One-stop assistance for solar power shopping

Thursday, July 31, 2008

From an article by Kristin Czubkowski in The Capital Times:

Thinking of outfitting your house with solar power?

Certified solar agent Larry Walker is at your service -- for free!

Walker was recently hired by the city as a consultant to advise residents and businesses gratis on everything from how solar power works to its costs, including the availability of state and federal tax rebates.

It's all part of Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's MadiSUN initative, announced in early June, that uses the $200,000 Solar America Cities federal grant along with money from the city, the state's Focus on Energy program and Madison Gas & Electric to promote solar power to city residents.

"I've been doing the homework for the last year or so, so I've got my presentation that explains how solar works," Walker said in an interview. "I've got examples of what it would cost for a typical system. I can do the assessment and tell them what rebate they're going to get from Focus on Energy, and just sort of be a one-stop shopping for somebody."

After residents or businesses leave a message for Walker by phone or email, he calls them to discuss the site's potential for solar power. After that, Walker usually visits the location within three to four weeks and then mails a written report within a week. After that he solicits quotes for parts and installation from local vendors.
Contact Walker at (608) 243-0586 or

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

From Cows to Crops
Thursday, July 31st
10:30 am – 11:30 am, Room 300 SE, Wisconsin State Capitol
1 – 2:30 pm, Room 411, DATCP, Madison, Wisconsin

Summary: High food and crop prices are straining farmer and consumers. But this briefing will explore an innovative approach to use dairy manure as a resource to heat greenhouses and grow locally produced, high quality food, and clean up potential pollution concerns from waste.

The National Produce Production Development Company Inc. (NPPI) will discuss its proprietary Thermophilic Anaerobic Digestion (TAD) technology and plans to build the first network of profitable greenhouses in the United States, enabling local grown, quality produce food for consumers while cleaning our air and water.

Speakers: Steven Siegel, NPPI CEO, will present their patented process and WI prospects,

Brett Hulsey, Better Environmental Solutions, How dairy farmers can light our homes, run our cars, clean our air, provide us high quality food, and protect our streams.

Brett Hulsey, MNS
President, Better Environmental Solutions
Practical Solutions Today for a Better Tomorrow
222 S. Hamilton, Suite 14
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: 608-238-6070
Cell: 608-334-4994
Email: Brett@BetterEnviro.Com
Website: www.BetterEnviro.Com

Stars are aligning for a commuter rail system in Dane County

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

From an article by Steven Elbow in The Capital Times:

After years of roadblocks, the stars are aligning for a commuter rail system in Dane County.

On Aug. 7, a state legislative study committee will begin work on drafting a bill to allow regional transit authorities -- local taxing districts that will manage and fund transit systems.

"The state legislation is really going to be the thing that sets the framework for what we can do here locally," said David Trowbridge, project manager for Transport 2020, an ambitious plan that could change the way Dane County residents get around.

State Senate President Fred Risser, D-Madison, said he expects the committee to come up with a proposal that can be introduced to the Legislature in the spring -- a fast track for any legislation, but even more so on an issue lawmakers in years past have been reluctant to embrace.

The centerpiece of the Transit 2020 plan is a light rail corridor stretching from Middleton to Sun Prairie. The rail line would connect a growing number of workers, students, sports fans and shoppers to state office buildings, cultural events, the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, hospitals and businesses.

State legislative association to Congress: Increase federal gas tax

Monday, July 28, 2008

From a story released by the National Conference of State Legislators:

NEW ORLEANS -- The nation's state legislators collectively told Congress Friday that they are in the driver's seat with transportation policy.

At the Legislative Summit in New Orleans, the National Conference of State Legislatures approved a new Surface Transportation Federalism policy that calls for a narrow, focused vision for the next federal transportation bill.

"Our current method of collecting revenue and paying for transportation projects is broken, especially at $4 per gallon gas prices," said Oregon state Senator Bruce Starr, who helped draft the policy and leads NCSL's Surface Transportation Reauthorization Working Group. "Our policy calls on Congress to maintain the Highway Trust Fund, which is depleting at a rapid rate, and to do this they will have to increase the federal gas tax."

