Monday, September 25, 2006


For those interested in alt transport fuels


OCTOBER 12, 2006

AT: Holiday Inn South, Cedar & I-96, Lansing, MI

Registration: 7:45 A.M.



“Fuel Cell Operation and Use of Hydrogen”

Prof. John Hanley, Lansing Community College

“What’s Happening in the Propane Industry”

Gary Shepherd, Mid-Michigan Equipment

“Alternative Fuels Education in Michigan

Jim Pitts, Lansing Community College

“New Technologies in Diesel Cleanup”

Donaldson, Autotherm

“Bio-Fuels Today”,

Keith Reinholt, Michigan Soybean, Crystal Schulz, Michigan Corn Growers,

Bob Boehm, Michigan Farm Bureau

.“Biodiesel Experiences”

Brian Watts, Michigan State University, Joel McDowell,

Lansing Board of Water and Light, Wayne Hettler, St. Johns Public Schools,

Carol Miller, Eaton Rapids Public Schools

“How Clean Cities Can Help”

Tim Shireman Michigan Energy Office, Jim Pitts, Lansing Clean Cities

Informational Displays

Vehicle Displays

“Join us and Visit With Leaders in the Alternative Fuels Industry”


Since the Department of Energy (DOE) is no longer funding informational programs, we find it necessary to charge a Registration Fee of $20.00 to help defray expenses. Payment may be made at the registration table by check or cash. Make checks payable to GLACC.

Thank you, and we are looking forward to seeing you on October 12.

Program sponsored by:

Lansing Community College and Greater Lansing Area Clean Cities

Jim Pitts
Michigan recycles 95 out of every 100 deposit bottles and cans, twice as much as most other states!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Michigan kicks off new energy research center

U-M moves ahead with energy research site
Institute could put U-M, region at forefront of development
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
BY MIKE RAMSEY News Business Reporter
The University of Michigan is expected to announce today a $20 million energy research center at its former nuclear reactor facility that could put the university and the region at the forefront of energy research in the United States.

The Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute located on U-M's North Campus will pull together research spread across different laboratories, add new disciplines and put an emphasis on bringing technology to the marketplace. . . .

"The energy institute is really something that is happening at a perfect hour for a region that desperately needs it, and this university is primed to do it,'' said Stephen Forrest, vice president of research at U-M.

With $35 million in energy research already under way at the university, it is among the leading research institutions in the nation. The new center is expected to help the university land research funding and spin off technology into start-up companies. . . .

Forrest and others think the state of Michigan is ideally suited to be a leader in energy research and development because it is the home of the auto industry, which uses 50 percent of the petroleum consumed in the U.S., and is also a major producer and user of electric power.

Areas of focus will include alternative fuel development aimed at the transportation industry, solar technology, wind, hydrogen fuel, geothermal and nuclear energy. The institute also would tackle the spectrum of energy research and plans to partner with other Michigan research universities that have stronger programs in certain areas.

For example, Michigan State University has a strong biofuel research program and U-M does much less work in that field.

As it stands, no area of the country has a clear lead in alternative energy research and development, but many universities - seeing the opportunity in energy research - already have established centers like that of U-M. . . .

The creation of the institute is the result of a recommendations made by the Michigan Energy Research Council, a group made up of university faculty and administrators and led by former U-M president James Duderstadt.

"If I look around at the major initiatives that the university is spinning up, it's hard to find a more important one,'' Duderstadt said. "The hope is a lot of (energy development) is spawned in the Ann Arbor and southeast Michigan area. We see this as a very important economic driver.'' . . .

Gary Was, one of Michigan's top nuclear engineering professors, has been named as director of the institute. U-M has one of the best - if not the best - nuclear engineering programs in the world. He said U-M will start out ahead of other universities that have fledgling programs of their own.

"We have a depth and breadth of research that's hard to match, and we have a clearer plan of where we are going,'' he said.

Included in that depth is a strong nuclear engineering program and hydrogen fuel cell development. While nuclear energy had fallen out of favor in the 1980s and 1990s, it may hold more promise in the future as safety technologies have improved and the demand for alternatives to coal-burning electricity plants increases. . . .

The institute also will be working closely with NextEnergy, the Detroit-based energy company business accelerator.
Jim Croce, CEO of NextEnergy, said his agency already is working with the university. The new institute will give important new emphasis to energy research, but he also hopes its leaders will work to establish strong contacts with other universities.

"It's going to take everybody pulling together on a statewide basis, and perhaps be a little less competitive and more collaborative across universities,'' he said.


More insight from Dennis Meadows--particularly relevant to Michigan

(Excerpt from a longer interview here:
One thing I think we need to know is that sustainability isn’t a destination, its how you make the trip. So there are all kinds of values, principles and attitudes that people have to have. I’m starting now to create a centre that will work on urban sustainability. It’s an interesting unit of analysis, how to make a city more sustainable.

I would teach energy auditing as an essential skill, because I think that someone who becomes really tuned in to energy content and energy density and flows will be led to do something that will be useful even if they don’t think about the oil peak. I’m trying to make this in the state of New Hampshire where I live right now, which imports all of its oil!

It has no fossil fuels of its own, no gas, no oil, no coal, it just imports everything! I’m saying to them, to the local authority, just count it up, see what you’re doing to yourself. You don’t have to believe in depletion or anything just look at what you’re doing! You’re sending all this money to Saudi Arabia, and if you just spent a little bit of money on efficiency and mass transit, you could drastically reduce the amount of money you send out of the state, and you could drastically increase the number of jobs in the State, which is a problem for us.

Plus you could build up some saleable technological competence! If you have some companies who are building devices to help you measure heat efficiency in a house, then not only can we use them in New Hampshire but we could sell them to Massachusetts etc. So this requires energy auditing which I think is a very important place to start. . . .


Gore: GHG emissions freeze needed now
September 19, 2006
Gore Calls for Immediate Freeze on Heat-Trapping Gas Emissions
Former Vice President Al Gore called yesterday for a popular movement in the United States to seek an “immediate freeze” in heat-trapping smokestack and tailpipe gases linked by most scientists to global warming.

Speaking at the New York University law school, Mr. Gore said that rising temperatures posed an enormous threat and that only a movement akin to the nuclear freeze campaign for arms control a generation ago, which he said he opposed at the time, would push elected officials out of longstanding deadlock on the issue.

“Merely engaging in high-minded debates about theoretical future reductions while continuing to steadily increase emissions represents a self-delusional and reckless approach,” Mr. Gore said. “In some ways, that approach is worse than doing nothing at all, because it lulls the gullible into thinking that something is actually being done, when in fact it is not.”

