The level of carbon dioxide has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years. Scientific instruments showed that the gas had reached an average daily level above 400 parts per million “It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that reported the new reading.
Ralph Keeling, who runs another monitoring program at the Scripps Institutution of Oceanography in San Diego said, “It means we are quickly losing the possibility of keeping the climate below what people thought were possibly tolerable thresholds”. Most car rides, every plane trip and, in most places, every flip of an “on” switch adds carbon dioxide to the air.
Scientists from some of the most prestigious institutions are weighing in on this occasion, “It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, at Columbia University. Mark Pagani, a Yale geochemist said, “I feel like the time to do something was yesterday.”
Do you live in or near a city? Are you tired of traffic, congestion and delays? Do you wish that you had more time to exercise, but rarely manage to actually get out and get your heart pumping and break a sweat? Try using one of the over 500,000 bicycles that are now part of advanced bike-sharing programs in more than 500 cities in 49 countries.
Cities with bike-sharing programs are finding that promoting the bicycle as an option can lead to more mobility and safer streets for all. Let alone the reduced use of gasoline based transportation and the resulting reduction in exhaust. Bike-sharing programs are well positioned to hook people up with a bus or metro system, accommodating the last mile or so between home or work and mass transit.
Modern bike-sharing systems have greatly reduced the theft and vandalism that hindered earlier programs by using easily identified specialty bicycles with unique parts that would have little value to a thief, by monitoring the cycles’ locations with radio frequency or GPS, and by requiring credit card payment or smart-card-based membership in order to check out bikes.
As of last month, there were 26 active modern public programs in the United States, a number expected to double within the next two years. The largest U.S. program in early 2013 was Capital Bikeshare, with more than 1,800 bicycles spread across 200 stations in Washington, DC and nearby communities. Nice Ride Minnesota, covers the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, comes in second, with 1,550 bikes at 170 stations. The Boston metropolitan reports 1,100 shared bikes. Miami Beach is planning to add 500 bikes to the existing 1,000 it has and will extend into Miami this year. Denver is one of more than 15 public systems that give members access to bikes when they travel to different cities, including Madison, Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale, San Antonio, Charlotte, and Kansas City.
New York’s Citi Bike program is poised to roll out 5,500 bicycles at 293 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn this month, with the ultimate goal of reaching 10,000 bikes. Chicago plans to start in June, working up to 4,000 bikes at 400 stations in 2014. Southern California reports bike sharing programs opening in Los Angeles (4,000 bikes), Long Beach (2,500), and San Diego (1,800). A pilot project of 1,000 bikes in San Francisco and Bay Area cities south along the rail line hopes to begin what could ultimately be a 10,000-bike program.
As impressive as these numbers are, and there are comparable stories throughout Europe, North and South America, and Asia, not surprisingly, China dwarfs these growing programs with 79 bike-sharing programs, with a combined fleet of around 358,000 bicycles in early 2013. Expansions and new projects could soon bring China’s public bike fleet to just less than 1 million bicycles.
What is a Green Energy Partner?
The EPA Green Energy Partner Program is a voluntary program helping to increase the use of green power among leading U.S. organizations. Organizations are encouraged to purchase green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with conventional electricity use. To see other partners go to http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/partners/
Using green power helps to accelerate the development of new, domestic renewable energy sources, while playing an important role in the security of America’s energy supply.
What is Green Energy?
Green power is electricity generated from environmentally preferable renewable resources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, low-impact biomass, and low-impact hydro resources. Energy Shift has selected WindCurrent as our source of green energy, http://www.windcurrent.com/ .
How Do Companies Like Energy Shift “Use” Green Power?
All renewable-based electricity generators that are tied into a power grid-tied produce two products: physical electricity and RECs or renewable energy certificates. The electricity is fed onto the electricity grid; the RECs are a method for claiming and accounting for the benefits of renewable-based electricity generation. As organizations purchase RECs, they are contributing to the development and expansion of green energy. As renewable power generators produce electricity, they have a positive impact, reducing the need for fossil fuel-based generation sources to meet consumer demand. RECs embody these positive environmental impacts and convey these benefits to the REC owner.
Hallelujah!! The timing of the reintroduction of the new and improved Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act could have been better… done in a press conference over the weekend, after an unprecedented news week, the idea surely was to coincide with Earth Day… but no matter, what is most important is the message:
“The energy we don’t use is the cheapest and cleanest there is. This bill takes important steps to seize some of the vast energy efficiency potential we have yet to tap as a nation so we use less and get more from our energy supply.”
Check out this short video:
In a report issued earlier this year, the Edison Electric Institute said, “As a result of a confluence of factors (i.e., technological innovation, public policy support for sustainability and efficiency, ….) … the threat of disruptive forces (i.e., new products/markets [such as solar power] that replace existing products/markets [such as coal fired power plants]) impacting the utility industry is increasing …. the utility industry and its stakeholders must be prepared to address these challenges in a way that will benefit customers, long-term economic growth, and investors. Recent business history has provided many examples of companies and whole industries that either failed or were slow to respond to disruptive forces and suffered as a result.”
Translation: The traditional providers of electricity are afraid of trends that give even the tiniest sliver of the pie to others, such as renewable energy providers; and they are trying to make the people around them afraid as well.
The huge, well-financed electric utilities are going on the offensive to preserve their way of life and that of their investors. What is their concern? Among other things, irrefutable good sense that distributed energy resources (DER) makes when looking to how we will get electric power in the future. Always small, and much too rare, examples of DER are turning up across the country. Here is one:
North of Delavan, Wisconsin on Dan Osborne’s farm where there used to be a bean field there are now 80 solar panels generating renewable power for over 125 homes. This is a small, but successful,community-owned example of an energy shift. The solar farm was developed by Convergence Energy of Lake Geneva, WI and has owners from all around the region.
Osborne offered 14 acres of his farm for the 660-kilowatt (kW) facility outside of Delavan. Then, Convergence arranged for 33 individual Limited Liability Companies to invest in 20 kW increments, which are sold back to the utility at retail price as a part of the state’s net-metering policy (note: the state’s net metering policy caps projects at 20 kW, thus the 33 separate companies). Project investors signed up for either an 11-year or 20-year investment term (with an expected 8% return on investment) after which the project ownership reverts to Convergence Energy.
Federal and State incentives are fading for now, and the 8% return is not guaranteed, but is likely for the scenario at the Osborne farm. For details go to: http://www.convergence-energy.com/products/networked-solar/
Food Miles is a relatively new term, meaning how far did the items on your plate travel between harvest and eating? The average distance for food in the U.S. is well over one thousand miles. Think of the stickers on your produce that inform you of where it came from, it’s often from the farthest reaches of South America. We import most of our apple juice from China. Yes, that’s right.
What does this mean? Fruits and vegetables that are picked before they are ripe and are often treated with something (e.g., irradiated) to maintain freshness. Foods that are grown or raised in locations that may not have the same pollution controls that are in place where you live. It means that the lack of ripeness (and perhaps less nutrition as a result) or the contamination due to heavy metals in soil, water, and air where the food was produced, and the added stress on the planet from the fuel consumed to bring food to you over very long distances has fundamentally changed the value of the food itself.
The movement toward local eating is growing. Some are inspired to grow some tomatoes, peppers, and green beans out back, or have discovered the local section at the grocery store, or now frequent a farmers market nearby. Energy Shift likes what Growing a Greener World is doing. Here is just one example of the wonderful stories they are telling: http://www.growingagreenerworld.com/episode219/
Watch it, it will inspire you!
Nationally, things are not all that different from what you might expect. Looking at this graph from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showing data for 2011, you can see that oil is the single greatest source of energy accounting for 36%; and that electric power is the largest consumer of that energy…
The information in this graphic shows energy production and consumption in the U.S. in 2011 and the units are Quadrillion BTU. A Quadrillion is a 1 followed by 24 zeros. So, for example, we produced 19,700,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 BTU from coal in the U.S. in 2011. A BTU is a British Thermal Unit and equals the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree.
But what is going on where you live, in your state? Energy use can vary greatly from state to state. Look at this pie chart showing the fuel mix in Washington State; the primary energy source is water. You can find out about what is going on where you live by clicking on your state on the map found at this link: http://www.eia.gov/state/
2011 Fuel Mix Data for the State of Washington from the state’s Department of Commerce
Are you in a location that will get some sunshine or mild temperatures today? Get outside! We’ve been told for years that “fresh air and exercise” is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. But what does that have to do with moving away from fossil fuel use? Plenty.
There are about 325 million people in this country. If one hundredth of one percent of the population (32,500 people) walked five miles this weekend instead of driving, 1.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide will be kept out of the atmosphere and 13 million calories will be burned.
Walk, jog, or ride your bike to get some of your errands done. We know you can’t carry four bags of groceries on your back; but you can walk to the post office, bank, or where you go to get your hair cut. Not practical where you live? Try a modified version; drive and park at a central location and then walk to the various places you need to go. Walking five miles instead of driving and re-parking numerous times will burn about 400 calories (based on a 150 pound person walking at 3 miles per hour which is pretty leisurely, you could burn more calories if you picked up the pace a bit). You would also avoid putting about 5 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air (based on EPA’s estimate that 19.6 pounds of carbon dioxide are produced for every gallon of gasoline consumed; if your car gets 20 miles per gallon 5 miles would use a quarter of a gallon; a quarter of 19.6 is 4.9).
