Archive for Energy
The other night Rachel Maddow commented on “how weak the political and rhetorical muscles get when they`re allowed to atrophy.” She was talking about the insular conservative media bubble, but well, a little Socratic method never hurt anyone:
…when Sharron Angle`s political career ended last night on local television in Nevada, it was a perfect case study in what happens if you don`t ever talk to people with whom you disagree. Because here is the thing when your positions are never questioned, you`re never forced to develop strong logic to back them up. When your arguments are never challenged, you don`t ever have to improve them. You don`t ever have to cast out arguments of yours that don`t make sense or learn how to deal with evidence that appears to contradict your conclusions. That`s why I regret that we don`t have more conservatives on this show. Because I do have a point of view, of course, but I like talking with people with whom I disagree, both because it is fun and selfishly because it makes my arguments better.
The other day on this blog I road tested some ideas around a theme I’ve been working on: leadership on the left. A discussion of wind and solar energy provided the opportunity. I have grown frustrated watching liberals decry leaders in Washington for having no spines when so few seem capable themselves of making decisions when the choices aren’t widely popular or downside-free. But damn, if we don’t have the courage to boldly choose between vanilla and chocolate.
If we expect to get the country out of the mess it’s in, we’d better get better at being leaders capable of more than assenting to the obvious. Leaders need to make and execute plans. Not everyone can. Almost anybody can have a good idea. And ideas often improve when tested.
With the Gulf Oil Disaster, Heath Shuler screening On Coal River in Washington DC, and last year’s Coal-Ash Spill in Tennessee, we southeasterners are more than ready for a new conversation on our energy future.
When citizens rose up back in 2006 to defeat the proposed construction of a peaking power plant in Woodfin, we were told by industry officials that there would soon be brownouts and that elderly people would die in their homes unless we decided to burn diesel fuel for energy upwind of west Asheville.
Despite the sea change in Americans’ perception of our fuel sources, there is no emphasis on diversifying the commercial power sources in western North Carolina. Last year when the topic of wind power came up, our Raleigh representation asserted that protecting views was more important than addressing our power needs. They passed a bill limiting the heights of wind turbines to 100 feet, knowing full well that the shortest commercial wind turbines stand 200 feet tall.
Today’s Asheville Citizen-Times reports on a poll taken by Public Policy Polling:
New polling organized by Taylor found that 61 percent of WNC residents thought the 100-foot limit was too restrictive, far too restrictive or inappropriate.
Only 21 percent said it was appropriate.
I didn’t see Gasland on HBO this week.
But I heard about it plenty:
Two months after the BP oil spill, it may be easy to hear the words “water contamination” and “drilling” and immediately think “Gulf Coast.”
But one filmmaker says there’s another water source at risk — and this one is in our own backyards.
In his new film, “Gasland,” filmmaker Josh Fox spotlights the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, a process that extracts natural gas from rock formations.
Fracking energy companies own this one-time democracy:
In 2005, the Bush/ Cheney Energy Bill exempted natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act. It exempts companies from disclosing the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing. Essentially, the provision took the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) off the job. It is now commonly referred to as the Halliburton Loophole.
What really pricked my ears was the flaming tap water.
Hmm. The sea has turned to oil. Water has turned to fire. Frogs, hail and locusts can’t be far behind.
Gasland is here.
It seems so obvious. If everyone uses less oil, via sexy hybrid cars, or on the dole public transport, we’ll actually burn less gas, drill fewer seabeds, spill less lube and spew less carbon into the atmosphere. But if you said that, you’ve never met a man named Jevons. For he would tell you one thing: efficiency improvemntsÂ only create more demand for the very fuel you’re trying to conserve.
If conservation is not the answer, what about generating new sources of fuel from crops? The 2005 Renewable Fuel Standard mandates greater biofuel usage over time and provides tax credits for biofuel producers. That ain’t no unfunded mandate. Problem solved. Just one thing. For biodiesel, the Renewable Fuel Standard never gets biodiesel beyond 5% of diesel fuel supply. So now all the sexy new diesels coming on the market (which are about 25% more efficient than their gasoline siblings) won’t accommodate anything more than B5 (5% biodiesel, 95% regular diesel). Never mind that my 1976 diesel Mercedes runs B100 without a problem (though 35 year old cars do encounter problems.) In that sense diesel engine technology has gone backwards, with Congressional approval.
From the NOLA Times-Picayune:
Shana Taylor, left, and Lawrence Lamandre who both live and work in New Orleans show their displeasure of British Petroleum in Jackson Square during a protest against the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico in New Orleans Sunday May 30, 2010. A majority of the protesters identified themselves as being from New Orleans or neighboring communities.
Shana Taylor is an old friend of David Castro, whom a few of you know. She created the image. Thanks to David for the link.
I asked a dear friend how she goes about multi-modaling on days like today. She told me she wears a rain jacket, rain pants, and sandals. Further, she told me that she works at a job where it’s o.k. to look gross. As I don’t have that sort of gear and need to look semi-presentable at various locations today, I hopped in my truck today to do my thing.
It was a wonderful week. I walked, biked, and took transit Monday through Thursday. I’m excited to continue these choices and to schedule my time with multi-modal transportation in mind.
I’ll also need to purchase some more gear!
Thanks, Asheville, for a week to remember.
It is wonderful weather today, and I’ve been pedaling from meeting to meeting feeling grateful for it. Again today I was feeling too lazy to pedal up Clingman Ave., so I hopped the #1 bus to get downtown. From there I rode my bike to The Dripolator for a meeting. After that it was up the Lexington Ave. climbing lane and right on College St. to get to a meeting at the Capital Center. Esther Manheimer was there as well, and she talked to me about riding her bike to work today (Esther’s note to self: “Don’t wear white pants to work when riding your bike”). The Y came next, and I got my workout in before heading over to Two Guys for a lunch meeting about the Media Arts Project. Now I’m at my office off Charlotte St. prepping for an afternoon of work with clients.
This not-driving thing has been really fun and easy. I haven’t started my truck all week long, and I’ve been able to do everything I needed/wanted to do. Transportation costs for the week have totaled $3.
This landed in my email inbox:
Wed. Night Forum on Pedestrian Connectivity — 6pm May 19 @ ADC
Bikeways, Greenways, and Pedestrian Facilities for Asheville : A Status Report and a Look Forward
Presenters: Marc Hunt, Chair, Asheville Greenway Commission
Don Kostelec, AICP, Senior Transportation Planner, TRANSPO GROUP
Marc Hunt will provide a brief overview of historic and current design/planning efforts in the City of Asheville for bicycle, pedestrian, and greenways facilities as well as a status report on project implementation to date.
Don Kostelec will provide his perspective as a professional planning consultant to progressive communities nationwide regarding the unique challenges and opportunities that Asheville faces as it considers improving its network of human-powered transportation alternatives. Included will be a demonstration of state-of-the-art connectivity modeling software using a hypothetical case study from our community.
Join us Wednesday evening, 6-7:30pm at ADC to learn about pedestrian connectivity in Asheville !