We’ve turned the clocks forward an hour so that daylight will extend longer into the evening. Coming are the days that motivate some of us to think about planting a vegetable garden. Others leave the planting and the weeding to others but try to buy as much of their food from local farmers as they can. The vast majority of us get our food from far away places; and even those that like to buy local, turn over the location of where their food comes from every time they eat out.
We’ve counseled you before on the concept of food-miles and the importance of looking for food choices that do not include a huge energy cost… whether that cost is due to miles traveled or fertilizers and pesticides used (all of which rely heavily on petroleum based products). Now there is another wrinkle to the story. The extended drought in the west has left thousands of acres unplanted in the California fields where most of the food that stocks grocery store shelves and restaurant kitchens comes from.
Climate change is here and it’s about time more of us began to think about adapting to the new conditions. The long and exceptionally cold and snowy winter put a strain on heating fuels in some places; now we’ll see a strain on food supplies from the lack of crops being harvested in California. This won’t result in empty shelves, we can grow food in many locations, but can we adapt to this change quickly and without causing significant price increases? Probably not.
What about all of the workers and businesses that are a part of the massive food production that typically occurs in California, are they supposed to just wait until the drought ends or are they supposed to move to other places where there has been plenty of precipitation? Where is that, what locations have the right combination of soil quality, temperature, and precipitation to allow for large scale ramping up of food production? Or will there be a large-scale growth in small food production? All are important questions.
Take a look at this good illustration of the predicament we are in: http://www.motherjones.com/files/Final-Crop-Map_1.gif
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released a report this month called, Wind Power’s Consumer Benefits. In it they report that consumers in the states that use the most wind energy are paying less for electricity than consumers in states that use less wind energy.
They report that the, “11 states that produce more than 7 percent of their electricity from wind energy have seen their electricity prices fall by 0.37 percent over the last 5 years, while all other states have seen their electricity prices increase by 7.79 percent over that time period.”
Even more notable, the Department of Energy’s Wind Technologies Market Report 2012 confirmed that the cost of wind energy had declined by 43 percent over the previous four years.
The report said that: 1) the capital cost to develop wind power declined, 2) the average cost to purchase electricity provided by wind fell 3) the productivity of wind turbines is increasing, and 4) 70% of the value of wind turbines installed in the U.S. now made in the USA”.
Read more here: http://awea.files.cms-plus.com/AWEA%20White%20Paper-Consumer%20Benefits%20final.pdf
Cabin Fever is setting in all over the place. Freezing cold temperatures, repeated snow, ice and rain storms have kept us inside and working at sealing up the leaks in our homes to battle the consumption of fuel and/or money that this record setting heating season has given us. What does that have to do with houseplants? Houseplants are widely accepted as adding to the décor and good feeling in a room. In the late 1980’s NASA also discovered that certain houseplants were effective at cleaning indoor air.
Modern manufacturing processes result in the presence of benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene (as well as others, but these three are the primary ones) in the air in spaces where we live and work. All three of these chemicals are carcinogenic (cancer causing). The good news is that the “NASA Nineteen” plants are effective filters and capture these contaminants. You need a lot of plants to do this; they recommend at least one per 100 square feet of space to be “cleaned”. But as Energy Shift has said many times before, moving in the right direction, over time, is better than just sitting there doing nothing. So, start with one of the nineteen next to your bed, where you breathe in and out all night long. Add others to confined spaces such as bathrooms or other locations where you spend the most time, like near the computer.
A variety of web sites will list the nineteen for you. One that we like because it provides photos and details is http://www.sustainablebabysteps.com/types-of-houseplants.html
But, we’d like to add an additional thought or two. Not only does our blissful ignorance of how damaging coal use continues to be on our health and well being, but this reveals part of the reason why power from coal is cheaper than renewable sources of power.
Duke Energy admits that this coal ash leak came from a coal ash pond at a power plant that has been closed for two years. Meaning, no steps had been taken (read money spent) to close out the pond. This left a disaster waiting to happen, and now it has.
