It’s a Beautiful Day, Open Up!

Across many parts of the country we are in that golden period where beautiful days and chilly nights bring a welcome transition from the hot days of summer and make us think of the coming beauty of autumn colors and falling leaves. It is a time to open the windows and enjoy cross ventilation in our homes during the day and keep them open over night to cool down enough so that daytime temperatures do not over heat the house. With just a little bit of attention on our part, we improve the air in our homes and neither heat or cool our living space for, if we are lucky, several weeks. Collectively, this takes a significant bite out of our energy consumption nationally, if only for a short time. If one day, here or there, gets a bit too warm, use ceiling fans rather than closing up and turning on the air conditioning. If it is getting too chilly to keep all the windows open over night, use a blanket to stay warm in bed, or close one or two windows (for instance, in the bathroom to make showering comfortable) but let the house cool down enough so that all day long the home will feel good inside, even if the temperatures outside are approaching 80 degrees.

Another American Made Car of the Future

We’ve talked about Tesla cars, made in California – the attraction they have and their growth and success (see posting from April 2 2013). Today, we focus on a car from the other end of the pricing spectrum… The Elio. While the Tesla is a high-end luxury electric car the Elio promises to be the “everyman’s” accessible, cool, alternative car. Production of the Elio is expected to begin in Shreveport, LA in 2014, providing not only an affordable car at $6,800, but also one that gets 84 miles per gallon. Even more unusual is the look of the car, a three-wheeled two-seater (think Miata meets PT Cruiser).

Maybe the one of the best features of the car is the fact that one can drive out of a dealership in one without spending a cent. The new car buyer leaves with the vehicle and a special credit card used for purchasing gasoline for the car. The plan is that each time the owner gasses up the car; the charge is for triple the fuel cost, with the extra funds going to Elio as a car payment. At 84 mpg, this routine is expected to be relatively painless. If the Elio proves to be a reliable, well-built car, this could bring a spectacular improvement to the quality of life for many. Creating jobs, providing a low cost transportation option, no up front lump sum (that many low income or young buyers have trouble producing) requirements, and a boon to the overarching need for our society to consume less fuel.

Check them out here:

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:


A wonderful bit of news from a group that started out to help the indigenous people of the Amazon…

“…In order to continue fueling the waste-to-energy factories that provide electricity to a quarter of a million homes and 20 percent of the entire country’s district heating, Sweden is now importing trash from the landfills of other European countries. In fact, those countries are paying Sweden to do so. You read that correctly, countries are paying to get rid of a source of fuel they themselves produced so that Sweden can continue to have the energy output they need. You don’t have to be an economist to know that’s one highly enviable energy model. Aside from the economic benefit, Sweden’s system of sustainability clearly has vast environmental benefits. Aside from traditional recycling programs, their waste-to-energy system ensures minimal environmental impact from the country’s waste. Sweden’s extremely efficient circle of consumption, waste management, and energy output provides the current global population and coming generations inspiration and guidance towards a more sustainable future. They represent one ally of many who understand the need to live sustainably and who fully commit to doing so….” – See more at:


Twelve More Solar Panels Out There Soaking up Free Energy

Twelve BenQ Solar 260W Mono-Crystalline Photovoltaic Modules installed! Making progress, one roof at a time. This begins an Energy Shift joint venture that we expect will develop over the months and years to come. 


Solar Panels in South Central Virginia

During an 8.5 day period that included one cloudy and drizzly day and 7.5 partly cloudy days, the system generated 118 kwh! Take a look at your electric bill, everyone’s usage will vary depending on lifestyle, number of people in the household and whether or not some of your energy needs are met by other sources (e.g., natural gas, propane, oil) but you will see that off-setting 118 kwh in just a few, less than ideal, days is worthwhile. Here is a shot of the rack that holds the panels in place, no roof penetration is needed, maintaining the integrity of the standing seam metal roof below.

Vocabulary and Some Other Lessons

lo·ca·vore: one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible

food miles: the distance food travels from the farm to the store where it is purchased

Important and maybe familiar terms, but they do not provide the complete picture. Gary Adamkiewicz, senior research scientist in environmental health at the Harvard School of Public Health and co-instructor for From Farm to Fork: Why What You Eat Matters, discusses the nuances of food miles and their impact on our climate.

The primary message: look at the energy needed for the production of food, not just the distances traveled.


He also shares five principles for reducing the impact on climate that results from our food choices:

1. Lower your food chain standards. Your overall dietary pattern can be more important than how far your food travels. Foods derived from livestock accumulate impacts along the entire food chain that feeds them, so eating lower on this chain is a better path. Moving toward a plant-based diet is a classic case of win-win-win: better for the environment, better for the climate, and better for your health. You don’t need to be an uber-vegan to make a difference. Start by swapping a few meals each week.

2. Bad if by land, good if by sea (and worst if by air). Limit your consumption of foods that are shipped by air, such as asparagus and many berries from South America, which need to get to market quickly. Remember that long trucking hauls can pack a climate punch. Rail transport is efficient, but much less product moves this way in the United States. Sometimes a long container ship voyage can be worth it if the food has a small production footprint (like the New Zealand lamb). See the National Resource Defense Council’s Health Facts for more information on food miles and which foods travel by air.

3. Local is more than nearby. Expand your view of local beyond space and into time. Purchasing in-season produce should be another goal, since you will likely avoid energy sinks like heated greenhouses and cold storage. Check out the National Resource Defense Council’s Eat Local Map for information on farmer’s markets and seasonal eating near you.

4. Go to the source. Processing, packaging, heating, and refrigeration all consume energy. So avoid highly processed foods. When you incorporate fresh, local fruits and vegetables into your meals, you save some energy-intensive steps and perhaps some petrochemical-derived packaging along the way.

5. Be COOL. It never hurts to know where your food comes from. Starting with the 2002 Farm Bill, the United States began requiring country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for certain foods. The list now includes beef, veal, pork, lamb, goat, chicken, fish, shellfish, and fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. This labeling can help you understand the miles embedded in your dinner.

To read more go to: