Friday, December 23, 2005

Holiday break

I will be spending the holidays with family. I don't know if I'll have any time to blog, so if I don't get to say it later, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

P.S. Poohtie Cat says Happy Holidays, too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

This explains a lot...

Research shows that the anticipation of a purchase triggers dopamine that gives a shopper a lift. I dissipates quickly, however, leaving a let down--buyer's remorse.

I'm a believer! (But I have been better this year at unplugging the Christmas machine. I'm buying practical gifts this year.)

Connect your appliances into the Kill-a-Watt, and assess how efficient they are. A large LCD display counts consumption by the Kilowatt-hour just like utility companies. You can figure out your electrical expenses by the hour, day, week, month, even an entire year. Monitor the quality of your power by displaying Voltage, Line Frequency, and Power Factor.

The Smart Strip Power Strip features advanced circuitry that not only offers excellent power surge protection and line noise filtering, but is actually able to 'sense' the flow of electrical current through the strip's control outlet. Because of this unique ability, the Smart Strip can turn off selected equipment when its not in use -- creating benefit that no other power strip on the market today can offer.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I'm a NRDC fan too

The National Resource Defence Council has a flash video featuring the BiPolar Bear Flip and Penguin P. Chilly who give Mom's car a makover in "Pimp Mom's Ride." It's cute.

Friday, December 16, 2005

I'm a Jib Jab fan

Jib Jab has done it again. I just saw their new video--"2-0-5" in review--on CNN. And I'm still chuckling. Have at it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Two proposed energy policies

There are two energy policy proposals circulating that I think its important to take a look at and give your feedback about.

The first is a critique of the US Energy Policy Act of 2005. In it, author Rudolf Cooke says we need a plan, and

[t]he first step in addressing any problem is to understand it. We need a really good definition of the challenges that lie ahead--technical, social and economic. Thus we start with a thorough review of the energy market. We need a realistic forecast of America's energy requirements by fuel type by year for the next 20 years. Fuel types fall into two basic categories: fuels for mobile applications (cars, trucks, railroad engines, airplanes, etc.), and fuels for stationary applications (power plants, furnaces, generators, pumps, industrial motors, etc.). Then we need a forecast of fuel resources by type by year for the same 20 year period. The supply forecast must include a conservative estimate of resource depletion, potential political challenges, and international competition for available fuels. Our market plan should also examine future cost/price trends and their potential impact on our economy.

Where shortages appear in our forecast--and they will--we need to review alternative solutions. Again, there are two categories: energy efficiency and new resource development. Since energy efficiency improvements provide us with the quickest and cheapest solution, all avenues of improved energy efficiency must be defined and quantified. The remaining energy shortfall defines the annual fuel volume requirements of our resource development objectives.
Cooke goes on to describe the "three key components of a successful business plan." It would be administered by a large organization that must manage the project. None of the components are in the 2005 act.

He invites us to consider his proposal and give feedback. As of this writing, the link to the feedback forum is not working, so I don't know whether this will be an option in the future.

I do know that the feedback mechanism is working for the second proposal called Energize America -- A Blueprint for U.S. Energy Security written by several regulars ("Kossacks") at the web's most popular Democratic blog, Daily Kos. Jerome a Paris published the latest draft and introduces it this way:
With this Fourth Draft, we have refined our focus, sharpened our message and begun to build the financial models to support the plan, including both a funding model and target investments for each specific proposal.
It sets a legislative agenda for transportation, power generation, the environment and regulatory framework, efficiency and education, and funding the campaign. The authors are asking for feedback on several levels: rhetorical, political, cost/benefits, and even the wording.

It is an important piece of work that may help Democrats frame their platform, so take a few minutes to look it over and then register with Daily Kos to comment. (You won't be able to comment for 24 hours, but I think it will be worth the wait.)

This is the nature of participative democracy today, so take advantage of it! See you in the comments section!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

a funny...

The blogosphere was rich in important contributions today. It's going to keep me busy for the next couple of days. But I thought I'd start you off with this:


Sunday, December 11, 2005

a lovely new blog

Thanks to Energy Bulletin, I have found Transition Culture, which is what my blog wants to be when it grows up. It is written by Rob Hopkins, who describes himself this way:

My background is in the teaching of permaculture for many years, giving people the tools to create more sustainable ways of living in their own gardens and families. Since I found out about peak oil, I have become fascinated by how we apply these principles to whole towns, whole settlements, and in particular, to how we design this transition in such a way that people will embrace it as a common journey, as a collective adventure, as something positive. So much peak oil and other environmental literature is doom-laden and information heavy, and most peoples’ reaction is to switch off. How can we design descent pathways which make people feel alive, positive and included in this process of societal transformation?
It is heartening to read, in fact he makes a conscious decision to include Heart in his work:

In September 2005 I moved to Totnes in Devon, to begin a PhD at Plymouth University looking at Energy Descent Action Plans, refining the model in such a way that they can be done anywhere. This involves looking at what I call the Head, the Heart and the Hands of Energy Descent. By the Head I mean the concepts of peak oil, arguments for and against localisation as well as any historical examples that we can learn from. The Heart refers to exploring how to actually engage communities in a positive and dynamic way, how to use peak oil as a tool for empowerment rather than leaving people feeling helpless. This part of the exploration is about how to actually facilitate change, and the dynamics of cultural transformation. The Hands refers to the practical aspects, could the UK become self sufficient in food and how? How much well managed woodland would it take to heat a town with efficient CHPs? Can local materials be used to retrofit houses?

