Monthly Archives: August 2013

Concrete Log Homes Provide an Alternative for Home Builders in Fire Threatened Western U.S.

 Republishing an article first published by Energy Shift in our January 2008 newsletter. Seems more appropriate than ever…

Witnessing the heartbreak and destruction of wildfires in the western United States brings many thoughts to mind… why did they build homes in some of these locations; is climate change going to make this more and more common; did our Forest Service policies create conditions that actually increase the likelihood of fires burning out of control? Whatever the answers are to these and other tough questions, people are going to continue to build homes in remote locations surrounded by forest.

A new approach to building one’s dream home, or other structures such as mountain lodges; cultural centers, etc. may provide a win-win alternative to traditional methods. Cultured Logs, made of concrete, provide significant benefits and eliminate many of the risks associated with log structures. At the same time, energy savings are substantial, as are cost savings, upkeep, and the concrete used provides a productive end use for fly ash—a waste material.

Advantages and Benefits of Cultured Logs:

? Exact Look and Feel of Wood Logs
? Fire Resistant
? Maintenance Free
       – No Preserving,
       – No Re-Staining or Re-Sealing Required
? Mold Free
? No Decay
? Insect Free
? Environmentally Friendly
       – Energy Efficient, concrete retains internal temperature
               more efficiently than wood
       – No Harvesting of Trees

? Insulated Cultured Logs Result in Lower Heating and
       Cooling Costs (30-40% lower than a wood log home)
? Lower Homeowners’ Insurance Premiums
? Competitively Priced with Wood Logs
? Structural Performance
       – No Shifting, Twisting, Settling or Shrinking
       – Superior Performance in Earthquakes and

Go to to see close up views of the “logs”

This clip from the evening news conveys an essential message, enjoy.

This evenings closing story on the NBC Nightly News speaks beautifully for itself. Please take a look. This story relates such an important message that has been all but ignored for years.

More Reasons to Skip the Bottled Water

By now most of us are familiar with the standard reasons to avoid plastic single-serve water bottles. They live on indefinitely in landfills; they pollute natural areas and are increasingly found in even the most remote locations. In the past Energy Shift has noted the fact that they are just one more plastic (read petroleum-based) item in a long list that we can do without (or greatly reduce our rate of consumption). Now, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment ( has gathered together a few more reasons to opt for a reusable container:

-Tap water in Arlington costs less than one cent per gallon; bottled it costs about a dollar

-While plastic water bottles are recyclable, only about 30% are recycled

-Taste tests have shown definitively that people cannot taste the difference between tap and bottled water

-Tap water is subject to Safe Drinking Water Standards, including an Annual Drinking Water Report issued by the local utility; bottled water, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration requires no such reporting

-The Natural Resources Defense Council tested 1,000 bottles of water from 103 different brands; while most were of high quality, one third contained synthetic organic chemicals, arsenic, and bacteria

-We throw away 1,500 plastic bottles a second in the US and while it takes energy to bring water to your tap, it takes far, far more to bottle and package and truck it to the store!!

Enthusiasm is Great, So Long as it’s Based on Facts

Many out there who care about energy, or the economy, or their stock portfolio are pretty excited about all of the effort going toward the development of our energy resources here at home (read natural gas via “fracking” and oil from shale). Tom Whipple, who has written about the eventual drying up of our conventional oil resources for years wrote recently, “… For the next few years, all the optimism to which we have been subjected lately will probably play out and U.S. domestic oil production from tight (“shale”) formations will probably increase, provided oil prices stay high enough to support this expensive way of extracting oil.” He goes on to say. “…Optimists almost never mention the increasing rates of depletion taking place in conventional oil fields as an ever-increasing share of global production shifts from land to deepwater. The cost of producing unconventional oil is almost never mentioned amidst discussion of how much will be technically recoverable with advancing technology. Cost must be measured both in terms of how much energy is required to produce more energy, and the price of oil in relation to an economy’s ability to pay the price.”

So what, you may think to yourself, we have so much natural gas we are bursting at the seams with the stuff. Well, yes, but check out what Anthony R. Ingraffea a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell University wrote in the Op-Ed section of the New York Times recently, “…As a longtime oil and gas engineer who helped develop shale fracking techniques for the Energy Department, I can assure you that this gas is not “clean.” Because of leaks of methane, the main component of natural gas, the gas extracted from shale deposits is not a “bridge” to a renewable energy future — it’s a gangplank to more warming and away from clean energy investments. Methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, though it doesn’t last nearly as long in the atmosphere. Still, over a 20-year period, one pound of it traps as much heat as at least 72 pounds of carbon dioxide. Its potency declines, but even after a century, it is at least 25 times as powerful as carbon dioxide. To read the whole article, and you should, go to: