Yes We Can! We Just Beat Coal. Time to Go Nuclear?

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Congratulations are in order for all of us who took on the myth of Clean Coal and who warned that it wasn’t real and would not make coal an acceptable fuel to generate electricity from.  We won!  

 

They said we couldn’t do it, that coal had too much money, too much power too much influence.  But you can stick a fork in coal now when it comes to generating future energy in America.  Coal just got its ass kicked.  Just like I said it would.

 

Last Wednesday the plug got pulled on clean coal by its biggest financial backer and chief cheerleaders, the Bush administration and the Department of Energy  in “a major policy reversal.”  

 

The $1.8 billion dollar per plant cost was already double the original budget of $950 million and cost overruns were expected to bump the price up to $2 bill per plant.  That’s a ton of money for technology that is just vaporware and not proven.  Way too much money for the industry itself to pay.  Their costs were going to be capped at just $400 billion with our tax dollars picking up the rest of their tab.  Not any more.  

 

Even worse news for coal was in yesterday’s morning’s headlines where I read in the Wall Street Journal that three of Wall Street’s biggest investment banks are set to announce today that they are imposing new environmental standards that will make it harder for companies to get financing to build coal-fired power plants in the U.S.

 

This devastating news for the people who make their money as the biggest contributers to global warming is great news for the rest of us.  Because it means the clean coal scam didn’t work and those 151 new coal fired electric plants on the books probably won’t get built.  Which is just fine, since we don’t really need them.  Americans can conserve the same amount of energy they were going to produce and we must.

 

 

We can only use our Creative Greenius on the Chinese and their coal fired electric plants if we first do the right thing here in the USA.  Now that we’ve stopped the Clean Coal Carnival here we can start making the serious move to renewables and sell that same technology to the Chinese.  

 

I believe our green movement will transcend governments and entrenched interests and connect at a people to people level.  I’m talking about people both here and in China who won’t stand for being victims of global warming and who are willing to work together to change the world for our own self interest and survival.  That change starts with us on an individual basis, then extends to our own countries and then to other countries. 

 

 

But before we get to the solar, wind and other renewables we’re waiting for you’ll need to get ready for the marketing campaign and media blitz to position nuclear energy as our savior from global warming.  

 

Nuclear generates no greenhouse gasses, they’ll tell us.  You’ll hear how no one has ever died from any nuclear power plant accident.  They’ll say that today’s nuclear plants are much safer and far more advanced than the old Three Mile Island that scared us all or Chernobyl – which wasn’t really as bad as we remember.  And they’ll say that those of us who oppose them are a bunch of aging hippies who have all been brainwashed by Al Gore.  

 

 

But what they WON’T say is that they’ve solved the nuclear waste problem.  Unless you talk to my friend, Dr. Robert Schenter, PhD.

 

Dr. Bob, as he is endearingly called by his many friends around the world, is a brilliant nuclear scientist who has used his time and talents working with radioactive isotopes for medical purposes, primarily in the cancer field.  He is the inventor of Smart Bullets that target cancer cells far more precisely than traditional radiation or chemo.  

 

Dr. Bob is active with several Cancer Foundations, is an American Nuclear Society Fellow, a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Advisory Committee on the medical uses of Isotopes, and has testified before Congress on Medical Isotope Supply and Applications.

 

 

But when I spoke with him last month, he was testifying to me about Nuclear Waste Transmutation.  Dr. Bob believes that transmutation using Fast Flux nuclear reactors can render nuclear waste into safe, valuable commodities, eliminating the need for places like the Yucca Mountain waste depository.  Dr. Bob raises the question – if I can solve nuclear energy’s waste problems for you, why wouldn’t you support nuclear as the green, zero-carbon producing source of electricity that is the holy grail of the environmental movement?

 

Dr. Bob reminded me that one of Greenpeace’s founders, Patrick Moore is now a supporter of nuclear power and I know from my own research that Whole Earth founder Stewart Brand is on board for nukes.

 

So what exactly are we talking about with Transmutation?  In a nutshell we’re talking about using a fast flux nuclear reactor to burn up the most dangerous long-lived fission products, the ones with half lives of thousands of years and in so doing transmute them into either stable or short-lived isotopes not requiring very long term “storage.”

 

 

According to Wikipedia, “Transmutation of transuranium elements (actinides) such as the isotopes of plutonium, neptunium, americium, and curium has the potential to help solve the problems posed by the management of radioactive waste, by reducing the proportion of long-lived isotopes it contains. When irradiated with fast neutrons in a nuclear reactor, these isotopes can be made to undergo nuclear fission, destroying the original actinide isotope and producing a spectrum of radioactive and nonradioactive fission products.  Isotopes of plutonium and other actinides tend to be long-lived with half-lives of many thousands of years, whereas radioactive fission products tend to be shorter-lived (most with half-lives of 30 years or less). From a waste management viewpoint, transmutation of actinides eliminates a very long-term radioactive hazard and replaces it with a much shorter-term one.”

 

 

It’s not often that I get to talk to a nuclear scientist about the technical side of their work and employ my own microscopically small expertise in the field.  But as the former co-chair of the Coalition for a Nuclear Free Harbor in Long Beach, California, I am familiar with the substandard quality of the nuclear workforce and  those who handle nuclear materials in general. 

 

For example, during the 1970s and 1980s, the US Navy, who operates a wide range of nuclear warships and submarines, reported that they had recorded over 375 nuclear incidents and accidents.  They’ve dumped radioactive waste in the waters all around the planet.  Not surprisingly they don’t like to talk about their record and you have to use the Freedom of Information Act to find out the truth. 

 

And you don’t have to look far doing a news search today for information on current screw ups at nuclear plants.  Just read my last post.  This is an industry and technology that has not earned our trust.  I trust Dr. Bob, but the rest of the nuclear industry doesn’t operate at his high standards.

 

So even if the US could build a new nuclear power plant every one-to-two weeks for the next 50 years as the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research said we need to in their 2006 study it would be an awful use of our money and it would be the wrong direction for us to turn. 

 

We already waste way too much of our taxpayer money on nuclear industry subsidies which in 2006 brought them $9 billion and which brought you and me a big fat nothing.  If we were spending anywhere near that same amount of money developing wind, solar and other renewables we’d already be plugging into a greener grid today.

 

So even though I don’t have a PhD, I’m going to tell you that Dr. Bob’s well meaning transmutation solution is not the answer.  I wish it was and I wish I agreed with him, but I don’t.  We just don’t need a world filled with nuclear reactors in every country big and small even if we could all use a time machine to have them built in enough time to make a big difference in climate change.