The federal gas tax funds the nation’s transportation system, but has been diminishing in value in recent years as alternative fuels enter the marketplace, hybrid vehicles sales increase, and people are driving less. In turn, that decreases the revenue generated by the per-gallon gas tax.

The gas tax was last increased in 1993. In the short term, an increase will ensure the Highway Trust Fund remains solvent, but the NCSL policy encourages Congress to move toward new funding strategies. One such concept is a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee that charges a vehicle based on the number of miles driven in a state. An Oregon pilot program proved the concept viable and NCSL encourages Congress to explore VMT, including the necessary vehicle-based technology to realize it, as a new user fee to fund federal highway coffers.

Oil drilling and other schemes only produce droplets

Friday, July 25, 2008

Announcements of new oil discoveries and the debate on the release of oil from strategic reserves only fuel daydreams that we can drill or wiggle our way out of the inevitable decline in worldwide supplies of oil.

From an article in The Independent:

The future of the Arctic will be less white wilderness, more black gold, a new report on oil reserves in the High North has signalled this week. The first-comprehensive assessment of oil and gas resources north of the Arctic Circle, carried out by American geologists, reveals that underneath the ice, the region may contain as much as a fifth of the world's undiscovered yet recoverable oil and natural gas reserves.

This includes 90 billion barrels of oil, enough to supply the world for THREE YEARS at current consumption rates . . .
From an article on Fox News:

WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday defeated a Democratic-backed initiative aimed at driving gasoline costs down, and Democrats and Republicans continued to blame each other for stalling each other's energy agendas.

Thursday's bill would have released about 70 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, roughly a THREE-DAY SUPPLY. The reserve is designed to keep oil in stock in the event of an emergency.
Emphasis added in both quotes.

Task force releases final global warming recommendations

Thursday, July 24, 2008

From a media release announcing release of the final report of the Governor's Global Warming Task Force:

MADISON – Today, Governor Jim Doyle’s Task Force on Global Warming announced it has finalized its report on addressing global warming in Wisconsin. The 29-member Task Force, comprised of environmental, agricultural, industry, citizen, tribal and utility leaders will now forward the report on to Governor Doyle for consideration.

“By working together the Task Force has developed an aggressive multi-sector strategy to address global warming that will put Wisconsin on track to being a leader in meeting one of the most significant challenges of our time,” said Roy Thilly, Global Warming Task Force Co-Chair. “The recommendations contained in this report help keep Wisconsin competitive and create new jobs, while preserving our environment for future generations.”

“I am very pleased with the breadth and depth of the strategy this Task Force has put forth,” said Tia Nelson, Global Warming Task Force Co-Chair. “The stringent emission reduction targets combined with substantial new investments in energy conservation and efficiency and increased reliance on home grown renewable power will establish Wisconsin as a national leader on climate change while helping the state achieve greater energy independence in the years to come.

The Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming agreed on a group of interim targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 2005 levels by 2014 and 1990 levels by 2022. The long-term targets include a goal to reach 75 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2050.

The Report makes over 50 viable and actionable policy recommendations in the utility, transportation, agriculture, forestry and industry sectors, as well as a number of recommendations in other areas, including support for a proposed federal or regional greenhouse gas cap and trade program. In accordance with Governor Doyle’s Executive Order 191, which created the Task Force, many of the Task Force’s recommendations identify ways to grow the state’s economy and create new jobs arising from the opportunities created by addressing climate change. Careful attention also has been paid to mitigating the potential costs of the recommended policies on consumers and Wisconsin’s industrial base. . . .

Petroleum blows the roof off bids

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The end of cheap oil and consequent rising costs continue to ripple throughout the economy, as illustrated by an article by in The Daily Reporter:

As petroleum prices rapidly drive up material costs, roofers don’t know how much expenses will change between bidding and building.

