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When they tell you “Renewables aren’t ready”

i barely follow the renewable energy scene.  People often send me news articles they think are interesting.  i feel like this part of the revolution is actually progressing quite well, so it needs less of my attention.  Something which did catch my eye was a recent EcoWatch story called: 25 Top Companies Investing in Solar  This quote caught my eye:

Combined, these blue chip companies have deployed 569 MW of solar capacity at 1,100 locations—a 28 percent increase over a year ago and a 103 percent increase since 2012, when the first report was released.

569 MW installed capacity is less than 1/6 of a reactor (with 35% capacity factor for the PV).  But what is important here is that these are non-utility players and that the amount doubled in two years.  That would be 5 reactors worth in the next 10 years (the same as the current expected amount of nuclear power that will come on line in the US is all the utility based reactors under construction are completed on time – which is quite unlikely).

25 biggest corps chart of solar

But doubling is crazy fast.  At this rate by 2025 we will have replaced all the reactors currently running in the US with non-utility renewables power.  And by 2030 (in this very unlikely scenario) we will have a fully renewable grid nation wide.  Even if the nuclear industries most ambitious plans are realized, we will only have a twenty new reactors in this period, failing to keep up with the retirement of aging ones in the US fleet.

So the next time someone tells you that renewables can’t ramp up fast enough, you should observe nuclear power cant even replace it’s dead.

Why Nuclear Matters doesn’t matter

paxus:

How the nuclear industry tries to convince us that despite having no constituency it should be influencing our democratic decision process.

Originally posted on GreenWorld:

Nuclear Matters doesn't matter because its fundamental argument doesn't make sense. Not to these marchers, not to the general public, not even to politicians.

Nuclear Matters doesn’t matter because its fundamental argument doesn’t make sense. Not to these marchers, not to the general public, not even to politicians.

Regular readers of GreenWorld know that we have dropped a lot of digital ink writing about Nuclear Matters, the astroturf group launched by Exelon early this year to try to make the case to save the utility’s aging and uneconomic nuclear fleet.

Exelon and the PR firm Sloane and Company that runs the public end of Nuclear Matters have assembled a seemingly potent team of paid-for spokespeople to make the utility’s case: former Senators like Evan Bayh and Judd Gregg; former DOE secretary James Abraham; and the big catch, former EPA Administrator, Obama climate czar, and current League of Conservation Voters board chair Carol Browner. 

These and others  in Nuclear Matters’ assembled-team of backers have been writing (or, more likely, allowing their names to be used…

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NYC public art

photo 1

photo 2

photo 3

photo 4

photo 5

All of these images are from MetroTech Park, near the super cool 3B project – Brooklyn Bed and Breakfast

“You should definitely do it. It will never work.”

We are returning for another Point A trip to NYC.  We in this case is Belladonna Took, Aster, Gpaul, Angelica and myself, all from Acorn or Twin Oaks.  On the way up i am reminded of our recent trip and the tales tangled with it.

One of my favorite stories is the Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.  It has a contemporary Alice through the Looking Glass feel to it where figures of speech become characters in the story and a fair morality is woven among amusing chapter long vignettes.  If you have a kid you read to and you have not read this story to them, you should share this together. Central to the story is the idea that main characters have a secret which they are not telling Milo, the hero of the story, and they will only tell him when he returns from his quest.

Dogeared Book cover

Dogeared Book cover

When Milo returns from his harrowing quest they reveal the secret about his mission which is “It was impossible”. But he could not be told this at the beginning of his quest for it would discourage him.  Our experience of NYC is sort of the other way around.  When we explain the Point A project to people some excitedly tell us “That is fantastic, you really should do it.  And it is completely impossible.”

Consulting with Rhyme and Reason

Consulting with Rhyme and Reason

i am only beginning to understand this mentality.  It comes in part from long term urban activists seeing all the wonderful institutions they love vanish with time.   At the front line of chronicling the demise of the city is Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York.  This blog‘s subtitle is  The book of Lamentations: A bitterly nostalgic look at a city in the process of going extinct. This blog is also one of the best sites i have found describing gentrification (which is actually dead) and hyper-gentrification (which is the current genetically modified version of the problem).

When i asked one of our NYC allies what this meant, they briskly proposed this translation.  “It means they are not going to help you.”  Further elaborating they said “They don’t want to be discouraging you, but they are presumably busy with ideas which might work, so they won’t be wasting time on your plan, which won’t.”