 

The right answer is a mix of energy conservation, a Manhattan Project-sized national commitment to developing and expanding renewable energy and just as importantly, a decentralization of power generating. 

 

We need to change the whole concept of the grid as it exists today.  We need to see power generated at the local level by big commercial buildings, schools, shopping centers, hotels, office buildings and neighborhoods.  Power that’s far cheaper and safer in the long run than nuclear could ever be.

 

We’ve made the first big, smart move already by busting the clean coal scam.  Now it’s time to keep moving in the right direction and not fall for greenwashing by the nuclear industry who see coal’s demise as their opening.

 

Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and I were right when we talking about No Nukes in 1979 and we are still right today.  Can we stop them?  YES. WE. CAN.

 

Check out their most recent video as we continue the Creative Greenius approach to turning energy green.  They’re talking about last year’s energy bill but the same nuclear bailout money is in the President’s brand new budget:

Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go

 The late, great Chick Hearn, play-by-play broadcaster for the Los Angeles Lakers for 42 years and one of my true role models, is famous for his incredible work ethic, never missing a game for a streak of 3,338 from 1965 to 2001.  He not only invented the terms “slam dunk,” “air ball,” and “no harm, no foul” among dozens and dozens of others, he united Los Angeles in a way no mayor, business leader, celebrity or religious figure ever has or ever will.  He transcended the sport of basketball and his death in 2002 has left a void in Southern California’s spirit ever since.

Chick had an enthusiasm, drive and a sense of urgency that were legendary among those of us who studied him.  Hearn was always the first guy in his plane or bus seat whenever the Lakers returned back home from a road game. 

The second Chick could confirm that all the players, coaches and staff were on board he’d want to know why the pilot hadn’t taken off yet.  “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” Chick would yell out.  

Nobody had better timing than the man who offered us his “words eye view” in real time based on what he saw happening in front of him.

Lately I’ve been feeling like yelling “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” to the pilots who are supposed to be flying us into the future, because while they wait on the runway fueled by incremental changes, half measures, baby steps and compromised goals designed not to offend or antagonize anyone, our flight is already so late we’re not going to land on time.  Worse yet, the pilots are still in no hurry to take off.

Never mind the analogies, let me give it to you straight – If you think there is still time to stop global warming and the effect it’s going to have on all of us for the rest of our lives, I’m afraid you’re wrong.  We’re already past that point now.  We’re already at the point that demands a sense of urgency and bold, decisive action starting today.  You may think that’s an exaggeration or an overreaction to what’s happening, but I believe most people have no clue about what’s happening.

That’s one of the dangers of really studying and learning about this issue – you have to face the ugly truth.  Not only that, but if you’re a Creative Greenius, you not only need to clue people in, you’ve also got to have a positive solution for them.  Rest assured I do.

Here’s why YOU need to have a sense of urgency:

In November 2007, the head of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tried to issue a warning.  He said, “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late.  What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future.  This is the defining moment.”  Do you remember reading that headline?  Me neither.

What part of that wasn’t urgent enough?  And Rajendra Pachauri, fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner, along with Al Gore, isn’t known as some kind of wide-eyed radical given to making outrageous statements.  He was chosen to head the IPCC because he was a soft-spoken moderate.  

The IPCC climate change report itself was the work of more than 2000 of the world’s top climate change scientists who conducted the most detailed and exhaustive review of all scientific knowledge about global warming.  The report leaves no doubt about the sense of urgency or the defining moment we are now at.  No doubt.

But you no doubt heard a lot more about the baseball steroid scandal or Britney Spears sister getting pregnant than you did about the fact that we have two to three years to determine our future.  I bet you probably saw the video of the beauty pageant bimbo bumbling her question about why so many Americans can’t find the USA on a map or the YouTube video offering those Asian prisoners dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

 But I know you didn’t see the video of the world’s greatest climate scientists begging government leaders in Bali to take “radical action to slow global warming because ‘there is no time to lose.’  

On December 5, 2007, the Associated Press ran a story headlined, “Scientists Beg for Climate Action.”  215 climate scientists, frustrated and fed up, signed a petition calling for the the world to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050.  The scientists made their plea to the group gathered in Bali, Indonesia to negotiate the new global warming treaty.

These scientists have never issued a plea like this or signed a petition on this issue before.  In fact, the scientists have stayed away from issuing calls to action, leaving that for green advocacy groups.  But now they can’t wait for someone else to act.  But I bet you didn’t read about this or hear about it on the radio, or see it on TV.

Instead you heard a big deal being made over the new “energy bill” and how US car makers will have to average 35 miles per gallon by 2020.  How’s that for a sense of urgency?  Seems as if the members of Congress and the Bush Administration didn’t hear the scientists or understand the UN report either.  

Maybe that’s why there is no funding for solar or wind and why the requirement that by 2020 15% of electricity come from clean, renewable energy was eliminated from the bill.  We need to take urgent action in the next 2-3 years, but 15% renewable energy is too ambitious for us.  Where is the leadership?  Where is the intelligence?  

It isn’t coming from the crop of Republicans or Democrats who want to be the next leaders of the USA either.  None of the Presidential candidates has made the global warming issue their chief cause, none of them have separated themselves from the pack by becoming the undeniable green candidate.  Not a single one of them mentions any of what you’ve just read in any speech or position paper.  Why?  Isn’t it a big enough issue?  Don’t they think people will get it?

And it’s not as if we’re not up to the challenge.  We already have the renewable energy technology ready to go to start reducing those greenhouse gasses the way we need to.  And we already know what has to be done.  We could start today if the people blocking action would stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution.  

But the people in the automotive and oil and coal industries made their fortunes on products that harm your health and the health of the planet and they are no different from the cigarette industry.  The only way they will do the right thing is when they are forced to.  So it’s up to us to force them. 

And that’s going to mean people like you and me stepping up and providing leadership in the void left by our current elected officials.  When the head of the Environmental Protection Agency strikes down the state of California’s tough air emission measures we need to speak out and support our state which has now filed suit to overturn the EPA’s move.

This is a key moment in time for us and the EPA has been dragging its feet for over 2 years now.  When the one federal agency that is supposed to protect the environment is fighting a state with as much air pollution as we have in California and giving us lame, political excuses it’s time to step up, speak out and fight back.

The urgent threat we face toady does not need to become a disaster or horror story.  This should be an exciting start of a new era of clean energy, fresh directions and an explosion of new industries, new jobs and the kind of future we all want to leave to the next generation.  All it takes is some Creative Greenius.

Those of us who get it and understand the sense of urgency need to reach out to each other not just here in the USA but around the world.  Billions of Chinese share the same need to act as Americans do.

And we need to do more than reach out, blog, write  and talk.  We need to do more than just green our homes and businesses.  We need to get more involved and participate in the process.  We need to serve on city commissions, citizen task forces and political action groups.  That’s why I’m filing my application here in the City of Torrance to become a member of the Environmental Quality and Energy Conservation committee.  It’s not a political move on my part, it’s an acceptance of my civil responsibility.  It may take me a while to get there, but I’ve begun the process.

We cannot wait any longer for leadership that isn’t coming from the current establishment.  We need to become the leaders and lead the way.  

Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!

Charging Into The Future Today

 

 

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Yeah, that’s me riding a very zippy battery powered Roth Motorboard at Saturday’s first annual Renewable L.A. in Van Nuys.  That personal transportation device has a range of 20 miles and goes 15 mph.  Apparently I was quite photogenic.

 

 

What a great event and I had a terrific time getting hands-on with all the renewable energy vehicles, the 100kw solar panel  rooftop tour, the ecogift fest and especially the highly-charged people who turned out for this gathering of the mostly already enlightened green masses.

 

It takes a certain kind of person to get up on Saturday morning and then get on the San Diego Freeway to make the drive over the Sepulveda Pass into the San Fernando Valley during the holiday shopping season for the sole purpose of attending a renewable energy event – and those were exactly the kind of people i wanted to spend my day with.  I got to meet and talk with plenty of them and I’m glad I did

 

 

I’m talking about the kind of people who filled the parking lot with hybrid cars and more electric cars then I’ve ever seen in one place (outside of a bumper car ride).  The kind of people who couldn’t think of a better way to spend a beautiful fall day.

 

Besides getting to ride in a ridiculously fast eBox electric car built by AC Propulsions – which  took off from the line faster than anything I’ve ever ridden in, including Maserati and Lotus vehicles – and getting to check out the Zenn electric cars,

 

and the very cool Vectrix Maxi Scooter, I also enjoyed the seminars on Biodiesel, and “Why Population is an Environmental Matter.”  I didn’t realize how green i’ve been by not having children.  Turns out that had even more impact than those CFL bulbs we installed… who knew?!

 

I especially dug the presentation by Van Nuys Assemblymember Lloyd A. Levine on how to improve the California Solar Initiative.  Levine is a young environmental mover and shaker in the California Assembly who’d like to move up to  the California Senate. 

 

He really knew his stuff and I appreciate his understanding and opposition to coal fired electric plants.

 

He was quick on his feet during the Q&A session following his presentation and I came away from his session feeling like there was at least one guy in the California legislature who gets it and is trying to do the right thing.  We’ll keep an eye on Lloyd and let you know what he’s up to in the future.

 

 

It was a real treat getting to meet event organizers Zan Dubin Scott and her husband Paul Scott, especially after watching “Who Killed The Electric Car” that same day. I also had a great conversation with Ben Zuckerman of Californians for Population Stabilization on some of our favorite things about children.

 

 

 

Ady Gil, the host of the event who generously donated his state-of-the-art American Hi Definition facility as the venue, and allowed all of us to walk around his new rooftop solar installation, seemed to be everywhere at once.  I introduced myself to him during a moment when I saw him catching his breath.

 

I was very happy to see Moira Lerner Nelson there as well.  I’m a big admirer of hers and hope to someday live as green a life as she and her husband Dency.  Debra and I hadn’t seen her in years and we were thrilled to be reunited after so long.

 

The South Bay green community was especially well represented at Reneweable L.A.  Al Sattler of the South Bay/PV Sierra Club was there helping to explain some of the more challenging scientific concepts to me and Michael Warren, long of Mattel and now one of the forces behind Greener Impact was there with his two kids.  

 

Greener Impact is promoting their Million Lights Project, which sounds like a noble and worthy cause to me.  They’re looking to distribute 1 million free CFL bulbs by Earth Day 2008 – April 22.  It’s ambitious, but that’s exactly what we need right now.  I’ll be talking to Michael and his partners about how I can help.

 

 

Debra and I and our friend Wendy left energized and full of green ideas and projects that we happily yapped about during the bumper-to-bumper drive home on the 405.  I kept thinking about how much better that ridiculous Saturday afternoon traffic jam would be if all of us were in electric or hybrid cars.  At least we wouldn’t be pumping tons more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.  

 

Deb told me later that she was thinking that if she had one of those battery powered Roth Motorboards in the back of the car she could have hopped right out and zipped on home.

Half a Dozen Green Things I Give Thanks For

DONE PERFECT AGAIN

As I had the pleasure once again of preparing my world famous rosemary smoked turkey (that’s it above) for my homeless and down-on-their-luck friends at the Barker Ranch out in the valley for Thanksgiving, naturally enough I was thinking of all the things I was thankful for.  The list was quite long for I am a fortunate person indeed.  But just because Thanksgiving was almost two weeks ago doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped thinking about what I’m thankful for on the green side of the ledger.  And with the bird now just a memory – except for the extra pounds – here are half a dozen green things I am incredibly thankful for:

LIVING WITH ED

When it comes to using Creative Greenius to promote sustainable living, no one has done a better job than Ed Begley Jr. on his hit HGTV show, “Living With Ed.”  It’s my wife’s favorite show and she’s not alone. 

Ed co-stars with his own wife, Rochelle, who plays the perfect all-American consumer counterpart to Begley’s green purist.  The show is funny, entertaining and highly informative with new energy saving and sustainable practices featured in every half hour episode.  It’s clever, it’s inspiring and it’s effective.  

Each episode also brilliantly features a celebrity showing off their own home’s eco features. Recognizing the power of celebrity in the “Entertainment Tonight” era we live in Ed features everything from Jay Leno’s legendary garage, Larry Hagman’s and Jackson Browne’s solar arrays, Supermodel Cheryl Tiegs’ house, Helen Hunt getting an energy audit or Ed’s neighbor Bill Nye (the Science Guy) competing with Ed for green supremacy.  

The success of the show has led to Begley’s collaboration with Home Depot to promote their Eco Options line of energy efficient products.  I admire the hell out of the work Begley has done and expect his influence and success to just keep growing. 

And I’ve learned a lot from the show and been motivated to make many of the green changes we’ve made around our own home.  Our latest – rain barrels connected to the downspout to collect rainwater for use in Debra’s gardens.

Living with Ed season two episodes have just started repeat broadcasts and can be seen on Sundays at 11:30 pm (ET/PT) on HGTV. 

