A fuel savers' dream: Hybridfest plugged in with county fair

Friday, June 29, 2007

From an article by Jeff Richgels in The Capital Times:

Plug-in electric hybrid vehicles will be the focus of the second annual Hybridfest, which again is being held in conjunction with the Dane County Fair.

Thanks to their extra batteries, plug-ins can travel up to about 40 miles per day solely on electric power, enabling those who don't drive much to all but forget filling up their gas tank. (Non plug-in hybrids charge while the car is decelerating and at a stop.)

Plug-ins do draw power from power plants, but that results in less greenhouse gas emissions than from direct burning of gasoline. And since the charging typically is done at night when power demand is well below day-time peaks, a big jump in plug-in use wouldn't mean a need for new power plants.

Eric Powers, founder of the Madison Hybrid Group and an organizer of Hybridfest, sees plug-in hybrids as a bridge to the future of all electric or hydrogen vehicles.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett to speak in Manitowoc, August 15

The Energy Summit: Myths of Energy
August 15, 2007
Holiday Inn Manitowoc
Topics inlcude:
Bio-Mass - Wisconsin’s Diamond in the Rough
Energy Efficiency - The Real Money Saver
The State of Electricity in Wisconsin
U.S. Representative Roscoe Bartlett

Maryland Congressman Bartlett (R) is the cofounder and cochairman of the Congressional Peak Oil Caucus and the Defense Energy Working Group in addition to being a member of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency as well as the Oil and National Security Caucuses.

"I am convinced that energy will dominate world and national politics in the 21st Century. Oil runs our economy. Oil runs our military. Oil makes and transports the food that we eat. However, oil is not forever. U.S. oil production peaked - reached a maximum in 1970 and has declined every year since. World oil production will peak too. There are three reasons to accelerate the inevitable transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources: climate change, national security interests, and global peak oil. Without contingency planning and preparation at least ten years in advance, we will have a really bumpy ride if we wait until after global peak oil forces us to transition to alternative renewable sources of energy."

Congressman Bartlett's energy-related activities and resource materials are posted on his Web site.

Click herefor more information and registration form.

Falk and Cieslewicz agree on commuter rail

Thursday, June 28, 2007

From a story by Matthew DeFour in the Wisconsin State Journal:

A proposed Dane County commuter train that would be funded with a new countywide sales tax received a boost from an agreement announced Wednesday between Madison and county leaders.

County Executive Kathleen Falk and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said the "historic" agreement paved the way for a comprehensive transit system integrating commuter rail, streetcars, enhanced bus service, road maintenance and bike trails.

"We need a way out of this (traffic) congestion and this is the way," Falk said.

The agreement calls for the creation of a Dane County regional transportation authority with the power to raise a half-cent sales tax. That would be on top of an existing half-cent general-purpose county sales tax expected to generate $43 million this year.

Are we moving too slowly and erratically?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Retired energy analyst and member of the Madison Peak Oil Group, David Knuti sent the letter below to the Wisconsin State Journal in response to its call for readers to express their opinions on whether Congress should regulate fuel efficiency:

I devoutly hope that Congress finally sets ambitious fuel economy standards for the coming decade and begins the process of coming to terms with the 21st Century.

I only fear that we are moving too slowly and erratically for our own good. World oil demand is growing inexorably, and world production is now “stuck” with a crisis here and a crisis there, even through we have dodged the hurricane bullet for now.

And coming up behind us is Global Warming, which is affecting not only the polar bears on melting ice floes, but such people as Californians dealing with an a multi-year “perfect” drought and mega wild fires.

We fret about three-dollar-plus gas, but much of the world is already routinely coping with eight-dollar gas. As I ride along in my used Subaru “crossover” getting 24 mpg, I think I should do better, but it is hard to find solutions that do not cost an additional twenty thousand or so dollars. As a retiree, I do not bear the burden of a long commute, but I shudder for those trapped in our spread out society.

Americans are taught to look to the market place for available solutions to our problems and we find a way to make do with what is for sale. I expect my 35 mpg vehicle may be a little less versatile, comfortable and sexy, but I will learn to love it just the same.

Six owners divorce their cars

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

From a story by James T. Spartz on the Web site of Isthmus:

"I now pronounce you, divorced!" said Sonya Newenhouse, founder of Community Car. With a bang of the gavel, six newly "single and loving it" Madisonians were free from the burdensome relationship they had endured for years -- their relationship with their car, that is.