But when contractors add a healthy buffer to their price to safeguard against shortfalls, they run the risk of being under-bid by the competition, said Richard Lemirande, president of Northern Metal & Roofing Co. Inc., Green Bay. At the rate prices are escalating, contractors run the risk of locking themselves into a bid that’s too low to cover costs, he said.

“When you get into a hard-bid situation,” Lemirande said, “that’s when it becomes much more difficult.”

Material prices for industrial and commercial projects are climbing faster than Don Leitel has seen in his 20-year career. The price of everything except insulation went up since last year, said Leitel, vice president of Roofers Mart of Wisconsin Inc., Wauwatosa.

There’s talk, he said, of monthly insulation cost increases between 5 and 7 percent in coming months.

“It’s tough for these contractors,” Leitel said. “I’m sure it’s been a battle for them going back to jobs where they had contracts or commitments and things weren’t ready to go.”

Leitel said sales agents often warn contractors about possible price increases, but he warned this year the threat should be taken seriously.

“In the past, sometimes it would be up, sometimes it wouldn’t,” he said. “But today, we’re in a whole different world.”

The city of Milwaukee on July 14 collected one bid for its project to re-roof an engine house. But the $225,700 bid from M.M. Schranz Roofing Inc., Milwaukee, was $74,000 higher than engineering estimates made in November, said Paul Klein, an architectural designer in the Milwaukee Department of Public Works. Klein said he expects subcontractors to start offering bids that let them change material prices to keep up with increases.

“I don’t think there’s been that kind of increase in concrete or anything like that,” he said. “Asphalt shingles are a petroleum product, and the EPDM (ethylene-propylene-diene terpolymer) roofing is a petroleum product, and I’m guessing that had a lot to do with it.”

The increases so far were driven by petroleum prices, among other production costs, Klein said.

Accidents change tune of offshore drilling fans

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

From a commentary by Dave Zweifel in The Capital Times:

As George Bush and his oil industry cronies use the gas price crisis to push for more offshore drilling and the opening of the protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, I remembered a clipping I saved from the Chicago Tribune's editorial pages several weeks ago.

It was an op-ed column written by David McGrath, a teacher at the University of South Alabama who lives on Dauphin Island, three miles into the Gulf of Mexico, and admitted that he once was a big fan of drilling for oil and gas in the ocean floor.

Alabamians figured, for example, that to have big rigs as close as a quarter mile off the coast would give the state cheaper fuel if only for the fact that the fuel wouldn't have to be transported far. Besides, those big oil platforms provide good fish habitat -- much like, I assume, the overhang of Monona Terrace does for fish in Lake Monona. McGrath, like many who live near the ocean, is a big fisherman.

He and his neighbors changed their tune, however, after the many accidents that occurred on the giant rigs. There have been more than 300 accidents on offshore rigs worldwide in the past couple of decades.

McGrath said the scariest for him happened last fall when a cloud of poisonous gas was expelled by a natural gas rig and drifted over the island on which he lives. It sickened dozens of residents and forced the evacuation of the island's sea lab school.

Leadership sought for 21st century transportation solutions

Monday, July 21, 2008

From a media release from WISPIRG:

Madison, WI - With average gas prices consistently above $4/gallon across Wisconsin, WISPIRG is calling on Governor Doyle to move Wisconsin toward a new transportation future. WISPIRG’s 21st Century Transportation Solutions campaign is calling on the Governor to increase investment in public transportation and to prioritize maintaining our existing highways over building more.

“With high gas prices, we need clean, efficient alternatives to the rising cost of driving,” said Bruce Speight, WISPIRG Advocate. “Imagine taking the train to work, or to Chicago or Minneapolis, and not having to spend $50-$100 every week to fill up the gas tank. Local leaders across Wisconsin are advocating for enhanced bus and rail systems, but they need a commitment from state and federal leaders to get these projects off the drawing board and on track. . . .”

