recently suffered criticism that certified buildings do not always lead to energy savings, particularly if staff and tenants are not properly trained on using the systems. Passive houses may be able to avoid this pitfall with the strength of the passive design.

Please read the barriers to Passivehaus's at greeneconomypost

Oct 29, 2009

DOE Awards taxpayers more than $26 million by reducing energy costs in federal facilities.

DOE Awards 2009 Federal Energy and Water Management Awards for Energy Efficiency and Renewable EnergyImage of the 2009 Energy Awareness Poster. In the center is an image of a map of the U.S. made out of puzzle pieces that become disassembled in Texas and the Southwest. Each puzzle piece contains a sustainable energy picture. The title 'A Sustainable Energy Future; We're Putting All the Pieces Together' is on top with the following caption in the lower right: Be part of the solution to climate change and help build a clean energy economy.
The Department of Energy yesterday honored 32 individuals that demonstrate a commitment by agencies across the federal government to save energy, reduce federal energy costs, limit carbon pollution, implement cutting-edge clean energy technologies, strengthen national security, and create a stronger economy for the American people. These initiatives saved taxpayers more than $26 million in fiscal year 2008 by reducing energy use and energy costs in federal facilities.
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This awards program is one of several held each year in conjunction with October's Energy Awareness Month to highlight the critical importance of energy efficiency and renewable resources and federal efforts to lead by example in energy management. See the complete list of this year's winners below; to view individual winners within organizations and small groups, visit the 2009 Federal Energy and Water Management Award Winners Web page.

Read full at EERE News

Steven Chu & DOE $338 Million to Accelerate Domestic Geothermal Energy

Recovery Act Announcement: Department of Energy Awards $338 Million to Accelerate Domestic Geothermal Energy
These grants will support 123 projects in 39 states, with recipients including private industry, academic institutions, tribal entities, local governments, and DOE's national laboratories. The grants will be matched more than one-for-one with an additional $353 million in private and non-Federal cost-share funds.

"The United States is blessed with vast geothermal energy resources, which hold enormous potential to heat our homes and power our economy," said Secretary Chu. "These investments in America's technological innovation will allow us to capture more of this clean, carbon free energy at a lower cost than ever before. We will create thousands of jobs, boost our economy and help to jumpstart the geothermal industry across the United States."

Full story at EERE News

The new OSHA transition from reaction from prevention.

OSHA Quote of day- "We're really trying to move this agency from reaction from prevention. Our goal is to make workplaces safer, not just issue citations and standards."  Fed-OSHA Jordan Barab, at the at the National Safety Council 2009 Congress and Expo
Go to the full story in EHS Today

BPA Issues New Guidelines and Rules Manual for Energy Efficiency.

From David Schaller - The Bonneville Power Administration has released its most recent Implementation Manual which provides guidelines and requirements for implementing energy efficiency projects in the region.  The Manual includes expanded utility reimbursements for ductless heat pumps and a new approach to industrial energy efficiency. Detailed industrial program changes include specific megawatt targets, higher numbers of custom projects and an increased number of utility participants. BPA is working with utility customers to respond to increased energy efficiency targets set in the draft Sixth Power Plan recently released by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. Read full at BPA Journal

Radical Water Conservation Built Into Former Sprawlville Development.

From David Schaller -  a suburban Denver development heralded a decade ago as "a symbol of suburban sprawl done wrong" is the new community of Sterling Ranch which intends to reduce radically the amount of outside lawns permissible in the development.

It is part of an overall water efficiency strategy that includes slightly sunken yards for water catchment, plus an array of in-home water efficiency technologies and devices. "We'll use grass as a throw rug instead of a carpet," says a principal on the development team.

The rest of the yards will be planted in drought tolerant trees and shrubs. All athletic fields will be artificial turf.  "You abuse exterior water use, we'll warn you, fine you, and then we'll shut your water off," said Jack Hoagland, another development partner.

Developers of the new community, Sterling Ranch, say they can get by with supplying just 91,000 gallons a year -- and they expect homeowners will use just 72,000.

That bold bet is raising both hopes and some fears.

"If it turns out that it's harder to change consumer behavior than they anticipate, now all of a sudden we're looking at a water shortage," says Steve Koster, the county planner in charge of Sterling Ranch.