Strange bedfellows… you know, a peculiar alliance or combination— an “odd couple.” Two that share a common motivating force but are otherwise very different from one another. Yes, that chummy pair, the Department of Defense and environmentalists. Funny thing is that some members of these two groups are finding they support each other wholeheartedly.
Last year the Environmental Defense Fund, who describe themselves as, “…passionate, pragmatic environmental advocates who believe in prosperity and stewardship” on their web site, presented the DOD with an award recognizing their efforts to make military bases and equipment more efficient and environmentally friendly. When then Defense Secretary Panetta accepted the recognition from EDF, he spoke frankly about DOD’s concerns, “…the Defense Department spent about $15 billion on fuel for military operations last year . In Afghanistan alone, the Pentagon uses more than 50 million gallons of fuel each month on average. Combined with rising gas prices, this creates new budget issues for the department,” Panetta said. He went on to pledge, “we are going to be investing more than a billion dollars in more efficient aircraft and aircraft engines, in hybrid electric drives for our ships, in improved generators, in micro-grids for combat bases and combat vehicle energy-efficient programs,” he said. “We are investing another billion dollars to make our installations here at home more energy-efficient, and we are using them as the test bed to demonstrate next-generation energy technologies.”? Hooray! Just as DOD was instrumental in the development of the Internet, now we will benefit from these “test bed” activities in the development of energy efficient products and systems.
Last month Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, the top American military officer in the Pacific region containing China, North Korea, and Russia, warned that the greatest long-term threat to security in the region isn’t any of those countries, it’s climate change. “You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level. Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17. The displacement of entire nations will cause significant upheaval in the region”, the admiral noted, creating large numbers of climate refugees.
Now DOD has issued its Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap. In it they say that, “DOD is well-versed in employing systematic methodologies and modeling frameworks in order to assess potential threats and risks to national security.” It is just that the rest of us didn’t expect that expertise to be applied to climate change adaptation schemes; but that is exactly what is happening. From the CCAR section called, Agency Vulnerabilities: Analysis of Risks and Opportunities we read, “The direction, degree, and rates of the physical changes will differ by region, as will the impacts to the military’s mission and operations. By taking a proactive, flexible approach to vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning that recognizes uncertainty and incorporates the best available science, the Department can keep pace with changing climate patterns and minimize their impact on operations.”
Wouldn’t it be great if we could just get the rest of our leadership to walk down the same path? Let the people around you (local/state/federal representatives and your employer, for example) know that like DOD, we expect the rest of government and corporate America to “incorporate the best available science” so that they can plan effectively and “keep pace with the changing climate patterns and minimize their impact”!
You may have heard of Tesla Motors. They make beautiful cars with a steep price point, ranging from about $60K to $95K. Go to, http://www.teslamotors.com/goelectric# and see the great look and explanation of how they work. Although they are too pricey for many of us, they are a valuable contribution to the luxury car market.
You may not have heard of Detroit Electric. Although the company existed early in the last century, like other electric car producers of that era (and there were several) they ultimately went out of business. But, Detroit Electric is roaring back onto the scene as of April 3, 2013—tomorrow! Check out, http://www.detroit-electric.com to see the “rebirth” of the old company. In their press release, issued March 19, 2013, they state, “After an absence of over 70 years, Detroit Electric, the innovative electric car manufacturer, has returned to the legendary Motor City, promising job creation and a range of exciting 100% electric vehicles for the mass market.” They go on to say, “Following five years of relentless research and engineering development, the first model to carry the renowned Detroit Electric logo will be a limited-edition two-seat sports car. Certain to quicken pulses thanks to its bold styling, outstanding performance, exhilarating handling characteristics and impressive range, this new sports car will be launched early next month in Detroit, ahead of a global public reveal at the Shanghai Motor Show on 20 April.”
Okay, but what if you don’t have an extra $50K to $100K lying around; or a two-seater doesn’t fit with your needs right now… then what? Most of the standard carmakers are now engaged in electric car sales or development. Think Chevrolet Volt, Ford Focus Electric, Toyota RAV4 or Prius plug-ins, Nissan Leaf, Honda Fit, Mitsubishi i. Don’t forget the Europeans with Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes and others all involved with electric cars. Many of these models are designed to meet the needs of “the rest of us”.
Not convinced? Listen to the replay of a webinar that was offered last month. Carmakers and sellers are working hard to capture the confidence of car buyers in America. http://www.pluginamerica.org/webinar