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Archive for September, 2008

COMMENTARY! WHAT THE WALL STREET MELTDOWN COULD MEAN TO THE GREEN ENERGY BUSINESS

Posted in Clean Energy, Renewable Energy on September 29th, 2008

TIGHTER CREDIT COULD MAKE IT MORE DIFFICULT TO FUND THE SOLAR AND WIND INSTALLATIONS THAT ARE THE BACKBONE OF THE GREEN ENERGY REVOLUTION

While Congress battles back and forth on the pluses and minuses of the Wall Street bailout, this is as good a time as any to ponder what this financial mess could mean to the survival and expansion of the wind and solar energy industry in this country.

But before doing this, it might be good if we take a minute and define what sets wind and solar energy apart from more traditional energy sources such as oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear power, as there appears to be quite a bit of confusion on this matter.

For the record, wind and solar energy are renewable; meaning as long as the sun shines and the wind blows, the supply is limitless. They are also non-toxic, and can be harvested without destroying mountains, poisoning rivers and streams, or ruining the health of unsuspecting people and animals.

Even better, wind and solar energy are local, they’re ours and they are free. And after years of being screwed by Middle East oil despots, free is a good thing.

Lastly, wind and solar energy leave no carbon footprint. There are no tankers, trucks or trains for it to be loaded on. Simple transmission lines from the facility to the grid are all that is required.

Considering the positives that wind and solar energy bring to the table, you would think that Corporate America would be tripping over one another in the rush to take significant positions in this new and futuristic industry. But with the exception of a few mavericks, most notably oil billionaire, T. Boone Pickens, the investments have been few and far between.

This ho-hum, wait and see business model on the part of our nation’s energy companies is surprising behavior considering the public demand for clean renewable energy. And while many of these same companies have moved in and bought up the entire inventories of privately funded wind and solar operations, few have opted to invest in infrastructure.

If I had to speculate as to the reasons for the hesitancy, my best guess would be that it stems from a decision by many of the older, more established energy companies to see if they can ride out this whole renewable energy thing, until such time as the public moves on to something else, and they can go back to business as usual. To help move things along, many of these companies are sponsoring big-dollar television advertising campaigns hoping to confuse the public into thinking that older, dirtier fuel sources such as coal and the so-called clean coal, natural gas and nuclear power are clean and environmentally friendly. Here in Orange County, California, three such campaigns are currently running.

Now this would be laughable, if it wasn’t so damn sinister. But the sad truth is these campaigns are being effective. Part of this is the tenor of the times. It is very difficult to think clearly on such a (for now) non-important matter as to where your electricity comes from and if it is renewable, when you are worried about hanging onto your house and putting food on the table.

The energy companies know this and they are using it to their advantage. Where in better economic times, all but the most out of touch would see these obviously false ads linking nasty, toxic coal, highly explosive, natural gas and the most destructive element known to man, nuclear power to renewable energy, they would rise up and in one voice yell, Hell No!

Because everybody knows that coal is not clean, and while science may have taken steps in that direction, to date there is no such product. Nor has the nuclear industry developed a way of treating and safely disposing of spent nuclear material, or for that matter of preventing Chernobyl sized meltdowns.

It’s almost surreal to think of these energy sources as being anything other than what they are. But much about life today is surreal. Wall Street falling almost eight hundred points, yesterday, and loosing over a trillion with a “t” dollars is surreal. Our county having to come up with 700 billion dollars to cover the asses of a bunch of elitist, arrogant, well-connected, so-called financial experts is sure as hell surreal, as is the people in jail for stealing mere hundreds. Pondering the lesson that our children will take from this – - to steal billions and not hundreds – – is surreal. But the surrealist of all is the uncertainty, the not knowing what the future will bring and if, as a nation, we will have the money necessary to buy into it.

My big fear is that with the problems on Wall Street, the collapses in the banking industry, and tightening of the credit market, it will become difficult, if not impossible, to raise the massive amounts of capital that it takes to construct the solar and wind installations that form the backbone of the green energy revolution

To realistically compete with the older, more established energy sources, wind and solar installations require extensive land commitments. Significant sums must then be spent, not only on the hardware, which captures and converts the energy into electricity, but also on the feeder lines, which carry the power from the often remote locations of these installations to the electric grid. The good news is that once wind and solar installations come on line, their operational cost is minimal, perhaps pennies on the dollar.

