Annual fuel cost for electric car: $69

Monday, September 29, 2008

From an article by Craig Spychalla in the Portage Daily Register:

When Karl Kindschi pulls his car into a gas station, he has a tough decision to make when it comes to his morning fill-up.

To get the most bang for his buck, should he go with sugar or cream in his coffee?

Gas-guzzling vehicles are parked in front of pumps where the prices can skyrocket in a day, but Kindschi pays no attention to the prices on the sign. His electric vehicle already has its juice for the day.

"About the only time we go into a service station is to clean the windshield and get a cup of coffee," he said.

During a summer when gas prices hovered around $4 a gallon, terms like biofuels, scooters and hybrids were everywhere.

But a new option for a few area communities has yet to really take off.

Electric cars are still a rare sight in most small towns around south-central Wisconsin. Kindschi says he's the only one he knows of in Portage to have one.

He and his wife Mary Ann purchased it earlier this year, four days after Portage passed an ordinance allowing the vehicles on city streets.

Since December, when a state law allowed communities to legalize "neighborhood electric vehicles," the state has licensed fewer than 100 in the first eight months of the year.

But that has not stopped the Kindschi family from being pioneers in the electric car community.

"We've been (using) one family car for over two years," Mary Ann said. "Since we both work in town, we didn't want a typical gas-powered car."

NEVs have been around for years, but seem to be more popular in warmer states.

Earl Huebner, who does market research for Columbia ParCar in Reedsburg which builds NEVs, said the company builds more than 300 a year, but doesn't sell many in Wisconsin.

"Larger numbers are being sold to institutions - colleges, utilities," he said. . . .

The Kindschis say their 11 miles a day put on the car will cost them about $69 in electricity for the year.

Madison school district honored for building management

Friday, September 26, 2008

An article from The Capital Times:

Buildings magazine has named the Madison Metropolitan School District to its 2008 Who's Who in the Buildings Market — a list of the top 44 organizations in facilities management "that are getting things done in truly remarkable ways."

The district was the only Wisconsin organization to be picked. Others on the list include Marriott International, Target Corporation and Harvard University.

The write-up states that the district has developed a model K-12 energy conservation program that addresses design and maintenance best practices and that involves students and staff in these efforts.

The district calculates that it saves almost $750,000 annually in energy costs by using energy-efficient technology when making necessary maintenance repairs.

The new Paul Olson Elementary School is one of the first LEED-certified elementary schools in Wisconsin. It has a geothermal heating/cooling system and solar photovoltaic roof panels. That 25-kilowatt, 144-panel solar array benefited from $10,000 grant from Alliant Energy's Second Nature program.

Outreach on peak oil and renewable energy

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Michael Vickerman (left) and Jeff Riggert (right) staffed
tables in mid-September at the Willy Street Fair in
Madison to educate people about the "Permanent Global
Peak Oil Crisis" and renewable energy.

Peak Oil Spices Meeting with Cong. Baldwin

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

RENEW Wisconsin's summer/fall edition of Wisconsin Renewable Quarterly is now online, including the following articles:

Peak Oil Spices Meeting with Cong. Baldwin
Countdown to Solar Tour
Solar H2O on Madison Fire Stations
Global Warming Task Force Report
Wisconsin’s Newest Wind Projects
PHEV+Wind=Clean Air
Small Wind Conference Wrap-up

Evansville finds multiple uses for its electric vehicle

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

From an article by Gina Duwe on Jansville's

EVANSVILLE — Water operator Pat Hartin gets plenty of stares when he silently wheels around the neighborhood in the red electric vehicle.

"People ask about it—'That's it? That's the car,'" he said.

The Evansville Water and Light Utility last spring added the Columbia Summit electric vehicle to its fleet and has since put on about 1,000 miles around town, utility Superintendent Scott George said.

"You almost feel inconspicuous going around the street," he said. "The first thing, it looks weird. (People) see you coming, then you go by and it's not making a sound."

A neighborhood electric vehicle, or NEV, runs on electricity, so it is plugged in instead of filled up. The top speed is 25 mph, and it runs for about 35 miles before it needs recharging. City ordinances limit the vehicles to streets with a speed limit of 35 mph or less.

Energy conservation is what prompted the utility to buy the electric vehicle, George said. He recommends other municipalities consider such a purchase because they'd be surprised at how many uses the vehicles have, he said.

Evansville's vehicle cost about $15,000, but the utility received a $5,000 grant through its membership in Wisconsin Public Power Inc. Since WPPI started its electric vehicle incentive program last year, 14 neighborhood electric vehicles have been purchased for 13 WPPI member communities, said Alicia Rankin of WPPI. . . .

