One step ahead with hybrid vehicles

Monday, June 30, 2008

From an article by Roberto Michel in the Wisconsin State Journal:

For a business in which gasoline is like life's blood, Barnes Inc. could be hurting much worse than it is, according to Mark Barnes, president and CEO of the Madison-based landscaping, lawn maintenance, and snow removal company.

Barnes credits his company's ability to cope with high gas costs to steps taken years ago, such as changing its fleet of sales vehicles to hybrid sedans.

In 2006, the company replaced the pickup trucks used by sales people with Toyota Prius hybrids and now has 14 Prius sedans, which get better than twice the mileage of the pickups.

"We bought them in 2006, not necessarily with the anticipation that gas was going to be creeping up on $4 a gallon, but with the savings to us then, " Barnes said.

Other businesses also have made major changes to their vehicle fleets. Jim Hirsch, president of Paul Davis Restoration of Lakeland Counties, Cottage Grove, said he began buying Prius sedans back in 2004 to replace conventional pickups and sedans used for sales and project management.

Learn about lighting with light emitting diodes (LEDs), July 2, Madison

Friday, June 27, 2008

From Barbara Smith at the Wisconsin Department of Administration:

A local manufacturers’ rep for LED lighting will be giving a presentation on LED products, especially those with applications to commercial buildings. They will also talk about their experience so far with these new products in local businesses, as well as the buzz about LEDs at the most recent LightFair. Please join us if you are interested.

Wednesday, July 2nd
DOA, Conference Room 6B
101 E. Wilson Street, 6th Floor

Seeking a flex-fuel car? State auctioning vehicles

Thursday, June 26, 2008

From an article by Ben Jones in the Appleton Post-Crescent:

MADISON – People looking to beat high gas prices with alternative energy may want to check out a state vehicle auction this weekend.

The state of Wisconsin is auctioning off 42 Ford Tauruses that can run on E85 fuel. The flex-fuel cars are part of more than 100 vehicles, including cars, trucks and vans, the state is auctioning because of age or condition. The auction will be held Saturday in Arlington. . . .

The state continues to purchase flex fuel cars. The Tauruses are not being sold because they burn E85, but because they have reached the end of their useful life for the state.

Most of the cars the state is auctioning have more than 100,000 miles and some are more than 10 years old.

But bargain hunters may find good deals on cars that have been regularly maintained. At one recent car auction E85 Tauruses sold for around $4,000.

The auction is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the UW Agricultural Research Station in Arlington. An inspection will be held from 1-6 p.m. Friday and at 8 a.m. the day of the auction. . . .

Election spin on energy

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

From an article in the Entropic Journal of Hans Noeldner, an active participant in the Madison Peak Oil Group:

Now that the final stretch of Election 2008 is underway, Neo-Conservative spin on energy issues is becoming obvious.

(1) High gasoline prices? It's the fault of environmentalists (i.e. DEMOCRATS.) These guys – and their bosom buddies the trial attorneys and activist judges – have managed for far too long to block exploration and extraction of vast reserves right here in America.

(2) But Mr. McCain, didn’t you say you were opposed to more offshore drilling only a few months ago? $4 gas changes everything, just like 9/11 changed everything. (Remind the people of 9/11 whenever possible.) Next question?

(3) And didn’t President Bush help his brother Florida Governor Jeb Bush to block offshore drilling in Florida? Next question!! (And make sure that damned reporter gets blacklisted – I don’t want any more questions from him!)

Home Depot will collect CFLs for recycling

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A summary from Grist:

Home Depot announced Tuesday that it will collect compact fluorescent light bulbs and send them off to be recycled. The home-improvement behemoth hopes the new program will keep the bulbs, which contain a small amount of mercury, out of household trash and recycling bins. IKEA also collects CFLs for recycling but doesn't have the market saturation of Home Depot; more than three-quarters of U.S. households are estimated to be within 10 miles of a Home Depot store. The company's 1,973 U.S. stores will also switch to CFLs in light-fixture showrooms by the fall, a move expected to save it $16 million annually in energy costs.

Mpower your home: Demonstrations and presentations, June 28

Monday, June 23, 2008

From Mpowering Madison:

You’ve taken the Mpower pledge, now learn how to turn your pledge into action!

Saturday June 28th, 2008
11 am – 3 pm
211 S. Paterson Street, Madison, WI

Rain or shine in the parking lot behind the building with the large metal birds on the bike path.

Demonstrations and presentations to answer your building and home improvement questions.

