Why haven't we banned the incandescent light bulb?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

From "Death to the Incandescent" by Kelpie Wilson as posted on Truth Out:

More than 90 percent of the energy consumed by a standard incandescent bulb is given off as heat, while only 10 percent is converted into light. That's a 10 percent efficiency of converting electricity to light.

By contrast, a compact fluorescent (CF) light bulb is from 35 percent to 66 percent efficient, depending on the design. The new LED lights are even more efficient. By one estimate, if every American household changed just three incandescent light bulbs to CF bulbs, we could eliminate 11 fossil-fuel-fired power plants.

If we can stop even a fraction of those new coal plants being built just by changing our light bulbs, shouldn't we do it already? And why haven't we banned the incandescent bulb yet? When we learned that leaded gas was poisoning kids' brains, we phased it out. Those bulbs are poisoning our kids' future.

But as long as the old-fashioned filament bulb sits there on the store shelves, clear or frosted, white or colored, cheap and abundant, there will always be some of us who will take them home and screw them in.

That's why we need to ban the bulb. It's the kind of political action we could be marching and protesting about. There is an organization working in Britain to ban the incandescent bulb, but I don't know of a serious effort in the US.

More evangelicals see a need to protect the planet

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Rob Zaleski, writing in The Capital Times, looks at the evangelical movement's growing recognition of global warming and energy conservation:

Maybe it's not hopeless after all.

Maybe Americans will wake up in time to help reverse global warming and, in the process, help rescue the planet.

At least, that's what some are suggesting after Pat Robertson, of all people, recently announced that he's a global warming convert.

Yes, it's true, the religious right's shoot-from-the-hip leader told his presumably stunned followers during a broadcast of his "700 Club" a few weeks ago.

"It is getting hotter, and the ice caps are melting, and there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the air," said Robertson, a longtime global warming skeptic. "And if we are contributing to the destruction of the planet, we need to do something about it."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

This blog does not intend to endorse any candidates in this fall's elections; yet, it's important to know their positions on peak oil and appropriate responses. It is in this spirit that the blog includes an editorial piece from The Capital Times with Dave Zweifel's perception of Mark Green's position on rebuilding American's railroads:

If you're among the growing legions who see the need to bring viable passenger rail service to this part of the country, you're not going to want to vote for Mark Green for governor.

Green has obviously spent too much time with the Washington faction that doesn't mind throwing countless billions to the highway cabal, but is "horrified" whenever Amtrak comes looking for a small handout that might make riding in a train just a tad more convenient.

In fact, according to a story on Wisconsin Public Radio earlier this week, Green claimed to have never heard of the years-long initiative to get high-speed rail into the Midwest, particularly in the Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison-Minneapolis corridor.

Now that, for a man who wants to be the governor of our state, is nothing short of astounding.
Dave Zweifel: Green utterly in the dark about rail
Photo by Associated Press
An Amtrak train gets ready to head out from Portland. Me.

When Mark Green was in the Legislature, after all, it was Tommy Thompson, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, who first proposed bringing high-speed rail into our state and became one of its biggest champions.

Green further told WPR that he worries about the deficits that passenger rail is running in this country, obviously oblivious to the reasons why. He doesn't know, for instance, that potential rail passengers have but one time choice per day to catch a train or that whenever there's a problem with a freight train, Amtrak gets shoved to the side. The Bush administration and its supporters in Congress like Green himself have succeeded in starving passenger rail to make sure it can't succeed.

His answer, like that of his Wisconsin Republican colleague to the south, James Sensenbrenner, is to claim that the private sector ought to run passenger rail, as if that hasn't been tried and miserably failed before. If private interests ought to be paying for and running the rails (as, of course, the freight lines do), then perhaps the private interests who clog our public highways with longer and bigger trucks ought to be building and owning their own roads. Or why not advocate that the airlines ought to pay for their own airports?

While Mark Green is making uninformed comments about passenger rail service (I wonder if he's ever ridden a train), Jim Doyle is pushing the feds to get behind the Midwest High Speed initiative. He's even advocated extending high-speed passenger rail from Milwaukee to Green Bay in Green's own congressional district, something Thompson did too.

But Green is probably not aware of that either.

World peak oil conference, Boston, Oct. 25-27

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Association for the Study of Peak Oil-USA (ASPO-USA) and Boston University (BU) will co-sponsor the 2006 World Oil Conference, Time for Action: A Midnight Ride for Peak Oil, on the BU campus October 25-27, 2006. The Conference will bring energy experts from around the world to discuss the likely timing, impacts, and intelligent responses to the growing Peak Oil challenge. Virtually every sector of our society and economy will be affected by Peak Oil, from transportation, manufacturing, air freight, and agriculture, to homebuilding, city planning, and finance.

“For the first time in history, demand for petroleum could outpace world supply for a host of reasons – including geologic limits, exploding nationalism, civil wars, and skyrocketing demand in China and India,” says Steve Andrews, a co-founder of ASPO-USA. “We’re not saying that we’re ‘running out of oil’ when the peak hits. We’re saying the world is running out of cheap oil. We’ll simply produce less oil each year after the peak, while demand continues to increase. So peak oil is an ambush-in-waiting.”

As a nation long ‘addicted to oil,’ why didn’t we see the early warning signs and go to rehab years ago?

Build a post-peak infrastructure with higher gas tax

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Energy-economist and transport-economist Charles Komanoff wrote:

Today, America's and the world's prodigal use of fossil fuels is creating twin crises: a climate crisis from emissions of heat-trapping pollution into the atmosphere, and a security crisis self-created by the industrial world's thirst for other people's oil.

We can solve both crises, but only if we relinquish deep-seated beliefs about fuels and energy. And the attitude we must fling overboard first is our sense of entitlement to cheap energy. We need to recognize that energy does not cost too much; in fact, it doesn't cost nearly enough. To preserve Earth's climate, and wrest political authority from the corporate oil barons and petrodollar sheiks, we must conserve fuel massively and permanently, starting now.

RENEW's executive director Michael Vickerman offers another dimension to Komanoff's propsal -- rebuild a post-peak petroleum infrastructure:

Agreed that current energy prices are, across the board, too low and as such encourage wasteful consumption.

According to EIA weekly petroleum reports, demand for gasoline in 2006 is running 1.5 – 2.0% above 2005 levels. Even with population growth taken into account, it would appear that high fuel prices have had no material effect on gasoline/diesel consumption. But they are taking a fair amount of starch out of the current economic expansion, leaving open the distinct possibility of a recession for 2007, which would not be easy to control given ballooning public and private debt.

I do think we need to raise taxes on fuel, but not for the purpose advocated in the Charles Komanoff essay. A fuel tax (or a windfall profits tax) is needed to build (or rebuild, in some cases) what I would call the post-peak petroleum infrastructure. The centerpiece of that endeavor would be the strengthening of non-private car, non-truck modes of transporting people and goods. Serious public dollars are needed to refurbish and electrify railroad corridors, increase group transport options (buses, streetcars, community cars, ferries, etc.). This sort of funding is not going to come from the private sector, because it is too wedded to the status quo. Therefore, a tax is the only other vehicle for collecting funds for this purpose, though I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to protect such proceeds from diversion by Congressional buccaneers toward other, less noble purposes, like fighting wars in the Mideast. More than $300 billion has been already spent on the current war/occupation of Iraq, all of it charged on the national Visa card. The obligation to pay off these accumulating expenses weakens our capacity to underwrite a more sustainable transportation infrastructure out of general revenues. The only alternative would be a pay-as-you-go mechanism that collects petroleum-based wealth (which is currently being channeled into increasingly unproductive ends like high-end golf-course communities, helicopter skiing, spas for pets, vanity expeditions up Mt. Everest etc.) and redeploys it into transportation modes that will make us less abjectly dependent on petroleum for moving goods and people around.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hans Noeldner offers "autocism" as a new term in our vocabulary:

Autocism – the belief that motorists have greater transportation rights than pedestrians, bicyclists, mass transit users, equestrians, teamsters, and other non-motorists.

Autocism is the policy basis for funding, constructing, and policing transportation infrastructure that is usually separate and highly unequal. For example, most public highways and roads are open to non-motorists in principle. Given their special rights and sheer numbers, however, motorists endanger and intimidate potential users of other transportation modes to such an extent that few venture to try. Moreover, by designing thoroughfares primarily for the convenience of motorists, planners and transportation engineers thereby catalyze surrounding low-density development that is spatially impractical for non-motoring modes. Thus most of our “public” highways and roads, and many of our streets, have been rendered the near-exclusive segregated domain of motorists.

DISCLAIMER: Hans Noeldner is a Trustee in the Village of Oregon, Wisconsin. The views herein do not necessarily represent those of the Oregon Village Board.

