Thursday, August 31, 2006


Bloomberg on PO
Peak Oil Forecasters Win Converts on Wall Street to $200 Crude
By Deepak Gopinath

. . . a second Great Depression.

That's not the prophecy of some apocalyptic cult. Kadijk, a hedge fund adviser, had flown from Amsterdam to attend a conference on a geologic theory known as peak oil.

Proponents of this controversial idea say global oil production is now at or near its zenith. Once the flow crests and starts to decline -- and some geologists say it already has -- oil will no longer be able to slake the world's growing thirst for energy. The result will be the oil shock to end all oil shocks. The price of a barrel of crude will spiral to $200 -- and keep rising. To the peaksters, today's energy crunch is nothing next to the pain that will follow.

``Peak oil is a reality,'' says Kadijk, a senior equity salesman at Kepler Equities, an Amsterdam-based brokerage. He plans to start a fund to capitalize on what he sees as a looming crisis for the world's fossil fuel-based economy and the ultimate bull market in oil.

As energy prices soar and violence convulses the Middle East, the peak-oil movement -- an unlikely alliance of geologists, physicists, oil industry consultants and environmental activists -- is winning converts. Peak-oil ideas are bubbling up from scientific journals and offbeat Web sites, much the way warnings of global warming did a decade ago. For the first time, the peaksters have begun to grab the attention of Washington and Wall Street.

Congressional Caucus

U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, former boss of Boston- based Cabot Corp., an oil and chemicals company, has asked the National Petroleum Council, which advises him, to investigate whether oil supplies can keep pace with demand. The U.S. Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan congressional watchdog, is due to release a study on peak oil this November. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a Maryland Republican, has formed the Congressional Peak Oil Caucus to sound the alarm.

``The world has never faced a problem like this,'' Bartlett says.

Everyone agrees we'll run out of crude eventually. Oil, after all, is a finite resource: The Earth holds only so much of it. The controversial issue is when a global peak will occur -- and what will happen then.

Colin Campbell, a British geologist who popularized the peak- oil theory in his book ``The Coming Oil Crisis'' (Multi-Science Publishing Co. and Petroconsultants SA, 1997, 210 pages) says world production of conventional oil, the kind that comes from gushing wells, is reaching its apex.

End of Oil Age

Society isn't prepared for the consequences, Campbell, 75, says. It's too late to develop alternative sources of power, such as solar cells, nuclear reactors and windmills, to fill the oil gap before energy prices soar, says Campbell, who has a doctorate in geology from the University of Oxford and more than 40 years of experience in the oil industry.

``We have come to the end of the first half of the Oil Age,'' Campbell says.

Nonsense, says Russ Roberts, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest oil company. Exxon Mobil, which has reaped record profits as the price of oil has surged, has taken out ads dismissing peak oil in U.S. newspapers such as the New York Times.

The Irving, Texas-based oil giant says the peaksters are being alarmist. In all, the world probably has 4 trillion barrels of oil left, four times the amount we have used so far, the ad says.

. . .

It was just 84 years after Revere took his ride, on Aug. 27, 1859, that Edwin Drake struck oil in Titusville, ushering in the Oil Age. Exxon Mobil says the era of oil isn't about to end. In one of its ads, the company says, ``Oil is a finite resource, but because it is so incredibly large, a peak will not occur this year, next year or for decades to come.'' The ad depicts a man looking through binoculars at a snowcapped mountain whose summit is hidden by clouds.

Campbell says the illustration actually drives home the point Exxon Mobil is trying to avoid. ``Even though it is obscured by clouds, we know there is a peak,'' Campbell says. His investor followers are betting he's right.


Strikingly good global warming primer

(In an investment discussion no less.)

Monday, August 28, 2006


A most significant short paragraph

The tipping point in terms of climate is 2°C above pre-industrial levels. This is the point of no return. We look set to go soaring through that. We need a mass withdrawl from carbon emissions. We must leave the coal in the ground. The bottom line is that coal is the killer. We have plenty of it, and we do have the option of seeing if every Government research lab IN THE WORLD is wrong. If we panic and use coal it will be our epitaph.

--- Jeremy Leggett
(Former oil exploration geologist)


Transcript of Call-in/Interview Show with Matt Simmons & Jim Kunstler

A great intro to understanding peak oil and the issues it will create
for us (and U.S.)

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Sacrificing Midwestern foodlands for merchant coal

Gotta get the coal so we can fuel our ethanomania plants making "clean
ethanol" [if you don't count the coal].

I guess we can always eat pavement, right?

The warnings of Jared Diamond's "Collapse" don't apply to USA! USA!
because "Dude, we've got technology," right?


Norway's EPA demands CO2 capture if IGCC plant to be approved

Norway Authority Demands CO2 Capture at Gas Plant

OSLO - Norway's environmental authority recommended on Friday that a gas-fired power plant planned for Statoil's Mongstad refinery should be allowed only if it is equipped to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Energy group Statoil said the requirement could make the entire US$635 million project unfeasible.

The decision by the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority (SFT) contradicts an earlier recommendation by the country's energy authority NVE that the company should be permitted to build the plant without a CO2 capture system at the start-up.

The government will make the final decision on what kind of permit should be granted for the combined heat and power station, designed with capacity of 280 megawatts of power and 350 MW of heat, for a 2008-2009 start-up. . . .

Statoil said that the project would be impossible to implement if the government follows the SFT's recommendation and demands CO2 capture from the start. But it said it would not appeal against the SFT decision.

The SFT said in a statement it doubted that a CO2 capture system would ever be installed if the plant project were allowed to proceed initially without such equipment. . . .


"CO2 capture from day 1 gives the best security that a plant will be established at Mongstad that will not contribute to increase Norwegian emissions of climate gases in the long term," SFT Director Haavard Holm said in the statement.

"Human-created climate change is one of the biggest environmental challenges that the world faces," the SFT said. The SFT said that, without CO2 capture, the planned plant would have emissions of around 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 annually, though improvements to the refinery's efficiency would curb it to around 950,000 tonnes.

The planned Mongstad plant is one of three concrete plans for developing gas-fired electricity generation in Norway, which is Western Europe's biggest natural gas exporter but currently uses no gas for inland power production.

Use of gas has been highly controversial in Norway as it would boost emissions in a country that currently produces almost all its power at non-polluting hydroelectric stations.

But gas-fired generation projects have wide support in industry and have won political support as Norwegian power consumption has outstripped growth in production and Norway has no more major waterways to dam up to increase hydropower output.

Story by John Acher

Story Date: 21/8/2006

Friday, August 25, 2006


An economy dependent on low gas prices . . .

to leave room for McMansion mortgages has a hard time with $70-75/bbl oil.

Housing Gets Ugly


Bubble, bubble, Toll’s in trouble. This week, Toll Brothers, the nation’s premier builder of McMansions, announced that sales were way off, profits were down, and the company was walking away from already-purchased options on land for future development.

Toll’s announcement was one of many indications that the long-feared housing bust has arrived. Home sales are down sharply; home prices, which rose 57 percent over the past five years (and much more than that along the coasts), are now falling in much of the country. The inventory of unsold existing homes is at a 13-year high; builders’ confidence is at a 15-year low.

. . .

The current downturn, Mr. Toll now says, is unlike anything he’s seen: sales are slumping despite the absence of any “macroeconomic nasty condition” taking housing down along with the rest of the economy. [?????? Oil prices?????]

He suggests that unease about the direction of the country and the war in Iraq is undermining confidence. All I have to say is: pop!

. . .

As far as I know, Nouriel Roubini of Roubini Global Economics is the only well-known economist flatly predicting a housing-led recession in the coming year. Most forecasters consider his call alarmist, and many Federal Reserve officials remain optimistic. Last week, Richard Fisher, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, dismissed “Eeyores in the analytical community” who worry about a possible recession.