Ideal for homeowners, renters, property managers, landlords, contractors and anyone wanting to lower their energy costs!

“Ask the Expert”
12 – 1:15 pm Indoors
Panel of Experts:
Bob Pfeiffer
Kevin Hogan
John Viner - a frequent guest of the Larry Meiller show of Wisconsin Public Radio

After a short presentation, your questions about home improvement will be discussed. Feel free to bring photos of your specific problems.
“How To” Demonstrations
Air Sealing
Exhaust Fan Display
RainReserve Rain Barrel
Using Metro Bus Bike Rack
And more!

Check out MGE solar display on 6/24 at Eastside Farmers Market

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

From Madison Gas & Electric:

Learn about solar photovoltaic systems while you pick out your fresh veggies. Stop in and see Madison Gas and Electric's new solar display trailer at the Eastside Farmers Market from 4:00 to 7:00 PM on Tuesday, June 24 at 201 S. Ingersoll Street.

This display has a complete working system with two types of solar panels along with a controller, inverter and storage batteries. Come and see how the system works and learn about available solar programs and incentives.

Time's right for rail

Monday, June 16, 2008

From an editorial in The Capital Times (Madison):

The impossible happened this week -- the U.S. Senate and House voted overwhelmingly to fully fund Amtrak for the next five years. There's even some matching money to help states set up or expand rail service.

It's amazing what four-buck-a-gallon gas will do.

Amtrak's funding package even got the votes of some of its biggest critics, like Florida Republican Rep. John Mica, who admitted for the first time that Americans need some transportation choices.

"Nothing could be more fitting to bring before Congress today, on a day when gasoline has reached $4.05 a gallon across the United States on average," he announced on the floor.

The two houses need to patch over some minor differences in the bills they passed, but Amtrak backers are confident that won't be any trouble.

The biggest trouble, though, may still come from the White House. President Bush, who has attempted to dismantle the national rail system throughout his presidency, has pledged to veto the bill. Fortunately, both the House and Senate passed the funding by veto-proof margins. Unless Republicans switch because they don't want to "embarrass" their president, Bush's veto will be moot.

Frankly, the president should be embarrassed. His stand on public transportation has marginalized him on the issue. He continues to insist that Amtrak should be dismantled and pieces of it turned over to private companies to run short-line routes. That might work in highly urbanized areas, but without government subsidies the vast expanse of America would be left with no rail service of any kind.

But Bush has been far from alone. There has long been a mind-set against subsidizing rail transportation. Politicians from both sides of the aisle have never had trouble subsidizing the building of more and bigger highways and underwriting the cost of airports and sleek terminals, but when it came to rail, they sang a different tune.

Had we adequately funded Amtrak so that it could have improved trackage in congested areas and run more than one train a day between big cities like Chicago and Minneapolis, for example, the country would today have a reasonable alternative to $4gas and gridlocked and unreliable airports. We might even have had rail service to Madison. . . .

Gasoline consumption declines

From an article by Brian Reisinger in the Wausau Daily Herald:

As soaring gas prices take their toll, consumers in central Wisconsin seem ready to do something about it.

Riiser Energy, which owns 26 convenience stores primarily in central Wisconsin, has seen overall fuel sales decline a "significant" amount in recent months compared to the previous year, president and chief executive officer Jim Kemerling said.

"I think people are cutting back," Kemerling said. "There's no doubt about it."

Sales in 2008 began slightly above the previous year's, but in March that trend reversed, with gallons of fuel sold declining by about 6 percent from the previous year, Kemerling said. Sales declined 4 percent in April from the previous year and 6 percent in May.

Consumption seemed to decline when gas per gallon topped the "$3.20 barrier," Kemerling said.

New retail store sells and promotes renewable energy

Thursday, June 12, 2008

From a story by Anita Clark in the Wisconsin State Journal:

A new store on Madison's Far East Side is pinning its hopes on renewable energy as it opens its doors this weekend.

Just inside those doors at Off the Grid, 4261 Lien Road, are comfortable chairs aimed at enticing people to plop down with brochures, books, magazines and the Internet as they ponder energy choices.

"If you want to come and sit and read, that's great," said founding partner Richard Fitzgerald. "I'm hoping there will be some interesting conversations."

A little farther into the store, visitors will find a large section of roof displaying photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight into electricity.