Permits are still pending but plans envision 12,000 homes, many priced at about $350,000, aimed at young families and empty nesters. All homes will use low-flow toilets, faucets and showers, which cut water use on average 20% to 30%. The big savings, however, will be outdoors.
Read more at Wall Street Journal

Oct 28, 2009

Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Program Document and Presentations Available

California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff will be reviewing the current status of ZEV technologies, conducting a  ZEV symposium, undertaking a long term GHG analysis, reviewing California  ZEV infrastructure needs, and analyzing complimentary policies to the  ZEV program.www.driveclean.ca.gov



Below are meetings and documents related to the 2009 ZEV Review.

October 28, 2009

Workshop on 2050 Automotive Sector Greenhouse Gas Emissions Modeling Assumptions and Scenarios: The Role of Zero Emission Vehicles - this meeting will be webcast.

September 23, 2009 EV Charging Public Meeting
September 21-22 ZEV Technology Symposium

Visit ZEV Program for more information

EPA Names the Top 20 Green-Powered Schools

EERE -  For the first time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has named the 20 primary and secondary schools nationwide using the most power from renewable energy sources... offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions that would be produced from the electricity used by 11,000 U.S. homes for one year. Green power is generated from renewable energy resources such as low-impact hydropower; biogas; and solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass power.

Overall, EPA Green Power Partners are buying more than 17 billion kilowatt-hours of green power annually, equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity used by nearly 1.7 million U.S. homes annually. See the EPA press release, the list of top 20 K-12 schools, and the EPA's Green Power Partnership Web site.

Renewable energy and efficiency Yields 4.5 Million Clean Energy Jobs

EERE -  Climate Change Yields 4.5 Million Clean Energy Jobs

The report, "Estimating the Jobs Impact of Tackling Climate Change," was prepared for the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) by Management Information Services Inc.The report finds that an estimated 1.2 billion tons of annual carbon emissions could be eliminated by 2030 through renewable energy and energy efficiency alone, if the country makes a serious commitment to reversing climate change.

According to the report, about 57% of the reduction in carbon emissions would be from energy efficiency and 43% would be from renewable energy. Professions that would gain the most jobs include farming, construction, professional services, trucking, and metal fabrication, with job benefits spread across the entire country. The greatest numbers of renewable energy jobs would be in solar power, biomass power, and biofuels. A summary of the report is available now; the full report will be posted on October 30. See the ASES press release and a summary of the report (PDF 1.09 MB).

Oct 27, 2009

History and future of industrial windmills

Via -EnergyBulletin

Windmill history 1

In the 1930s and 1940s, decades after steam engines had made wind power obsolete, Dutch researchers obstinately kept improving the – already very sophisticated – traditional windmill. The results were spectacular, and there is no doubt that today an army of ecogeeks could improve them even further. Would it make sense to revive the industrial windmill and again convert kinetic energy directly into mechanical energy?

The Netherlands had 5 times more windmills in 1850 than it has wind turbines today

More than 900 years ago, medieval Europe became the first large civilisation not to be run by human muscle power. Thousands and thousands of windmills and waterwheels, backed up by animal power, transformed industry and society radically. It was an industrial revolution entirely powered by renewable energy – something that we can (and do) only dream of today. Wind and water powered mills were in essence the first real factories in human history. They consisted of a building, a power source, machinery and employees, and out of them came a product.

Technical drawing industrial sawing windmill Windmills and waterwheels were not new technologies – both machines appeared already in Antiquity and the ones used in the early Middle Ages were technically no different from those. However, ancient civilizations like the Greeks and the Romans hardly used them, possibly because of religious reasons and because of a large enough reservoir of human slave labor.

Water versus wind

Water powered mills were – overall – more important and numerous than windmills. This is logical since they are a simpler and more reliable technology; the flow of a river might change according to the seasons, but generally a river always contains water. Moreover, by making use of canals and sluice gates the flow of water could be precisely controlled to provide the speed or load required by the gearwork inside the factory.

The wind, on the other hand, does not always blow. When it does, wind velocity and direction can change at any moment and windmills had no efficient method to control the strength of the wind – at least not in early medieval times. Water powered mills appeared in Europe in large amounts from the end of the 11th century onwards and only 200 years later almost all available energy in rivers and streams was put to use.