President Bush has opposed requiring cuts in heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide, saying a better payoff will come from a long-term effort to find or improve technologies that provide energy without emissions. The White House last night defended that approach.

“This administration is not just talking about climate change,” said Kristen A. Hellmer, a White House spokeswoman. “There are more than 60 programs in place aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions that do not hurt the economy or move jobs overseas.”

Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma and chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said the Gore proposals would create “economic calamity.”

Several representatives of industry groups said yesterday that the White House had been consulting with industry officials to consider a new energy initiative.

In his speech, Mr. Gore also renewed a longstanding proposal to replace all payroll taxes with taxes on pollution, including carbon dioxide. And he said the United States should rejoin the Kyoto Protocol, the climate treaty, rejected by President Bush that requires industrialized countries to cut emissions.

Mr. Gore has ridden a wave of attention since spring over “An Inconvenient Truth,” the popular film and best-selling book built around an illustrated talk on what he calls a “planetary emergency.”

His speech in Manhattan came ahead of a burst of planned discourse on global warming this week, including five Congressional hearings and three days of workshops at the Clinton Global Initiative, which are intended to solve the biggest problems hampering international development.

Philip E. Clapp, the president of the National Environmental Trust, a Washington group pressing for limits on heat-trapping gases, said he welcomed Mr. Gore’s speech.

“There is no excuse anymore to continue to increase our emissions,” Mr. Clapp said.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Rebutting ethanomania

Even with source biases considered, this is a nice overview. Note the graphic especially.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


A most important speech

/Published on Tuesday, September 12, 2006 by Post Carbon Institute/

Cities Can Save the Earth: the urban solution to climate change, species extinctions and peak oil

*By Richard Register*

Note: Delivered to the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, September 7, 2006.

A bicyclist friend of mine appeared the other day in a T-shirt reading, “Ask me how I lost 3,600 pounds in a day.” By getting rid of his car, obviously! I’m going to be talking about some of the big things we are going to need to change. For example, designing cities around something
that weights 3,600 pounds instead of whatever you weigh, is something that needs to change. I’m hoping you will have your sense of proportion honed some and will hear some useful ideas for making your own city and planet a little healthier, or in fact, a lot healthier.

I’m going to be talking today about something that sounds rather ambitious, namely solving the crisis millions of people are being alerted to by Al Gore’s new movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” In fact, beyond solving global heating, the subject of that film, I’m going to claim to have one of the most important solutions to that and the crisis of species extinctions and the crisis that is called these days “Peak Oil,” “Peak Oil” being the period of time when world oil production tops
out and begins sliding away forever. If yesterday’s announced new Chevron oil field in the Gulf of Mexico proves to be a large one, the date of peak oil production will be pushed back only a very small fraction of the lifetime of this limited resource on this planet. And ironically, the longer we can feel secure in having the oil to burn, the worse for climate stability by way of CO2 build up in the atmosphere.

This conundrum can be avoided by building a civilization that runs on a small fraction of today’s energy requirements. For the small amount of energy it does require, though intrinsically more expensive than today’s fossil fuels, it can be renewable energy like solar and wind. Such a
civilization would be one of ecologically healthy cities, towns and villages. Such built communities, a goal now since none actually exist, are ever more widely becoming known as “ecocities.”

Without too much elaboration I need to say now, for clarity later in my talk, that my information suggests that solar and wind energy will never be cheap in the way that oil has been cheap in the past. This is so because we will have to do the work that the biology and geology of
planet Earth did for us in concentrating solar energy in the fossil chemicals over something more than 150 million years. Renewable energy sources are diffuse and need human work and developed technologies in order to be concentrated into useable form. The Earth’s endowment of oil and natural gas is going fast, replacements like coal and nuclear are more expensive, environmentally damaging and toxic, and even sources of energy like hydropower are more tenuous in the long run than we’d like to believe. Dams fill up with silt. Having grown up in New Mexico I’m familiar with dams that are already useless, surrealistic planes of sand with cottonwood trees and sage brush right up to the edge of the dry spillways.

Take ethanol, too, for example. That’s grain alcohol, mainly from corn in the United States. If the United States were to drive its fleet of cars on ethanol it would need to dedicate more than its entire agricultural land area to producing the fuel. The social equity and justice issue here becomes gigantic: would we really rather use farmlands to feed our cars than feed people? If that sounds like a distant possibility, perhaps a theme for a Blade Runner type movie, it
is not. It’s actually here and now and growing rapidly. Already 10 million acres of land are given over to ethanol production for motor vehicles in the United States. That’s about halfway between the total land area of Maryland and West Virginia.

Again, what replacements we have for our recently cheap energy sources are either more dangerous or environmentally destructive or expensive. The solution is to build a civilization that uses precious little energy, or in other words, uses it very well. By use it very well I mean
use it to bring civilization into harmony with nature for the long haul.

Returning to our crisis of the three linked crises in climate, biodiversity and energy, it is important to notice just how large it is and thus to give it absolute top priority for our attentions and efforts. It’s effects are changing evolution on the planet as much as any mass extinction in the Earth’s multi-billion year past, and therefore I’ll use the term “ultimate crisis” which a friend of mine named David Greenberg has been using for a number of months. It is a crisis of unprecedented scale and, as the melting of the Earth’s glaciers and the disasters of Hurricane Katrina illustrate, a crisis already well underway. Putting the contribution of ecological city
redesign into perspective can give us a clear strategy, something very close to what Lester Brown has lately been calling a Plan B for surviving and thriving on this planet. However, there are major contradictions in his approach that I’ll discuss shortly, and Al Gore’s approach as well. Building ecological cities, however, resolves these contradictions and empowers what could be a truly effective strategy for, as Buckminster Fuller called it, “human success.”

Changing a light bulb and inflating your tires more, planting a tree and driving a little less, as Mr. Gore prescribes among his ten things to do to start solving the climate change crisis, is not going to do the trick. It’s going to require a truly fundamental shift in how we build our cities and live in them. In all honesty, how could solutions be easy when confronting a crisis of this enormous scale? How could we just continue living essentially as we are?

Yet at the same time I’m saying confronting this crisis and solving this overarching problem will be difficult, I’ll make the assertion that if we put in the real imagination, clear thinking and hard work required, our children will reap the reward of a world far more beautiful and lively than can be imagined by any extrapolation of the best of today’s ways of doing things.

I can say this, and it sounds good enough, but if you look around you notice cars dominate cities thoroughly in the rich countries and they are swamping the poor countries more every day as well. Car factories and highways are being built rapidly in China and India with massive
investment from the big auto companies and loans from the World Bank. Many cities, like Berkeley, where I lived for 29 years, haven’t a single pedestrian street – and their citizens don’t even notice how completely given over to the car their towns are. Evidently, then, we have not
progressed very far toward establishing the city for pedestrians and the city based on ecological awareness. It is also interesting to note that only one out of ten people on the planet actually drive cars (which is hard to believe in America and world culture big cities, though true) and they, through the automobile/sprawl pattern of development, are causing a vastly disproportionate share of planetary damage. The operative plan today is to vastly increase their numbers. Very bad plan!

The difficultly, I believe, is partially psychological: people are afraid of change (though I for one am much more afraid of what will happen if we don’t change). I say people must be afraid of change because the concepts behind the ecological city are fairly simple. Here they are: Switch to a pedestrian and transit oriented infrastructure with ecocity architecture built around compact centers designed for pedestrians and transit. Roll back sprawl development while vigorously restoring nature and agriculture. Attach renewable energy systems while making things recyclable and using non-toxic materials and technologies.

There you have it! Only three short sentences for the essence of it. Not so difficult conceptually. The whole pattern can be characterized as shifting development toward centers of high diversity.

There is another difficulty in communicating about and actually building ecological cities, too, and that is that we have built cities for cars for the last 100 years and thus many of us caught in this infrastructure find it extremely difficult to get around in anything but the car. The distances are just too great for bicycles, the densities just to low to allow efficient, affordable transit.

Nonetheless, there are tools available and we can start moving in the right direction immediately. Some of the tools that can help us actually build ecological cities I’ll mention at the end of this talk, but for now note that in may places, such as San Francisco, Chicago and Portland, and even better in Curitiba, Brazil, a certain amount of this “ecocity” thinking is already going on. While people feel dependent on cars, nonetheless even Americans greatly enjoy car-free environments such as the plazas and parks that do exist, malls and playgrounds,
sports fields and fairs, festival and expositions. Also, creeks and urban waterways that do exist are much loved in places like San Luis Obispo, California, Boulder, Colorado and San Antonio, Texas.

I started out saying, “Ask me how I lost 3,600 pounds in a day.” Cars are big and the infrastructure that provides for them is even much bigger yet. On our way to doing a good job of prioritizing what needs to be done, this is an important point and I’ll flesh it out with a little
more detail now.

If one designs an infrastructure - buildings, streets and open spaces and systems for supply, recycling and disposal – to go along with one set of things that are 30 time bigger and heavier than the other, car bodies versus human bodies, very different results are likely, right? What if the heavy things move about ten to twenty times faster than the light-weight ones when functioning in their usual way, accelerating and decelerating constantly, burning up energy the whole time? Basic physics suggests enormous quantitative and qualitative differences between
design parameters. The mass/energy/spatial requirements of cars, as compared to human beings, is on the order of hundreds to one. What if one runs on a toxic fuel that is profoundly transforming the entire atmosphere into an artificial bubble of gasses with a substantially
different composition than the planet had for at least 400,000 years, maybe even millions of years while the other eats cereal for breakfast?

What about cities designed and planned to satisfy the requirements of such hurtling 3,600 pound objects, such requirements as massive parking structures and freeway interchanges. What about requiring “Big Digs” like Boston’s in which, for tens of billions of dollars, people one at a time in big steel, glass and plastic boxes, can rush from Suburb #1. over to Suburb #2. – which look almost just like Suburb #1. – right under the center of massive downtown buildings and very, very wet waterways? If it sounds a little insane, it think it really is. Especially at this time in history when we are waking up to the triple ultimate emergency.

Could it be that such automobile based cities would be substantially different from cities designed on the parameters of the human body, its speed and its requirements for food, exercise, physical space, rest, culture, inspiration and beauty? Absolutely. Maybe human beings even need and love nature itself, no matter how deeply such “biophilia” might be buried in our everyday world of asphalt, manufactured splendor and intervening suburban sprawl. Could in fact cities be built for humans on foot and for the healthiest conceivable natural world possible?

This is my starting point: I think cities can be built for just these purposes, but to accomplish such a positive goal, we will actually have to talk about it directly, openly, honestly and think it through like I am trying to do here today. We have to get past the psychological resistance to discussing it. On the positive side it is heartening to note that cities used to be built for pedestrians. The cores of some such cities remain in Europe and some in China, though in China they are being bulldozed to dust as we speak. Some cities like Venice, Italy, the Medina of Fez and a hilly Gulongyu, China are 100% car-free – and very successful. As they say in general, so it applies to car-free pedestrian cities: “If they exist they are possible.” We can build ecological
cities and we will if we are ever to solve this looming triple ultimate crisis.

The Biggest Things We Build

Now this next part of my talk I’m calling “Cities – The Biggest Things We Build” because I want to emphasize dealing with the appropriate scale. If we have a big problem we need a big solution, simple as that.

Thus I think it is puzzling no end that almost no one connects the largest things we build – our cities – to the largest problems that we are experiencing, much less connects them to solutions to those problems. But that seems to be the case. Consider this story: I was the convener of the First International Ecocity Conference in 1990, followed by four more conferences, one each in Australia, Senegal, Brazil and China. Next comes India, number six, in December. At the first of these conferences our keynote speaker was Denis Hayes, chief organizer of Earth Day in 1970 and past director of the US Solar Energy Research Institute, dismantled by Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s. Denis’ major point was that despite all the good progress we had been making in the environmental movement, all the battles we had won, all the good laws and policies, adjustments in lifestyles and better recycling and energy conservation and so on, somehow in regard to the largest problems of all - chief among which he cited climate change and species extinctions - we were losing the war. To “win the war” he proposed that we needed vision, and in particular the sort of vision we might attain by looking at the way whole cities are designed, built and function. Then, at another talk ten years later, I saw him say almost exactly the same thing as we were entering our new century.

His keynote at our conference was powerful and inspiring but a little vague, delivering neither an image of such cities nor the tools that might be used to built them. But my main point now is that we haven’t won that war for the health of the environment, and in fact are worse off now than ever simply because we never confronted the largest things we build. We said, “Let’s change a light bulb and fill our tires up more,” rather than, “Let’s face the big one.” We still have not looked the city dead in the eye and said, “Hey, what’s really going on here? How is this thing structured? Why does it consume so much land and energy and cause so much environmental and human damage?”