WISPIRG is calling on Governor Doyle to support a state transportation policy that:
• Expands clean, efficient transportation choices for Wisconsinites by prioritizing investment of new capital funds for light rail, commuter rail, rapid bus transit, high-speed intercity rail and transportation options that build dynamic and accessible communities, where more Wisconsinites walk, bike, or take transit to get where they need to go;

• Fixes our crumbling roads and bridges by investing more state highway money in maintenance, not massive highway projects. It’s time for the state government to embrace an approach to highway spending that prioritizes maintaining and modernizing
our existing highways over building more;

• Spends taxpayers’ money more wisely by focusing transportation dollars on solving our state’s biggest problems. For decades, the government has spent billions of dollars on highway projects with inadequate evaluation and accountability. State transportation money should be spent on projects that produce real results over the long haul—by reducing our dependence on oil, curbing global warming pollution, reducing traffic, improving safety, and promoting healthy, sustainable communities;

• Encourages regional transportation planning by enabling and granting authority to regional transportation authorities in communities that want them. Regional transportation authorities can help meet changing transportation needs, and work locally to ensure that people connect to jobs, shopping, and the cultural and tourist attractions that help our communities to thrive.

Visit Madison Peak Oil Group at Hybridfest, July 19-20

Friday, July 18, 2008

Members of the Madison Peak Oil Group will staff a table at Hybridfest on July 19 and 20.

We'll be trying to educate inform people about the end of cheap oil

Please drop by Booth 126S and chat.

Switchgrass as fuel touted for energy, cost benefits

Thursday, July 17, 2008

From an article by Anita Weier in The Capital Times:

Switchgrass grown on marginal farm acreage could be an efficient renewable fuel source while also protecting wildlife habitat and water quality, according to "Growing Wisconsin Energy," a study by Agrecol Corp.

Switchgrass is a perennial grass native to Wisconsin.

The study produced by the Madison-based seed company with a grant from the state Department of Agriculture found that converting native grasses into renewable fuel could be a profitable enterprise for farmers and a relatively inexpensive fuel source for businesses and schools.

Businesses in the study reduced fuel costs an average of 42 percent by switching from traditional fuel sources to pellets made from switchgrass, the study found.

Agrecol, a seed company that specializes in native prairie grasses and produces biomass pellets for heat, is also developing a pellet stove for residential and commercial heating. Its study focused on the feasibility of developing a native grass pellet bioheat industry in Wisconsin.

Renewable "biomass" includes corn stalks, straw and other agriculture crop residue as well as wood chips and wood residue.

"Grass-based biomass can reduce carbon dioxide and global warming pollution, promote farmer-grown energy crops, expand local rural economies and reduce reliance on fossil fuels," the study said.

Rural areas benefit from urban mass transit

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An editorial from The Tomah Journal:

Mass transit -- it isn’t just an urban issue anymore.

Traditionally, mass transit has been considered an urban concern, or worse, an issue that pits urban interests against rural interests. That idea is wrong. Mass transit benefits anyone who uses energy, and the longer America delays its commitment to urban mass transit, the more severe our rapidly escalating energy crisis becomes.

Why is urban mass transit a rural issue? Because urban commuters consume gasoline needed by rural consumers. In smaller communities like Tomah, where mass transit isn’t economically viable, citizens have no choice but to commute by automobile. Every gallon of gas that’s guzzled by a long, solitary urban commute is a gallon of gas that isn’t available for drivers in Tomah. Reduced urban consumption means lower prices for rural consumers.

It makes sense not only for rural lawmakers to support urban mass transit, but to also support the funding choices that encourage its growth. It means spending less money on expanding urban freeways and shifting those dollars to buses, railroads, subways and light rail (the latter two use electricity instead of gasoline).

Energy independence isn't a pipe dream

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

From a commentary in The Capital Times by Gal Luft, director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and co-founder of the Set America Free Coalition, a bipartisan alliance of groups promoting U.S. energy independence:

. . . It's time to get serious. Policies such as "drill more" and "drive smaller cars" all keep us running on petroleum. At best, they buy us a few more years of complacency, whether or not we drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The hard truth is that real energy independence can be achieved only through fuel choice and competition. That competition cannot take place as long as we continue to put 16 million new cars that run only on petroleum on our roads every year -- thereby locking ourselves into decades more of petroleum dependence.