This not-so-sad break-up event in front of the Orpheum Theatre on State Street Monday was part of Community Car of Madison's first "Divorce Your Car Party."

The local car sharing program, one of only 18 in the nation, strategically places cars around Madison in reserved spots. Patrons pay monthly fees and per hour rates which cover gas, maintenance, insurance, and other standard expenses. Each shared vehicle can potentially replace up to 20 privately owned cars.

Sustainable biofuels workshop, June 26, Madison Area Technical College

Monday, June 25, 2007

Madison Area Technical College
Truax Campus
3550 Anderson St.
Madison, Wisconsin
Registration - 8:30 a.m.
Seminar - 9:10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

This collaborative seminar is designed to educate grain and livestock farmers, agriculture professionals, government officials and policy makers, educators and biofuels enthusiasts about the implications and applications of biofuels in today’s changing global climate.

Attendees will also learn about the important benefits of conservation programs that help to reduce and offset carbon emissions and hear testimonials from experts in these fields.

if you have questions, call Anne Scott at 608-246-6800 or email ascott@matcmadison.edu.

Workshop: Introduction to Biodiesel Fuel

Friday, June 22, 2007

This hands-on course covers the fundamentals of biodiesel with an emphasis on fuel production, quality control, engine performance, and vehicle emissions. Students will produce biodiesel by the transesterfication process and perform ASTM measurements to determine chemical and physical properties of fuel. Test engines will be operated on biodiesel to evaluate performance and emission properties. This course is designed for diesel technicians, fleet managers, chemical process operators, and others with an interest in the technical aspects of biodiesel production and use.

Catalog Number: 10468100
Class Number: 53250
Credits: 1
Instructor: Ken Walz, CERET Project Director
Format: Three day course
Date: July 10, 11 and 12
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Cost: $175.00 (Price includes book and lunch each day)
Location: Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Sturgeon Bay Campus
To Register: Call any of the following numbers:
Green Bay: (920) 498-5444
Sturgeon Bay: (920) 746-4900
Toll free: (800) 422-NWTC, ext. 5444.
Questions? Call (920) 498-5457
This course is made available with partial support provided by the National Science Foundation DUE/ATE award 05010764.

Raise CAFE, retool GM plant

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A letter to the editor of The Capital Times and Wisconsin State Journal from Hans Noeldner:
Dear Editor:

Senator Kohl has expressed concern that higher CAFE mileage standards would hurt auto workers at plants like the GM factory in Janesville - a factory that cranks out some of the most ostentatious fuel guzzling road hogs on Earth.

There is a simple solution: retool this plant - and the others currently used to make giant SUVs for Suzy Soccermom and supersized Tonka Trucks for Billy Fourwheeler. What to manufacture instead? Light rail vehicles, of course! This conversion might actually be rather trivial, because the size and weight of Suburbans and Yukons is not much less than light rail cars.

I have to wonder why guys like Representatives Roscoe Bartlett and Ron Paul - old fashioned Republicans both - "get" the fact that our home planet is not made of oil, while Senator Kohl keeps his head stubbornly planted in the sand.

Gasoline will always be available at $20-$100/gallon

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thoughts from Hans Noeldner:

Just in! Wonderful news from the Geological Society of America!

"Gasoline...will always be available at US$20 to US$100 (in 2006 dollars) per 3.8 liters, even if it comes from tar sands, cellulose, coal, or oil shale."

Cool, huh? Yes, you read it right, that's $20 to $100 PER GALLON, not per barrel. And not $3 to $100, not $8 to $100, but $20 to $100. Hmmm...what's the significance of that?

I have a hunch: at $20 per gallon or more, the lower 4/5ths of the US population will basically cease to use gasoline, leaving plenty in the ground for the upper crust to use for, say, the next 100+ years. And of course $20 per gallon isn't a drop in the bucket to plutocrats.

The source of the prediction is here.

Isn't it terrific that scientific organizations like the GSA receive public funding to make such bold and highly specific predictions?

Live Earth concert party in Luck, WI, July 7

From the John Muir chapter of the Sierra Club:

Attend a Live Earth Party in Wisconsin at the Anathoth Community Farm in Luck, Wisconsin. The farm is also celebrating its 10th anniversary and invites everybody to come celebrate. Anathoth Community Farm will even be hosting local artists to come and play. The bands include; Natty Nation, Savage Aural Hotbed, Woody McBride aka djESP, and Bedlam, Nama Rupa, Floydian Slip, and Command Zulu. For more information on this event please check out Anathoth Community Farm's Website.
Anathoth will hold the party in conjunction with "major concerts" around the world "to spread awareness of Global Warming. These concerts are coming together to form an event called Live Earth. Live Earth is headed by Al Gore and is going to be taking place in all seven continents and have more than 150 artists in its line-up."

The artists include: Dave Mathews Band; Madonna; Jack Johnson; Red Hot Chili Peppers; Kayne West; Melissa Etheridge; and many more.

"Live Earth is even setting itself up on all forms of media, so that those who cannot make it to the major concerts will still be able to connect with the world. Live Earth will be playing on; TV, Internet, radio, and wireless channels."

Refinery gasoline production and ethanol use

Monday, June 18, 2007

From the Associated Press on Money Central:

Some facts on refinery gasoline production and ethanol use:

Number of U.S. refineries: 149.

U.S. refinery gasoline production: 136 billion gallons a year.

Gasoline demand: 143 billion gallons a year (imports make up the difference).

Annual ethanol production today: 5 billion gallons.

Annual ethanol production requirements being considered by Congress: 15 billion gallons by 2015; 36 billion gallons by 2022.

Use solar heated water to reduce energy consumption

Mike Helfman (right) explains the operation of a Bubbling Springs solar water heater to a visitor at the Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair.

Biofuels at the Fair

Sunday, June 17, 2007

RENEW's Michael Vickerman (right) talks with Steve Fugate of Flying F Biofuels, Tiffin, IA, about Flying F's biodiesel production system during the Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair in Custer, WI.

Fair gets underway

Saturday, June 16, 2007

John Dunlop of the American Wind Energy Association talks with visitors at the Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair in Custer, WI.

If you come to the Fair, vicit RENEW in booth #21 in Exhibit Hall C.

Fair features fuel alternatives

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair, June 15-17, Custer, WI, features a wide variety of vehicles running on different fuels. Vehicle exhibitors are eager to talk about their vehicles and share information.

Visit RENEW in booth #21 in Exhibit Hall C.

Ethanol & biodiesel

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

From Week in Review on the Web site of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Analysts warn against ethanol saturation
The rush to build ethanol plants could produce an investment bubble that bursts and undermines the biofuel's prospects in Wisconsin. Most industry analysts remain optimistic about ethanol, especially if the government mandates more of its use amid rising petroleum prices. But there's growing concern that too many ethanol plants are being built as investors rush to capitalize on the trend.

Port of Milwaukee vies for biodiesel refinery
The Port of Milwaukee is negotiating to get one of the state's first biodiesel refineries. If the talks are successful, construction on the $12.5 million refinery could begin this fall on Jones Island near the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District's wastewater treatment plant. The refinery would take soybean oil, a renewable energy source, and refine it into fuel suitable for diesel-engine vehicles. The demand for such fuel is growing as more states mandate the use of renewable energy or at least provide incentives for it.

Greener pastures: Luther College harvests years of ecofriendly ventures

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

From an article by Joe Orso in the La Crosse Tribune:

DECORAH, Iowa — Luther College is blooming as an environmentally friendly campus, but the seeds were planted many years ago.

The 46,000 trees planted during Earth Week in 1990, the prairie grasses that have been restored and many other projects have played a part in the college’s greening.

But standing on a hill in the heart of campus — from where one could see both the woodlands and prairie grasses — Jon Jensen pointed to something new: an anemometer tower about 150-feet tall that has been measuring wind speed for about two years. One day, the data from the measurements might be used to build a wind turbine to generate energy for the college.

“We’re trying to incorporate ideas of sustainability into everything we do — into the education of our students, into the way we run our physical plant, into the way we build new buildings, into the way we run our land,” said Jensen, director of environmental studies program since 2003.

As he stood on the hill behind Dahl Centennial Union, men from facilities services arrived, loaded a barrel of waste vegetable oil from the cafeteria onto their truck and hauled it away. The next day, they’d convert it to biodiesel to run lawn equipment. . . .

The push to go green “has had a significant impact” at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, said Matt Lewis, director of campus planning and facilities management.

Interview with Judy Ziewacz, head of Office of Energy Independence

Monday, June 11, 2007

From an article by Nathan Leaf in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Gov. Jim Doyle's promotion of biofuel in Wisconsin included creation of the Office of Energy Independence this spring, which will work closely with the renewable fuels industry.

To lead the office, he selected Judy Ziewacz, who had been deputy secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Drawing from years of experience in the agriculture sector, one of her priorities will be to help farmers understand they're not just growing crops for the dinner table but also for the fuel tank.