The store is selling the solar electricity systems, which consist of the panels, inverters and mounting equipment, starting at prices of $18,000 for a 1.5-kilowatt system and $21,000 for a 2-kilowatt system, including installation by Town and Country Electric, Sun Prairie.
In addition, "a salesman from Green Autos in Janesville will demonstrate low-speed electric commuter cars Saturday."

Grand opening events will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Regular store hours will be Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Madison Water Utility working to achieve 20% fuel reduction

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

From a media release issued by the Madison Water Utility:

Madison--With an eye on achieving a 20 percent fuel savings within 10 years on its gasoline-powered vehicles, the Madison Water Utility has been going green with the types of cars and trucks it buys.

“We’re trying to improve fuel economy by replacing older vehicles with more fuel-efficient models, and also by looking for ways to save gas with our driving practices,” said interim Water Utility general manager Larry Nelson, who is also the City Engineer. “The Water Utility is on track to be the first city agency to replace its entire fleet with energy-efficient cars and trucks. Reducing gasoline consumption by 20 percent would be 10,000 gallons per year.”

As the utility’s 71 cars and trucks need replacing, it has been purchasing subcompact cars that get 30 mpg or better.

“We’re trying to downsize the vehicles to match the job at hand,” said Nelson. The larger, heavy-duty trucks should be used only for work that requires them, jobs like repairing water mains or construction. Workers are also saving fuel by reducing unnecessary idling while on the job, planning the most efficient routes for meter reading, and using a GPS system to locate and dispatch the closest repair vehicles to job sites.

We can't let the gripers win!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A commentary by Scott Milford in the Wisconsin State Journal:

I can lie in my bed at night with the window open and hear the traffic on Highway 51 two blocks to the east.

I don't mind the noise at all — a subtle and consistent whoosh that you'd have to concentrate on to really notice.

It sounds like a city. I wouldn't want to live right next to the four-lane expressway. Yet I'd probably miss it if I moved farther away.

The best part is this: That road noise helped my family afford our cozy home with a large backyard on Madison's otherwise pricey East Side. Our close proximity to the highway helps hold down neighborhood real estate prices.

This is true in a lot of spots across the city. Urban sights and sounds such as highways, airports, trains and transmission lines have done far more to provide affordable housing in Madison than anything our touchy-feely city leaders have accomplished through convoluted development laws.

I am not advocating for more blight and noise. But it does bug me when people move to the city and then demand that it not sound or look urban.

The best (or worst) example of this is Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's ongoing effort to ban train whistles Downtown. He's spending millions on gates, lights and signs around Downtown railroad crossings so that the city can legally enforce "quiet zones" without jeopardizing public safety.

What's funny is that lonesome train whistles are more associated with rural than urban life. Think Johnny Cash, the Old West or hobos.

I grew up in small-town Wisconsin a half block from train tracks. Often at night a whistle would loudly sound. These days, when train horns blow late at night in my Madison neighborhood, I feel nostalgic and peaceful.

The latest and most unfortunate target of picky people are majestic windmills, which produce clean and renewable energy — something our state and nation need more of. Wind farms are being proposed and opposed in rural and urban settings. The complainers blame windmills for casting shadows, making noise, ruining scenery and threatening birds.

I have a smidge of sympathy for people who don't want giant windmills going up immediately next door to their homes. But even conceptual plans to site windmills miles offshore in Lake Michigan and the Atlantic Ocean face fierce and fussy foes.

In Cape Cod, for example, U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., vehemently opposes a wind farm 8 miles from his oceanfront mansion. Here in Wisconsin, cries of "local control" shot down a sensible bill to standardize and streamline the approval process for wind farms statewide.

A couple of weeks ago I stood beneath one of several picturesque wind turbines at a modern wind farm overlooking Lake Winnebago near Fond du Lac. I shut off the car, silenced the kids and got out to listen.

I could barely hear a thing from the spinning blades high above. It was even softer than the traffic on Highway 51 from my bedroom.

We can't let the gripers win — especially when it comes to improving our mostly imported and dirty energy supply.

RENEW Battles Local Opposition to Wind

Monday, June 09, 2008

Articles in the Renewable Energy Quarterly, Spring 2008, include:

RENEW Battles Local Opposition to Wind
Starting a Renewable Energy Business
Renewable Profiles: Wes Slaymaker
Solar Hot Water from the Garden
Reviving a Classic Wind Machine

Pollution in the land of oil sands

Saturday, June 07, 2008

From a story by Jason Markusoff in the Edmonton Journal:

EDMONTON - A provincial advisory group has yanked from its website a pair of reports that reveal air pollutants are on the rise in the oilsands region, insisting they should have never been made public.