So let's remember the old saying: When in a hole, stop digging. If every new car sold in the United States were a flex-fuel vehicle and if millions of Americans could plug in their electric cars, gasoline would be facing fierce competition. . . .

CDW converts two Wisconsin facilities to 100 percent renewable energy

Monday, July 14, 2008

From an article in Small Business Times:

Vernon Hills, Ill.-based CDW Corp., a provider of technology products and services, announced today that it has contracted with Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) to purchase almost 12 million kilowatt-hours per year of renewable energy as part of a corporate initiative to reduce its carbon footprint. The company's two Madison-based enterprise hosting centers, totaling 10,500 square feet will now be powered by 100 percent renewable energy.

"This effort will provide an annual carbon offset of 12,649 tons – equal to the CO2 emission from electricity use by about 1,500 average Madison residential homes," said Phil LaForge, director of hosting and managed services for CDW.

"Our Wisconsin hosting centers customers will now benefit from a decrease in CO2 emissions that will allow them to continue to build their businesses confidently knowing that their data is secure and powered by green energy," said Paul Shain, senior vice president of CDW. "It is our hope that more companies in our region and across the nation will also take action and move toward using renewable energy sources."

Weather risks cloud promise of biofuel

Friday, July 11, 2008

From an article by Jad Mouawad in The New York Times:

The record storms and floods that swept through the Midwest last month struck at the heart of America’s corn region, drowning fields and dashing hopes of a bumper crop.

They also brought into sharp relief a new economic hazard. As America grows more reliant on corn for its fuel supply, it is becoming vulnerable to the many hazards that can damage crops, ranging from droughts to plagues to storms.

The floods have helped send the price of ethanol up 19 percent in a month. They appear to have had little effect on the price of gasoline at the pump, as ethanol represents only about 6 percent of the nation’s transport fuel today.

But that share is expected to rise to at least 20 percent in coming decades. Experts fear that a future crop failure could take so much fuel out of the market that it would send prices soaring at the pump. Eventually, the cost of filling Americans’ gas tanks could be influenced as much by hail in Iowa as by the bombing of an oil pipeline in Nigeria.

“We are holding ourselves hostage to the weather,” said John M. Reilly, a senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an ethanol expert. “Agricultural markets are subject to wide variability and big price spikes, just like oil markets.”

Three years ago, Americans discovered that the vicissitudes of the weather could have a powerful effect on energy prices when two hurricanes struck the Gulf Coast. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita interrupted a quarter of the nation’s oil production and closed dozens of refineries for weeks. Lines formed for the first time since the 1970s as gasoline spiked above $3 a gallon, a record at the time. The nation’s increasing dependence on crops for motor fuel adds another level of vulnerability from the weather.

Full speed ahead on biofuels

Thursday, July 10, 2008

From an editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal:

The average gasoline price in Madison set a daily high this week, topping $4.02 a gallon on Tuesday.

On the same day a federal forecast warned that gas prices nationwide are likely to remain above $4 a gallon for the rest of the year and into 2009.

The higher cost of gas is a costly problem that underscores the importance of proceeding full speed ahead with efforts to develop biofuels as an alternative to gasoline.

That 's why Wisconsin policymakers and entrepreneurs should focus on making the state a leader in the next generation of biofuels, made from wood waste and other renewable plant material.

"Take a look at what used to be pristine forests in Canada"

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A video report on CNN Ali Velshi puts sobering images to the "black gold...actually squeezed from the sand" in Alberta, Canada.

Renewable energy enthusiast and author Marc Franke comments:

If you’ve been worried that farming corn is “hard on the land”, take a look at what used to be pristine forests in Canada.

Canada has now surpassed Saudi Arabia as the single largest supplier of oil to the U.S.

Oil sands contribute three times the green house gases during extraction compared to normal crude oil.

Folks, we need to get off of petroleum. We are destroying our environment to get it.