The peak in a picture

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The chart above tells the tale of peak oil, which occurs at the top of the curve. The future "rests" on the downside. (From the Association for the Study of Peak Oil - ASPO)

A different approach to nuclear power

Monday, August 21, 2006

John Frantz, MD, emeritus member of RENEW's board of directors, and prolific writer, offers insights into a different nuclear technology:

We should increase research in ADS [Accelorator Driven System] technology so we are less likely to feel compelled to build more conventional nuclear power plants--they are susceptible to meltdown, produce more long lived waste, and can be used to produce pure Pu239, a raw material for bombs. Thorium fueled nuclear power does look very promising in the long term. After thorough demonstration of no danger of meltdown, it could even be incorporated in cogeneration projects. For more information see: www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/348

You can read John's full discussion of nuclear power generation and ADS here.

John also posts his diverse writings on his own Web site.

Evansville site for biodiesel plant and possibly soybean crushing plant

Friday, August 18, 2006

"Localization" of our economy holds a key to coping successfully wiht the end of cheap oil. Localization certainly applies to getting motor fuel from ethanol, according to a story by Nathan Leaf in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Evansville is on the verge of becoming Wisconsin's one-stop shop for biodiesel fuel. And it's all happening fairly quickly for the northwestern Rock County community.

North Prairie Productions, Waterloo, has announced plans to build a 45 million-gallon refinery that will convert soybean oil into biodiesel.

And Thursday morning, Landmark Services Cooperative of Cottage Grove told business leaders in Evansville that it has commissioned an economic feasibility study for what would be the state's first soybean processing plant adjacent to the biodiesel plant.

Doyle Urges Legislature to Reconsider Plan to Add E-85 Pumps

Thursday, August 17, 2006

From the Wisconsin Ag Connection:

One day after suspending the state's minimum markup law for ethanol-blended gasoline, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle is asking the Legislature to give another thought to requiring more state gas stations to sell the renewable fuel.

"Making sure ethanol remains more affordable than petroleum is a good first step, but we also need to make sure that consumers can have access to ethanol based fuels like E-85," Governor Doyle said. "I urge the Republican legislature to reconsider my plan to double access to E-85 in Wisconsin by providing incentives to station owners to offer this cheaper renewable fuel."

On Tuesday, Doyle said that ethanol based fuel is not subject to minimum markup law enforcement and directed the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection not pursue any actions against sellers of ethanol blended fuel.

So how has that action affected prices on Wednesday? Not much, according to Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association President Bob Bartlett, who says retailers must pass on to consumers to make up their expenses.

"I'm sure it does sound good. Everybody would like to get energy at less cost, and that includes Wisconsin's independent retailers. What this doesn't recognize is the actual cost those retailers have to pay to get the products," Bartlett said.

The average price of a gallon of gas in Wisconsin was $3.17 Wednesday, down .2 of a cent from Tuesday, when Doyle issued the order.

In March, Governor Doyle launched the Promoting Our Wisconsin Energy Resources Initiative to promote energy independence. But three months later, the Joint Finance Committee rejected a vote to provide $335,000 to fund POWER Initiative projects that would increase the number of E-85 fueling stations, increase use of E-85 in local government vehicle fleets, and promote the use of E-85 fuel.

Currently, there are only 35 stations with E-85 pumps in Wisconsin.

State grants aid area bio companies

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

From The Capital Times:

A town of Oregon farm and a Baraboo bio-based plastics firm have received state grants to help them grow.

A $60,000 grant will help O'Brien Farms collaborate with Great Lakes BioFuels LLC to develop a containerized mobile processor that can be moved from farm to farm to process oilseeds such as soybeans and sunflowers into bio-diesel fuel and animal feed. The grant addresses the first phase of the project, the economic feasibility of crushing the seeds and extracting the raw meal.

"Today's energy prices are sparking the race towards energy independence," Rod Nilsestuen, state secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, said in a statement. "We want that race to be won here in Wisconsin."

Gov. Jim Doyle's Declaration of Energy Independence challenges the state to generate 25 percent of electricity and 25 percent of transportation fuel from renewable fuels by 2025.

A $115,000 grant will help Teel Plastics develop and test a process for making composite siding products using waste wood flour and agricultural fibers.

Using wood waste to create new bio-based products is expected to help Wisconsin's saw mill industry, benefit the environment, and create new jobs. Saw mills generate millions of tons of wood flour, most of which must be disposed of at considerable expense to manufacturers and the environment.

Video of presentation by Colin Campbell

Monday, August 14, 2006

To learn more about peak oil from one of the world's leading authorities, you might want to attend a video showing at 6:30 p.m. on August 15 of the ASPO founder’s and veteran oil geologist’s speculation on a range of plausible scenarios after the end of cheap oil. Campbell examines the very core of the mechanisms which make our society function.