This reminds me of the 4H pledge that Mr. Logan taught me:

I pledge My head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service, and
My health to better living,
For my club, my community, my country, and my world.

I thouroughly enjoyed every entry and invite you to visit often.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A message from my Electric Membership Corp

My electric bill came with a message from the CEO:
Dear Members:

Those of you who have lived in Georgia for at least one summer know that, on a hot summer afternoon when the clouds get dark and you hear thunder off in the distance, we are about to have a storm. People adjust their plans and get ready for what might come.

Currently, we are hearing the thunder of increasing energy costs and seeing the darkening clouds of a tightening energy supply of the various raw commodities used to produce electric energy. It appears that this is the prelude of what "might" come very soon, increased electrical rates.* With the tightening of the supply of coal and natural gas, two (2) of the most popular fuels used in the production of electric energy, coupled with record increases in the commodity price of these fuels, many people believe we are on the verge of a 1970s style energy crisis. We are not ready to sound that alarm just yet but want you, our members, to be aware that the "sky is getting dark" and like with that afternoon storm, we need to prepare...
He goes on to say that they will send out an energy professional to our homes to discuss how we can lower our energy usage.

*This sentence was very strange because the bill also came with a note that our Wholesale Power Cost Adjustment Factor has changed from $0.014100 per kWh to $0.024025. And its a fee on top of the Energy Charges.

I also wonder about the way he brought up the looming energy crisis as something other people a worried about but not them. And that the problem is coming but isn't coming yet. Why doesn't he want to take ownership of "sounding the alarm?" What is that strategy about?

We have turned down our thermostat and are making other changes to get our kWh down. I think we have a lot of room for improvement. December is usually our highest month so we will hopefully beat last years usage.

I'm sure we will all be hearing a lot more on this theme as the effects of peak energy begin to impact us where it really gets our attention--in our pocketbooks.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Community Solutions Leadership Training

I am back from a very empowering weekend produced by Community Solutions and hosted by the Center for Sustainable Community at Stelle in Illinois.

I met up with three other peakers at O'Hare and we took the subway downtown to meet our ride. We carpooled down to Stelle in a Prius, which sat five adults more or less comfortably. I sat on the hump. We used the onboard GPS to find the hamlet, which lead to a nervous minute when we thought we were going the wrong way and had to turn around on narrow country roads with ditches on either side. But the GPS took us right to the front drive.

We were pretty late, but they had saved us dinner--hot soup and homemade bread. This was just the first in a series of delicious meals prepared with local, organic food; much from their own gardens. They showed us wonderful hospitality.

We stayed at various homes in the community and got to know our hosts a little bit that way. We were each given a binder full of resources to look through for the next day. When I saw the course outline and all of the handouts I felt intimidated--me? a community leader? I haven't even held my first showing of "The End Of Suburbia."

The first day started out with the usual course overview and introductions. Our group came from diverse backgrounds, but each of us had a burning desire to take action in our communities in common. It was quite a relief to be around other people who had the same concerns.

Then Pat gave some pointers on developing a peak oil talk. Each of us got a CD with his Powerpoint slides that we can use to develop our own talks. He pointed out the Fundamental Four graphs that tell the peak oil story:

The first shows the peak of US production.

The second is the growing gap between discovery and production, which I can't get to upload.
The third is world oil production.

The fourth is the jump in OPEC oil reserves when they set the production quotas to be based on reserves, which I can't get to upload either.

Then we broke into groups to come up with answers to typical questions brought up in the Q&A session after a presentation. When everyone shared their responses, I was very impressed by the depth of knowledge in the room. And by what it will take to be able to field the FAQs effectively.

After lunch we did a session by Karen Berney on a theories for working with communities which included a section on a topic close to my heart, Adult Learning Theory and the Experiential Learning Cycle. Ultimately our goal is to bring about a change in people's knowledge, attitudes, and practices, so it is very important for us to understand how this happens. We also looked at the Diffusion of Innovation.

After dinner Pat Murphy gave us his standard presentation that we can use as a model for our own. We got into a challenging conversation about the use of Biblical quotes. This led to exploring the principle of the importance of knowing one's audience.

Day two gave us a chance to apply what we had learned the day before. We broke into small groups and imagined that we had to create a process for people that had just gotten information about peak oil. How could we help a group work through their responses to this very difficult information? We wanted to allow for ownership by the group of the problems that we are facing with the advent of peak oil. It is very important not to provide solutions--even if we could--but to allow them to arise out of the group.

In the afternoon we had the nerve-wracking chance to develop a 3-5 minute speech. I decided to do one introducing peak oil to beginners. I was very nervous. Very ironic considering that in a past life I have taught public speaking many times. My best line came when I was talking about what in the room is made out of oil. Your computer, pen, the paint on the wall, etc. I included the Xanax that I had taken before giving the speech. (Did you know that many medicines are made from petroleum feedstocks?)

Then we got to hear everyone's speeches. It was very interesting. We had a talented group who had many approaches.

Megan Quinn gave a presentation on communities that have developed action plans in response. It included the ones I have talked about here. The next day we developed our own action plans. What are we going to do to once we leave? And by when? We stood up and shared our commitments to all the world and handed in copies of them for Community Solutions to follow up with us on.

We were exhausted and glad to be done but it was hard to say good-bye to so many dedicated individuals. It means so much to know that we are not alone. If you are lucky you will be hearing from one of us in a neighborhood near you.