$100 A BARREL OIL

Even though we’ve only hit $99 a barrel so far, the mere threat of $100 and the certainty that it’s coming is serving as the catalyst renewable energy has long needed to be looked at with fresh eyes and considered seriously.  And it’s the only way conservation efforts will become a reality for the average person when it comes to their personal transportation..

Just look at the energy bill currently working its way through Congress.  For the first time ever, both the House and Senate are poised to mandate 35 mpg standards for car company fleet wide averages.  They may still screw it up, but right now that’s here they’re at… 

Sure, that standard is at least 10-15 years overdue, but it took $3.50 a gallon gasoline to finally make it possible.

Hell, even the American auto industry’s chief advocate and apologist, Michigan Congressman, John Dingall, is going along and he’s been fighting against safety and environmental regulations since he’s been in office – 1955!  It’s not the threat of global warming or the collapse of the American industry that’s motivated Dingall it’s that $3.50 a gallon at the pump. 

$4 a gallon is not far off either and I believe that’s what it’s going to take to get people convinced they need a plug-in or electric car – or even out of their cars and into mass transit – then so be it.  Because let’s face it, the majority of Americans have proven that if gas is cheap enough they will drive as big a behemoth as they can finance and the mileage and emissions be damned.  At least half the people looking at smaller more fuel efficient cars right now would go right back to giant SUVs if gas went down to $2.00 a gallon.

So making change happen is about making those same folks experience financial pain points that cannot be ignored and responding to them with green answers.

And yes, even though the people who are worst off economically will suffer exponentially until we move away from gasoline, they’ll also benefit exponentially from affordable, clean renewable energy – especially since the poorest neighborhoods also happen to be among the most polluted.  

You might think it’s easy for me to say since I work out of my home studio and drive a car that already gets 35 mpg and you’d be right.  

But I’m also right in being thankful for oil and gas prices that force people to do the right thing despite their own bad instincts

BREAKTHROUGH IN SOLAR

The hottest buzz in the very hot solar field is solar without silicon – CIGS, which stands for copper, indium, gallium, and selenium. It’s a new semiconductor material that will compete with the more traditional crystalline silicon solar cells.

Popular Science just gave their Innovation Product of the Year award to Nanosolar.  Imagine solar power without heavy, glass-based panels but delivered instead through flexible rolls of thin film material that can be installed not just on roofs, but also on the sides of buildings and almost anywhere else. 

To quote PopSci: “The company produces its PowerSheet solar cells with printing-press-style machines that set down a layer of solar-absorbing nano-ink onto metal sheets as thin as aluminum foil, so the panels can be made for about a tenth of what current panels cost and at a rate of several hundred feet per minute.”

 Here’s a video from CNN that shows how this stuff is made.

Here’s another video from CNBC on Nanosolar.

Nanosolar isn’t alone in the CIGS solar field and some analysts think that their competitor, Miasole, might be the leader in this new industry based on their technology having been used successfully in the disk-drive and optical industries.

Either way, these products will be a paradigm shift in how we think about and use solar.  Imagine sides of buildings, sidewalks, the exteriors of trains, planes and automobiles as well as ships and anything else you can think of covered with inexpensive skins of thin film that is literally printed on presses.  

The fact that there are already two industry leaders both attracting serious investor capital is a great sign of just how much promise this CIGS technology holds.  Among the investors in Nanosolar are the founders of Goggle.

Speaking of Goggle… 

GOOGLE TARGETS COAL

This could easily be my #1 in the list of things I am most thankful for because Killer Coal must be stopped right now.  

The more you learn about how deadly coal is and how many coal-fired electric plants are currently being built in China and India… and the United States, the more you’ll want to see the use of coal banned once and for all. 

Thankfully the big brains at Google get it.  They know that coal is not just the dirtiest fuel on the planet it’s also the cheapest, and when it comes to energy Goggle also know that cheap will always win over clean.  That’s why they’ve launched their new initiative to develop renewal energy that’s cheaper than coal.

I don’t have an ounce of faith that our government can get that job done but I do believe in Google and the way they’re approaching this global challenge.   

Here’s what Larry Page, Google Co-founder and President of Products said: “There has been tremendous work already on renewable energy.  Technologies have been developed that can mature into industries capable of providing electricity cheaper than coal.  We are also very interested in further developing other technologies that have potential to be cost-competitive and green.  We are aware of several promising technologies and believe there are many more out there.”

There better be, because right now the United States Department of Energy predicts the construction of more than 1,000 coal plants in just the next five years, primarily in China and India.  Today China is opening a new coal-plant every single week.  Not a single one of them is a “clean coal” plant either.

The real inconvenient truth today is that if all those plants get built then none of our conservation efforts will mean anything.  Not to put a harsh on your mellow or anything but, 

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK 

When I get too worried about the implications of coal or the backwards steps the United States has taken during the last seven years of rule by the oil industry’s front men in the White House, I follow the advice of John Muir and I go to Yosemite.

Muir said, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountain is going home; that wildness is necessity; that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” And I can testify that his words ring even truer today than when he spoke them. 

I’ve been going to Yosemite for the past 25 years and it never disappoints.  (These are photos I’ve taken in the last 12 months) It always renews my spirit and my soul.  It is a constant source of joy and pleasure for me and I feel blessed to have it just a 7 hour drive away. 

People come from all over the world to visit Yosemite, but it’s my home park and I don’t feel right if a year goes by without me spending some time there.  I’m a proud member of the Yosemite Association and the Yosemite Fund and I’ve supported Yosemite financially for years through both.  

I have to, because without their help the Park would not be the place I am so thankful for.   

Despite the neglect by our federal government and the massive budget shortfalls for maintenance and repairs Yosemite remains a unrivaled masterpiece whether you go to overcrowded Valley, or the Wawona area, or the Tuolumne Meadows high country or the Hetch Hetchy Dam area or anywhere else in the park. 

THE INTERNET & MY FAVORITE GREEN SITES

Finally, I am most thankful for the Internet that is linking us all and allowing us to discover the truth and teach ourselves about the facts.  Because without the net the deluge of propaganda, misdirection and con jobs from the biggest polluters on the planet would overwhelm the public and effectively create a fog of noise that would obscure the truth. 

Right now people are reading this blog all across the United States and in London, Hong Kong and even Dunwoody Georgia.  And my readership is small enough to fit into the navel of a flea and still have room for George Bush’s moral values.  But some of these great sites that follow are read by thousands and hundred of thousands of people all around the world.  And for good reason too as you’ll discover when you check them out.   

I spend hours every day reading, researching, learning and exploring green issues – and many others.  It’s a great privilege for me to engage in such auto-didactic practices.  Here are 25 of my favorite go-to sites and blogs:

Treehugger – The leading media outlet dedicated to driving sustainability mainstream. Partial to a modern aesthetic, they strive to be a one-stop shop for green news, solutions, and product information.

The Green  Guide – Green living tips, product reviews, environmental health news

Grist – Environmental news, advice, cartoons, a blog, and more that’ll make you laugh out loud.

ENN – Environmental News Network offers daily news and feature stories, press release service, and live chats.

Pure Waste Series Challenge – Become an agent against global warming and generate a $100 contribution to the Solar Electric Light Fund

The Daily Green – the Consumer’s Guide to the Green Revolution

Planet Green – Discovery & Treehugger work together in this Beta site

Auto Blog Green – For all green car lovers

Green Yahoo – Yahoo’s green portal

Wombat -Environment plus Technology

Green Biz – Daily News and Resources for Green Business

Marketing Green – Green Marketing Strategies for A Sustainable Future

The Green Office – an online retailer of recycled, environmentally friendly, and sustainable business products, school supplies, and paper

The °Climate Group – an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing business and government leadership on climate change. 

Carbon Footprint – Calculate your carbon footprint, reduce it and then offset it.

Climate Counts – A nonprofit organization rating corporations on their efforts towards mitigating climate change.

Climate Crisis – Official site for the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” on the Earth’s climate crisis.

The Nature Conservancy — the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.

The Green Grid – a consortium of information technology companies and professionals seeking to lower the overall consumption of power in data centers around the globe.

International Panel On Climate Change – the Nobel Prize winners

EV World – The Eco Friendly World of Electric Cars,  Hybrids, Plug-In Hybrids, Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Vehicles

Plug In America – Plug In America advocates the use of plug-in cars, trucks and SUVs
powered by cleaner, cheaper, domestic electricity.

The Nature Conservancy – the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people

THE GREEN – On Sundance Channel is television’s first regularly- scheduled programming destination dedicated entirely to the environment.

Care 2 Make a Difference– The global network for organizations and people who Care2 make a difference

I’m Dreaming of A Green Holiday

P1080447Thanksgiving is this Thursday and the blur that is the holiday season is now officially upon us.  But before the calendar gets all filled up with shopping dates and the usual ho ho ho, allow me to suggest that you join me, my friends and many members of the Southern California green community – along with everyone curious about solar energy, alternative energy vehicles and living sustainable lifestyles – at the blowout eco-fest of the year, Renewable L.A. on Saturday December 8, 2007 in Van Nuys.

It might even be worth a trip from out of town, because if you’re there we can get a rooftop tour of a brand new, state of the art solar panel panel system and learn all about it.  It’s a 100kW system.

We can test drive electric cars, hybrid cars, plug-in hybrid cars, biodiesel cars, and electric scooters.  

We’ll get the chance to get up close and personal with electric conversion vehicles like:

The eBox from AC Propulsion…

The electric Vectrix Maxi Scooter the world’s first high-performance electric two-wheel vehicle to offer all the benefits of a traditional gasoline-powered scooter but without the noise, pollution, expensive maintenance, frequent oil changes, and regular trips to the gas station. 

The company turning already extraordinary Prius hybrid cars into beyond extraordinary PLUG-IN Prius hybrid cars, Plug-In Conversions Corporation, will have cars there for us to test ride and find out about.

I’m talking about stuff like the breakthrough Nilar NiMh batteries they’re using today while the big auto companies are still keeping us waiting for our Plug-Ins…

And we can test ride the electric car you can buy right now, the Zenn from Zenn Motor Company

We can also watch a special, digital screening of “Who Killed the Electric Car” in a luxury screening room and participate in a live, in-person Q&A with the director, Chris Paine and former GM EV-1 employee, Chelsea Sexton.  

Chelsea Sexton, Executive Director of Plug-In America.

 We’re also going to be able to attend expert seminars on how to finance our home’s solar system, how to purchase green power from our electric utility, the basics of biodiesel and much more.

 We’ve all got questions, and Renewable L.A. promises to have answers from the people who know best, all in one very convenient location.

And you’re going to want to bring the kids and their friends too for the safest, most sustainable and greenest Kids Fun Zone ever with the Armory Center for the Arts Solar Print Making Using the Sun…

An innovative and irresistible Toy-Making from Recyclables workshop with Cy Tymony, author of “Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things”… 

There’s going to be face painting with non-toxic paints and plenty of other non adult good times to be had as well. 

This promises to be one of the greenest, safest, most creative events for both kids and their favorite adults.

 And just in time for holidays a Green Holiday Gift Fest will feature eco-friendly gifts from green vendors as well as the easy opportunity to fuflill your holiday gift needs by donating in your recipients’ names to a long list of environmental and animal rescue organizations.

Renewable L.A. is the brainchild of Zan Dubin Scott, a remarkable member of the Southern California environmental movement.  After 15 years as a staff writer with the Los Angeles Times, Zan struck out on her own and has run a very successful and highly effective public relations, marketing and writing agency ever since.  

 She has leveraged her media and marketing skills and expertise to promote clean transportation and alternative energy use.  Her best known efforts include the documentary film, “Who Killed the Electric Car.” Zan not only helped to organize and execute some of the hit film’s key media events and other activities, but is also one of many grassroots activists featured in the movie.

 Now Zan is calling attention to one of the largest and newest solar installations in the San Fernando Valley – that  100kW system I mentioned.  It’s at a facility housing  entertainment industry leaders American Hi Definition and Sweetwater Digital Productions.

 Both companies are not only leading the way as they walk the green walk, they’re also co-hosting Renewable L.A. to help get the word out and give the green community a place and event to come together and build our momentum.

 The third sponsor of the event, Energy Efficiency Solar is the company who installed the 100kW solar panel system for American Hi Def and Sweetwater and they’ve been installing commercial and residential solar systems since 1989.  I’m looking forward to talking with them about what’s possible for my own home.

 I’d like to talk to them about doing what Zan Dubin Scott already does – charging an electric car exclusively from solar.  For anyone concerned about using coal fired power plant energy to charge their electric car or plug-in, solar charging is the answer that quiets any and all critics.

 But more than anything else I’m looking forward to being there with all of you and so many other kindred spirits and like-minded green people.

 If ever there were a time for the gathering of this clan, it’s this holiday season and it’s here in Southern California, the world capitol of both conspicuous consumption and conservation consciousness. 