Call me Eeyore. While I don’t share Mr. Roubini’s certainty, I see his point: housing has been the main engine of U.S. economic growth over the past three years, and with that engine now going into reverse, it’s hard to see how we can avoid a serious slowdown.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


The Centrality of Oil over All

*Six Questions for Michael Scheuer on National Security*

By Ken Silverstein
Harper's Magazine

Wednesday 23 August 2006

(snip--go read it, it's excellent)

*7. And finally, an extra question - what needs to be done?*

This may be a country bumpkin approach, but the truth is the best place to start. We need to acknowledge that we are at war, not because of who we are, but because of what we do. We are confronting a jihad that is inspired by the tangible and visible impact of our policies. People are willing to die for that, and we're not going to win by killing them off one by one. We have a dozen years of reliable polling in the Middle East, and it shows overwhelming hostility to our policies
- and at the same time it shows majorities that admire the way we live, our ability to feed and clothe our children and find work. We need to tell the truth to set the stage for a discussion of our foreign policy.

At the core of the debate is oil. As long as we and our allies are dependent on Gulf oil, we can't do anything about the perception that we support Arab tyranny - the Saudis, the Kuwaitis, and other regimes in the region. Without the problem of oil, who cares who rules Saudi Arabia? If we solved the oil problem, we could back away from the contradiction of being democracy promoters and tyranny protectors. We should have started on this back in 1973, at the time of the first Arab oil embargo, but we've never moved away from our dependence. As it stands, we are going to have to fight wars if anything endangers the oil supply in the Middle East.

What you want with foreign policy is options. Right now we don't have options because our economy and our allies' economies are dependent on Middle East oil. What benefit do we get by letting China commit genocide-by-inundation by moving thousands and thousands of Han Chinese to overcome the dominance of Muslim Uighurs? What do we get out of supporting Putin in Chechnya? He may need to do it to maintain his country, but we don't need to support what looks like a rape, pillage, and kill campaign against Muslims. The other area is Israel and Palestine. We're not going to abandon the Israelis but we need to reestablish the relationship so it looks like we're the great power and they're our ally, and not the other way around. We need to create a situation where moderate Muslims can express support for the United States without being laughed off the block.


A caustic warning

A caustic dose of James Howard Kunstler, author of "The Long Emergency," "The Geography of Nowhere" and "Return from Nowhere." His insight into the ethanomania is dead on. Michigan is supposedly preparing a long-range transportation plan, but the reality of a low-energy future doesn't seem to have penetrated the planners' inner sanctums.

Sooner or later America is going to lose access to the roughly 20 percent of the total oil imports it gets that come from the Middle East. The foothold in Iraq was an attempt to postpone that day. It looks like it will not work out. The US army is exhausting itself and bankrupting the civilian treasury. Sixty percent of the US public now disapproves of our continued presence there. Internal pressures among the Middle East oil producers themselves -- including those on the sidelines of the war -- will create additional stresses. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, the UAE, all have peaked now in terms of oil production. Meanwhile, their populations still grow, their internal oil consumption increases, leaving less for export, and the quality of the crude goes from light-and-sweet to heavy-and-sour, with further difficulties for refining and marketing.

If America loses 20 percent of its oil imports -- on top of steep depletion rates elsewhere (Mexico, the North Sea), plus political trouble in places like Nigeria and Venezuela -- then we can kiss goodbye a whole roster of things like WalMart, easy motoring on the interstate highway system, Walt Disney World, a continued profitable build-out of suburbia, and a diet of Cheez Doodles and Pepsi. I am on record, of course, as not being in favor of these things, but it would be very messy indeed if they all ground to a halt in a few mere months.

We've done a lousy job of preparing ourselves to live differently. In fact, the whole thrust of American politics along the whole spectrum has been to keep the current racket going. This is why the only broad discussion now occurring over our energy problems is focused to the point of neurotic obsession with keeping the cars running by other means at all costs. This is true on left as well as the right. The left is lost in raptures of driving around in cars fueled by used french-fry oil. The right is lost in raptures of executive pay packages for retiring oil company executives. We are putting no thought, meanwhile, into how we will grow our food in an energy-scarce future, how we will conduct manufacturing and trade, or how we will heat all the McHouses.


Sunday, August 20, 2006


Not necessarily a portable process

Brazil's Road to Energy Independence

Alternative-Fuel Strategy, Rooted in Ethanol From Sugar Cane, Seen as Model

By Monte Reel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, August 20, 2006; A01

SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Record oil prices have made the world's energy landscape a darkly foreboding place this year, inhospitable to optimism and celebration. Except in Brazil.

It has been something of a banner year here, full of milestones. The government predicts that for the first time in its history, Brazil will achieve energy equilibrium, exporting as much oil as it imports. The production of sugar cane-based ethanol is expected to reach an all-time high. And just three years after the introduction here of flex-fuel vehicles -- cars that run on either ethanol or gasoline -- several major automakers predict that such vehicles will represent 100 percent of their production by the end of the year, eliminating gas-only models.

Pull up to most service stations in this country of 185 million people and you will find fuel pumps offering three choices: ethanol, gasoline or premium gasoline. The labels are slightly misleading: The gasoline varieties are blends that contain at least 20 percent ethanol. The pure ethanol is usually significantly cheaper -- 53 cents per liter (about $2 per gallon), compared with about 99 cents per liter for gasoline ($3.74 per gallon) in Sao Paulo this past week. . . .

The rapid increase in the use of ethanol already has stretched existing resources thin, and that stress has highlighted environmental threats that represent some of the industry's most daunting challenges. . . .

Recent studies in the United States have suggested that the entire American corn crop would provide enough fuel to replace only about 12 percent of U.S. gasoline demand. To help plug that potential gap, some in the United States have advocated importing ethanol from Brazil. Though Brazil currently provides about 5 percent of U.S. ethanol, a duty of 54 cents per gallon -- a measure designed to protect American farmers -- makes a large-scale trade relationship unlikely.

"We would never be able to supply the United States with any substantial quantity of ethanol," said Carvalho, of the producers union. "But we could offer an equilibrium supply if the consumers in the U.S. had a voice in the matter. But it's the Midwest corn producers that are holding it up."

Comparing sugar cane ethanol with corn-based fuel in terms of the reduction of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases is one that Brazilians such as Carvalho love to make. The ethanol extracted from corn yields only about 15 to 25 percent more fuel than the fossil fuels that were used to produce it. In Brazil, according to industry studies, the sugar-based ethanol yields about 830 percent more.

However, many experts in all aspects of Brazil's industry agree that the future of ethanol resides neither in sugar nor corn, but in cellulosic ethanol, a biofuel that theoretically could be extracted from almost anything from switch grass to scrap paper. The United States is leading research into developing cellulosic technology, and the Energy Department this month announced it was dedicating $250 million for two new research centers dedicated to the cause. . . .

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Even the guys who get it best don't always get it

Bob Hirsch, of Hirsch report fame, gave a presentation at the 5th Assn. for Study of Peak Oil conference in Pisa, Italy. Looks like he's planning for business as usual on climate--sees no limit to the amount of liquid fuels we can make from coal if we simply apply enough money. The thought that we might not all need to be driving apparently hasn't entered into the calculations yet.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Watch Ross Gelbspan DVD in Lansing, 8/30

The Lansing Post-Petroleum Planning Project concludes the sensational summer sustainability stories series with a new DVD presentation featuring Ross Gelbspan, author of "Boiling Point" and "The Heat is On," called "Boiling Point II."

Produced by Waterplanet Environmental Broadcast Service (WEBS) and Sustainable Marin, the 58 minute DVD was created on 11/15/05 and features Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gelbspan and guest Drew Dellinger, and includes a special feature on Hurricane Katrina.