However, not all regions were suited for watermills. The reasons could be that they did not have sufficient water resources (like Spain), that they were too flat and their rivers did not have enough flow (like the Netherlands and the downlands of England) or that rivers generally froze during winter (like in Scandinavia, Russia and parts of Germany). In these countries, windmills appeared in the 13th century, possibly earlier, and spread fast. Later, also regions that had abundant water resources constructed windmills, to relieve the pressure on rivers and streams.

How many windmills?

Corn mills holland

The amount of windmills in early medieval times remains unknown, because the few inventories that could be studied do not distinguish between water and wind powered mills. For instance, we know that there were between 10,000 and 12,000 mills in the UK in 1300, but we do not know how many of them were wind powered (it must have been a minority). All we have are data on individual windmills, which start to appear at the end of the 1200s. Only in the 1700s and 1800s, when windmill technology really caught on, more accurate inventories appear.

In 1750, there were 6,000 to 8,000 windmills in the Netherlands, in 1850 there were 9,000 of them. For comparison, this is almost 5 times as much as there are wind turbines in the Netherlands today (1,974 turbines as of September 2009). In the UK there were 5,000 to 10,000 windmills in 1820. France had 8,700 windmills (and 37,000 watermills) in 1847.

Read more by Kris De Decker Low-tech Magazine

Wisconsin's electronics recycling bill signed into law

WDNR - Manufacturers of certain electronic products sold in Wisconsin will be required to assume responsibility for the collection and proper disposal of discarded household electronic devices under a new recycling bill that has been signed into law... become effective Jan. 1, 2010.Discarded electronics outside of Alaba, Lagos. 2005

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The law bans certain electronics from landfills and requires electronics manufacturers to register with the Department of Natural Resources and arrange for responsible recycling and disposal of consumer electronics including video displays, computers and printers.

"This is giant step forward in the state's nationally noted recycling efforts," said DNR Secretary Matt Frank.

More information is also available on the Managing Used or Discarded Electronics page of the DNR Web site.

Media kit, informational meetings available to help understand new program

EPA's uses social networks to spread safety Awareness on Mercury

U.S. EPA, ATSDR make available mercury poisoning prevention PSA for kids As part of Children's Health month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry today launched its "Don't Mess With Mercury" video in an effort to protect children from the dangers of mercury. Every year, the EPA responds to numerous mercury spills that are primarily caused by children playing with mercury. The EPA's cost for cleanup can range anywhere from $3,000 to $300,000 or more. The cost to the environment, and in some cases human health, is not quantifiable.

EPA - How can people be exposed to mercury? When elemental mercury is spilled, or a device containing mercury breaks, the spilled mercury can vaporize and be­come an invisible, odorless toxic vapor. This is especially true in warm, poorly-ventilated rooms or spaces. If mercury is spilled onto a hot surface, such as a hot surface in a laboratory, mercury will vaporize very quickly and can be more dangerous. Exposure can last a long time if the spill is not cleaned up promptly and properly. Breathing mercury vapors is the most common way to be exposed to elemental mercury, and is the most harmful to health. If mercury is swallowed, most of it passes through the body and very little is absorbed. A small amount may pass through skin from touching mercury for a short period of time, but typically not enough to cause harm.

Sources of mercury in schools:

• Glass thermometers
• Thermostats

• Blood pressure devices in medical offices

• Mercury switches

• Gauges: manometers, barometers, vacuum gauges

• Bulk elemental mercury in science laboratories
• Fluorescent lamps

• Mercury brought to school
Please read full at EPA

DOE documentshow to achieve 50% energy savings in commercial building sector

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the DOE national laboratories are releasing technical support documents that suggest how to achieve 50% energy savings in four key commercial building sectors. Graphic image showing an arrow going left to right, with the point at the right. To the right of the point, the text reads, 'Goal by 2025: marketable net-zero energy buildings.' Four points on the arrow are indicated with black lines and text below each line. Moving left to right, the text reads: 1. Base Scenario: Current commercial building codes and standards. 2. 30% Energy Savings: Advanced Energy Design Guides 3. 50% Energy Savings: Commercial Building Energy Alliances and High Performance Buildings Database 4. 100% Marketable Net-Zero Energy Building: Definitions and Net-Zero Energy DatabaseThis is taking place less than two years after launching the Net-Zero Energy Commercial Building Initiative, which aims to achieve marketable net-zero energy commercial buildings by 2025. HTML clipboard

The technical support documents were created by the DOE national laboratories describe the assumptions, methodologies, and analyses used to reach 50% energy saving in general merchandise, grocery store, lodging, and medium office buildings.