 The time is especially opportune in light of last week’s news from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that global  warming is “unequivocal”  

 That’s right, no more wiggle room for even the looniest of right wing fruitcakes or Fox News personalities.  The UN report says climate change will bring “abrupt and irreversible changes.”  That’s “will” not “might.”  It’s no longer just an Inconvenient Truth it’s now an Inescapable Truth. 

The report, a plain spoken, high-level message for the world’s politicians distilled from three other IPCC panels convened throughout the year, read like what Time Magazine will call it next week: “A Last Warning to Humanity. 

“Today the world’s scientists have spoken clearly, and with one voice,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. Climate change “is the defining challenge of our age.”

One thing is certain – that challenge is not going to be met by anyone in Washington DC, it’s going to be met by people like you and me and the other kinds of people who will be attending Renewable L.A. on Saturday, December 8.  We all need to meet and get to know each other.  We need to be talking, sharing experiences and working together even more closely.  People like me have got to do more.

Because we’re the people who ARE going to change this world, the same way we changed ourselves, and our families and our friends.  The same way so many of you have already made a difference.

The same way citizen volunteers in the Bay Area didn’t wait for the “authorities” to take the necessary clean up action from the oil spill last week. They got out there and did it themselves. Read about the Kill the Spill efforts if you haven’t already.

I’ve never found my own friends more responsive, more engaged or more passionate about any other issue we’ve had in common.  And it’s not because of me – that fire is already burning inside them and I’m just discovering it now.

I know it’s burning in you too.  And as in nature, when the winds of change bring all those individual fires together they combine to conflagrate into an unstoppable wildfire that cannot be contained.

I know it’s dangerous and maybe even crazy to be making fire analogies during these drought dry, red flag warning, Santa Ana blowing days – especially for this greenest of holiday events – but the heat is on, and I’m just saying how cool it would be if you were there.

Visiting NEPTUN – Source Of A New Light

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If you’ve been following our CFL journey of learning so far, you know that I’ve replaced over 30 different incandescent light bulbs in our home with their equivalent CFL bulbs.   

NEPTUN-Catalog-10After making the switch I had questions about my new light bulbs and their performance – and so too did many of you. 

To get the answers and learn more about today’s CFLs I reached out to four different CFL manufacturers.  Neptune Light, Overdrive Lighting and Technical Consumer Products (TCP who make the DuraBright brand), all of whom make the new bulbs I installed.  I also wrote to Greenlite, a favorite of our friend Burt. 

One of the four companies got back to me less than 24 hours later.  It was Jeff Beck writing on Neptun Lighting’s behalf.  

63f175b0Many of you know that Jeff Skunk Baxter, formerly of the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan, is today an expert on counterterrorism and  missile defense, but who knew that guitar virtuoso Jeff Beck was now an expert on energy saving lighting?

 As it turns out, Neptun’s Jeff Beck does his rocking as the company’s Director of Sales, which put him in an even better position to answer our questions about their new dimmable bulbs and to fill us in on Neptun’s story and place in the industry.

 Beck told us that Neptun Light is the leading manufacturer of dimmable CFL’s with more than 25 models in various wattages and numerous shapes.  You can see some of those bulbs in the photos throughout this post.

 From doing our green homework we knew that Neptun’s CEO, Andrew Bobel, is also the company’s founder and its Chief Engineer and we were intrigued by the 40 patents their website says he holds.  We wanted to know more and Beck filled us in on Bobel’s background and Neptun’s history.

 NEPTUN-Catalog-117“Andrew has been in the lighting industry for more than 25 years and holds key patents on linear lamp ballasts, CFL ballasts, dimmable CFL ballasts and many more. He is the inventor and patent holder of the End-of-Life Protection Circuit that has now been mandated in all Electronic Linear Lamp Ballasts,” Beck told us.

 “You in fact may consider him one of the ‘Fathers of the CFL Industry.’  It was Andrew that first convinced TCP (Technical Consumer Products, which sells to Home Depot under the Commercial Electric and N:Vision brand names) to enter into the CFL industry in the first place,” Beck went on to say.

Beck shared more about Bobel’s relationship with TCP, the big dog in the CFL industry, “Andrew then spent the better part of seven years (1995-2001) designing and patenting additional CFL models, licensing them to TCP as their sales grew into the tens of millions at Home Depot alone. As of last year TCP sold more CFL’s in the US than any other manufacturer.”

NEPTUN-Catalog-22It will be interesting to see if TCP responds to the email we wrote them asking our questions about their products and their company.  Jeff Beck has set a high standard in terms of responsiveness and direct, frank and thoughtful answers to our questions.  We really appreciate that he didn’t just send us the usual boiler plate corporate verbiage. 

Once upon a time, in the 1.0 era of the net, I contributed to the “The Cluetrain Manifesto” which declared:

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.  

0738202444.01.LZZZZZZZJeff Beck and Neptun Lighting get that.  Beck communicated with me as if we were having a real conversation.  Clearly he got on board when the Cluetrain arrived at the station.  Not everyone does.

These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked. 

According to Beck, after developing a full line of products for TCP, Bobel decided he would begin designing the next generation of products using more sophisticated materials and electronics. However this time he decided to start his own company, Neptun Light.   

“He then spent the next few years in R&D designing, testing and perfecting his newer designs. We started selling standard CFL’s nearly two years ago and released our dimmable lamps in January of this year,” Beck related.

Then he answered the questions I had for him:  

NEPTUN-Catalog-85Creative Greenius – Why does my dimmer switch on the wall buzz when I dim my CFLs?

Jeff Beck – The buzzing noise comes from the RFI Inductor Choke that every dimmer has. However older dimmers seem to have more of an issue with this than newer models which is one of the reasons we recommend using our lamps in conjunction with dimmers made after 1995. To further address this issue and other performance related issues Neptun has designed a line of dimmers which will eliminate all audible buzzing. Our line of dimmers are designed for both CFL’s and incandescent and they incorporate an adjustable range to eliminate flickering at levels below 10%. 

Creative Greenius – Is there an initial burn in period for all dimmable CFLs or is it specific to the manufacturer?

NEPTUN-Catalog-28Jeff Beck – As you can imagine I cannot speak for other manufactures, but considering the large number of individual electrical components used in dimmable CFL ballasts, I would recommend a burn-in for all dimmable CFL’s. 

Diodes, inductors, and other small components are made in runs of millions at a time and though they are nearly identical they sometimes have the slightest tolerance variations. Then combining 30 components that may or may not have an initial variance causes the lamps to perform with slight variations from one another at the low end. However, as our lamps are burned in these variances dissipate and the lamps function more uniformly. 

Creative Greenius – What range of dimmability should we expect from R20 type bulbs?