The President’s State of the Union speech is tonight. In spite of the easing of the dire economic conditions we’ve experienced in the last few years, the rate of unemployment continues to be the thorn that just won’t stop causing pain across the country. Areas of growth are emerging that is beginning to make a dent in the backlog of un- and under-employed.
Prices for solar energy systems continue to drop, making it more affordable for more people. As a result, there were 143,000 solar industry jobs in the US as of November 2013, which is a %19.9 percent increase over the number of solar jobs at the same time the year before.
It should come as no surprise that the U.S. is consuming fuel to heat homes and buildings at a furious pace this winter. In some mid western states governors have declared states of emergency due to the shortages of heating oil and propane. While some of the shortages are due more to logistics than consumption, terrible driving conditions due to weather slows down trucks delivering propane, demand is the elephant in the room.
Other reports attribute the tightened fuel supply to the extreme cold impacting operations. Oilprice.com reports,
“This arctic chill has forced natural gas and gasoline pipeline operators to reduce flow and refineries to scale back production, after some systems have started to fail under the extreme conditions. The instruments that control flow have failed, and some product has thickened or turned to jelly in some of the lines. Due to the reduced production and delivery, oil prices have risen for the second straight day, and natural gas prices are at a 17 month high.”
Back to the elephant in the room (demand). Reuters reported on January 21, 2014 that propane stocks in the U.S. are half what they were a year ago. Combine this information with the report from Boston.com that power utility companies are grabbing up natural gas to keep their electricity production going (driving up prices for natural gas and consuming a good portion of the available fuel) and you must ask yourself two questions.
* Do you have a plan for an alternative fuel if you experience delays or difficulty getting the fuel you normally use?
Power companies and electrical grid managers in various parts of the country appeal to the public to reduce energy consumption during record breaking stretch of energy use. Meanwhile, others claim that the frigid temperatures are proof that global warming is a hoax and that the term “polar vortex” is a fabrication to scare people.
Actually, it doesn’t really matter what you believe about these things. There is more than one reason to move away from fossil use and embrace better products and practices. As we have been saying for many years now, making an energy shift is important if you:
1. Want to save money;
2. Are concerned about the health effects from the extraction of coal, oil and gas and the
by-products of their combustion;
3. Are concerned about national security; or
4. Are concerned about the well being of the planet.
That 6.8 gallons that are used to make “other products” shown in light orange below contributes to more than 6,000 items we use everyday. Some of the items may surprise you, look for non-petroleum based versions of: shampoo, soap, shaving cream, perfume, lipstick, fertilizers, roller skates, and dishes. The easiest way to minimize your use of petroleum in products is to minimize plastics, which are made from oil and to check the ingredients on your personal care products.
Go to: http://www.ranken-energy.com/Products%20from%20Petroleum.htm to see more items that are made with petroleum.
Don’t forget that whenever you are letting the water run you are not only consuming water, but energy as well. Letting water run at the bathroom or kitchen sink until it is warm; not turning off the water while you are washing dishes, or preparing food; lingering for long showers all uses plenty of energy.
Not only is the heating of water an energy user, but pumping it to where you are using it uses energy as well. So, just because its cold water doesn’t mean you aren’t using energy. If you are on a public water system, there is the added energy used to treat that water to make it safe to drink.
This week, as you are preparing festive foods; cleaning the house; and, getting dressed up to welcome guests or be a guest at someone else’s gathering – relax, enjoy, indulge in tasty things and good company – but don’t forget that tens of millions are doing the same. If we all could get behind using just a little less water during this busy week we’d not only save significant volumes of water but conserve significant quantities of fuel as well.
It’s getting to be that time of year. Too much to do; too much to eat; too much stress. Combat these excesses with a good brisk walk. Clear your mind and recharge yourself to return home (or to the office) ready to begin again. While on that walk, complete an errand or two; make a mental list for what else you will do that day (or tomorrow); before and after your walk drink water and stretch.
Give yourself the gift of clarity everyday—but especially these days. Do not overspend — ratcheting up what to give, what to serve, what to do in response to the well intended but oppressive onslaught of “holiday ideas” that are coming at us at every turn.