Monday, June 28, 2010

Livin' small

America, it's time to say a (less than) fond farewell to the McMansion.

Let's downsize our extravagant lifestyle (and waistlines) and get to know proper proportions, such as in our housing. This NPR story includes a video by a living-space innovator, and also covers Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, that sells plans and kits for very small dwellings (some on wheels). (Photo from the TTH website.)

Yours truly gets by fine in 500 square feet (plus access to the basement) and thinks he could manage in a 300-500 sq. ft. house-- in the right setting!

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wait, you mean there really IS global warming??

But I thought the media exposed that hideous, communist-fascist, global, left-wing conspiracy started by evildoer Al Gore and perpetuated by a cabal of pro-world-government scientists under the leadership of arch-villain James Hansen!

You mean the University of East Anglia emails exposé was a manufactured news story intended to fuel the false debate over climate change??

No way!

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Defenders of the status quo are definitely digging in their heels.

What do you suppose will happen when the deep water drilling moratorium block is appealed-- perhaps ultimately to the 5th Circuit? Both parties must break out their bigger guns, I suppose. Could be fireworks.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Big Oil sharks are happy to point fingers at BP. "We wouldn't have drilled the way they did" is the universal response from other oilmen in congressional testimony.

You can tell the really bad guys from the sorta bad guys: they eat their own.

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Ah, looks like we've got their attention

It appears Big Oil is sensing a challenge to their flow of profits-- er, oil.

Here's the thing: if you tap this giant on the shoulder, you'd better be ready with a knock-down punch, 'cause he can swing. So what've you got? How about a bike-to-work right cross? or a walk-those-errands left jab?

Getcher game on, 'cause this giant is mean!

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Frack you

As our thirst for hydrocarbons increases, and their ready availability declines, the "externalized" costs of their extraction-- let alone their use-- continue to mount. Just ask the good people of Dimock, PA.

Now coming into focus are the many problems with hydrofracking (i.e., hydraulic fracturing), a process increasingly used to extract natural gas from diffuse deposits deep underground. The most dangerous effects appear to be groundwater contamination and surface water pollution. Toxic chemicals-- including diesel and benzene-- are often used in a drilling fluid soup injected into the well bore. Much of this fluid comes back to surface-- the rest may disperse underground, eventually contaminating groundwater sources through natural fissures in the rock (though vertical separation of gas-bearing and water-table strata is normally large).

And how is all this destruction possible? Don't we have environmental laws protecting water sources? Yes, we do. And if you're powerful enough, you can override them-- which is what's been happening in the case of hydrofracking:
Many of those exemptions—from provisions in the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Superfund Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act—are longstanding. The most notable among them was introduced by Vice President Dick Cheney as an amendment to the 2005 energy bill. The so-called Halliburton Loophole, named after Cheney's former employer and the company that pioneered the fracking process in the 1940s, stripped the EPA's authority to regulate hydrofracking through the Safe Water Drinking Act. Companies were essentially given free rein to drill however and wherever they see fit, and to use and dispose of proprietary fracking fluids without any disclosure or safety requirements. The only remaining shred of federal oversight was a voluntary agreement with the three largest companies not to use diesel fuel—which they proceeded to ignore.

With increased attention going to nat gas as a domestic fuel source, drilling and hydrofracking are on the rise bigtime. But lest you think the practice is something new, consider these statistics:
Drilling is now regulated entirely at the state level, where there is not nearly enough manpower to handle the volume of wells. In 2008 thirty-five inspectors were responsible for more than 74,000 wells in Pennsylvania (with promises to hire sixty-eight more as Marcellus drilling grows); nineteen inspectors covered more than 13,000 wells in New York; and twenty-four oversaw more than 64,000 wells in Ohio. [Emphasis mine.]

The article mentions growing opposition to the practice-- which may soon invade much of the huge area of the Marcellus Shale formation (runs from NY to TN)-- and affected states beginning to take notice of the dangers. A boost of attention to the practice has of course come from the BP Gulf disaster. Let's hope we learn to prevent-- rather than merely react to-- the most dangerous effects.

The best way to begin would be to take personal responsibility to lower your own fossil fuel consumption footprint.

More info on hydrofracking here.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Reduce, Reuse (Repurpose), Recycle

And taking that middle commandment to new heights, a homeowner in Malibu (where else?) built her home from parts of a decommissioned 747. I hope it doesn't take flight in a strong wind.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Status quo apologists' arguments are getting sillier

Now that it's de rigueur, even among the formerly staunchly anti-environmental crowd, to acknowledge global climate change and species depletion and other truths once held only by "those wacky greenheads," the arguments supporting the oil economy status quo, coming from the mouths of Big Oil apologists, are becoming marvelously convoluted.

Have a gander at this op-ed in the Dispatch, going under the title, "As crazy as it sounds, oil has been good for the environment."

In the piece, Goldberg identifies some of the known dangers of expanding domestic food-crop-based ethanol production as a possible "green" replacement for foreign oil. His self-serving argument is specious: given those same dangerous supposed effects, no one in a position of power (other than more self-serving, corn-district congresspeople) is seriously considering a wholesale push for corn-based ethanol as a viable alternative to expensive foreign oil imports. That's so 1990s. Eyes and R&D dollars are instead on cellulosic ethanol production as ONE part of a multi-faceted solution to oil imports.

Further, he points out that increasing our solar electricity production even by a factor of 25 would do nothing to alleviate oil import problems, because we don't use electricity for transportation. True enough under the status quo. But perhaps Mr. Goldberg has not been paying attention to the enormous growth of the electric vehicle industry; converting any proportion of our national vehicle fleet to electric vehicles will obviate the need for ANY liquid fuels for that proportion-- a strong incentive, even among supposed "conservatives." Yes, the added burden to domestic electricity production will require further innovations in how we generate, store, and transport that increasingly important energy as well. But the greater efficiency of electric vehicles means the energy requirement is thereby substantially reduced. EVs is the obvious transition for transportation (toward urban dominance of alternatively-fueled public transit), and therefore a huge reduction in oil imports and use.

Fact is, we're so deeply entrenched in our oil addiction that we face massive changes to our energy, transportation, building systems, consumer goods, AND agriculture infrastructures if we are to have a hope of continuing this society at anything like current standards of living. Peak Oil is looming large on the close horizon. We have no choice but to go forward to alternative energy sources; to remain entrenched in the cheap oil status quo is to capitulate to doom.

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A peek at a possible future U.S. city

What if some human-caused disaster temporarily brushed away the fog of self-perpetuated ignorance that surrounds our daily lives here in the USA, and made starkly plain the truth of our predicament? What if people saw, in sharp relief, the path we're on-- the bright light in the tunnel, getting larger fast, that sure ain't sunlight at the other end? What if we just woke up one day and saw not only that the emperor has no clothes, but he's a blithering idiot and we've been following him like sheep?

Might our response look something like this?

I just can't imagine what sort of disaster might be horrific enough to burst our bubble of complacency. Can you?

While we continue to believe that what needs to be done must be done by someone else (i.e., government), somewhere else (i.e., Washington, D.C., and state houses), the solutions are in our hands, and always have been. Our choices, individually, and taken collectively, determine humanity's course. So let go the charade; stop pretending you're a victim, stop whining about what someone else is or isn't doing. Start looking at your daily, moment-to-moment choices. If you have children, or know the children of others, how could you do otherwise than to act responsibly to ensure a better future for them?

Take off the blinders. See with your eyes and your heart. We're on the verge of greatness or despair. Make your Choice, one choice at a time.

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