If we do look fairly closely at cities we can see they are what is known as “whole systems,” and that they function something like living organisms. Their main organs are linked together complementing each other’s services for the benefit of the whole and relating the whole to its environment, its resource base if you will, in a way that could be of reciprocal benefit to all organs and the whole organism. The city’s organs include structures for living and working, education and shopping, recreation and entertainment, manufacturing and distribution,
transportation and, there are the various networks of nature and resources that connect with and support the city.

If we take this view we can notice immediately that the whole organism of the city we’ve been constructing for the last 150 years has been built on the basis of linking functions through ever lengthening strands of connection. First there were rails and trains and streetcars, then much more massively, highways, cars and trucks. Now, in the wealthy world, our cities are whole systems made up of low-density development called suburbs, largely “single use” downtowns called Central Business Districts, and cars, asphalt and paving covering vast areas of land. This was all supported by an oil infrastructure that stretches from our local gas stations out to our 725 American military bases scattered around the world and heavily concentrated in and around the Middle East and Central Asian oil fields. This scattered city of suburbs is very, very big. With its far flung support systems, says social critic and author James Howard Kunstler, it constitutes “the greatest misallocation of resources in history.” This diffuse structure of the city has been based on fossil fuel energy that became cheaper and cheaper for a long 150 years. Now is getting more and more expensive as it is approaching peak oil production, and after that, it will slide into oblivion and higher prices due to scarcity – for such is the fate of any non- renewable resource that is burnt up instead of recycled.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Cities can be designed for pedestrians and bicyclists, taking up very small areas of land in more compact development. Taller buildings with rooftop gardens and solar greenhouses can be linked to other buildings with pedestrian connections between rooftops and terraces above ground level, making city centers intimately accessible to people on foot. While we are adding population and ecological architecture in pedestrian/transit centers we can be gradually removing low density development farthest from those centers and opening up landscapes for restoration of buried creeks, expansion of parks and community gardens, preservation and recovery of open ridgelines with beautiful views, open spaces for recycling and so on.

If one imagines today’s typical metropolis of low density development and scattered higher density city centers linked by freeways it is possible to imagine a transition in which city centers, district centers and neighborhood centers are becoming much more “mixed use,” as planners say, with more people moving closer to jobs and commerce in areas that can be served well by bicycles and transit. We can imagine city centers in which creek restoration projects open up landscapes beside public plazas as counterpoint to the taller buildings, and we can imagine that the presence of nature in this form is celebrated in conjunction with the gathering places for people. Here, culture and nature link and reinforce one another in this manner. People acknowledge the healthy union of both culture and nature in their architecture and layout of
public open spaces. Higher places in buildings celebrate nature by bringing people up into the beautiful views provided by higher elevations in the city. Having public accessibility to rooftop terraces, restaurants and cafes, shops, promenades and mini-parks elevated into the view where we can watch weather developing and rolling across the landscape and enjoy sunsets and sunrises is a powerful contribution to understanding our place in nature.

Meantime, while development shifts toward the centers, bicycle and pedestrian paths begin to reach into the suburban fabric beside formerly buried creeks that are restored, reviving natural plant and animal communities along with refreshed water circulation and filtration. Community gardens and parks appear and expand along these networks of waterways and bicycle paths. Where buildings are dilapidated or damaged by fire, termites, earthquakes, floods or dry rot in these areas, they are removed rather than replaced with new low-density, car-dependent
development. With time, larger agricultural areas reappear, and nature can reach in to meet citizen rather than citizen having to drive for half and hour or more through the suburbs to get “out” to nature. In addition, real wilderness expands into areas now invaded by sprawl, and
some far-flung patches of exurban sprawl find their centers, add ecologically informed development there and become vital towns and villages with a real connection to the land. They become beautiful, lively, productive places to live in and visit.

Contrary to this vision I’m asking you to contemplate now, many architects and planners claiming to represent something they call “good urbanism” say that city is city and nature is nature and never the twain shall meet. Creek restoration projects I’ve been involved in have been opposed by such architects and planners.

I think this is one of the worst ideas in vogue in architecture and city planning circles today. If we don’t dramatically celebrate nature as brought into cities in small but rich ways, such as by way of waterway restoration with some actual living critters such as fish, crawdads, dragonflies, humming birds and butterflies, then we are in serious trouble. We are already in trouble as evidenced by global heating and species dying all around the planet, and we are in worse trouble if we continue to extend into the future ideas that banish nature from city dwellers. If the biggest things we build are our cities, then it is one of the biggest mistakes we can make to exclude the experience of nature from people who live in them. But if we learn from nature and we come to understand our cultural foundations in nature, we can then understand what sort of foundation in land use patterns and design we need for so-called sustainable cities.


Now in this section of my talk I’d like to make a special point of prioritization. Denis Hayes says we need vision, but equally importantly, maybe even more importantly, I think we need a sense of proportion and the ability to prioritize very, very well. After all, a spectacular vision can be corrupting and corruptible and is generally harshly criticized as utopian. So a fairly good vision will probably be good enough and we can improve on it as we go. I think ecocities are one such imperfect but very adaptable vision. Former Mayor Jamie Lerner of Curitiba, Brazil, perhaps the worlds most advanced practitioner of ecological city design, building and administration has said that city planning is “a very forgiving process” – you learn along the way and if
the feedback is negative you amend your plan and continue on. That’s an applicable vision, a practical one.

But to prioritize the must-do-now things, in times when time itself is getting short, is of crucial importance. I’ll illustrate this with the following set of observations:

Recently at a book store I saw a title advancing 1001 ways to improve our world in difficult times. Shortly after, a friend said he’d like to subtitle a book of his something like “One Hundred Inconvenient Truths.” This is, of course, taking off from the current interest in Al Gore’s
recent movie, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

I responded saying that 100 different scrambled problems and solutions was too random, too lacking in a system or order, wasn’t cognizant of the way ecological systems really work and would perpetuate not doing anything effective while precious time slips away. The number 100 was too big, much less the number 1001, the differences between the “truths,” whatever they might be, muddled by the grab bag quality of mixing oranges and apples - much less throwing in blueberries and watermelons and poisonous and medicinal fruits to boot. People tend to
take the easy one and think they were making progress - while postponing the difficult ones as precious time slips away.

But there is one approach that looms far larger than anything else I can think of: getting a sense of proportion and learning to prioritize. If we can do that then we will see there are 5 big inconvenient truths under which all others are subsumed. Understanding this approach we can
sort out the real solutions in the confusion we see seething about us now. We can eliminate the paltry and the contradictory steps and get on with doing something relevant and powerful. I’ll propose these as the five big inconvenient truths we have to deal with. They expand beyond
ecocity building, but they outline the larger picture and provide the larger context very well I believe.

#1. Inconvenient big truth number one. Humanity is overpopulated and must reduce its numbers, and do it peacefully since violence replicates and amplifies itself. This is not a racist statement in the slightest as often claimed by people victimized by actual racists making the
statement in the past or still making it today. It is instead relevant to the species-ist humans driving other species into extinction by way of taking almost all of the land of the planet for their own utility and pleasure. Species-ism is even larger and ultimately more destructive than racism, as horrible a scourge as racism has proven to be. That we are overpopulated is massively evident in the fact that human beings constitute more than 100 times the biomass of any other species in our general size range to ever inhabit the planet. That’s too big and all of
us need to face it. Inconvenient truth #1.

#2. The built infrastructure - my subject of specialization and main subject of this talk. You’ve already heard about this inconvenient truth, that we needs to shift from cars, sprawl, paving and cheap energy infrastructure to pedestrian oriented ecocities that fit by design perfectly with renewable energy systems.

#3. We need to eat lower on the food chain. Among the changes that imply enormous savings and amount to re-investing in long-term sustainability, agriculture for meat needs to be recognized as highly inefficient. Costing five to ten times the land and energy of eating vegetable foods directly, a diet high in meat is a big part of the geopolitical and energetics problem on Earth, and a diet very low in meat is a big part of the solution. This isn’t a call for a ban on meats but to face the inconvenient truth that a substantial shift away from meats holds very large benefit for life support and biodiversity on the Earth. Small amounts of meat for ample protein and flavoring in mainly vegetable dishes, common in Chinese cuisine for example, is a very different thing from the giant slabs of meat as stakes and big burgers and other large
meat portions.

#4. Need needs to replace greed, as Gandhi said. That means we need to invest in the future health of the world – not just in our wealth as individuals – by way of supporting solutions to the problems identified by the big inconvenient truths. We need a new wave of generosity, especially as expressed in giving back to the Earth. In other words we have to tax ourselves more and the wealthier folks even more yet, and do a much better job of spending the money for the general good. We need to prioritize for the best investments. What's new these days in this situation is that finally, with the ultimate crisis beginning to enter our lives in ever more disruptive ways, it is soon to become conspicuous that the children of the rich as well as the children of the poor will inherit a poverty stricken, chaotic and violent world if everybody
doesn't contribute substantially to addressing the 5 Inconvenient Truths with real investment and action. Since the wealthy have much more, they need to give more. The fantasy option of holing up in a gated community or super-rich castle retreat with armed guards, with the middle class turning into peasants to harvest our gourmet food and wine, is soon to go out the window if we don't act more generously now.

#5. Education needs to stop chasing the money for its own sake and promoting growh, growth, growth. It needs to shift away from supporting "whatever's coming down the road to maximize prosperity" (at the expense of nature's prosperity) while attempting to make the whole enterprise a little “greener,” for real or for PR reasons. It has to powerfully educate about the four big inconvenient truths, just mentioned. Also, we as individuals need to realize that we self-educate ourselves for nothing in particular if we are staring at television for billions of
hours collectively every year or otherwise, literally, distracting ourselves, distracting ourselves from crucial learning and work that needs attention now. Education can help preserve or destroy natural systems and biodiversity depending on what is being learned. Beyond “reading and writing and ’rithmetic,” education is not per se a virtuous pursuit in itself. It depends on what it addresses and what it creates. The content is all-important. Again 100 random things is not a good idea. We need to prioritize and not put the big things on hold.

I assume with near certainty that former US Vice President Al Gore knows the ten steps he puts forward in “An Inconvenient Truth” for taking action are very small up against the coming crisis. I am almost positive he is hoping to give people a chance to start off small and graduate to
bigger, more effective, more basic things later. His movie is a great wake up call, and if rather late in the game relative to already collapsing climate stability, biodiversity and cheap energy, it’s an essential step, and much better late than never.

The problem is this, though: it is hardly the first step. Back in 1970 on Earth Day we were actually ahead of where we are now in strategic approach. By now humanity has eaten up most of our energy and biodiversity options that were plentiful those 36 years back. We did not do a good job of facing the Five Big Inconvenient Truths in the meantime and we still are not. We haven’t built a very good foundation for reshaping our physical civilization upon ecological principles. We had every opportunity to get started with the smaller steps to solving world
environmental and resource problems and to use that as a kind of first grade schooling for higher education and more fundamental education and practice in the future. But rather than move on to those fundamentals we were satisfied to stick with the easy first steps. To start off again with those first steps and not address the more difficult ones, is to attempt again a strategy that has failed once already.

Lester Brown’s “Plan B” is another important touchstone for coming to understand what we need to do. Certainly a program by which we can change policy around the world is needed, as he suggests, and he lays out copious good information and many good ideas about what to do. His writings, however, have certain major contradictions that need to be resolved before his plan is ready for application. His strategy is once again to give people the idea that they can get moving with some small but substantial actions. He does in fact face population and meat eating
head on, but unfortunately among his most vigorous promotions is the promotion of the energy efficient car, which completely subverts ecological cities, by promoting sprawl development and avoiding whole system thinking, and makes it extremely difficult if not impossible to move forward with a well conceived plan.

Unfortunately, other scientist friends are not helping as much as they could either. You’d think they’d be there ready to rescue us with their superior information and theories, but many of them are lost in the details and don’t see the larger pattern and are not helping us connect the dots and prioritize. For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, while providing excellent information and numerous suggestions for government policies to combat global heating, such as promoting trading pollution credits, has practically nothing to say about policy to move cities away from car-oriented and cheap energy design and toward infrastructure based on the measure of the human body and the dynamics of ecological systems.

It seems everyone trying to help avoid global heating is afraid of fear itself. The notion is, “The people can’t handle it. They’ll panic, close down, act in fear and nothing else. Give them something easy and non-threatening. Later we’ll up the stakes, raise the bar.”

But we all have to wake up sometime. At some point you just have to put your faith in people and trust that they can handle the truth of the matter. When you finally get it that Paul Revere has warned you and the British are coming for real, you don’t get out your boots and coat, set
the alarm clock for 7:00am and go back to bed. You realize there is a clear and present danger, pick up your weapon (or tool, as our comparison might have it) and move out now!

I’m saving the best news until last. I’ve said earlier that the tools exist with which to build ecocities. You’ve heard my thoughts on prioritization – and that we need it probably more than anything else – and you have a basic idea what an ecologically healthy city might look like. Though I don’t have time to develop what the ecocity-building tools are in any detail, I can at least introduce you to some of the stronger ones.