Escape Coffee House, 916 Williamson St., Madison

Sponsored by the Peregrine Forum, Four Lakes Green Party, and Peak Oil Action Network.

More information from David Williams: dvdwilliams51@yahoo.com.

New humanoid species discovered!

Friday, August 11, 2006

(Oregon, Wisconsin) Homo Automobilicus: a species of soft, atrophied invertebrate that spends much of its life isolated within a two-ton motorized exoskeleton on wheels. Homo automobilicus has lost the ability to move itself more than fifty to one hundred meters; consequently it is seldom to be found out of doors anywhere beyond its lair, suburbianum ridus mowanacreae. Between five and twelve times per day, the exoskeleton of homo automobilicus can be seen speeding along the broad, constantly expanding asphalt-and-concrete trails that lead from its lair to its every destination.

Hans Noeldner

DISCLAIMER: Hans Noeldner is a Trustee in the Village of Oregon, Wisconsin. The views herein do not necessarily represent those of the Oregon Village Board.

Senate fiddles while America sizzles

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Petroleum and Natural Gas Watch, Vol. 5, Number 5
August 9, 2006
by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin

In the midst of the midsummer heat wave that scorched the eastern United States, the Senate voted 71-25 to allow oil and gas drilling in a section of the Gulf of Mexico now off-limits to such activity. During the news conference afterwards, the bill’s champions decided to contribute some hot air of their own to the atmosphere, especially when they began crowing about the bill’s purported effects on oil and natural gas imports.

Continue reading.

Doyle exempts ethanol from minimum markup law

Says Consumers Should Benefit From Lower Prices of Ethanol at the Pump

Governor Jim Doyle said today that ethanol based fuel is not subject to minimum markup law enforcement and directed the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to not pursue any actions against sellers of ethanol blended fuel.

"Wisconsin is emerging as a leader in ethanol and other renewable fuels, and we need to build on that momentum," Governor Doyle said. "I want to send a clear message to producers and consumers of ethanol that the State of Wisconsin will not do anything to artificially drive up the price. More and more drivers are turning to ethanol-based fuels because they are cheaper, and that is a trend we want to continue."

The minimum markup law, passed in the 1930s, sets a minimum price at which motor fuels can be sold in Wisconsin, but makes no distinction between fuel derived from petroleum and fuel derived from ethanol. Governor Doyle said this has the effect of artificially inflating the cost of ethanol blended fuels such as E-85 and E-10. Ethanol is selling wholesale at $1.37 a gallon (accounting for a federal ethanol tax credit), while the price of petroleum is $2.60.

A report earlier today said that the Badger State Ethanol coalition was told by the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection that it couldn't offer E-85 at a lower price. In fact, the Department did investigate a complaint made against Badger State Ethanol but found that no violation occurred. Nevertheless, Governor Doyle wanted to remove any confusion that might exist and make it clear that the Department will not work to make ethanol blended fuels more expensive.

"Governor Doyle is a great friend of ethanol producers, and more importantly, consumers who will benefit from the lower prices of ethanol at the pump," said Gary Kramer, President and General Manager of Badger State Ethanol. "At a time when the legislature has been hostile to ethanol, Governor Doyle has shown incredible backbone in the fight to make our state and our country more energy independent. I applaud his action today."

"The big oil companies have reaped obscene profits in the last year at the expense of our consumers," Governor Doyle said. "Ethanol can break the stranglehold the big oil companies have on us. If a cornfield in Monroe is competing against an oil field in Saudi Arabia, that's a very good thing for Wisconsin."

Catherine Giljohann
External Relations Coordinator
Office of Governor Jim Doyle
(608) 264-6329

A tank of gas, a world of trouble

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Chicago Tribune Reporter Paul Salopek and photographer Kuni Takahashi trace the fascinating human story of oil from a single gas station in suburban Chicago to the fields where was produced and back again:

[T]o truly grasp the scope of the crisis looming before them, Americans must retrace their seemingly ordinary tankful of gasoline back to its shadowy sources. This is, in effect, a journey into the heart of America's vast and troubled oil dependency. And what it exposes is a globe-spanning energy network that today is so fragile, so beholden to hostile powers and so clearly unsustainable, that our car-centered lifestyle seems more at risk than ever.

"I truly think we're at one of those turning points where the future's looking so ugly nobody wants to face it," said Matthew Simmons, an energy investment banker in Houston who has advised the Bush administration on oil policy. "We're not talking some temporary Arab embargo anymore. We're not talking your father's energy crisis."

