Monthly Archives: April 2009

Negawatts and Eco-Watts or Killer-Watts

Back in the late ‘1970’s Amory Lovins, of the Rocky Mountain Institute coined the term “NegaWatts” to describe the energy that could be saved with conservation and efficiency. “The cheapest energy,” he said, “and the cleanest energy is the energy you don’t use.”

Lovins’ associate, Marvin Resnikoff, PhD, then teaching physics and environmental thinking at SUNY University of Buffalo and Rachel Carson College, used the term “nuclear constipation” to describe the nuclear waste problem. It’s an apt metaphor – the waste doesn’t go away.

We struggling not only with nuclear constipation, but carbon constipation. We burn carbon, liberate the energy in chemical bonds, to get from place to place, to heat and cool our homes, but the carbon doesn’t go away. It goes into the air from under the ground. To paraphrase Al Gore,

We are borrowing from China to buy oil from the middle east and rip coal out of the ground to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. But enough wind blows through the midwest corridor in a day, enough sunlight falls on the earth in FORTY MINUTES to provide the power we need for a year.

Harnessing the wind, the sun, and the earth eliminates these problems. Rather than burning a fuel; wind, solar, geothermal harness a process. The sun shines whether or not we use solar panels to capture some photons. The wind blows regardless of our decision to use a few particles to spin a turbine. We are hitchin’ a ride on a moving train.

This is the choice: Wind and Solar or Coal and Nuclear. “Negawatts and clean pure Eco-Watts or Deadly-Watts, Morta-Watts, Killer-Watts.

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Negawatt – unit of energy you don’t use.
Ecowatt – unit of energy generated in a clean sustainable way, such as via solar power or wind power.
Killer-watt – unit of energy generated by burning or consuming fuel such as coal, oil, gas, or radioactive material.

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Filed under Clean Energy, Coal, Fossil Fuels, Framing, Nuclear Power, Oil, Solar Power, Wind Power

Rachel Maddow – Tied Up With Coal Rope? Anthracite Handcuffs?

In Strasbourg, April 3, President Obama summed up the challenges we face:

“We know that the pollution from cars in Boston or from factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, and that that will disrupt weather patterns everywhere. The terrorists who struck in London and New York plotted in distant caves and simple apartments much closer to your home. And the reckless speculation of bankers that has now fueled a global economic downturn that’s inflicting pain on workers and families — is happening everywhere, all across the globe.

And told us what he wants to do:

“… what I want to be able to do is not only fix the immediate crisis, but, working in partnership with other countries, create a path for sustainable, responsible growth. And I think we can do that. There are a lot of people who benefit from globalization, but there are also people who have been harmed by globalization. Globalization in and of itself can be good, but can also be destructive.

“… we could have just spent the money on the same old ways of doing things. But part of what we decided was if we’re going to be spending a lot of government money anyway, why not spend it to double the amount of renewable energy? Why not spend it on retrofitting existing government buildings so that we drastically reduce their energy consumption?”

I agree with Al Gore that we should move from coal and 100% solar, wind, geothermal, marine kinetic, and other renewable, sustainable energy systems in 10 years. I believe that President Obama’s stated goal, to double the amount of renewable energy, is a good start.

I wrote on this at Popular Logistics, and e-mailed Rachel Maddow (rachel@msnbc.com)

Burning one ton of coal creates about 3.5 tons of carbon dioxide. According to Robert Bryce, the U S burned about 1.1 billion tons of coal in 2007 creating about 4 billion tons of carbon dioxide, not to mention the fly ash, arsenic, mercury, etc. Is that not a problem? When she was on Air America Rachel criticized the coal industry. Why did Rachel ignore Obama’s comment on sustainability? Last night the coal industry ran an ad on The Rachel Maddow Show. Rachel’s hands are tied with coal rope, she is bound by anthracite handcuffs.

So while the good news is that the progressive agenda has become so mainstream that two nightly TV news programs are blatantly left of center; the bad news is that the buy-partisan coal industry is co-opting the progressive tv news. I guess it’s back to the NY Times which covers all the news that’s fit to print, SNL Weekend Update which is still not ready for Prime Time, Jon Stewart, where nothing is sacred, and The Colbert Report, where Stephen Colbert is sacred, and NPR.

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Filed under Barack Obama, Coal, Rachel Maddow

“I Hope He Fails” Revisited

A friend of mine, John, a lawyer, a professional who is trained to see at both sides of every situation, and who is trained to see in shades of grey, not black and white, told me a story of an insurance agent who recently sold him life insurance. After the deal was closed, the contracts were signed, the insurance agent, let’s call him “Bill,” turned to his new client and said “You know, I hope he fails.”

Bill repeated his statement, the statement made famous by Rush Limbaugh, and repeated by right wingers across the country. “I hope Obama fails.”

John was raised to love this country. His parents and grandparents came here from Italy in the 1920s and ’30’s. Times were bad here, and they were worse in Italy back then. John’s parents worked hard, and he worked hard – and still works hard. He is a political independent – votes for the best candidate he can find in every election. And votes in every election. This past election he saw things about Obama that he liked, and saw things about McCain that he liked.

His reply to “I hope he fails” was “don’t you have money vested in the economy? Do you hope things get worse?” Bill said “well, I’ll be ok. I just want him to fail.”

John told me that Bill wasn’t listening to anything he had to say. John told me “the President is like the Captain of the a ship. Bill was saying ‘you hope the ship sinks.’ I told him that I would torn up the contracts and thrown him out of my house. Saying “I hope he fails” is saying “I hope the people who are out of work stay out of work. The people who don’t have medical insurance – and who have no access to medical care – can’t insurance or access to medical care.” The Constitution and the Bill of Rights may consider idiotic and seditious talk protected speech, but I have the right to assemble – and not assemble. I don’t have to tolerate an idiot in my house. I don’t have to support a right wing revolutionary by buying stuff from him

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Filed under Limbaugh, Obama

North Korea Missile a Success

The North Korean missile test was a success. The New York Times, (click here) noting that the missile self-destructed and fell into the ocean, and therefore the missile failed

  • to achieve orbit,
  • to demonstrate an offensive missile capability, or
  • to show North Korea to be a “fearsome adversary able to hurl deadly weapons halfway around the globe.”

These “journalists” call North Korea’s non-intercontinental ballistic missiles (n-ICBM) a failure. This “blogger” considers the North Korean n-ICBM demonstration to be a success. N. Korea joined the United States, China, Japan, the other industrialed nations in attacking the oceans. “We too can threaten the environment.” Kim Jong-il might have said. However, it is not clear that Kim Jong-il knows the missile did not achieve orbit.

Mother Earth could not be reached for comment.

Donald Rumsfeld, observed “these are the kinds of weapons that Saddam might have had, had he had them, and had we been able to find them. But there are things you know, things you don’t know, and things you don’t know that you don’t know. There are things you can find, things you can’t find, things you can’t find because they exist but are hidden, things you can’t find because they don’t exist except in your mind.

Sarah Palin said “up here in Alaska we’re on the lookout for North Koreans. North Korea is near Russia, and I can see Russia from my house, you know, yep, you betcha.”

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Filed under Missile., North Korea