Full story at EERE news

EPA Announces to Retool and Reinvigorate Clean Water Enforcement Program

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced this month that the agency is stepping up its efforts on Clean Water Act enforcement. The Clean Water Action Enforcement Plan is a first step in revamping the compliance and enforcement program. It seeks to improve the protection of our nation's water quality, raise the bar in federal and state performance and enhance public transparency.

"The safety of the water that we use in our homes -- the water we drink and give to our children -- is of paramount importance to our health and our environment. Having clean and safe water in our communities is a right that should be guaranteed for all Americans," said Administrator Jackson.

"Updating our efforts under the Clean Water Act will promote innovative solutions for 21st century water challenges, build stronger ties between EPA, state, and local actions, and provide the transparency the public rightfully expects."

More information on the plan visit EPA Clean Water Act website

Transforming Clean-Energy Industry Into Local

Minnesota Turbines At Forefront of A New Movement: Community Power
"It's not so much a train that's coming. It's here. We have to deal with it," said David J. George, Kandiyohi's chief executive.

Washington Post - Willmar Municipal Utilities invested nearly $10 million in a pair of 256-foot towers to capture the prairie wind here, about 100 miles west of Minneapolis. Gomm calculates that the wind power will cost less than the equivalent in coal-powered energy and, when the debt has been paid in 12 years or so, the electricity will come virtually free for as long as the turbines are standing. HTML clipboard

Along the way, Willmar will have reduced carbon emissions and made progress toward reaching a state requirement that Minnesota generate 25 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025. Gomm, who estimates the turbines will produce 3 to 5 percent of the town's energy, aims to build more.

"This is the biggest investment Willmar Municipal Utilities has ever made," engineer Wes Hompe said, standing beneath a huge new turbine outside town.
 "What makes it worthwhile? This is the future."

Federal authorities are investing billions through grants and tax breaks to promote alternative power. President Obama predicted this year that renewable fuel capacity will double in "the next few years."

Within the renewables world, Lovins suspects economics will increasingly favor small and medium-sized projects in place of vast wind and solar farms located on remote mountain ridges or desert floors far from population centers. Transmission is costly and, as utilities across the country have learned, the routing of new power lines often generates opposition and lawsuits.

As Lovins sees it, the long-term trends show a shift from traditional energy sources toward renewables -- the more local, the better.

Renewable fuels "will continue to take over the market because they have lower costs and lower financial risks than central thermal," predicted Lovins, chairman of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Colorado think tank. "It's driven by economics and its driven by climate and security concerns. And all three are going in the same direction."

Please read full from Washington Post

OSHA’s requires that construction workers wear high-visibility warning garments?

Occupational Safety and Health Administration - High-visibility warning garments are required safety attire for highway and road construction workers according to a new letter of interpretation recently released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

"Highway construction workers should not suffer serious or fatal injuries simply because they could not be seen," said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab. "Requiring the use of reflective vests is essential to help prevent workers from being injured or killed." Full Document


Wind industry reveals radar-friendly stealth turbine study

Wind Turbines at Royd Moor in South Yorkshire
Wind turbines at Royd Moor in South Yorkshire. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/Guardian

Wind turbines coated with similar material to make stealth bombers invisible to radar could soon be used to address long-standing concerns that wind farms could disrupt air traffic control systems. From BusinessGreen.com, part of the Guardian Environment Network

Fears over disruption to radar signals is one of the most common causes of opposition to wind farm plans, with aviation objections currently holding up more than 5GW of wind energy in the planning system and a further 5.5GW in early stages of development.

A spokeswoman for DECC told BusinessGreen.com that the 19-month R &D project will be looking at both hardware and software solutions," she said. "First up they will look at the wind turbines themselves and see if they can be coated with material that does not interfere with radar. For example, they will look at the material used by stealth planes to make them invisible to radar. Second, they will look at tuning the software so it does not pick up the signal from the wind turbines."