What Simmons and many other experts are talking about is a bleak new collision between geology and geopolitics.

Streetcar Campaign sets dates for community events

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Madison Streetcar Campaign will be hosting a series of four "Let's Connect! Bringing Modern Transit to Madison" informational meetings in early September.

These meetings will provide a fun opportunity to learn more about:
- The Transport 2020 and Streetcar Feasibility Studies
- What streetcars are and how they operate
- How cities across the country are improving their quality of life and economic vitality with streetcars, and
- How you can get involved!

Meetings will be held in community meetings spaces along each of the three corridors under consideration in the Streetcar Study, as well as downtown Madison.

- South Side - Thursday, September 7th from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Catholic Multicultural Center at 1862 Beld Street
- East Side - Wednesday, September 13th from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at Hawthorne Library at 2707 East Washington Avenue
- Downtown - Thursday, September 14th from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Central Library at 201 West Mifflin Street
- West Side - Tuesday, September 19th from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the WARF Building (UW Madison Campus) at 614 Walnut Street

At each meeting, the presentation will begin at 6:30 and last roughly one hour. If you can't make the one in your neighborhood, feel free to attend one of the others.

Snacks and drinks will be provided.

Madison Streetcar Campaign

Email us at streetcar@1kfriends.org or ward@1kfriends.org
608-259-1000 x103 - Madison Streetcar Campaign at 1000 Friends of Wisconsin

The Madison Streetcar Campaign is a partnership of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, Downtown Trolley, Inc., and the Dane Alliance for Rail Transit.

Will Mexican Oil Soon Be Tapped Out?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

From a story by Marla Dickerson in the Los Angeles Times:

MEXICO CITY — Output at Mexico's most important oil field has fallen steeply this year, raising fears that wells there that generate 60% of the country's petroleum are in the throes of a major decline. . . .

Though analysts have long forecast the withering of this mature field, a rapid demise would pose serious challenges for the world's No. 5 oil producer. The oil field has supplied the bulk of Mexico's oil riches for the last quarter of a century, and petroleum revenue funds more than a third of federal spending. . . .

It would also be bad news for the United States, for which Mexico is the No. 2 petroleum supplier, behind Canada. And it could exacerbate tight global supplies that have kept oil at record prices. . . .

The Coming "War" with Canada

Curt Cobb speculates on an intriguing battle between Canada and the U.S. for Canadian natural gas:

But there is something else even more foreboding about the leveling off of gas production according to Douglas Reynolds, a resource economist at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks who has studied the North American gas situation closely. Reynolds predicts that North American production will begin to fall precipitously sometime after 2007. And, unlike the gradual downslope that the declining production numbers for a depleting oil well or an entire oil-producing nation trace on a graph, Reynolds expects the falloff in North American gas production to resemble a cliff. When gas wells begin to decline, they decline swiftly and often with little warning.

Which brings us back to the coming "war" with Canada. There will be no quick fixes for natural gas shortages in North America. None. Eventually, natural gas from Alaska and the MacKenzie Delta in the Northwest Territories will arrive by pipeline. But that could easily be 10 years from now. Imports in the form of liquid natural gas (LNG) could offer some relief, but the timelines for building the necessary special purpose ports and ships could be equally long.

Read his full analysis on his blog Resource Insights.

Natural gas inventories decline. Blip or the beginning or a trend?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Blip, or Beginning of a Trend?

by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin

Petroleum and Natural Gas Watch, Vol. 5, Number 4

July 31, 2006

Unbeknownst to many Americans, the demand for natural gas during the winter months, with rare exceptions, greatly exceeds real-time domestic extraction volumes. This gap is overcome by tapping into the surplus natural gas injected into vast underground caverns during the warmer months. Historically, storage volumes increase from April through October and decrease during the heating season (November through March).

The most recent storage update from the Energy Information Agency, covering the week ended July 21, packed an unwelcome surprise, when it reported a net withdrawal of natural gas to the tune of seven billion cubic feet (bcf). According to AmericanOilman.com, this was the first time this decade that EIA reported a weekly decline of natural gas in storage inventories occurring between mid-April and mid-October. That week in July typically sees a build of 61 bcf.

Even though current storage volumes are running 20% above historical norms, this surprise development pushed spot market prices above the $7.50/MMBtu mark for this first time in four months.

At first blush, the market’s reaction seems hasty and overwrought. Even if weekly injections between now and Thanksgiving lag behind historical volumes by 50%, there still would be more than enough natural gas to ride out a severe winter. So why are energy traders and speculators so quick to bid up prices?