Evansville originally bought its electric vehicle thinking they'd use it for meter reading, George said, but they're using it for everything but meter reading because so much of their mileage is on rural roads.

From the morning drive around town to read the wells and check pumps to fire hydrant maintenance to trips to the hardware store, the vehicle is a great substitute for using a full-size pickup truck, George said.

Workers use it for cleaning and painting hydrants because they can throw a portable generator and paint sprayer on the back, which has folding side and steel rails. With a hydrant every 500 feet, workers can drive up, make the fixes and keep going.

Fitchburg officially becomes cool city

Monday, September 22, 2008

From the newsletter of the John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club:

At a news conference in front of city hall on August 12, 2008, the John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club celebrated Mayor Tom Clauder’s commitment to reduce the city’s global warming pollution by putting into place local energy solutions, which save taxpayer dollars and reduce energy use. Created in 2005, Sierra Club’s Cool Cities campaign empowers people to encourage local cities and counties to implement smart energy solutions to save money and build a cleaner, safer future.

Fitchburg is already taking several steps to support conservation and a clean energy future including planning to install solar panels on public buildings, constructing an urban wind turbine demonstration project at McKee Farms Park, implementing water conservation measures, expanding bike paths and public transportation, and implementing an anti-idling policy.

Wisconsin now has 19 “Cool Cities” (Ashland, Bayfield, Fitchburg, Greenfield, Kenosha, La Crosse, Madison, Menomonie, Milwaukee, New Berlin, Oshkosh, Racine, River Falls, Stevens Point, Superior, Washburn, Waukesha, Wauwatosa, and West Allis) and one “Cool County” (Dane).

Solar hot water installations adorn all Madison fire stations

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Solar installer Shawn Young (H&H Solar), RENEW’s Michael Vickerman, and the City of Madison’s Kay Schindel (left to right) inspect the solar hot water system on Station No. 1 with the downtown Madison skyline in the background.

Unlike many government reports, no dust settles on the report issued by the Mayor’s Energy Task Force in September 2004. Solar hot water systems -- tangible commitments to the report’s recommendations -- now serve all 11 of Madison’s firehouses.

One of the most visible appears to be nothing more than window awnings on the south-facing back wall of Station No. 6 along W. Badger Road on Madison’s south side.

The six-panel installation atop Station No. 1 on E. Dayton Street in downtown Madison can’t be seen from the street, yet it’s the largest.

The glycol solution running through the south-facing panels reaches as much as 160 degrees and heats the water in the holding tank up to 135 degrees even on a cold, sunny day.

Under the supervision of Shawn Young, H&H Solar installed seven of the 11 systems for the City of Madison.

Kay Schindel, an engineer with the city’s Facilities and Sustainability Division, says, “They all work.”

Walk, bike to create new world order

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A letter to the editor of The Capital Times by peak-oiler Hans Noeldner:

Community planners, municipal officials and business owners tend to get fixated on the notion that "If we build it they will come/behave/do/act." Meanwhile, many new urban/anti-sprawl advocates focus on "If we stop it they won't come/behave/do."

Stated another way, they (and we) often subscribe to a mechanistic view of human beings as mere automatons responding to environment (in this case infrastructure). But as most of us know intuitively, there can be safety in numbers -- i.e., when more people choose a particular activity/behavior, not only does it become more acceptable socially, but it can actually make the activity/behavior safer for participants regardless of infrastructure.

This recent study demonstrates it applies to bicycling:

Does this mean infrastructure doesn't matter? Can we afford to forget about bicycle lanes and paths, sidewalks and pedestrian crossings, or the "elephant in the drop-off zone"? Should we stop giving our elected officials and public servants extra-real-hard spankings when they forget about "habitat for humanity" and choose instead to make the world as convenient as possible for the resource-gobbling species homo automobilicus?

Absolutely not! What it DOES mean is that we should encourage our fellow citizens to stop waiting for infrastructure, stop making excuses, and git their dang butts on the saddle. We've got a new world order to make -- one we the people will CREATE by showing up with two wheels and two feet.

Another strike against oil: Mother Nature's wrath

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

From an editorial in The Northwestern (Oshkosh):

It was certainly no butterfly. But hard to dispute we aren't feeling the "flap of its wings."

The spiking variations in gas prices around the Oshkosh area and the Fox Valley in the wake of Hurricane Ike supply more motivation to pursue alternative energy sources. Obviously, Mother Nature hasn't a care about the location of domestic oil rigs and refineries.

