Kunstler: Rebuild the railroads

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

James Howard Kunstler (seated), featured speaker at the MREA Fair, June 24, in Custer, WI, autographed copies of his books after telling an overflow audience that the nation should rebuild the railroads to prepare for the impending lifestyle changes triggered by peak oil, i.e., the end of cheap oil.

Learn more about Kunstler and peak oil on his Web site at Kunstler.com.

Fabulous fair

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Renewable Energy and Sustinable Living Fair, June 23-25, may have set an all-time attendance record. Among the dozens of exhibits, Burke O'Neal brought the biodiesel company car from Full Spectrum Energy (formerly Light Energy Systems), an installer of wind and solar systems.

Just when hybrids were taking off, U.S. retreats on tax-credit policy

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A story by David Leonhardt in International Herald Tribune reports the coming phase-out of tax credits for buyers of hybrid vehicles:

With the money saved on gasoline and the tax credit, the Honda Civic hybrid will cost slightly less over a five- year span than the regular Civic, according to Consumer Reports. The same is true of the sharp-looking new Toyota Camry hybrid, relative to a regular Camry. For those deciding between a Prius and a regular Camry, the Prius, which gets a $3,150 credit, will start generating savings in just a few years.

The tax policy is meant to give people an incentive to change their behavior, and persuading Americans to use less oil certainly sounds like one of Washington's priorities these days.

Yet, astoundingly, many of the tax credits are about to be taken away. So Americans thinking of buying a Prius or Camry hybrid should do that soon, this month or maybe next. Meanwhile, those who wonder whether U.S. policymakers mean it when they say they are serious about changing energy policy have plenty of company.

Renewable Energy & Sustainable Living Fair

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Join RENEW Wisconsin at the amazing Renewable Energy & Sustainable Living Fair, June 23-25 in Custer, WI. Thousands attend this fair each year to participate in over 100 workshops, view demonstrations of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, and enjoy the fun festival atmosphere.

Transition from oil should start now

Monday, June 19, 2006

In tough language about our dependence on oil, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial asks:

. . .when will America make a concerted effort to wean itself from oil, the fuel that binds the country to oil-rich regimes and pollutes the environment?

. . .The good news is that energy experts in business and some oil companies understand this. As Joseph Stanislaw, an energy adviser for Deloitte & Touche USA LLP told The Wall Street Journal last week, "The transition away from oil may take 20 or 30 years, but it has to start now."

Energy costs begin to hurt

Thursday, June 15, 2006

As an AP story by David Carpenter in the Capital Times shows the cost of petroleum-based fuels has begun to pinch the finances of people with lower incomes. As scarcity continues to drive prices higher, the impact will force lifestyle changes for people with more middle-class incomes:

While wealthier households may be absorbing the price shocks painlessly, that's hardly the case at the other end of the wage spectrum, where millions of Americans don't need to check stock portfolios to feel the impact. Especially among lower-income workers, inflation is forcing more and more sacrifices, compromises and budget-juggling.

For Amy and Jacob Lopez, the $70 cost of filling up their Ford mini-van has made it tough to get by every month and may force them to sell their car for a cheaper one. But that's just the tip of inflation's impact on the northern California couple and their two preschool-age children.

Amy, a stay-at-home mom, cited the effects of higher prices for everything from rent to utilities to grocery items from milk to hamburger meat. Meanwhile, wages for her husband, who works in inventory at a flower bulb farm, have stayed the same.

"We have had to cut quite a lot of things out" to make ends meet, such as weekend outings, buying treats for their kids and visiting their grandparents, the 23-year-old said.

With rent now accounting for more than half their monthly income of $1,200, they had to seek help from a local food bank recently. Trying to stretch every dollar, they've switched to cheaper brands of shampoo and soap. Lopez isn't sure what steps to take next.

Simple to understand nuclear power primer

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Web site of the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability has a long, but very readable, primer on nuclear energy written by David Fleming, a London-based independent writer in the fields of energy, environment, economics, society and culture in London.

The article's summary says:

It takes a lot of fossil energy to mine uranium, and then to extract and prepare the right isotope for use in a nuclear reactor. It takes even more fossil energy to build the reactor, and, when its life is over, to decommission it and look after its radioactive waste.

As a result, with current technology, there is only a limited amount of uranium ore in the world that is rich enough to allow more energy to be produced by the whole nuclear process than the process itself consumes. This amount of ore might be enough to supply the world's total current electricity demand for about six years.

Moreover, because of the amount of fossil fuel and fluorine used in the enrichment process, significant quantities of greenhouse gases are released. As a result, nuclear energy is by no means a 'climate-friendly' technology.

Poised for an ethanol boom

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A story by Nathan Leaf in the Wisconsin State Journal reports:

Despite a recent setback in the state Legislature, Wisconsin's ethanol production continues to increase as local investors and farmers attempt to get in on a nationwide boom for the fuel.

A bill that would have required regular gasoline sold in Wisconsin to contain 10 percent ethanol was killed in the Senate this spring.

But with four Wisconsin ethanol plants already operating, two under construction and several other pending proposals, state officials expect production to more than double by 2007. And last month, state lawmakers discussed a bill that would temporarily roll back taxes on E-85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, to spur use of the fuel.

On our way to An Inconvenient Truth

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Hans Noeldner offers advice on how to heighten the experience of viewing An Inconvenient Truth, the new documentary on global warming opening in Madison on June 16:

What better place to scale back our greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel consumption, and motor vehicle addiction than on our way to/from the theatre where we view "An Inconvenient Truth"? If it takes two hours to get there without a car, and we need someone to accompany us for our personal safety, the hours we spend transporting ourselves via our own human power will probably open our eyes to our nation's wonton resource usage no less than the movie itself. There is no better way to comprehend our twin addictions to oil and sprawl than to laboriously traverse by foot or bicycle the vast, absurd spaces we have laid out within our communities - spaces designed for and thus utterly dominated by the movement and storage of our automobiles.

Until we-the-people freely subjugate our relentless demands for automobile-defined space, rest assured that community planners WILL NOT change course - at least not until a merciless Nature imposes limits via scarcity and collapse. Our government reflects dominant behaviors, not idealistic sentiments, bumper stickers, or quadrennial votes that we undermine with our actions the other 1460 days of the election cycle. We do our real voting with our car keys.

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

Bus to the Renewable Energy & Sustainable Living Fair

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

High gas prices making you rethink your vacation to the amazing Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair?

Don't worry; the MREA will send a bus to come pick you up! On June 23-25, the nation's leading renewable energy experts will gather in Custer, WI for the 17th annual Renewable Energy & Sustainable Living Fair to talk about our energy options and what everyday people can do now to effect change, and the MREA wants you to be able to come.

The Madison bus will leave from the Dutch Mill Park and Ride each morning of the Fair (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) at 8:00am and will leave the Fair for Madison at 7:00pm on Friday and Saturday and 5:00pm on Sunday. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online or by calling the MREA at 715-592-6595.

So don't let gas prices prevent you from coming to the Fair this year.

Ride the bus!

Irish perspective on peak oil

Monday, June 05, 2006

A look at the Web site of the Post Carbon Institute led me to a non-technical, yet effective, Power Point presentation on peak oil from Ireland, showing that the concern about peak oil is indeed world wide. The final slide shows the presenter's recommended priorities for Ireland:

- Tackle population growth.
- Impose very high levels of fuel efficiency for cars and energy efficiency for houses
- Less money on roads and more on renewable energy programmes and DECENT public transport systems
- Grants for domestic electricity generation
- A reasoned debate on the use of nuclear power
- Greater use of arable land for growing crops such as rapeseed, sugar for ethanol, willow for wood pellets, etc.
- Buying locally produced goods where possible.

Vehicles certified for tax credits

Friday, June 02, 2006

Alternate-energy.net carries the following story:
Washington - The Internal Revenue Service has acknowledged the certification by American Honda Motor Company, Inc.that several of its vehicles meet the requirements of the Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit as a qualified hybrid motor vehicle. The tax credit for hybrid vehicles applies to vehicles purchased on or after Jan. 1, 2006, and could be as much as $3,400 for those who purchase the most fuel-efficient vehicles.

The hybrid vehicle certifications recently acknowledged by the IRS and their credit amounts are:

Honda Civic Hybrid CVT Model Year 2006 $2,100.00
Honda Civic Hybrid (SULEV) MT Model Year 2005 $1,700.00
Honda Civic Hybrid (SULEV) CVT Model Year 2005 $1,700.00
Honda Insight CVT Model Year 2005 $1,450.00
Honda Insight CVT Model Year 2006 $1,450.00
Honda Accord Hybrid AT Model Year 2006 $1,300.00*
Honda Accord Hybrid AT Model Year 2005 $650.00

*2006 Honda Accord Hybrid AT without updated control calibration qualifies for a credit amount of $650.

Starting in 2006, the tax credit replaces the tax deduction of $2,000, which was previously allowed for taxpayers who purchased a new hybrid vehicle before Dec. 31, 2005. The tax credit requires a different certification. Many currently available hybrid vehicles may qualify for this new tax credit.

Consumers seeking the credit may want to buy early since the full credit is only available for a limited time.

Taxpayers may claim the full amount of the allowable credit up to the end of the first calendar quarter after the quarter in which the manufacturer records its sale of the 60,000th vehicle. For the second and third calendar quarters after the quarter in which the 60,000th vehicle is sold, taxpayers may claim 50 percent of the credit. For the fourth and fifth calendar quarters, taxpayers may claim 25 percent of the credit. No credit is allowed after the fifth quarter.

IRS.gov has more information on hybrid vehicles and other alternative motor vehicles.

UWSP ahead in bio fuels race

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A story by Carlos Gieseken in the Stevens Point Journal reports on the UW-Stevens Point plan to offer a minor in biofuels:
In January's State of the Union address, President Bush stressed the need to find alternative fuel sources, like ethanol, to be derived from corn, grass, wood chips and other organic materials.

It was the last potential source that most interested Gerry Ring, chair of the paper science and engineering department at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

"When I heard him mention wood chips to help alleviate our dependence on foreign oil, I knew I would be a little bit busier," Ring said.

The paper science and engineering department recently proposed a minor in bio fuels and bio-refinery. That program will train the paper scientists and engineers of tomorrow on how a paper mill, using the same materials it uses to produce paper, can produce liquid fuels, like ethanol, along with electricity that can then power the mill or be sold.