First there is Ecocity Mapping. It amounts to literally mapping your city so you have a clearer sense where you centers of most vitality are. The map portrays where to increase density and diversity of development, which is in those centers, and where to best open up the landscape for such features as restored creeks and expanded community gardens and parks, which is in the areas farthest from those centers. Thus it directs change, along with the ecocity general plan that lays out policies for ecocity transformation.

The Ecocity General Plan, like any other general plan, lays out policies for the development and maintenance of the city’s physical expression and its functioning. But in the case of the Ecocity General Plan, many policies are described that facilitate an ecocity transition. Those include policies calling for Ecocity Mapping, just mentioned, Transfer of Development Rights, which I’ll mention next, and many others. Those policies have to also include specific reference to financial investment in making sure the action policies are carried through. If the City does not allocate money for the transition, its plan is just symbolic window dressing, an exercise in pretend. No serious money spent, no serious progress made.

Transfer of Development Rights, or TDR, is a powerful real estate investment and development tool. It provides a height bonus for developers willing to put higher density housing or other structures in exactly the right place according to an ecocity transition plan. The developers pay for the purchase of development rights that are transferred from one part of town to their taller buildings in the growing pedestrian transit centers. At the sites where the development rights are purchased, the buildings are removed and no more development can be built there. This tool is a willing seller/developer transaction – when the seller wants to leave, a ready fund is there to buy his or her property. After the sale the building is demolished and recycled and
open space such as creek restoration or community garden is created, thus shifting the patterns of development from the fringes and off of natural features and toward the pedestrian transit centers.

There are many other tools, such as car-free by contract housing which encourages building apartments and condominiums with zero car parking provided because their residents don’t need or want cars. Any policy that establishes and expands the pedestrian environment is a tool for building ecocities. Such policies can be used to shape buildings to utilizes the sun’s energy, provide for social equity by eliminating the necessity of having to pay for a car to get access to the city’s benefits, to helping restore natural features. Such tools produce pioneering transit systems fit to low energy infrastructure in Curitiba, Brazil, and provide free public transportation in downtown Portland. There are many, they work beautifully and I write about them in my books, but it’s time to stop.

After one last story anyway. A year ago I took a long ride on Amtrak. It came in eight hours late. It’s conductors and dining car waiters were so embarrassed. They just couldn’t really complete, they said. Those sad Amtrak employees shook their heads and said they just couldn’t function without government subsidies. They couldn’t afford upkeep on rolling stock and had to search around to find available cars. They couldn’t afford their own tracks and so they were operating on Union Pacific’s freight tracks and had to pull over whenever Union Pacific’s trains came through.

Wait a minute! The entire federal government budget for the national passenger rail system for the United States of America, no small Balkan backwater, in 2005 was $1.2 billion. Do you know what the cost of one and a half miles of replacement freeway in West Oakland was for the
section of the Cypress Viaduct structure that fell down in the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989? Almost exactly the same amount! Does anyone talk about “subsidies” to car drivers when government gives them these gigantic public works to keep them driving and driving and driving? Those proportions are way, way out of balance, and in the wrong direction at that. These expenditures should be seen as investments, and should be called that, whether they are for passenger rail that fits perfectly with ecologically tuned cities or investments in perpetuating
our trajectory deeper into the ultimate crisis.

But what this tells us is that, late though the hour may be for dealing with the triple crisis of climate, extinctions and energy, and flood of money and resources and potential it represents is colossally enormous. It’s like a giant fire hose aimed in the wrong direction, accomplishing
in many cases exactly the opposite of what it should do. Imagine shifting that intense stream gradually in the right direction. Little by little, then ever more quickly we’d have the transition to a kind of city that can bring CO2 in the atmosphere down to below what it was at
the beginning of the industrial area. Maybe it really can.
/~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Editorial Notes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Richard Register is president of Ecocity Builders Inc.>

and author of Ecocities: Rebuilding
Cities in Balance with Nature> (New Society Publishers).

From Richard's blog profile:

Born in El Paso, Texas, 1943. Many years in New Mexico, many more in
Califonia. Have a seedling in my window box whose parent is the
oldest living thing in the world - about 4,700 years old.

*Article found at :

*Original article :

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Amazingly good regional environmental journalism series on impacts

Given the way media companies ape each others' bad ideas shamelessly, is it too much to hope for that, all over America, papers do as good a job reporting on the effects of global warming as this tiny Pac NW newspaper chain?


Consumer Reports on Ethanomania

The ethanol myth
Consumer Reports' E85 tests show that you’ll get cleaner emissions but poorer fuel economy ... if you can find it

See the complete writeup here.


Useful site for natural gas prices/trends

Is here


A must-read post on ethanomania

Is here, at the excellent i-r-squared blog


Energy Hunger-- is coalbed methane worth destroying the land?

(This may seem a little distant from Michigan, but as our own natural gas supply has dwindled quickly, and essentially all of us heat our homes with natural gas, our energy hunger has environmental consequences that push further and further out.  The more places we allow to be destroyed to serve our energy needs, the less likely we will be able to resist the destruction of our own place in turn.)

September 10, 2006

In the West, a Water Fight Over Quality, Not Quantity

MILES CITY, Mont. — It is a strange fight, Montana ranchers say. Raising cattle here in the parched American outback of eastern Montana and Wyoming has always been a battle to find enough water.

Now there is more than enough water, but the wrong kind, they say, and they are fighting to keep it out of the river. . . .

But the search for a type of natural gas called coal bed methane has come to this part of the world in a big way. The gas is found in subterranean coal, and companies are pumping water out of the coal and stripping the gas mixed with it. Once the gas is out, the huge volumes of water become waste in a region that gets less than 12 inches of rain a year. . . .

“It makes the soil impervious,” said Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who is a soil scientist. “It changes it from a living, breathing thing into concrete.” . . .

Monday, September 04, 2006


W's legacy--drowning all the other coastal cities too


ROGER HARRABIN BBC - One of America's top scientists has said that the world has already entered a state of dangerous climate change. In his first broadcast interview as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, John Holdren told the BBC that the climate was changing much faster than predicted. . . .

"We are experiencing dangerous human disruption of the global climate and we're going to experience more," Professor Holdren said. He emphasized the seriousness of the melting Greenland ice cap, saying that without drastic action the world would experience more heat waves, wild fires and floods. He added that if the current pace of change continued, a catastrophic sea level rise of 4m (13ft) this century was within the realm of possibility; much higher than previous forecasts. To put this in perspective, Professor Holdren pointed out that the melting of the Greenland ice cap, alone, could increase world-wide sea levels by 7m (23ft), swamping many cities.

He blamed President Bush not only for refusing to cut emissions, but also for failing to live up to his rhetoric on harnessing technology to tackle climate change.


What Lansing Ought to be Doing

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Portland going 100% renewable

Listen to this story

Portland, Ore. is throwing all its weight into the fight against global warming by promising to run on 100% renewable energy starting next year. Mitchell Hartman reports.

SCOTT JAGOW: Portland, Ore., has a reputation for being a very environmentally conscious city. Great public transportation, recycling programs, things like that. With all the talk about global warming, Portland has decided to take things a step further. Mitchell Hartman reports.

SOUND: And our headliner tonight, Anna Cohen, is a high-fashion line of apparel created using organic and natural fiber innovations including bamboo, cotton, hemp, wool and soy. Let the models hear it from you, hit the music, this is set number one . . .
MITCHELL HARTMAN: A recent fashion show at Portland City Hall showcased clothing for the green-leaning Gucci set. But the electricity for the lights and PA system? Not exactly green. It comes mostly from coal and huge, hydroelectric dams. Only a tiny fraction of the power in the Northwest is generated from renewable sources like the wind and sun.

But starting next year, the juice that runs City Hall will be 100 percent renewable. In a complex deal between power broker Sempra Energy Solutions, local landowners, and a regional wind developer, all city operations will run from wind power.
JEFF COGEN: "We're the first effort by a customer to get renewable energy on this scale."
Jeff Cogen is a senior aide on energy matters for the Portland City Council.
COGEN: "Municipalities, companies, nonprofits can do this, anyone who's a large enough consumer of electricity that they can get into, frankly, direct negotiations with wind developers."
Why the switch to renewable power? In a word — or rather, a few letters — the reason is CO2. Fossil fuels that power utilities are one of the biggest sources of carbon dioxide that's warming the atmosphere. Use non-fossil fuels, and the CO2 goes away.

If Portland goes to all renewable green power, it will be the equivalent of taking nearly 12,000 cars off the road every year. Portland's global-warming plan doesn't specify which renewable resource the city has to use. And there are plenty of options.

There's hydroelectric. But nobody's building new dams these days, since the existing ones have wreaked havoc on Columbia River salmon runs.
WEATHERWOMAN: "The east side of the Cascades looks sunny. All that storm activity, gone for now. Temperatures will be in the . . . "
There's solar, but so far solar panels can't produce electricity anywhere near as cheaply as fossil fuels. You can burn wood and agricultural waste, or tap underground geothermal sources. Even capture the energy of ocean waves. But most of these are economic pipe dreams right now, at least for large-scale energy production. Troy Gagliano is a policy analyst with the Renewable Northwest Project.
TROY GAGLIANO: "Most of the cost of a wind plant is in the turbines and building it. So once you've got all the equipment in the ground, you don't have to buy the wind that blows across the land."
Gagliano points out that the price of fuels like natural gas, coal, oil, and uranium has soared in recent years, and utility rates reflect that. With wind, you can lock in a contract and get stable pricing for a decade or more.

And that's already made some area farmers a bit wealthier. A few hours east of Portland, a steady wind ripples across golden wheat. Farmer Earl Pryor says his 15,000-acre spread of dry rangeland supports three crops:
EARL PRYOR: "Wheat, cattle and wind. We're essentially farming the wind. It's an alternate crop for us."
As the green power flows out, another kind of green flows in. The average windmill pays $3,000 to $4,000 a year. Plant wheat on the land, and it pays about $250. Pryor and other landowners have installed hundreds of windmills in the past decade to feed the regional power grid. That's sent local property taxes up, helping to support schools and road repair.

Back in Portland, City Commissioner Dan Saltzman is overseeing negotiations to develop the new wind farm that will supply all of the city's energy needs. And he's glad to see that it's the region that will benefit. DAN SALTZMAN: "We're also contributing . . . you know, building jobs, economic development opportunities in a rural economy. This state, like a lot of states throughout the country, has a tremendous urban-rural divide." In money terms, that means about $14 million a year in city power purchases flowing to landowners and counties in rural areas. So, instead of paying for coal from Montana, or natural gas from Canada and the Far East, Portland taxpayers will be buying a thoroughly domestic resource: Eastern Oregon wind.

In Portland, I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Full-blown Ethanomania Outbreak in Lansing

MSU's Dr. Bruce Dale continues to promote the absurd claim that ethanol has higher net energy than petroleum, which has been exhaustively debunked by Robert Rapier in a long-running and very informative debate about ethanol with its national proponents, which is available here.

Ethanomaniacs flip back and forth between talking about efficiency (energy yield per unit energy input) and process energy balances, both of which show that ethanol is an enormous boondoggle that does nothing but persuade the public that nothing need be done about radically reducing demand for transportation fuels.

Rapier has done a real public service with his tenacious refusal to allow the ethanomania to go unchallenged.

This op-ed appeared in today's Lansing State Journal. [Responses in brackets.]

Bruce E. Dale: Biofuel investment is huge opportunity

[Look out pilgrim--someone is touting a great opportunity: your chance to give them money.]

Lansing State Journal, 9/3/06

The age of cheap oil has ended. It will not return.


However painful they may be, higher oil prices pave the way for unprecedented opportunities to develop alternative liquid fuels, including shale oil, coal to liquid fuels and biofuels.

[Apparently Dr. Dale cares nought about global warming.]

Biofuels, including ethanol made from corn and cellulosic materials (grasses, crop residues and wood), and biodiesel offer many advantages to the U.S. and to Michigan. National and regional energy security, climate security and especially economic development are all positively affected by biofuel production and use.

[Biofuels from corn are an ecological disaster that serve only to enrich Archer Daniels Midland and the people enjoying the ethanol subsidy to sell petroleum recycled into ethanol at an even higher profit. The verdict is not in on cellulosic ethanol from sources such as switchgrass; like nuclear fusion, switchgrass seems to be an attractive option if only it can be made to work. Meantime, the crisis is upon us now and, so far, cellulosic is the Star Wars Missile Defense System of agriculture--a project that is always going to work if we just keep pumping in more money.]

Last year, we produced more than 4 billion gallons of ethanol, mostly from corn. Ethanol is currently our premier alternative fuel.

[And how much energy did it require to produce that 4 billion gallons? How much water? How many tons of petrochemical pesticides and fertilizer poured into streams and rivers as a result? How much fertility was left in the soil?]