On Monday, the price of an unleaded gallon of gasoline was on its way up, anywhere from $3.80 at one Oshkosh filling station to $4.20 at another in Fond du Lac. If you don't like Ike, we understand. It's having an impact on gasoline prices everywhere.

Do our congressional and presidential candidates care to talk about this most recent and potent shortcoming of oil and its production as the rhetoric heats up on more drilling in North America's hurricane alley?

Does the latest pain at the pump everyday people in places like Fond du Lac, Oshkosh and Appleton endure matter – places far from hurricane territory yet places, as of Monday, trying to fathom a 40-cent variation in surging unleaded gasoline rates?

Ike's wrath is only the latest reminder of all the limitation that comes with oil and our addiction to it. News flash: Its production and price are at the mercy of monster storms … in addition to Middle Eastern interests that control it and don't share our purest, most democratic, most fundamental human values. Not to mention its limited supply globally… not to mention the pollution it causes. Only an addict would tolerate all of these unhealthy drawbacks to feed his cravings.

For a nation that put human beings on the moon almost 40 years ago, our approach to pushing for renewable, alternative, clean sources of energy is weak, and Ike's wake reminds us of that.

Our push for things like hydrogen-fired, clean-burning automobiles is anemic when it should be surging, itself the focus — the raging eye — of a presidential campaign and election. Real leadership and real solutions on alternative energy have been relegated to a few lines of a political speech, no focused, attainable energy challenge laid before the feet of the American people other than unformulated energy independence benchmarks.

Rally supports green jobs to boost economy

Monday, September 15, 2008

From an article by Kristin Czubkowski in The Capital Times:

Union T-shirts and baseball caps mingled with organic sweatshirts and dreadlocks Saturday afternoon as leaders from local environmental and labor groups met in a rally for promoting jobs in renewable energy.

Speakers at the rally argued that by the federal and state governments investing in projects that would promote cleaner energy and more energy efficiency, more than 2 million jobs would be created in the country, including 37,000 in Dane County.

"We've heard that for a long time, that that's why we can't have more renewable energy jobs, we can't solve global warming without losing jobs. We're kind of saying, 'No, it's exactly the opposite of that,' " said United Steelworkers member Chuck Geiger.

The numbers listed at the rally came from a report by the Blue Green Alliance -- a combination of United Steelworkers and Sierra Club members -- that was released earlier this week with research from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Researchers found that the jobs could be created by putting $100 billion into a green investment program, equal to the amount returned to U.S. residents in the April 2008 federal stimulus package.

From getting roofers and carpenters to retrofit buildings to be more energy efficient to getting steelworkers and machinists to build wind turbines for renewable energy, Geiger said that the technology is there for creating more union jobs.

"These aren't like these futuristic jobs that are so far out there -- these are jobs that people are already doing right now," he said. "It's just a matter of applying them to a green purpose."

Investing in green energy is more than just helping the environment and creating jobs, however, said Satya Rhodes-Conway of the Center of Wisconsin Strategy's Apollo Alliance. It's about creating good jobs, making enlisting unions in the movement important.

Wind farm open house, Saturday, Sept. 13

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Blue Sky Green Field Wind Energy Center, located in the towns of Calumet and Marshfield in northeast Fond du Lac County, is designed to generate 145 megawatts (MW) of electricity, and is capable of powering approximately 36,000 average residential homes. The site consists of 88 wind turbines.

Construction of the project began in June 2007. On May 19, 2008, Blue Sky Green Field was placed into commercial operation. The turbines are capable of generating more than 328 million emission-free kilowatt-hours annually.

Saturday, Sept.13
9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Blue Sky Green Field Office
N9470 County Highway W
Malone, WI 53049

Tours will be given approximately every 30 minutes. WE Energies invites you to stop by at your convenience during the tour hours listed above. No reservations required.

The turbine is located a short walking distance from the parkingarea. Please wear sturdy shoes suitable for walking on a graveled surface.

UW Biochemistry Fall Lecture Series

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A link to the fall calendar for the UW Madison "Contemporary Biochemistry Lecture Series" has just been added to the Calendar of Events section (left column). Nearly all of the lectures pertain to biofuels, including key issues surrounding the conversion of cellulose to liquid fuels. Some lectures appear rather specialized and technical, but others are clearly designed for a general audience (for example "Diverse Energy" on Nov 10)

Note that some of the Biochemistry Lectures are cross-listed with the UW Madison Energy Institute.

Thanks to Sara Krauskopf for the reminder to post this!