Hurry! Free - Global Water Crisis Special Program

In honor of United Nations Day, we will be examining worldwide water challenges with Katherine Bliss from 7:00pm - 8:30pm at the Heftner Conference Center. Free and open to the public.
 The Hefter Conference Center is located at 3271 N. Lake Drive, Milwaukee,WI 53211.  
Click here for more information and registration

Katherine E. Bliss is a deputy director and senior fellow of the Americas Program, and senior fellow of the Global Health Policy Center at Center for Strategic and International Studies. Before joining the Americas Program, she was a foreign affairs officer at the U.S. Department of State, where she focused on global health and the Western Hemisphere in the Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Science and received the Superior Honor Award for her work.

A spoon full of Sugar helps the energy use go down....

BYU scientists made a fuel cell powered by sugars like glucose using a common weed killer serves as the catalyst they feel with design improvements can be a clean energy source for gadgets, cars or homes

BYU chemistry professor Gerald Watt found the catalyst to harvest electricity from sugars

"Carbohydrates are very energy rich," said BYU chemistry professor Gerald Watt. "What we needed was a catalyst that would extract the electrons from glucose and transfer them to an electrode." The effectiveness of this cheap and abundant herbicide is a boon to carbohydrate-based fuel cells. By contrast, hydrogen-based fuel cells like those developed by General Motors require costly platinum as a catalyst. Read more at BYU

Energy Secretary Chu visits Googleplex looking for a home run...

I was just curious if when Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu visited the Google campus to talk about how the U.S. can build a prosperous economy powered by clean energy if Google staff shared my plan to make the U.S. energy independent within a decade with Secretary Chu during a fireside chat. Googlers and our CEO Eric Schmidt, Secretary Chu 'talked about' what it will take to create a clean energy revolution.
Secretary Chu, said, the Department of Energy is trying to "hit home runs, not base hits." He noted that there are many proposed solutions to climate change out there, and we need to pursue all of them. "The scale of what we need to do is enormous," said Secretary Chu, and "putting the world on a carbon diet" and dramatically bringing down the cost of clean energy and should be top priorities. If we succeed, it will "drive a new industrial revolution."

Gentlemen, my plan is a home run... the revolution has begun.

I hope Goolge staffers summarized my 'gCommunities' plan for Dr. Chu: In fall of 2008 I submitted a national energy and environmental program to google that was focused on ailing communities, energy losses and the planet without sacrificing our level of quality living or stifle advancements in technology.

Highlights of plan:
"The key to controlling the massive energy losses and building sustainable energy in the U.S. is to have community based clean energy distribution that focuses on the resources of that region."

I based my $10 Million google idea 'gcommunities.org' on converting U.S. Sprawl and rural communities into self sufficient off grid communities
(sorry about the video - they only gave 30 secs).

I documented existing community models that could not only sustain their own resource and energy needs, but a financial model that would offer EROI of less than 5 years. Then these 'gCommunities' would 'sell off' excess and unused
energy load to dense Urban, manufacturing and non-sustainable communities.

With tax credits centralized around passive homes and manufacturing use of co-generation of waste heat systems (largest consumer of energy and generation of GHG).

I also stated that 100% of the project funding would go directly to the project with the intention that it would return over 150% of the investment over the first 5 years. gCommunities would then reinvest the revenue into building national gCommunities through energy cooperative agreements.

As always the data was inarguable, sustainable, economically and profitable with a bureaucratically favorable plan using existing ideas and resources balanced to remove us from our dependence on finite resources while protecting out greatest resources - 'people and the planet'

Thank you
Google Staff and Dr. Steven Chu for considering my plan,

DIY - Most Eco Friendly Computer... 1 amp @ 3.7 volts, 180 grams.


WXHMD is a Gumstix Overo Fire computer-on-module driving a Vuzix VR920 head-mounted display: Stereoscopic 640x480, audio in/out, 3D tilt sensor, 3D magnetic compass, TI OMAP3530 @ 600 MHz, Linux, WiFi, Bluetooth, 1 amp @ 3.7 volts, 180 grams.

Most wearable computers we've seen feature a head-mounted display tethered to a small PC system in a backpack or worn on a belt. Here's a slick little system that does away with the cord, fitting the entire system in the glasses.