Marc Franke
Author: One week to save the Earth

Passenger rail can play a key role in our transit system

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

From an editorial in the La Crosse Tribune:

A story Sunday by Tribune reporter Chris Hubbuch told what it is like to ride the train between here and Milwaukee.

Most riders appreciate the opportunity to meet other people and view the scenery on the train. But these days, train travel can play a role in helping people conserve energy. In an era of high gasoline prices (that could easily be the way of the future), it makes sense to have rail passenger service as an alternative to either automobiles or the airlines. Rail already is an important part of the transportation system in the densely populated northeast corridor, where trains provide additional links between the major cities.

But it also can play an important role in the rest of the country — particularly in medium-length regional routes, such as between Chicago and the Twin Cities.

A guide to peak oil for the media; spread it around

Monday, July 07, 2008

From a post by Chris Nelder on the Web site of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil - USA:

I have collaborated with Steve Andrews, a co-founder of ASPO-USA, on a new “Peak Oil Media Guide,” to address the important questions that regularly come up about peak oil. We encourage those who engage with the media to distribute the guide. It is my hope that the guide will become a “living document” which can be updated and enhanced as time goes on by knowledgeable experts. We welcome their input. For now, please send comments to Chris Nelder at This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it and include “PO Media Guide” in the subject line. You can find the full document here (pdf).

Divorce your car!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

From the Web site of Community Car:

2nd Annual Divorce Your Car Party

Join Community Car in celebrating a car-lite lifestyle. Whether you've been thinking about ending your unhealthy relationship with your car, want to talk to people who've taken the leap, or just like the idea of the car-life lifestyle, join us in congratulating four local Divorcees on their new venture in life.

Even if you're in a loving relationship with your car, feel free to join in the fun!

Attend the event or sign up online by July 10th and receive a FREE APPLICATION (a $50 value!). Be sure to put DIVORCE in the promo code field.

What: Celebrating a car-lite lifestyle
When: Thursday, July 10th, 4:30-7:30pm, Divorce Ceremony at 5:30pm
Where:High Noon Saloon, 701 E Washington Ave.

Gas prices change views on energy

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

From an Associated Press article by H. Josef Hebert in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- High gasoline prices have dramatically changed Americans' views on energy and the environment with more people now viewing oil drilling and new power plants as a greater priority than energy conservation than they did five months ago, according to a new survey.

The poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center shows nearly half of those surveyed - or 47 percent - now rate energy exploration, drilling and building new power plants as the top priority, compared with 35 percent who believed that five months ago.

The Pew poll, conducted in late June, showed the number of people who consider energy conservation as more important declined by 10 percentage points since February from a clear majority to 45 percent. People are now about evenly split on which is more important.

The number of people who said they considered increasing energy supplies more important than protecting the environment increased from 54 percent in February to 60 percent and the number of people who favor oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge also increased.

Madison mayor calls for federal support for transit, energy efficiency

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

From a media release issued by Mayor Dave Cieslewicz:

Madison - Mayor Dave Cieslewicz today called on Congress to act quickly to pass two measures that would increase support for local transit and energy efficiency initiatives. With gas prices continuing to average $4 per gallon with little relief in sight, these initiatives would help local governments and commuters reduce both energy costs and global warming emissions. . . .

The Mayor is taking part in a nationwide campaign asking for Congress to enact two measures, both of which are supported by Cong. Tammy Baldwin:

- Full funding for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program, which would provide grants to cities and counties to implement strategies that reduce fossil fuel emissions, reduce energy use and improve energy efficiency. Earlier this month, a House committee appropriated $295 million for EECBG, and a Senate committee will take up the issue in July. The program has a potential authorization of up to $2 billion.

- The Energy Savings Through Public Transportation Act (H.R. 6502), which would provide additional resources to mass transit systems. Rapid increases in fuel prices have spurred new interest in mass transit options, with ridership on Metro Transit up 6% compared to last year, and reaching record levels. The resources provided by this legislation would help Metro Transit keep pace with that demand, and continue to provide a high level of service to mass transit users. This measure passed the House last week and now goes to the Senate for consideration.