Peak oil ideas for Madison zoning rewrite commitee

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ed Blume provided the following to the Zoning Code Rewrite Advisory Committee at its meeting on September 10:

Peak Oil
“When the production rate of oil reaches its geological limit and begins to decline, the world’s economies will be forced to live within a shrinking, not expanding, energy budget. The economic impact of peaking oil production is what concerns us, not the amount of oil yet to produce. We won’t “run out of oil” for another 100 years or more, but it will be produced at ever-declining rates.

This is an essential concept. Talking only about the number of barrels of oil that might exist somewhere, without also talking about the rate at which that oil can be produced, and when, entirely misses the target. -- Peak Oil Media Guide, Chris Nelder

“Energy resources will be volatile post-Peak Oil, as decreases in oil supply will stress energy sources. By decreasing reliance on non-local energies through conservation and renewable energies, San Buenaventura can buffer itself from these energy spikes.” Transforming Urban Environments for a Post-Peak Oil Future, City of San Buenaventura, CA

- Energy efficiency becomes critical in all activities and plans, e.g., requirements for more insulation in homes and businesses
- Solar hot water systems on as many structures as possible; large solar generation facilities within the city limits
- Streets, buildings, and plantings oriented for maximum solar capture
- Planting to enhance solar capture
- Local heating and power generation
- Preserve and develop urban lands for biomass production, e.g., wood and switch grass

- Emphasis on:
+ Public transit; more routes and buses to serve more areas of the city
+ Biking with more and wider bike paths; more bike racks
+ Walking
+ Electric vehicles
- Smaller and slower vehicles
- Shorter travel distances; more need for nearby work, shopping, and recreation

- Capture and reuse rain water, as well as grey water
- Reduce overall water consumption

- Emphasis on locally grown food
- Provide garden space for individuals
- Provide commercial gardening within city limits

One of nation’s largest Hummer stores to shut its doors

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

From a blog post by John D. Stoll on the site of the Wall Street Journal:

General Motors’s quest to sell its Hummer division may get a bit tougher after Tuesday.

That is when Dan Towbin–whose dealerships grabbed national attention as the backdrop for an A&E television series called “King of Cars“–will close his Hummer dealership, one of the brand’s largest stores in the U.S. and the only one in Las Vegas. It is at least the eighth Hummer dealer closing this year, nearly a 5% decline in the brand’s U.S. dealer base.

As GM tries to sell the Hummer brand, dealership closings are one of a handful of black marks the auto maker carries into negotiations with potential buyers. Critics have suggested it will be hard for GM to sell Hummer, and there is little good news for the brand–at least in the core U.S. market–to counter that skepticism.

This closing is notable because of where it is taking place and who is pulling the plug. It is, after all, one thing for enviro-friendly people in San Francisco–another city that recently lost a key Hummer dealership–to shun the brand. It is entirely different when Sin City decides the vehicles are too excessive. Towbin said Las Vegas is a custom fit for Hummer. “It’s all about bling and it’s in the desert,” he said.

And Towbin is an uber-Hummer enthusiast. He credits a Hummer with saving his life, and he counts a Hummer as his daily driver. “I feel very aligned with the brand,” he said. “Neither General Motors nor I wanted to go this way.”

But to move Hummers off the lot in August, buyers in the U.S. received an average of $8,861 in various incentives for each vehicle sold, according to Prices start at roughly $31,000 for the base H3 model run to $64,000 for the luxury H2 model. (Towbin says he was offering $6,000 in incentives, not including GM’s employee-pricing discount, hurting profit margins.) By contrast, BMW’s Mini spent $80 for each vehicle sold, Toyota’s Scion spent $131. Hummer discounts represent 22.6% of the price of the vehicle–the highest in the industry, says. And still Hummer sales are down 47% this year, the largest decline of any brand, according to Autodata Corp.

Fall Calendar

Monday, September 08, 2008

The fall semester has begun! Be sure to check the updated Calendar of Events (left column) for information on the UW Madison Energy Institute Series, the Nelson Institute Community Environmental Forum Series, and many other interesting events and activities that are coming up. Just click on the event (or the series) for more details.

I would especially urge Madison Peak Oil Group members to attend the Sustainable Urbanism lecture on Wednesday, September 17. Given the huge proportion of oil which we burn for commuting, shopping, and other local errands and trips, the restoration of pedestrian/bicycle/transit-oriented "habitat for humanity" will be central to breaking our oil addiction.

Note that I am now helping Ed Blume with the calendar on this website. Please contact me if you notice any outdated stuff, errors, etc. or would like a Peak-Oil-related event posted here.

Hans Noeldner
hans underscore noeldner at charter dot net

Anit-idling proposal to save lungs and fuel

Friday, September 05, 2008

A press release from the American Lung Association of Wisconsin:

BROOKFIELD, WI (September 5, 2008) – The American Lung Association of Wisconsin was encourage by the recent introduction of an anti-idling ordinance by Dane County Supervisor, Brett Hulsey.

Legislation to limit diesel idling will reduce air pollution and respiratory illnesses. Diesel engines emit a lot of particle pollution, especially fine particles that can bypass the body’s natural defense mechanisms and lodge deeply and permanently into the lungs. Those particles carry chemicals and other contaminants that can reduce lung function and alter lung tissue on a cellular level.

Unlike ozone pollution which is limited to the summer season, high levels of particle pollution can occur year round. This is particularly important in winter when school busses may idle for long periods of time near schools.

“At a minimum, we would like to see idling reduced in areas like around schools where children are present,” said Sue Swan, Executive Director for the American Lung Association of Wisconsin. “We hope that other communities will follow suit.”

The measure also will reduce transportation expenses for companies
facing escalating fuel costs.
The last advantage seems most important -- saving fuel -- from the point of view of peak oil.

Urge Congress to extend credit for renewable energy

Thursday, September 04, 2008

An editorial from the Wisconsin State Journal:

America's effort to develop cleaner, more sustainable energy sources is threatened by the looming expiration of federal tax credits that boost renewable energy production and use.

Congress should respond this month by extending and enhancing the credits, which encourage investment in solar, wind, biomass and other renewable power sources.

A significant risk exists that at the end of this year Congress will let credits worth $500 million a year lapse, as it did three previous times. In those cases, investment in renewables fell dramatically before Congress revived the credits. Investment in wind power production, for example, fell 93 percent following the expiration of tax credits in 2000.

This year the vast majority in Congress supports extending the credits, available to homeowners, businesses and investors for buying equipment to use or produce renewable energy. But legislation extending and improving the credits is stalled by a dispute over what to do about the impact on the federal budget deficit.

The credits are part of a larger package of tax breaks scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Extending the breaks would cost the treasury $50 billion over 10 years.

Plans call for Congress to offset the lost revenue by raising fees or taxes or by cutting other programs.

Many senators and representatives are balking at the offsets.

Congress deserves praise for making sure the credits do not exacerbate the already-enormous budget deficits. But its members should also recognize the value the renewable energy tax credits have to an economy weighed down by the high cost of fossil fuels and to an environment threatened by pollution from burning fossil fuels.

With Congress scheduled to adjourn for the year at the end of this month, it's time for its members to compromise on a package of tax credits that can be offset with reasonable fee or tax increases and program cuts.

Wisconsin has much at stake. The state has great potential to become a national leader in renewable energy.

Tax credits spur the industry by making it more cost-effective to invest in equipment to use renewable energy in homes or businesses. The credits also make it more cost-effective to invest in starting or expanding renewable energy production plants.

Allowing the credits to expire would be a setback with costly consequences.

Wisconsin's congressional delegation should help engineer a resolution that extends the credits without enlarging the budget deficit.
The American Wind Energy Association makes it easy to contact your U.S. representatives and senators, through a page dedicated to urging members of Congress to act.

Peak Oil Group meets Thursday, Sept. 4

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Everyone is welcome, and all input will help the Madison Peak Oil Group fashion a useful plan for how area cities and villages can prepare for the end of abundant, inexpensive oil, a major topic of conversation at the meeting.

DRAFT Agenda
Madison Peak Oil Group
September 4, 2008
222 S. Hamilton Street, Madison (lower level conference room of RENEW Wisconsin)

1. Introductions

2. Announcements/miscellaneous
a. Tabling at Farmers’ Market - October 11
b. UW Madison Energy Institute fall schedule
c. Nelson Institute Community Environmental Forum fall schedule
d. Sustainable Urbanism lecture on Sep 17th
e. Invitation to participate in Landmark Forum
f. Other

3. Financial report

4. Transition Towns
a. Coordination of various groups
b. City of Madison zoning rewrite

5. Electric vehicles (See "Wind Powered Cars")
a. DOT restrictions (See news story)

6. Program committee report
a. “What’s the program?”
b. Review of statement of support for RTA to deliver to Legislative Council Study Committee on RTA

7. Next meeting: October 2

Outreach at the Farmers' Market

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Jeff Riggert (center), an active member of the Madison Peak Oil Group, talks with shoppers at the Farmers' Market on the Capitol Square.

Riggert has his home ready for the end of abundant, inexpensive petroleum. Energy efficiency practices cut his energy usage, and solar systems on his home's roof provide hot water and electricity.

The public can view Riggert's installations during the Solar Parade of Homes on Saturday, October 4.