Pascal's own design, created for less than $1,000 total in parts, the result is a spatially aware six ounce computer, with display and battery and all, that fits neatly over the bridge of one's nose.

It's a fantastic hack and a nicely documented project, though even the device's creator himself questions whether having a pair of microwave transceivers and a LiPo battery strapped directly over one's eyes and brain is such a good idea.

Read full at HackaDay

CBO - Drinking Water Security & Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act's

The congressional budget office has released the following cost estimate reports
  • H.R. 3258, Drinking Water System Security Act of 2009 - would authorize the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate the security of community water systems serving more than 3,300 people and other public water systems that EPA determines present a security risk. Under the bill, EPA would develop regulations to require the covered water systems to perform vulnerability assessments and to establish site security plans and emergency response plans. In addition, EPA would provide grants to or enter into cooperative agreements with states, nonprofit organizations, or covered water systems to support research and training related to the security of such facilities, and for the preparation of assessments and plans related to security. The grants also could be used to implement security measures.

  • H.R. 2868, Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009 - would regulate the security of facilities across the United States where certain types of chemicals are present. The bill would authorize a chemical security office within DHS to carry out the provisions of this legislation, including conducting audits and inspections of the nation’s chemical facilities. In addition, because the bill’s requirements would be permanent,

Oct 26, 2009

DOE Releases New Versions of EnergyPlus and OpenStudio

Big for energy planners and experts!


Collage of EnergyPlus screen images.

The U.S. Department of Energy has released updated versions of its popular EnergyPlus simulation software for modeling heating, cooling, lighting, ventilating, and other energy flows as well as water in buildings, as well as its OpenStudio plug-in for Google's SketchUp program. EnergyPlus includes many innovative simulation capabilities such as time steps of less than an hour, modular systems and plant integrated with heat balance-based zone simulation, multizone air flow, thermal comfort, water use, natural ventilation, and photovoltaic systems. A list of features by EnergyPlus version is available.

Available for Windows, Linux, and Macintosh operating systems, EnergyPlus 4.0 also includes two new application guides: "Energy Management System Application Guide" and "Using EnergyPlus for Compliance." There is no charge to install and use EnergyPlus. Download EnergyPlus 4.0. The next version is scheduled for release in April 2010. Read full from EERE progress alerts

Reduce emissions 84% by 2030 while saving $1.6 trillion in energy bills...

Reducing oil dependence. Strengthening energy security. Creating jobs.

 Tackling global warming. Addressing air pollution. Improving our health. The United States has many reasons to make the transition to a clean energy economy. What we need is a comprehensive set of smart policies to jump-start this transition without delay and maximize the benefits to our environment and economy.  Climate 2030: A National Blueprint for a Clean Energy Economy. ("the Blueprint") answers that need.

The nation achieves these deep cuts in carbon emissions while saving consumers and businesses $465 billion annually by 2030. The Blueprint also builds $1.7 trillion in net cumulative savings between 2010 and 2030. Blueprint policies stimulate significant consumer, business, and government investment in new technologies and measures by 2030. The resulting savings on energy bills from reductions in electricity and fuel use more than offset the costs of these additional investments. The result is net annual savings for households, vehicle owners, businesses, and industries of $255 billion by 2030.

Under the Blueprint, every region of the country stands to save billions. Households and businesses—even in coal-dependent regions—will share in these savings.

Net Consumer and Business Savings (by Census Region in 2030)

Download the word verson of the full report 

Climate 2030: A National Blueprint for a Clean Energy Economy.

Link via docuticker

EPA Methane to Markets (M2M) Partnership significantly reduced methane emissions

Methane to Markets Partnership Spurs Global GHG Reductions

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a new report that shows the international Methane to Markets (M2M) Partnership has significantly reduced methane emissions. In 2008, U.S.-supported M2M projects delivered methane emissions reductions of more than 26 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent, roughly the annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 4.7 million passenger vehicles. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is more than 20 times as potent as CO2.
Methane to Markets: Agriculture, Coal Mines, Landfills, Oil & Gas Systems
The M2M Partnership is a public-private partnership that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by promoting the cost-effective, near-term recovery and use of methane, while providing clean energy to markets around the world.