The Alberta Environment reports on chemical emissions and air quality show that peak concentrations of the toxic gas hydrogen sulphide in areas around the massive plants had jumped by 30 to 175 per cent since 1999, bucking a downward trend elsewhere the province.

This means the levels occasionally exceeded the province's air-quality guidelines, and one of the papers is forthright about what was happening.

"Increased activity in the oilsands is likely the cause of the increased levels seen in that area of the province," says the November 2007 paper on air-pollutant trends, prepared for the Clean Air Strategic Alliance (CASA).

A related paper shows that another pollutant, nitrous oxide gases, were on the rise because of the conventional oil and oilsands sectors. Oilsands operators had succeeded in reducing sulphur-oxide levels from 2000 to 2005, but the second report predicted they would rise as development expanded.

The findings came amid Premier Ed Stelmach and the government's repeated assertions that Alberta is a leader in environmental stewardship, and that the oilsands are clean-energy producers.
Enbridge Energy is building a pipeline through Wisconsin to carry the oil extracted from Alberta tar sands to Chicago-area refineries, and RENEW Wisconsin previously raised questions about the tar sands.

Sign the energy independence declaration

Friday, June 06, 2008

Sign the declaration at Solve Global Warming Wisconsin:

Declaration of Energy Independence

Because global warming is a genuine moral, health and economic issue; and

Because the United States of America produces approximately 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases that cause global warming, and Wisconsin generates those gases at a rate about one-third faster than the national average; and

Because lifestyle changes and new energy technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions can also reduce personal and business costs, promote local economic growth, and improve national security; and

Because I have the power to make those changes in my personal and professional life that can free me from reliance on greenhouse gas-producing energy sources;

I Declare Energy Independence and Pledge:

That I will reduce my personal carbon emissions by at least 5 percent within the next year;

That I will reduce my personal carbon emissions by at least another 5 percent within the year after that;

That thereafter I will not increase my personal carbon emissions, but rather will attempt to further reduce and offset them;

That I will ask my friends, family, elected officials, and employers and local businesses to follow my leadership example.

City of Madison starts program to help homes and businesses install solar

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Larry Walker (left), who will provide the assistance to homeowners and businesses thorugh MadiSUN, talks with Mayor Cieslewicz in front of a solar installation at Goodman Pool at the announcement of the new program.

From a story by Ron Seely in the Wisconsin State Journal:

From solar-powered water heaters in fire stations to solar panels on schools and some libraries, Madison is increasingly turning to the sun for energy.

Now, thanks to a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, the city hopes to encourage more homeowners and businesses to convert to solar power. The grant is part of the federal Solar America Initiative, which is making $5 million available nationwide to encourage the use of solar power. Madison joins 25 other cities in winning one of the competitive grants.

Madison, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz announced Tuesday, has become MadiSUN. At least that's the name that's been attached to the city's initiative.

Madison grapples with green

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

From a story by Paul Snyder in The Daily Reporter:

Madison still can’t bridge the gap between its green government and its goal of a green city.

And that may be because the city needs to more clearly define its goals, said Steve Hiniker, executive director of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin.

“If Madison can explain what it’s looking for in terms of development, I think we could be a national leader in green building,” he said.

City administrators spent four years putting together sustainable design committees. They implemented Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards for city-owned building and renovation jobs. They developed programs like Green Capital City, which focuses Madison efforts on environmental practices.

But the city still can’t decide exactly where it wants to go or how it wants to get there.

When recently discussing the Regent Street-South Campus Neighborhood Plan, the city’s Urban Design Commission turned a green eye to the private sector and the possibility of placing LEED standards on new buildings planned for the area.

“It’s a debate we need to have,” said Todd Barnett, an architect and member of the commission, “because I wonder where LEED will be in 10 years’ time. . . .”

Clean Energy Car Show, Custer, Wisconsin, June 20-22

Monday, June 02, 2008

From the just-released program for The Energy Fair in Custer, Wisconsin (just outside of Stevens Point), June 20-22:

Clean Energy Car Show
A popular part of the Energy Fair, the Clean Energy Car Show will be back for its fourth year. The Car Show, sponsored by Toyota, will feature sustainable transportation options though exhibits, workshops and demonstration vehicles. Example workshops include Sustainable Transportation Technologies, Biofuels 101, and Reacquaint Yourself with Your Bike.