Q: What was your involvement in the creation of the Office of Energy Independence?

A: Secretary (Rod) Nilsestuen and I recommended that the governor (create) the Consortium on Biobased Industry, which would have been in May 2005. That group was intended to look at Wisconsin's competitive advantages in this emerging industry. We knew we were not going to compete with Iowa and Illinois in corn. That wasn't going to be our competitive advantage. But we also knew Iowa and Illinois didn't have the forestry stock that we did and diversity of landscape, including animal agriculture, that we have. So out of the consortium work they made the recommendation ... to create a position that will coordinate between agencies. And I was asked if I was interested.

Renewable Energy & Sustainable Living Fair

Friday, June 08, 2007

Visit with Michael Vickerman and RENEW at THE Fair in Custer, Wisconsin, June 15-17.

Peak Oil & You - Presentation, June 10

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Bill Newhouse, an activist on the end of cheap oil, will speak on how peak oil will dramatically affect all of us in the near future and our children even more in the years to come.

Bill will speak at 2:00 p.m., at the Verona High School, 300 Richard Street, Sunday, June 10 in the Performing Arts Center.

More information at 608.848.2013.

Powering the Plains

The Great Plains Institute released a road map for Powering the Plains:

Most people in North America don't give much thought to where their energy comes from. They just know that when it's dark, cold or hot, they want light, heat and cooling. The engineering marvel that is today s electric grid has delivered all those things, and more, so well that most of us now take them entirely for granted. Unfortunately, that same electric system also faces serious problems. Rising costs, aging infrastructure and global climate change are among the challenges that make an energy transition both necessary and urgent. Over the next half century we must dramatically change the way we produce, distribute and use energy.

How we make this energy transition is as much a social and political decision as it is a technological and economic one. This roadmap summarizes years of stakeholder negotiation about how the Upper Midwest can best position its energy and agriculture sectors to thrive in the future. It is not about picking technology winners and losers or micro-managing the market. Its aim is to illuminate paths forward that look economically and environmentally promising no matter what the future holds. It represents a consensus among leaders from Iowa, Manitoba, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota on how best to meet this challenge.
Powering the Plains lays out these key strategies:

1. Invest in energy efficiency until investment in other energy
options would be less expensive;

2. Accelerate commercialization of advanced coal technologies with the capture and geologic storage of CO2 emissions;

3. Maximize economic and reliable integration of wind energy onto the electrical grid and harness the region’s wind energy resource for additional uses;

4. Launch a biorefinery industry that produces liquid fuels, biogas, electricity and bio-products from cellulosic biomass;

5. Advance new low-impact hydropower development as part of a broader portfolio of energy options;

6. Build a hydrogen and fuel cell industry based on regional renewable and carbon-neutral energy resources; and

7. Expand electric transmission and energy delivery capacity to accommodate the substantial increases needed in low- and zero-carbon energy production.

Groups oppose coal-to-vehicle-fuel legislation

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

According to the League of Conservaton Voters:

Some Members of Congress are pushing the U.S. to adopt a more robust program for turning America’s coal reserves into fuel. Unfortunately, the process for extracting a usable fuel from coal produces a tremendous amount of global warming pollution. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, using coal-derived fuel produces nearly twice as much carbon dioxide (a key global warming pollutant) as using gasoline, turning a compact car into an SUV from a global warming perspective. Even if we could somehow capture the carbon (and no technology exists today,) coal fuels are still about 10% worse than gasoline.

Rather than spending billions to support a process that makes the global warming problem worse, we should focus our efforts on increasing fuel efficiency for cars and trucks.
MoveOn has an on-line petition in opposition to the legislation.

Auto execs lobby against efficiency increase

From an Associated Press story by Ken Thomas:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The heads of the domestic auto industry pressed congressional leaders Wednesday to revisit a plan to increase fuel efficiency standards that automakers say could hurt their industry.

Leaders of General Motors, Ford and the Chrysler Group discussed the impact of health care, trade and energy policies on their companies, and asked House and Senate leaders to consider an alternative to a proposed overhaul of Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for vehicles.

"They laid out the numbers and the numbers that were in the Commerce bill, they said, would destroy the domestic auto industry," said Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., who participated in a morning meeting with GOP leaders.

During a luncheon with Senate Democrats, General Motors Corp. chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner said it was time to move beyond approaches like CAFE "that clearly haven't solved these critical problems." He suggested more attention on developing biofuels such as ethanol and research on advanced batteries for hybrids and electric vehicles.

