Archive for the ‘oil’ Tag

Planning for Future Energy

A light reflecting solar power plant http://theenergycollective.com/TheEnergyCollective/43447

A typical light reflecting solar power plant http://theenergycollective.com/TheEnergyCollective/43447

The solar industry is no doubt a rising force in the energy market. With no emissions, solar is attractive because of its clean producing ways. Recently, solar advocates and lobbyists headed down to Washington to rally for a “permanent manufacturing tax credit” on solar panels. But while  solar energy is clean, I believe it is still likely that only energy companies will be using solar panels due to the hassle of having to install all the infrastructure on private housing for solar energy. But as I have consistently said before, I believe it is best to plan for flexibility because no one knows exactly what the future holds. If subsidies are given to solar, then they should also be equally allocated to similar clean energy sources such as wind and tidal (the debate is still on for nuclear), while also taken away from dirty energy sources like coal, natural gas, and oil.

One of the misconceptions people say is switching from coal and oil is impossible because too many people will lose jobs. According to The Energy Collective however, “Dow Corning [a solar panel manufacturer] deserves enormous credit for investing about $5 billion in manufacturing plants in Michigan—which sorely needs new jobs.” I consider it a testament to people’s ability to adapt to unique situations that would allow a state like Michigan- known for its (now declining) car manufacturing- would turn to solar manufacturing. It reminds me about how many different manufacturing factories in the 1940’s adapted to make war materials as a collective machine against a common enemy. Although the public attentiveness is not as acute compared to the time during the war, it still holds unquestionable parallels and these two situations show a lot about the human personality in times of serious needs and change.

On the other side of the coin, it should be the goal of policy makers to make clean energy available not to energy companies, but people; allowing people a reasonable cost to install solar panels, wind turbines, and any other clean energy method on their property is a first step because companies don’t change and live in the world, people do. At the same time, energy demanding buildings should also be plugged into the grid in the event they need more electricity, but I think more people and their businesses would appreciate energy more if they were producing it on their own. Now of course this is all completely unrealistic to have every single energy demanding building producing their own share of clean energy, but the idea may not be far from the future as solar panel companies are starting to find ways to make their product more durable and affordable. New development should try to embrace this change to make the individual buildings and communities more sustainable, flexible, and energy efficient.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Student Intern, VERTICES LLC

All material including quotes and pictures from http://theenergycollective.com/TheEnergyCollective/43447

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Developing for Post Oil America

Locally grown food is a good way to promote community sustainability and cut back on energy use. www.postoilsolutions.org

Locally grown food is a good way to promote community sustainability and cut back on energy use. http://www.postoilsolutions.org

It is inevitable. If we keep consuming oil, we will eventually run out. Although estimates vary as to how much oil we have left in our reserves, it nevertheless is a good idea to start planning for the post oil period. Some communities have started to piece together parts of the puzzle. Brattleboro, Vermont, typically known for its alternative lifestyle has started a grassroots organization to deal with what might happen after the life of oil. The group is called Post Oil Solutions, or POS for short, and its aims goals at five different factors: community gardens, local food, energy, transportation, and education.

What I found most interesting of these was the local food. POS says the following:

Did you know that most of the food on local store shelves has traveled an average of 1400 miles? Between transportation, and conventional agricultural practices, there are 10 to 15 calories of fossil fuels in every calorie of food you eat.

That means if you eat a 500 calorie meal (a calorie is measure of energy), at least 5000 calories went into the making, maintaining, and transportation of that meal. If the ratio of energy consumed versus needed is indeed that high, it means that there are huge amounts of energy wasted. It is clearly not possible for everyone to eat only local foods; the cost of growing food around New York City will cost much more than food being grown in developing countries, but I think most Americans believe there should at least be more local food available, especially if it carries a reasonable price tag.

In a link from POS site, there is an article from localbanquet.com. One passage I thought really related to our situation today: “[With 15 minutes a day and a piece of] lawn roughly the size of the parking space for your car, you can grow a significant amount of good food—food that is organic, food that is tasty, food that is healthy[...] During World War II, Americans started “victory gardens,” growing up to 40 percent of their fresh produce. In these tough economic times, it again makes sense for us to grow some of our own food.”

Any community visioning or master plan should incorporate making enough areas suitable for both individual and commercial farming, as it is an important part of sustainability. Doing so will cut down (however slightly or large it may be) our oil dependence and consumption.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Student Intern, Vertices LLC

Video on Sprawl

Take two minutes to enjoy this movie made by the Congress for New Urbanism. It explains a lot of the problems we all see today and should get you thinking about other ways we can help to change the earth.

New Urbanism will be a huge step forward in reducing the demand and dependence on oil, space, cars, etc. It focuses on improving the areas we already have to make them better/ safer/ more sustainable living environments.

For more information, I recommend checking out www.newurbanism.org. There is a wealth of logical information and solutions. To give you a taste, newurbanism.org recommends funding for building a more sustainable America can come from several of the following sources:

  1. The $620B and counting already spent on the Iraq war
  2. A portion of the $480B/year Defense budget
  3. Hundreds of billions spent on road construction
  4. Hundreds of billions spent on airport expansions
  5. Hundreds of billions spent on new coal, oil, and nuclear power plants
  6. $300B/ year spent subsidizing oil
  7. A new ‘waste’ tax
  8. A new carbon tax

That’s a lot of money.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Student Intern, Vertices LLC

San Francisco Great Streets Project

Enrique Peñalosa is at it again- in San Francisco this time. Peñalosa set out as mayor of Bogota, Columbia and drastically improved the city from the slums it had once been. His ways of improving the city were to curb car use, promote transit and cycling, and increase public space. San Francisco has attracted Peñalosa to promote their campaign: the Great Streets Project. The goal of the project is to promote “a successful network of places will return our city’s streets to their rightful place as the center of civic life, making our city a great place to live, do business and visit.”

A street in Bogota that benefited from Penalosa's policies, where the sidewalks became more pedestrian friendly and attractive

A street in Bogota that benefited from Penalosa's policies, where the sidewalks became more pedestrian friendly and attractive

Tonight Peñalosa will speak in San Francisco about creating this vision and putting it into practice.It was mark the launch of the Great Streets Project.

“Valet bicycle parking provided,” according to the website, http://sfgreatstreets.wordpress.com/.

Campaigns like this are slowly changing the way we live by reducing our dependence on oil (both domestic and foreign), improving the environment (air quality, oil runoff in sewers, built and social environments in public spaces), and reducing overall costs while further promoting the local economy.

More than sidewalks or bicycle paths, we built symbols of equality and respect for human dignity. – Enrique Peñalosa

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Student Intern, Vertices LLC