The showing is free, and will be at "Everybody Reads" bookstore in Lansing at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, August 30.

We hope you will join us for the last of the summer showings.

Details about the Fall series are still being decided (though we know that the series will probably move from Wednesdays).

If you have titles to recommend, please feel free to contact us or leave
a comment.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


Help Michigan DOT---they desperately need it

State of Michigan's new long-range strategic plan for transportation is here.

You can leave comments about the plan here.

This "plan" is the kind of thing that will be held up for future Michiganders to consider in the same way that airport security people are going to study the 9/11 attacks and that medical students look at Galen's idea of all health proceeding from four "humors."

Essentially, the values gathered propose a state in which we have MORE of everything, and where no transportation choices--say, more freeways--reduce the amount of any other choices (say, bikeable communities).

The "values" represent perfect Democratic interest-group politics: the values listed mention every single identifiable group with any interest in transportation--manufacturers, the handicapped, people who want to fly, people who want to take trains, people who want less congestion, developers who want to build "corridors," etc. etc.

There is not even one mention of CO2 emissions or global warming. There is no consideration of limiting CO2 from transportation. There is no recognition that the best scientific analysis suggests that we have less than a decade to REVERSE COURSE on CO2 and only until about 2050 to reduce our CO2 emissions by 75%.

Nor does the values document suggest that anyone connected with the enterprise is even slightly aware of the rising concern about "peak oil," the name given to the point at which the rate of oil extraction peaks and then begins to decline---a point that would seem to require a radical change in your ideas of transportation planning. A number of serious geophysicists and oil geologists say that we are at peak now; the rest say we will be soon--within a generation at most, which is about the time scale for this plan.

The US Government-commissioned "Hirsch Report" avoids taking a position on when peak will occur, but does say that we would need a 20 year headstart on the problem via a crash program on the scale of the Manhattan Project to avoid catastrophic consequences from peak. In other words, no matter when it occurs, we need to have started planning for a radical increase in the efficiency with which we use oil 20 years before.

You can read a summary of the Hirsch Report here.

If you wanted to do something important for the long-range health of Michigan, it would be hard to find an easier thing to do than to go to the comment link, and say something along the lines of "Any long range transportation plan has to address global warming and peak oil."


Just in time--a critique of Just In Time (JIT) Inventory Strategies

My circa 1993 master's degree is in Engineering Management, where we got the full-throated gospel of JIT with every course. I later taught some Operations Management classes for the University of Phoenix, which let me see how widespread the religion had become. (UOP uses a standardized curriculum across its many "campuses," classrooms in corporate office parks.) I later did some consulting for Hewlett-Packard at a manufacturing facility where they made inkjets, turning truckloads of parts into pallets of printers---it seemed like you could almost feed the driver lunch and then have him drive around the other side of the plant and refill his rig with the printers made from the materials he delivered earlier.

JIT inventory management, like juggling expensive crystal goblets, is a thing of beauty . . . when it works.

But even minor energy disruptions--not to mention full-fledged price explosions--are to JIT what a swarm of bees are to a juggler . . . a show-stopper. The URL above leads to a very good article pointing out that what little manufacturing left in the US is often perilously dependent on absolute, unswerving deliveries powered by endless cheap oil . . . just the reality we're leaving behind.


The mother of all positive feedback cycles

August 12, 2006
In Heat Waves, Generators Double as Saviors and Polluters
Hundreds of businesses and government agencies fired up diesel generators during last week's heat wave, one of the dirtiest energy sources available.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Talk Energy with Jim Marcinkowski

There are several opportunities to meet congressional candidate for Michigan's 8th District (which includes all of Ingham County) Jim Marcinkowski. I gave Jim a new paperback copy of David Goodstein's book "Out of Gas" two weeks ago, so you can quiz him to see how much he's picked up.

Events are in Okemos and in Lansing's West Side Neighborhood on Sunday, August 20th at 3 p.m. (Okemos) and 5 p.m. (Lansing).

If you want to attend, leave a comment with your e-mail and I'll let you know where to be.

(Out of Gas is a very good, short, profound book that says a lot without ever ranting or making things seem worse than they already are. It's available at Everybody Reads on Michigan Ave.)

Sunday, August 06, 2006


Green Buildings Rise with Power Rates

As Power Bills Soar, Companies Embrace 'Green' Buildings

By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 5, 2006; A01

When bank executive Gary J. Saulson told his project team that he wanted to turn a partly constructed operations center in Pittsburgh into a "green" building, they called him "well-intentioned" -- but "crazy."

Five years later, no one is questioning Saulson's sanity. Thanks to midcourse changes in the building's design, materials, lighting, and heating and cooling systems, the 647,000-square-foot steel, stone and curved glass structure overlooking the Monongahela River spends $1.5 million a year on utilities -- 26 percent less per square foot than one of the bank's comparable standard buildings.

Today, Saulson, director of corporate real estate for PNC Financial Services Group Inc., is overseeing the construction of new "green" PNC branches.

Green construction and renovation techniques are spreading in the commercial real estate industry. Innovations -- such as sun-reflecting ceramic dots in windows, giant vats of ice for overnight energy storage, plant-covered rooftops, bigger eaves and compact fluorescent lighting -- are being used in structures ranging from an unassuming PNC branch that opened last month in Ashburn to the new Bank of America building that will soon be New York City's second-tallest skyscraper. The new designs have been spurred not only by concerns for the environment but also by the cold, hard calculation of the potential savings in energy bills.

"It's prudent on many levels," said Kathy Barnes, senior vice president for property management at Akridge, which has 18 commercial buildings in the Washington area. "We all have a civic responsibility." And, she added, "if we're not doing it, we're not going to be competitive in the marketplace."

Commercial buildings devour more than a third of the nation's electricity. During heat waves like the one this week, they often rely on auxiliary generators that are less efficient and more polluting than electricity on the grid.

While industrial use of electricity has flattened over the past decade, consumption by commercial buildings has risen about 4 percent a year, according to the Energy Information Administration. Energy-efficiency experts say that better construction techniques, new energy-saving devices and smarter management can reduce electricity consumption by 20 percent in older commercial buildings and up to 50 percent in new ones, vastly reducing air pollution and utility bills.

"We can do a lot," said Quilian Riano, who works with a group called Architecture 2030. By 2035, virtually all commercial buildings will be new or renovated. "Are they going to be energy hogs or are they going to be different?" he said.

Perhaps the flashiest green building will be the 945-foot Bank of America tower under construction on West 42nd Street in Manhattan. Architect Robert Fox used a computer model to determine the energy effects of altering the walls, ceilings, mechanical devices and other parts of the 2.2 million-square-foot building.

As these techniques become more common, costs are falling. Fox said "greening" the tower will add just 2 percent to its $1.3 billion cost.

"One of the more important things is to understand how your building acts," Fox said. "It's not just a matter of how much insulation you use." Central to the energy efficiency of the building is a five-megawatt cogeneration unit that will recapture energy from the heat that goes up the building's chimney, cutting energy costs 40 percent.

Fox made the ceilings about a foot higher than in most office buildings to let in more sunlight and reduce lighting costs. Interior lights typically account for 20 to 30 percent of energy use, according to a Harvard Business Review article by consultant Charles Lockwood, because they use electricity and generate heat that boosts air-conditioning needs.

To keep the sun from overheating the building through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, Fox is using double-paned glass with tiny dots of ceramic baked to the inside surface to reflect the sun's rays. The dots will be dense toward the floor and ceiling, and unnoticeable at eye level.

The building will also have LED lighting and an under-the-floor ventilation system that will give individual employees more control over the temperature at their work spaces.

"Our goal is to absolutely consume the least amount of power," Fox said. Two things he rejected were a windmill at the top of the building and solar panels. The windmill wasn't economical and the dark solar panels didn't match the transparent look of the tower, he said.

Owners of older buildings are also looking for ways to save energy. An Akridge official said that after real estate taxes, utilities are the most expensive component of operating a building, with costs ranging from $2.60 to $2.85 a square foot, up from $1.75 five years ago.

So last year Akridge budgeted $20,000 for energy-saving measures in each of its buildings, and it aims to cut electricity consumption by 5 percent this year. It has changed the ballasts that drive fluorescent tubes with more efficient ones, replaced the 40-watt bulbs in exit signs with LEDs that use as little as six watts, wrapped blankets around water heaters and installed motion sensors that turn off the lights when rooms are empty. With thousands of fixtures in a building, the savings add up, said Barnes, the Akridge manager.

A lot of energy-saving technology has improved, she said. For example, motion sensors are more reliable and less ugly, she said, and "now we can put them in a restroom without worrying about someone being left in the dark."

Akridge this year bought a $9,000 infrared camera so it could monitor heat lost from its buildings in winter and plug the escape routes.

Akridge has also shut off equipment that sucks up electricity without serving much purpose. It turns down some heating and cooling systems half an hour earlier, which has no effect on office climate until after most people have gone home. If hardworking lawyers come in on the weekend, a system linked to their keys will provide ventilation specifically for those zones.

Akridge rejected new windows or heat-blocking filters on existing windows as too expensive. But Patrick Clugston of Eastern Metallizing Inc. said that putting sun-filtering film on windows can pay off in 14 to 24 months. He said his firm has done that for the American Institute of Architects, the National Geographic Society and World Bank.

Black rooftops can waste energy. Fox's firm is going to put plants on the roof outside its penthouse New York office. On Thursday afternoon it measured the temperature on the roof: At 2:30, the average reading was 174 degrees. A green roof is rarely hotter than 100.

After its Pittsburgh operations center went up, PNC began erecting green bank branches; it opened its 23rd on July 19 in Ashburn. Saulson said that each 3,650-square foot PNC branch costs $1.3 million to $1.4 million, at least $100,000 less than those built by competitors.

The branches use about 45 percent less energy than those of similar size elsewhere, taking advantage of natural light, sun shades and big eaves. "We build the building around the windows," Saulson said. The branches are modular and can face any direction, depending on the orientation of a site. In some places, college architecture classes have visited. "These are things you wouldn't necessarily associate with a bank branch," Saulson said.

Fox said green buildings can be healthier and more comfortable for employees, too, because they use different air filters, carpeting material and furniture. His firm is looking at redesigning a building in South Korea, and it is designing a green apartment building that the Louis Dreyfus Group is planning at Second and H streets NE in the District.

"The corporate world is catching on real fast," Fox said. "They understand the financial benefit, but they also see this as the right corporate model. Stockholders are asking them what they are doing about climate change. When you get a blank stare from the CEO, that's a problem."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Finally, an ethanol project that might make sense

NEW YORK - One company's drive to locate domestic sources of energy is taking a turn into the barnyard.

Panda Ethanol Inc. has secured nearly US$160 million in financing to build an ethanol plant that will be fired by mountains of manure in Hereford, a cattle town in the Texas panhandle.

"We've located a project in what I would call the Saudi Arabia of manure," said Todd Carter, the company's chief executive officer.

The plant will gasify 1 billion pounds of manure a year to make 100 million gallons of ethanol. The manure will save the plant nearly 365,000 barrels of oil equivalent per year. Panda hopes to get it running by late next year.

Companies are racing to build ethanol plants as the oil industry uses the fuel as a replacement for gasoline additive MTBE, a suspected carcinogen. Growing US motor fuel demand means ethanol production will need to grow by about 1.5 billion gallons per year.

Some environmentalists have questioned the green benefits of ethanol because some of the fuel's refineries use electricity from plants fired by coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel.