Without serious government subsidies, which may not be possible in the wake of our current financial woes, tougher to obtain credit could be a real game changer for the Green Energy industry, as it would force developers to turn to private and corporate entities for their financing, which when available usually comes with unwanted and unneeded encumbrances and partnerships.

The there is also the matter that neither of these sectors has shown any interest in participating in the green energy industry.

The expected credit crunch will also have serious effects on the companies building wind and solar apparatus. Many of these are smaller entities dependent on lines of credit and other financing vehicles for their survival. Tight or more expensive credit could force many of the smaller players out of the marketplace. All of which leaves the market wide open for the coal and nuclear industries with their deep pockets and government contacts to make even further inroads into the energy industry.

And the sad thing is there is probably not a damn thing we can do about it.

- – Denis Donovan

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NEWS WATCH! SENATE RENEWS TAX BREAKS FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY

Posted in Alternative Energy, Clean Energy on September 24th, 2008

LEGISLATION EXPECTED TO TRIPLE INVESTMENT IN RENEAWABLE ENERGY INDUSTRY AND CREATE UP TO 440,000 JOBS.

It was good to see bailout mania in the US Senate grind to a halt long enough, yesterday, for the Senators to take up a matter critical to Environmentalists – -the new tax bill.

As we reported on this site as early as August 12th of this year, the current investment tax credits for the solar power industry and for homeowners installing solar and wind equipment were due to expire at the end of he year. The fact that Congress had to date failed to renew these credits was widely being blamed at that time for the slowdown of investment in the renewable energy sector.

The action, which the Senate took yesterday in overwhelmingly passing the new tax bill by a vote of 92-2, will correct that situation. Besides renewing, through 2016, the investment tax credit for those investing in the solar power industry, and for homeowners who install solar and wind equipment at their home, the package worth a total of $17 billion dollars, is expected to more than triple investment in the industry to $325 billion dollars, while creating about 440,000 jobs between now and 2016.
Source: Solar Energy Association as reported on MSNBC.com.

Additionally, Taxpayers will be able to claim a credit of up to $7,500 for purchasing plug-in electric cars, and production credits are extended to wind, biomass and wave and tide facilities. There are incentives to use smart meters for more efficient home energy use.

- – Denis

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FORBES MAGAZINE’S GUIDE TO AMERICA’S TOP MEDITATION RETREATS

Posted in Consciousness, Health Watch on September 18th, 2008

A VACATION OF A DIFFERENT SORT

meditation3.jpgMeditation, once the domain of Buddhist’s, new-agers, and Indian holy men, has in recent years garnered mainstream acceptance for its almost magical ability to lower cholesterol, ease pain, curb insomnia, boost the immune system, and control depression.

Recently many Americans have started to make meditation a key part of their vacation plans. This has led to the growth of a new industry, of meditation themed retreats specially outfitted to service a population hungering for inner peace.

Forbes magazine, in the current issue, surveyed the best of these retreats. (Follow the link at the bottom of this posting). Represented are resorts that run the gamut from Esalen, which is famous as being the birthplace of the Human Potential Movement, to lesser known retreats in Colorado, Kentucky, Upstate New York and Hawaii.

Having stayed at Esalen a few times over the years, I can attest to its rejuvenating effects on mind, body and spirit. The location is exquisite, carved into a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in majestic Big Sur, California. The retreat’s natural mineral baths, a key part of the Esalen experience, are famous world over for their ability to cleanse mind and body, as is the style of massage, which bears its name.

- Denis

Learn more about Esalen

Link to Forbes guide to top meditation retreats

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NEWS WATCH! BAD DAYS MAY BE AHEAD FOR SOLAR INDUSTRY

Posted in Alternative Energy, Clean Energy, Congressional Inaction, Cool Products, News Brief on September 17th, 2008

CONGRESS DRAGS ITS FEET RENEWING FEDERAL INVESTMENT TAX CREDIT

solarmodul1.JPGThe way it looks today, the federal investment tax credit (ITC), the financial instrument that powers many American homeowner’s move to solar power, may go away at the end of this year, unless Congress puts their partisan differences aside and renews the credit.

Should the ITC be allowed to expire, the cost to the US’s fledging Solar Industry could be as much as $8 billion dollars in investments and more than 39,000 solar-related jobs in 2009 alone.

Whereas should the ITC be renewed between now and the end of the year, “it could create enough solar energy to power as many as five million homes and provide tens of thousands of new jobs while eliminating 130 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year”, according to NatGeo’s Green Guide.

Hopefully we will not have to wait until the next administration to see action on this all-important measure. What our elected officials, regardless of party affiliation, need to appreciate is that besides significantly reducing our nation’s carbon footprint, support of green industry and the jobs that it would create, would go a long way toward healing the ills created by the outsourcing of so many American jobs. Fix the job situation in this country and everything will work itself out.

– Denis

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COMMENTARY: “VAGINA MONOLOGUES” PLAYRIGHT, EVE ENSLER, TAKES ON SARAH PALIN

Posted in Eco Thugs, Eco Warriors, Endangered Species, Humane Treatment of Animals, News Brief on September 17th, 2008

eveensler.jpg“EVERYTHING SARAH PALIN BELIEVES IN AND PRACTICES IS ANTITHETICAL TO FEMINISM WHICH FOR ME IS PART OF ONE STORY CONNECTED TO SAVING THE EARTH, ENDING RACISM, EMPOWERING WOMEN, GIVING YOUNG GIRLS OPTIONS, OPENING OUR MINDS, DEEPENING TOLERANCE, AND ENDING VIOLENCE AND WAR” – - Eve Ensler

Lest we forget, Sarah Palin is in no way a friend of the environment. Her distain for her state’s natural treasures and the little value that she places on endangered animal life makes her fair gain for Ms. Ensler’s Commentary

Thanks to Hank Honig, my partner in the recoveringliberal.com for forwarding this to us.

A lifelong feminist, Ms. Ensler is best know as the author of the worldwide theatrical hit, the “Vagina Monologues”.

- Denis

DRILL, DRILL, DRIL!
by
Eve Ensler

I am having Sarah Palin nightmares. I dreamt last night that she was a member of a club where they rode snowmobiles and wore the claws of drowned and starved polar bears around their necks. I have a particular thing for Polar Bears. Maybe it’s their snowy whiteness or their bigness or the fact that they live in the arctic or that I have never seen one in person or touched one. Maybe it is the fact that they live so comfortably on ice. Whatever it is, I need the polar bears.

I don’t like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.

But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.

I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous choices of my lifetime, and should this country chose those candidates the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the impact that duo would have on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept, the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity.

Sarah Palin does not believe in evolution. I take this as a metaphor. In her world and the world of Fundamentalists nothing changes or gets better or evolves. She does not believe in global warming. The melting of the arctic, the storms that are destroying our cities, the pollution and rise of cancers, are all part of
God’s plan. She is fighting to take the polar bears off the endangered species list. The earth, in Palin’s view, is here to be> taken and plundered. The wolves and the bears are here to be shot and plundered. The oil is here to be taken and plundered. Iraq is here to be taken and plundered. As she said herself of the Iraqi war, ‘It was a task from God.’

Sarah Palin does not believe in abortion. She does not believe women who are raped and incested and ripped open against their will should have a right to determine whether they have their rapist’s baby or not.

She obviously does not believe in sex education or birth control. I imagine her daughter was practicing abstinence and we know how many babies that makes.

Sarah Palin does not much believe in thinking. From what I gather she has tried to ban books from the library, has a tendency to dispense with people who think independently. She cannot tolerate an environment of ambiguity and difference. This is a woman who could and might very well be the next President of the United States. She would govern one of the most diverse populations on the earth.

Sarah believes in guns. She has her own custom Austrian hunting rifle. She has been known to kill 40 caribou at a clip. She has shot hundreds of wolves from the air.

Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private right. But when God and Guns come together in the public sector, when war is declared in God’s name, when the rights of women are denied in his name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the undoing of everything America has ever tried to be.