NEPTUN-Catalog-127Jeff Beck – We expect a dimmable range down to 10% from all of our dimmable models. However, the obtainable low level is sometimes restricted by the range of the dimmer used in conjunction with our lamps. 

Neptun dimmable CFLs were designed to work with all standard dimmers on the market today but with the vast number of dimmer manufacturers each having multiple models with different mechanical ranges, some existing dimmers are going to work better than others. 

Furthermore, none of the mainstream dimmer manufacturers are making dimmers specifically for CFL’s, in fact many of them including Lutron print right on their box, “Not for Use with Compact Fluorescent Lights”. We often say that Lutron did not design their dimmers to work with our lamps; we designed our lamps to work with their dimmers. 

We have approved numerous dimmers for use with our lamps but when an end user is not getting the expected range we have until recently recommended the Lutron SkyLark. However, as we come closer to full production of our dimmers we will simply sell one of our models instead. Our dimmers will be available by mid December and will retail for less than, if not all dimmers currently available further facilitating the use of energy efficient lighting.

NEPTUN-Catalog-123Creative Greenius – What are the differences between Neptun’s CFL bulbs and your competitor’s products?

Jeff Beck – As far as differences between our CFL’s in general, we have incorporated a number of advancements that places us at the forefront of CFL technology. As I mentioned, we have over 25 models of CFL’s where you might find two or three from most other manufacturers. However in addition to that, all of our CFL’s, both dimmable and standard, use Amalgam rather than liquid mercury which eliminates the worry of mercury contamination if broken or when disposed. 

NEPTUN-Catalog-119Also all Neptun lamps have End-of-Life Protection Circuits and Electronic Preheat Circuits which protect the lamps from Hot Re-Strikes and prevent the lamp from over heating at end of life. 

Finally, all of our CFL’s are certified for totally enclosed fixtures, on nearly all other CFL’s you will see printed on the box, “Not for Use in Totally Enclosed Fixtures”, in the case of Sylvania you cannot even read that unless you first buy the bulb and open the package as the warning is written on the inside panel of the package.

Creative Greenius – That’s great to know.  Although I’m not surprised to hear that about Sylvania, who I consider a Legacy light maker.  Thanks so much for your time and all the great info, Jeff.

NEPTUN-Catalog-134Jeff Beck – My pleasure, I’m glad you found the information useful.  And on a personal note, kudos to you for shining a light on the “20th Century Manufacturers” that resisted this industry simply to sell lights that have a shorter life span.  Again, it is a pleasure corresponding with you, please let me know if there is anything else I can do.

Creative Greenius

I’ve got to say I dig Jeff Beck even if he’s not the former Yardbirds member and I dig Neptun Lights.  I learned a lot from him and I’m impressed with their company, their approach and their products.  I’m especially intrigued by Andrew Bobel and the talents and brainpower he brings to the operation.  I admire a man who can both create new ways to do things and successfully turn that creativity into superior, marketable products.

NEPTUN-Catalog-76Neptun lighting is located in Lake Bluff, Illinois in the Chicago area.  They manufacture their product in China through their “NEPTUN China” manufacturing facility in Shenzhen which NEPTUN Light has full ownership and full control of giving them the ability to ensure the quality and consistency of their products. 

I look forward to keeping in touch with Beck and keeping our readers up to date on Neptun’s continuing story.  I found their bulbs on www.1000bulbs.com but they’re available at other on-line retailers too.

One last note – one concern that some folks express about Compact Fluorescent Lights is mercury and how to dispose of the bulbs.  Uninformed nay-sayers declare that the energy saved is offset by the hazardous waste these bulbs are supposed to present.  Those people are wrong.

CFL bulbs do contain mercury and cannot be thrown in your garbage.  The mercury is about the amount that contained in this dot:  As you’ll read in this link to Popular Mechanics, unless you get that dot on your hands and then lick your hands you’re not going to have a problem.

cfl2prtsCFL bulbs are not as simple a device as incandescents.  Take a look at what’s inside a CFL:

That’s not a Neptune bulb on the left, but it is typical of the electronic parts each bulb uses.

All CFL bulbs need to be properly disposed of and it’s not hard to do – especially since you’ll only be doing so every 4-7 years or so.  And a growing number of retailers and city waste disposal sites and collections will take your bulbs.

The Creative Greenius says, if you’re really worried about mercury then your focus should be on shutting down all coal fired power plants – NOTHING on the planet puts more mercury into our air and environment.

We’ll have more on Killer Coal in an upcoming post.

Greenius Readers’ Lighting Reports

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Green Greetings All,

The response to last weekend’s “Greening My Lighting” report has been fabulous.  Several of our readers were kind enough to share their own experiences with us and here’s what they had to say: 

Hey Joe,

OK, here are my experiences with CF lighting. As you know I travel to Philadelphia to visit my mom. She is 87 and has the usual issues with being that age. One thing she does which bothered me is that she feels safer with lights on in the house day and night!  This habit drove me nuts because every time I would visit I would be replacing lamps since some were always burned out.  Mom is on a fixed income and was paying a high price for electricity since her 1953 original Levittown house is completely electric. 

Well, on one of my many visits I replaces every light in the house, which by the way cost me approximately $105.00, a high price you might think. Well I have to announce that she noticed a $20.00 dollar decrease in her bill the first month! It has been 2 years now and I have not had to replace a lamp and i estimate that she has saved almost $500.00 since the installation, great for her and the environment.

As for my own home I also did the same but was having a difficulty with the lights in the house that were on dimmers. The problem is solved “Greenlite” makes dimmable CF along with three way ones for your old style floor lamps. I found these on the web at “SmartHome.Com“, they work great. I still have a few incandescent lamps left in the house but I am planing to exchange them by the new year. I will also say that my wife, Tracy, has noticed a difference on the electric bill which by the way she pays. My investment was minimal since you informed me of the “K-Mart” program.

Thank you Mr. Joe and keep up the green work.

Your friend, Burt

Burt really knows lighting, – as well as electrical, plumbing, construction auto mechanics and probably quantum physics as well – he’s been a technical director for huge live shows and events for as long as I’ve known him.  The “K-Mart” program he mentions is actuallySouthern California Edison’s lamp exchange program where they’ll take your incandescent desk lamps and halogen torchaire lamps and exchange them for compact fluorescent lights.

Joe,

This is such a great site!!

I have trouble with the bulbs when I need to put them on automatic on and off or photocell outside. I tried to go over to a lot of bulbs at the hangar but in most of our areas we have auto on and off and I have to find one that will work with that kind of switch especially for the long fluorescent type bulbs. Then at home on the exterior I like to use a photocell and the only place I found something compatible was at this bulb store in the Valley (I forget the name) and the fixture is expensive and blows out a lot. It is very inconvenient to go to the specialty store all the time. So there is my comment. Let me know what you think. 