"This Partnership is win-win-win: it protects our environment, strengthens our global economy, and transforms what would be harmful pollution into a profitable source of clean energy," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "Methane pollution captures more than 20 times more heat than carbon dioxide, making it a dangerous contributor to climate change. Methane to Markets has provided business and governments with a global, cost-effective approach that is providing real results for our planet."

The fourth annual "U.S. Government Accomplishments in Support of the Methane to Markets Partnership" report highlights the projects and activities since the partnership began in November 2004.

For more information about the Methane to Markets Partnership program:

Kohler Co. EPA National Watersense Manufacturer of the Year

U. S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized Kohler Co. recently as the WaterSense Manufacturing Partner of the Year for two years running. Kohler, a Wisconsin plumbing manufacturer received the award for its commitment to water efficiency.

The company has promoted EPA's WaterSense and its WaterSense-labeled plumbing fixtures across the country.
Kohler has collaborated with EPA WaterSense partners on regional campaigns including delivering "mobile restrooms" to consumer education events so that participants could flush WaterSense-labeled toilets first-hand.
By the end of 2008, more than 40 percent of all bathroom faucet models and 175 combinations of toilets for sale under the Kohler brand had earned the WaterSense label. In addition, showerheads, urinals and flushometer toilets which are not currently part of the WaterSense program are being developed. More than 1,000 Watersense partners helped Americans save 9.3 billion gallons of water in 2008.

To learn more about the WaterSense Partner of the Year award winners, visit WaterSense
Read full Via -EPA

WaterWars - Chicago considering leasing water to help fix budget.

CBS Chicago - Could it happen here in Chicago? "charge whatever they want for water". . . A trade publication says the [Chicago's] Department of Water Management is "considering a lease of its water and wastewater system.". . .

According to the mayor's 2010 budget, the city expects to bring in $453 million from water sales next year.

nearby.... Homer Glen in Will County relies on Lake Michigan water, but the supply comes from a German-owned firm. Locals say there's a lot more than water going down the drain. . .
Residents say rates are breaking the bank.

Homer Glen resident Lillie Gajda said her family has tried to cut back to offset high rates.
"Oh, we do everything -- we've changed out toilets, we've changed our showerheads, we've changed faucets, we've changed dishwashers," she said.

Mayor Jim Daley says residents pay about three times more than those in neighboring communities. . .

Read full from CBS Chicago

Considering Four Illinois rivers are among country's most toxic*

they may want to think about pricing...

Otherwise selling
Lake Michigan water may be breaking several laws and treaty agreements unless third parties are included as recipients?

A post-oil world heading for Mad Max scenario?

Dwindling supplies and no plan B – are we heading for Mad Max scenario? The (Mad Max ) film made a big splash at the time for its terrifying view of a world without oil, where gangs of grisly looking people roam deserts in a post-apocalyptic world, killing each other to get their hands on the few drops of petrol that some have managed to produce in makeshift refineries. Social order has completely broken down.

Great film if you like that sort of thing but complete fiction, of course. Or is it?
Three decades later, and I wonder if the film was, in fact, years ahead of its time.
Just think back to summer last year when oil prices spiked to $150 a barrel – 10 times the level of a decade earlier. In petrol stations in some European countries, people started to drive off without paying and drivers had to be banned from filling cars before they had paid up. In Britain, people stole heating oil out of the tanks that sit outside many houses in the country.

Imagine what would happen if prices rose, say, to $300 a barrel. Or higher. Not only would it become too expensive to drive unless absolutely necessary, but food would become prohibitively expensive to transport, goods from China would be too expensive to ship, and plastics, which come from oil, would be unaffordable. The cold turkey after more than a century of cheap oil would be painful indeed. For developing countries it would be fatal – many could not afford energy at those prices.

...An excellent new report, Heads in the Sand, released last week by the non-governmental organisation Global Witness – the group that first brought "blood diamonds" to the world's attention – looked in depth at what is happening to the supply of oil. And it is frightening.

The author, Simon Taylor, has spent two years working on this issue, in particular, analysing the forecasts issued late last year by the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA), in which it admitted for the first time that world oil supplies were about to start to dwindle just as demand from countries such as India and China is accelerating rapidly. The IEA had previously asserted that oil production would not peak before 2030 at the earliest.

Now it thinks we might be very close to that point.

Please read full by Ashley Seager Guardian