I write to my sisters. I write because I believe we hold this election in our hands. This vote is a vote that will determine the future not just of the U.S., but of the planet. It will determine whether we create policies to save the earth or make it forever uninhabitable for humans. It will determine whether we move towards dialogue and diplomacy in the world or whether we escalate violence through invasion, undermining and attack. It will determine whether we go for oil, strip mining, coal burning or invest our money in alternatives that will free us from dependency and destruction. It will determine if money gets spent on education and healthcare or
whether we build more and more methods of killing. It will determine whether America is a free open tolerant society or a closed place of fear, fundamentalism and aggression.

If the Polar Bears don’t move you to go and do everything in your power to get Obama elected then consider the chant that filled the hall after Palin spoke at the RNC, ‘Drill Drill Drill.’ I think of teeth when I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain.

Do we want a future of drilling? More holes in the ozone, in the floor of the sea, more holes in our thinking, in the trust between nations and peoples, more holes in the fabric of this precious thing we call life?

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OZONE HOLE LARGER THIS YEAR THAN LAST YEAR

Posted in Global Warming on September 16th, 2008

COLD TEMPERATURES AND CHEMICAL POLLUTION BLAMED

Tantartic23.jpghe ozone hole is larger in 2008 than the previous year but is not expected to reach the size seen two years ago, the World Meteorological Organisation said Tuesday.

“In 2008, the ozone hole appeared relatively late. However, during the last couple of weeks it has grown rapidly and has now passed the maximum size attained in 2007,” the WMO said in a statement.

The hole in the layer over the Antarctic was discovered in the 1980s. It regularly tends to form in August, reaching its maximum size late September or early October before it fills again in mid-December.

Read On

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THE ENVIRONMENTAL SINS OF SARAH PALIN

Posted in Clean Energy, News Brief on September 12th, 2008

LISTEN UP, THIS WOMAN IS NO FRIEND OF THE ENVIRONMENT

palin-with-gun1.jpgNow that the cutesy statements and campaign hyperbole has run its course, and the media has started to take a closer at Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, it’s time for greenourscene.com to delve into the environmental positions of the woman who could become our nation’s next Vice President.

What follows, in no particular order, are her environmental decisions as Governor of Alaska as well as a brief summary of what she pledges to do if elected Vice President in November.

Governor Sarah Palin vetoed money for a major wind energy project.

Governor Palin opposed a crucial clean water initiative that would have banned metal mines from discharging pollution into salmon streams.

Governor Palin approved legislation allowing Chevron to triple the amount of toxic waste that it dumps into Cook Inlet, one of the state’s major fish breeding grounds. Ms. Palin took this action with the knowledge that the pollution and increased ship traffic would be devastating to the area’s beluga whale population and could in time result in the species extinction.

Governor Palin enthusiastically supported drilling in the Prudhoe Bay area, even with the knowledge that each year this activity resulted in “hundreds of spills involving tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil and other petroleum products.” At last count over 17,000 acres of wildlife and marine habitat had been destroyed.

Governor Palin opposed the Bush administration’s decision to award the polar bear protection under the Endangered Species Act. Her position was that protecting the polar bears would cripple energy development offshore. Governor Palin has been quoted as saying that “if the ice in the polar bears habitat should go away, the bears will adapt to living on the land.” Her administration is currently suing the Bushies to get them to reverse this decision.

Governor Palin has repeatedly, aligned herself with the discredited, fringe and ignored Global Warming’s effect on the Arctic summer sea ice, despite the fact that the ice cover has shrunk to about 1.65 million sq miles, or nearly 40% less than the long-term average between 1979 and 2000.

Governor Palin supported allowing big game hunters to stalk and shoot wolves and bears from helicopters and planes. Ms. Palin supported an initiative, which if successful would have offered a bounty of $150 per wolf, as long as the hunter provided the wolf’s foreleg as proof of the kill. She even spent $400,000 on a state-funded campaign to block attempts by environmentalists to end the hunt. Thankfully, the measure did not pass.

Big game hunters are happy to pay lots of money to shoot wolves and bears from the air. They also chase them across the snow to the point of exhaustion and then land the planes on skis, shooting them from point-blank range. The animals are considered endangered across the “lower 48″ states of America, but not Alaska. The hunters keep and sell the animals’ pelts.

Vice Presidential candidate Palin, has called for the expansion, without reservation, of nuclear power. Ironically, opposing her on this issue is the Bush administration’s in-house nuclear agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has stated that it considers an atomic renaissance, at this point in time, a bad idea.