Wagoner acknowledged Tuesday in Delaware that "it's very likely there will be increases in CAFE" but said the Detroit-based automaker hoped to "make sure that we also fix the real problems while we're doing that."

Next week, the Senate is expected to consider a proposal to raise CAFE standards to a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon for a manufacturer's cars and trucks by 2020, an increase of about 10 mpg over current levels. From 2020-2030, the auto industry would face 4 percent annual increases.

Ashland learns to be green

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

From a story by Chad Dally in The Daily Press, Ashland:

It's one thing to simply call your town an eco-municipality, or claim environmental sensitivity as a selling point for your business, but as some point out, the walk has to back up the talk.

The 13 participants in the Alliance for Sustainability's "Green Team" program, comprised of cities, tribes, schools and businesses, met on Thursday to discuss their efforts traveling down the recycled brick road. And the response was as varied as "bird-friendly coffee" and longer grass at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, to high-tech thermal imaging at Lac Courte Oreilles Community College for a determination on where buildings lose heat or cold.

"We're getting calls from all over the state and nation about what we're up to here," Bayfield Mayor Larry MacDonald said. "and we may not know everything, but we know more about what we're not doing than most other places."

There are, of course, the staples of energy efficiency and reduced consumption, including recycling at the Bad River Reservation's award-winning program or a shared recycling bin between the Chequamegon Food Co-op, Daily Bread and Black Cat Coffeeshop in Ashland.

The Co-op also encourages its patrons to bring their own bags and bottles to haul away groceries, which may contain local and/or organic produce that the Co-op emphasizes in its purchasing.

Washburn Iron Works added a little twist to its recycling, however, by applying it to the air. President Raelyn Pearson detailed how the company is recycling air from its foundry back through a dust-collecting filter to maintain heat during the winter, cutting its heating needs in half and saving $15,000 in the process.

"They don't know I'm alive, and I like it that way."

Monday, June 04, 2007

From an article by Chad Dally in The Daily Press, Ashland, WI:

Each mild winter, extended drought and severe storm gradually adds credence to climate change, while every spike in gas costs reminds motorists of the need to move away from dependence on fossil fuels.

But there are ways northern Wisconsin can deal with disruptions to our daily routine and the ecological footprint that follows us, said Steve Kozak, renewable energy instructor at Lac Courte Oreilles Community College and director of its Sustainable Living Institute.

Kozak shared his perspective about sustainable energy during a presentation on Wednesday at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center.

Kozak's own tipping point into action came when he heard that villagers in the Arctic community of Shishmaref, Alaska, where Kozak taught in 1979, began to abandon the village in 2005 because of instability of the ice underneath them due to climate change.

Thanks to passive and active solar systems installed at his home outside of Hayward, Kozak is now energy-independent, living completely off the power grid.

"They don't know I'm alive, and I like it that way," he said.

State on the wrong track?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

From an article by Susan Smith from the Wisconsin State Journal:
EDGERTON -- Henry Stockwell's got a problem with the railroad.

This year there were two derailments in two months in his Rock River neighborhood south of Edgerton; the February crash tossed a rail car up an embankment and within a few feet of the bedroom where his grandson was sleeping.

In May, Stockwell and neighbor Dave Markson stood along the tracks when a fact-finding train full of local officials chugged by, with signs reading, "Gov. Doyle Help Us!"

. . . Bill Gardner's got a problem, too, even though he runs the railroad. His Wisconsin & Southern Railroad runs on tracks owned by the state of Wisconsin. Gardner says he mailed the metal because some legislators aren't even aware that the state owns about 600 miles of tracks, acquired in the 1980s when railroads such as the Milwaukee Road went bankrupt.

"Why isn't the state interested in fixing up its own assets?" said Gardner, who has the blustering style of a railroad magnate from the 19th century. "Business (that uses rail) is coming in faster than the money to fix it. The state is happy to take the property tax and the payroll tax from those new businesses, yet they don't want to fix the ... railroad that brought in the businesses."

Flambeau River Papers wins efficiency award

Friday, June 01, 2007

From the Appleton Post Crescent:

Flambeau River Papers in Park Falls was awarded the governor's 2007 Pulp and Paper Energy Efficiency Award.

Gov. Jim Doyle announced the winner while visiting Neenah Thursday. The award recognizes a state pulp and or paper mill that shows outstanding achievement in implementing an energy efficient project.

Flambeau River Papers uses a heat recovery process that conserves natural gas and saved the company about $2 million annually in gas costs.