Cultural translation is often tricky

Cultural translation is often tricky

We are definitely outside agitators.  i find myself taking a crash course in New Yorkers.  They often show up late, they have crazy busy lives (i have heard people – including myself – saying they were “double booked”, it was not til i spent time in NYC that i heard someone say they were quadruple booked), they have complicated housing situations.  Many identify as artists and a surprising number express interest in having more community in their life.

Any insights into this crash course in urban culture i find myself now taking are appreciated.  The best place to talk about them is this excitingly unfolding Community Matchmaker event in Brooklyn on Oct 18th.

Ice Cream Truck

paxus:

Okay, this is just too cute

Originally posted on Running in ZK:

While I was working at our warehouse on one of the last muggy days of the year, I heard a noise that I assumed was someone’s cell phone going off.  It sounded like an ice cream truck, though.  I turned to Arlo and said, “Haha, that person’s cell phone sounds like an ice cream truck.  When we looked outside, however, the noise was coming from an “ice cream truck” that Summer, Tim, and Anya constructed out of a golf cart and cardboard.  They had ice cream available in coolers.  It was suck a treat for everyone to take a break from working to eat ice cream on a hot day, and we were all impressed with the creativity of the project.  Twin Oakers are great at executing clever ideas.

the "ice cream truck"

the “ice cream truck”

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An opportunity for your dark green friend

Perhaps there is this type of person in your life, they are unusually principled, comfortable with hard work and they likely think most people are not going far enough to personally work on saving the environment.  They might have principal objections to flying, a vegan diet or live off the grid.  People and groups which adopt these reasonable, but oft seen as extreme positions i sometimes refer to as “dark green“.  I worked in a Czech dark green groups office.  It was many floors of steps to walk up, i did not know for 3 years that there was an elevator in the building.   You know the type.

Living Energy Farm is an ambitious and challenging project.  Essentially preparing for a post petroleum world, while it can still be done relatively comfortably.  However they are using a prefigurative approach, in which we model the practices which will be used in the resource-scarce future.  This means lots of things by hands, living closer to the seasons and nightfall, and thinking about how to reduce one’s impact seriously.

Below is Living Energy Farms latest Newsletter.

21st century camp fire

21st century camp fire

Living Energy Farm
July, August, September 2014 Newsletter

Living Energy Farm Needs You!

Have you ever thought about helping Living Energy Farm? Well, now we have a warm, dry place for you to stay. After the relentless cold and wet of last winter, facing the prospect that our project could come to a halt this winter, we worked with our supporters to gain the use of a house in the town of Louisa, one mile from LEF. (We call the house Magnolia, in honor of the massive Magnolia tree in the yard.) This will allow us to keep the project moving through the coming cold months. If you have any carpentry or mechanical skills, that’s great. If not, we can still use your help. Now we can offer you a warm bed. Much better than a tent in winter!

We are, in all honesty, stretched pretty thin right now. With Debbie and Alexis expecting their new baby any time now [Nikita has been born and both mom and kid are healthy - Paxus] we are trying to bring in the harvest, keep construction moving, and take care of the daily necessities of life. In our last newsletter, we put out a call for support. The response was tremendous. We have had numerous people come by and pitch in. That has been a huge help! Now with Magnolia in place, we can support more people through the winter. We have a lot to learn from each other. Consider giving us a visit! If we are slow to communicate, be patient. We have our hands pretty full.

Barn Raising, post petroleum style

Barn Raising, post petroleum style

Earthheart

Our main house at LEF, Earthheart, is coming along. We have it “dried in,” meaning the roof, windows, doors, and sheathing are done, so the building can go through the winter without damage. Thanks to some glorious volunteer crews from our local Louisa Baptist Church and the APO Service Fraternity of UVA, the first coat of exterior stucco is largely done. The interior framing is complete. Most of the wiring for our DC electrical system is done. We still need to do some plumbing, and get the ductwork in place for the solar heating system. Once those utilities are in place, we can put in the ceiling, and the strawbales, then push to completion! We will have a strawbale workshop sometime in the next few months. We will post a note to our lists when that time comes.

Seeds

Our seed harvest is almost finished for the year. This year our crops included corn, okra, watermelons, peppers, squash, and eggplant. We have “contracts” for each of these crops. These contracts are a non-binding agreements we make with the seed companies to produce a certain amount of seed. We will make almost all of our contracts this year, and we will have a significant surplus of some crops/ seeds.