Vice Presidential candidate Palin says that she would push for drilling along the entire Alaskan coastal plain, as well as in the Arctic Preserve, the latter home to migratory caribou herds, musk oxen, wolverines, grizzly and polar bears. Furthermore, Governor Palin is quoted as saying that she favors drilling, even when nothing may be found, because not finding oil “is no excuse to do nothing at all.”

Vice Presidential candidate Palin favors opencast coal mining in Alaska’s Brooks Range Mountains. This is just a fancy way of saying strip mining, the process where the top of the mountain is torn of for easy access to the minerals that lie beneath. Most environmentalists consider this process of mining “rape of the earth”.


BREAKING NEWS!
In what can only be described as a major environmental flip-flop, Vice Presidential candidate Palin has stepped away from her earlier assertion that man’s actions have played no part in Global Warming. The candidate now believes that “attributing some of man’s activities to potentially causing some of the changes in the climate right now.”

- Denis Donovan

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ANTIQUATED ELECTRIC GRID HAMPERS THE SPREAD OF WIND AND SOLAR ENERGY

Posted in Alternative Energy, Clean Energy, News Brief, Sustainable Energy on September 1st, 2008

UPGRADING THE GRID IS A LOGISTIC NIGHTMARE WITH 500 OWNERS AND FIFTY STATES WEIGHING IN.

windturbin11.jpgAs is so often the case when discussing ways to reduce our carbon footprint, there are good and bad issues that need to be addressed.

In this instance, the good news is that wind and solar power are finally being seriously recognized for their ability to generate massive amounts of clean, non-toxic, relatively inexpensive eclectic power.

The bad news, however, is that our nation’s eclectic transmission “grid” – - the superhighway of sorts that you hear so much about and through which energy travels from point of generation to point of use – - is so hopelessly outdated that significant amounts of this clean new power is unable to make its way to the areas that need it the most.

Simple problem you might say. Just build a new one the way T. Boone ‘Windaddy’ Pickens is doing way down yonder in ole’ Texas town. Problem solved, you say with the smirk of one who have merely spoken the obvious, and is sorta’ amazed that others didn’t mention it first.

But my friends, it is not so easy…

The current grid is not only over a century old, and held together with chewing gum and band-aids, but bits and pieces of it are owned by over 500 separate entities.

Before renovations could proceed, all 500 of them would have to agree on the plan that would then have to be approved by the 50 sates that maintain regulatory control over those companies and this system. Then there are the permits – - mountains of state, federal and local permits – - not to mention the battles with the property owners that must approve every addition to the “grid”.

In short, this is one long drawn-out logistical nightmare.

Of course, we could always go in another direction and kiss off the grid altogether and adopt a more localized model. This would differ from our current system in that the power generated in an area would stay in that area and not be parsed out to wherever.

But even this is inferior to the idea that is starting to take hold among independent minded men and women lately, which is for homeowners and apartment owning entities to generate their own electric power through a combination of rooftop wind and solar generating apparatus.

This would be the best scenario, as it would allow individuals and families to get totally off the grid and say goodbye to out of control eclectic bills that will only continue to rise in the months and years to come.

Now I know your going to tell me how expensive going solar or adding wind turbines can be. Here, there is more good news, which is that as the apparatus becomes more mainstream; costs are coming down from previous sky-high levels.

As of this writing, numerous additional manufacturing companies – - both domestic and foreign – - have entered the business of manufacturing the technology for such conversions, meaning not only is their greater flexibility in pricing, but more options in terms of styling and materials used.

These include the introduction of ordinary looking ceiling tiles that are actually photovoltaic panels, as well as numerous styles of low profile wind turbines intended to replace those huge propeller drive assemblies in areas where space is at a premium.

Furthermore, numerous states and the federal government now have financing options – - in the form of tax credits – - available for homeowners seeking to make the switch to wind and/or solar.

Additionally, some of the panel-manufacturing companies have started offering long-term lease/purchase agreements allowing homeowners to install now and pay over time with the money that otherwise would have gone to the power companies.

Now thats a win-win if I ever heard one.

- DENIS

EDITOR’S NOTE! In the coming months we will make it a point to feature some of the latest technological advances in this field.

Continue reading about the “grid”

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