But Carter's "poop to pump" ethanol plant will fuel more than 90 percent of its own energy needs by heating up manure until it releases methane, which it will then burn to make steam to fuel the plant. The process destroys the methane, a greenhouse gas at least 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Some environmentalists worry that runoff from farms that group large numbers of cattle together can pollute water supplies. But Carter said the plant will turn what already exists in the region into something useful. Ash from the process can be used to make cow bedding and cement, he said.

Panda hopes to soon build another plant using the same technology in Kansas. The company expects to become publicly traded by the fall.

When it comes to harvesting manure, timing is important. "It can't be too fresh and it can't be too old," said Carter.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Free film in Lansing: Building a Straw Bale Hybrid Home (8/2, 8/16)

Join the Lansing Post-Petroleum Planning Project for a FREE two-part showing of
the unique DVD "Building with Awareness: The Construction of a Hybrid Home." 

The 2 h, 42 min film will be shown over two evenings
Wednesdays Aug. 2 and 16 at 7 p.m.
, in the Community Room at

2019 E. Michigan Ave, Lansing (next to Gone Wired Cafe). 

Everyone is welcome.

Here is information about the teaching film from the producer's website:

Building With
Learn About Straw Bale Home Construction, Solar House Design,
and Green Building With Our How-To DVD Video, Books, and Website

Building With Awareness: The Construction of a Hybrid Home Is The Award-Winning DVD Video On How To Build Beautiful and Energy-Efficient Solar-Powered Straw Bale Homes With Straw Bale, Adobe, Mud, Cob, and Other Natural Materials. Every step, from breaking ground to the final coat of earth plaster, is beautifully presented and easy to understand. Building an energy-efficient solar home requires more than just using straw bale walls. Every element of the design can have a positive effect on reducing or eliminating your energy bills. Energy-efficiency and beautiful aesthetics can both come from the same materials. This web site shows how green building techniques can make both large and small buildings dramatically more energy efficient.
Our Building With Awareness: The Construction of a Hybrid Home DVD video follows the construction of one straw bale solar house, from start to finish. This DVD video will educate you on how both materials and the design of the building will determine its energy efficiency, visual appeal, and construction cost.

Your host: The Lansing Post-Petroleum Planning Project is a local group made up of people concerned with helping the Greater Lansing area create a plan to thrive in the very challenging years that are coming up, as the world supply of cheap energy begins to diminish and the need for drastic reductions in overall fossil-fuel usage further limit our options.

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Previous films shown in this summer sustainability stories series:

June 21 7 p.m. THE END OF SUBURBIA: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream

July 5 7 p.m.THE POWER OF COMMUNITY: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil



Something that could actually work

Pollute Less and You Could Cash In, Britons Told

LONDON - Britons could soon be making money out of a greener lifestyle under a government proposal for personal carbon emissions allowances.

A government study will focus on personal carbon caps which, if adopted, could allow the public to cash in if they cut down on their emissions of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming.

Those who produce less carbon under their personal cap could earn credits, which might be used like points on a loyalty card or sold on to those who pollute more.

The plan will be unveiled by Environment Secretary David Miliband later on Wednesday.
"Imagine a country where carbon becomes a new currency," Milliband will tell the Audit Commission's annual lecture. "We carry bank cards that store both pounds and carbon points. When we buy electricity, gas and fuel, we use our carbon points, as well as pounds."

Under the proposed scheme, carbon allowances would cover energy use through electricity, gas, petrol and air travel. Such emissions make up 44 percent of total UK emissions.

"People on low incomes are likely to benefit as they will be able to sell their excess allowances," Milliband will say. "People on higher incomes tend to have higher carbon emissions due to higher car ownership and usage, air travel and tourism, and larger homes."

Personal carbon allowances are one of several options Britain is looking at to help the public get involved in tackling climate change.

Other ideas include carbon loyalty cards, league tables, the use of carbon offsets at point of purchase for certain sectors, product carbon labelling and carbon calculators.

Story Date: 20/7/2006

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