Right livelihood, close to the earth

Right livelihood, close to the earth

This year we also contracted with seed companies to do variety trials of sweet corn and tomatoes. A variety trial consists of growing many different varieties (usually a few dozen) under identical conditions to compare yield, flavor, disease/insect resistance, and other factors. Our trials included many heirloom favorites, a few hybrids, and some new varieties coming from open-pollinated plant breeders across the country. Variety trials are a new and exciting line of work for us. They are the first step in the research and development of the best quality open pollinated varieties for organic conditions in our area. We are excited about pursuing this work in more depth next year, and maybe doing some breeding work as well, in cooperation with our friends at Common Wealth Seed Growers (www.commonwealthseeds.com).

Persimmons
We started picking our first cultivated fruits from trees we grafted on the land just 3 years ago. The photo is of Rosa, our youngest member, holding Yates persimmons. The Ruby persimmons also made a good handful of fruit this year, though they are not ripe yet. Yummy!

People’s Climate March — New York City

Several of us from LEF went to New York City to attend to the People’s Climate March on Sept 21. (Lovely train ride.) We tried to get near the front of the march to hand out flyers and talk to people as they marched by, but we never found the front of the march. After many hours of handing our flyers and talking to people, we never saw the end of the march. Any guesses about number of people attending can only be guesses. Manhattan was swarmed by protesters. One of our supporters in the city made us a beautiful banner and sandwich boards. (I wore one that said “I am Building a Community that Runs Without Fossil Fuel.) A LOT of people were interested in our project. We conducted more than a half dozen interviews with independent film makers, handed our flyers, and spoke to hundreds of people.

PeoplesClimateMarch-balloon.jpg.650x0_q85_crop-smart

The march was huge, diverse, impassioned — a beautiful display of the desire for a better world. As throngs of students, religious groups, and countless organizations chanting slogans about ending fossil fuel dependency passed by, I was deeply struck by how little understanding exists among the public of exactly what that means. After the march, numerous commentators have made the point that while it is was clear what the march was opposed to, it was not clear what it was in favor of. We feel like LEF is a answer to many of the problems caused by fossil fuel, and that is not a small matter. But we cannot expect important truths to magically transmit themselves. Corporations sell their products by communicating in multiple medias at the same time. We have to do something similar — keep talking about our important truths, over and over again. The most important thing you can do is to start taking your own life in the direction of fossil fuel sobriety, and talking to your friends about it. If we can help you do that, let’s see what we can teach each other. Life without fossil fuel is not hard, but we have to show people. We have to convince them. We will have to keep working on that for a long time to come.

Living Energy Farm is a project to build a demonstration farm, community, and education center in Louisa County that uses no fossil fuels. For more information see our website www.livingenergyfarm.org, or contact us at livingenergyfarm@gmail.com. Donations are tax deductible.

Pinkwash

The Facebook thread was incredulous.  Several people were completely convinced it was a joke.  How could a group fighting breast cancer be taking money from a company which sells fracking fluids and services (an activity known to cause cancer)?

But not only is it not a joke, it has been going on for a couple years now and until recently no one was paying attention.  The Susan G. Komen Foundation is this nations largest breast cancer fighting organization.  They have been happily taking $100K per year from oil extraction company Baker Hughes.

understandably unbelievable

understandably unbelievable

But for those who have been tracking the Komen Foundation’s political evolution, this should be no surprise.  In 2012, Komen chose to stop funding Planned Parenthood (PP), because they were “under investigation.” This was a thin rouse, which was quickly revealed for what it was, an effort by the conservative leadership of Komen to strike at PP because it provides abortion services.  The investigation consisted of trumped up charges by similarly motivated House Republicans, and it went nowhere.

fashionable corporate giving

fashionable corporate giving

But Komen’s plans to defund PP exploded in their face in a stunning way.  Individual contributions to Komen dropped dramatically.  In the fiscal year in which they made this mistake they lost $77 million over the previous year’s funding, representing 22% of their total income.  Komen reversed its choice to defund PP after only 3 days, but the damage was already done.

Fierce Backlash

Fierce Backlash

There are other problems with Komen.  Specifically, only 20% of the donations they receive go to breast cancer research.  Over 50% go to educational programs.  If you know the non-profit world, it is far easier to hide bloated salaries and bogus programming under the “education” category than under research.  And many critics think research is more important than education at this point.

And thus we add “Pinkwash” to our vocabulary.  As Baker Hughes produces 1,000 pink drill bits to promote their campaign,  there is now a petition to get Komen to reverse their choice, as they did so quickly with their PP foolishness.

Perhaps Komen has outlived its usefulness or is unreformable as an organization, and like Monsanto and Siemens nuclear division, it is time for it to die.

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