This industry is growing rapidly, with five corn ethanol plants either operating or being built in Michigan and more than 100 such plants across the country.

[Yes, and they burn 300 tons of coal a day each. So, just as modern agriculture is the use of land to convert petroleum into food, modern ethanomania adds a walloping amount of extra atmospheric mercury and CO2 production to the mix.]

However, the amount of corn that can be devoted to ethanol production is limited. We probably cannot produce more than about 15 billion gallons per year (roughly 10 percent of the gasoline we use) before hitting these limits.

[And if we made the ethanol plants use ethanol for their heating requirements, we'd produce a lot less.]

Cellulosic ethanol can provide much larger volumes of liquid fuel ... if we overcome some myths, solve key technical problems and maintain our political will.

First let's consider three of the myths.

Myth No. 1: Ethanol has a negative "net energy" and is a poor fuel.

Reality: Ethanol has a better net energy than gasoline and, if burned efficiently, will provide mileage equivalent to gasoline.

[Actual reality: ethanol produces, at best, on the order of 1.3 Btu of energy for each 1 Btu consumed; 1 Btu of petroleum typically yeilds on the order of 10 Btu oil, which converts to 8 Btu of gasoline. Nor can ethanol provide mileage equivalent to gasoline, because 1 gallon of ethanol has only 2/3 the heat value of a gallon of gas.]

Myth No. 2: Producing lots of ethanol will destroy the soil and drive up food prices.

Reality: Ethanol production, especially from cellulosics, can improve soil quality and increase food supplies.

[This is unclear. Difficult to see how taking organic matter _out_ of the soil for use in distilling ethanol leads to improved soil quality. Shifting to cellulosic could certainly increase food supplies because it would mean no longer using grains for transport fuel.]

Myth No. 3: Ethanol will always cost more than gasoline.

Reality: A mature cellulosic ethanol industry will produce ethanol for well under $1 a gallon.

[And nuclear power will be too cheap to meter.]

To produce ethanol this cheaply, we need focused, sustained laboratory research combined with large scale testing of promising technologies. The price tag for this research and development work is equivalent to about two days' worth of oil imports.

[Funny--if there is a real chance that we could displace $3/gal gas with a renewable product at less than $1/gal, you wouldn't think that finding investment funds would be hard. And two days worth of US oil imports -- on the order of 14 million barrels at $70 each -- is only about 2 billion. Should be pretty easy to form Standard Ethanol and raise $2B on Wall St. if things are as certain as this.]

In the past, funding of such R&D has risen and fallen with oil prices. If we want to break free of our "oil addiction," we must have the political will to develop alternative fuels, especially ethanol, and overcome the barriers to large scale ethanol adoption. Barriers include political manipulation of oil prices, enough vehicles to burn ethanol and enough pumps and other infrastructure to distribute it.

[Oh, OK--we need to spend money installing pumps to dispense a fuel that we _might_ later produce. Uh-huh. Sure.]

To their credit, many of Michigan's leaders understand how critical it is that we develop alternative fuels. Gov. Jennifer Granholm has made alternative fuels an important part of the Jobs Fund program. Congressman Mike Rogers and Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow strongly support ethanol and other biofuels.

In addition, President Lou Anna Simon has made developing the bioeconomy, including biofuels, a signature emphasis for Michigan State University.

[Any science that can only be justified by citing politicians means "Watch your wallet!" and don't count on any results.]

Michigan is uniquely positioned to build an expanded bioeconomy and develop biofuels. As we build the bioeconomy, we will give our state a competitive advantage in meeting the growing demand for biofuels and for many other products made from renewable plant resources.

[Michigan is uniquely positioned near the Great Lakes. We have very little fossil energy of our own, so all the energy needed to make the ethanol will have to be imported, just as now. There's no particular reason that Michigan is better suited to grow crops for ethanol than others--obviously we are not as well suited to the industrial corn farming as Iowa and Illinois, thank goodness, but neither do we have any unique advantages for cellulosic (i.e., those not available to other states). This whole line of argument appears to be nothing but rah-rah intended to use Michigan's economically depressed condition as an argument for squandering even more of our resources on trying to keep the easy motoring lifestyle alive. Good luck.]

Bruce E. Dale is a professor in Michigan State University's Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science.


Wyandotte mulls wind

* Power of the wind
The News-Herald
By Jim Kasuba
City officials now are seeking expert opinions on using wind power
as an alternative energy source.


Kicking the Auto Addiction (book)
Contentment Without a Car

By Michelle Singletary
Sunday, September 3, 2006; F01

. . .

Balish's mission is simple. He wants all of us to challenge the notion that we need a car. Most importantly, he says we all should reevaluate the cost of car ownership. . . .

Balish, a broadcast journalist who lives in Southern California, has been living without a car since 2003. He began his car-free existence after deciding to sell his $36,000 Toyota Sequoia SUV because of its gas addiction. . . . "I was actually angry with myself for never sitting down before this to figure out how much money I was spending on my car," he said.

In the three years he's been without a car, Balish said he's saved $36,926.

Here's how he broke it down for me:

· $17,822 in car payments

· $5,054 in car insurance premiums

· $8,400 in gas

· $3,600 in parking (at work and at home)

· $1,800 in repairs

· $250 in car washes and oil changes

"With that money I paid off all my credit cards, a personal loan, and became debt-free for the first time in my adult life," he said.

The average annual cost to own a car is $8,410, including car payments, insurance, gas, oil, car washes, fees, taxes, parking and repairs, Balish reports. The average American spends 18 cents of every dollar earned on transportation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2003 Consumer Expenditure Survey.

There are other reasons to go car-free. Balish, who is 39 and single, said his social life actually improved. . . .

If you are interested in discussing this month's book selection, join me online at at noon on Sept. 28. Balish will be my guest.

Friday, September 01, 2006


Stephen Hawking on the Present Danger

"The danger is that global warming may become self-sustaining, if it has not done so already. The melting of the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps reduces the fraction of solar energy reflected back into space, and so increases the temperature further. Climate change may kill off the Amazon and other rain forests, and so eliminate once one of the main ways in which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere. The rise in sea temperature may trigger the release of large quantities of carbon dioxide,* trapped as hydrides on the ocean floor. Both these phenomena would increase the greenhouse effect, and so global warming further. We have to reverse global warming urgently, if we still can." -- Physicist Stephen Hawking, ABC News interview, August 16, 2006.

[* probably meant to say methane]


Highly recommended viewing/listening

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