Love ya, Jude 

Jude owns an airplane hangar which is used for TV/Film shoots, live special events and all manner of cool gigs for the Lakers, MTV, Nickelodeon and others.  I have had the very same problem she talks about with the new Compact Flourescent Lights I used to replace my garage flood lights.  They were the DuraBrite brand.  I use screw in photocell adapters which have worked great for the last 15 years with my halogen floodlights.  But the CFL bulbs flickered when I put them in and then went dead less than 24 hours later.  It could be that they’re not compatible with my old photocell adapters.  If that’s the case there’s money top be made for someone producing photocell adapters that WILL work with these bulbs.  I’m going to contact the manufacturer and see what they say. I will say that the two bulbs I put in the motion sensor fixture on the back of my garage have worked great.  Like other CFL bulbs though they take about 20 seconds to warm up to full intensity.

Joe,

The only problem I have with the bulbs that you didn’t discuss (as an artist, I still don’t particularly like the color they give off, either) is that if you’re prone to headaches (luckily I don’t get migraines, but have several friends who do), fluorescent bulbs make them worse and in some cases set them off. That’s a bad thing. 

There’s a guy at work, for example, who works in the dark with just his desk lamp to prevent the fluorescent bulbs from setting off his migraines. It’s a serious consideration for folks like that. 

Kitte 

Kitten works for an environmental engineering firm.  Here’s what I wrote to her:

Hi Kitten,

Thanks for weighing in. You always bring up points no one else does. I know quite a few people don’t dig the CFLs because they don’t think the color is as good as incandescents. But I like the full spectrum CFL bulbs in reading lamps like the ones Deb and I use at home from Full Spectrum Solutions. We have a 55w and a 70w reading lamp. 

Here’s a link:

These produce pretty close to outdoor daylight in the color temperature. I have heard people complain about the old style of long tube fluorescent in terms of headaches and migraines but I haven’t heard anyone bring this up with the CFL bulbs.

Here’s a possible LED based solution for that I just read about on TreeHugger. 

They’re expensive but superior in a lot of ways.

Your friend, Joe

One of my good friends who I first met in high school in New Jersey, Bets is a museum curator now living in London, England and provided this trans-Atlantic report about lighting there.  She’s only been there about a year:

Hey friend,

Well…more complicated here, I think: we have little halogen spots in our rental flat, which probably eat up more energy than a resurrected jesus. The builder was obliged to have 10% ‘energy efficient’ lighting, which means that the lights in our hallway (only!) are of that type–I don’t know if they are CFL or what. I don’t know what sort of bulbs are available here–they’re still using a perplexing variety of methods to fit the bulb in the socket–some screw in (different sizes), some are ‘torpedo’ or ‘bullet’ fixtures, some have two little pins that you line up and turn to lock… If I can figure this stuff out and find bulbs that are compatible with whatever weird fixtures we have, I’d do it. If we owned our own home, I would try to ensure that all were green fixtures.     Recycling is pretty well the norm here (papers, plastics, cans and glass), and there’s a lot of concern about one’s ‘carbon footprint’. For ex., in the travel section of the paper travel articles are accompanied by an estimate of carbon output the journo expended and what the paper did to offset that. And lord knows Britain’s never been real strong on central heating so we’re ahead of the curve there.

Looking forward to reading more on the website. 

Love– Bets

Interestingly England hasn’t standardized their lighting the way we have in the USA.  They have many more types of bulb connectors as Bets reports.  But one thing they are doing in England that we are not is by legally mandating better energy efficiency.  Here’s a great article about what’s going on over the pond.  

“The most energy-guzzling light bulbs in Britain will start disappearing from shop shelves early next year as part of efforts to cut CO2 emissions, Secretary of State for the Environment Hilary Benn said this week.

The voluntary initiative, which is being led by major retailers and energy suppliers, will see energy efficient light bulbs replace their least efficient equivalents on shop shelves over the next four years”

Thanks again to those of you who wrote in to tell me about your experiences.  I’ll keep you updated on this issue and pass along other comments as they come in.

Greening My Lighting

P1250258

JP1250244ust one month ago today I started this blog with a report on my own personal green efforts.  I wrote about changing all the dimmable spot and “can” lights throughout our home and offices.  The 27 old bulbs I took out can be seen above.  That’s one of the new PAR 20 dimmables in my office to the right.

If changing just one bulb really helps change the world, then I’m doing pretty good

In a moment of lunacy I reported that we’d be saving over $300 per bulb in in electricity costs over the bulb’s life.  As if… If anyone were actually reading this stuff and thinking about it, they would have set me straight, but maybe you were all too busy laughing.

P1250261The savings are more like $36 per bulb (for the PAR 30 size on the left) which still ain’t bad, but still my math was way off.  After changing fifteen PAR 30 and eight PAR 20 interior lights (saving $34 per bulb) and my four exterior flood lights (saving $45 per bulb) my savings should add up to about $992. 

So we’re saving lots of energy and we’re saving significant money, but what’s the quality of the lighting like?  Can I tell the difference?  Are today’s CFLs indistinguishable from the incandescents they replaced?

 In a word, no.  The new lights take some getting used to. But I’m already over it – mostly.  Hey, I’ve got to tell it like it is, and I’ve learned a few things I can pass along to you.

First off on the dimmable Par 30 can lights we replaced in our kitchen, living room, and home office:  We went from 65 watt incandescents to 15 watt CFLs.  But the wattage only tells part of the story because the quality of the lighting comes from the color temperature.

P1250262If you want a warm white/soft white light, the kind most comparable to incandescent bulbs that accentuate warm colors,  (the look preferred in homes and restaurants) then you want a bulb that’s in the 2500k to 3000k temp range.  We went with 2550k temp bulbs in the living room and 2850k in my office/studio.  

So how do I like the light?  I love it.  It looks great in the kitchen, the pantry, the living room, the bathroom, and the offices.  The color temperature feels warmer and more pleasant than the bulbs they replaced.  I do not miss the old bulbs.

P1250257For white/natural white/bright light comparable to halogen bulbs, the kind that will show accurate colors and the best light for bathrooms, showing artwork and retail displays, then you’ll want a bulb in the 3000k to 3500k temp range.

 4000k gives you cool white light often used for hospitals and big office lighting.  

And finally, 5000k gets you daylight-like lighting best for reading and working on fine detail projects.

I especially dig buying these bulbs from manufacturers other than the bad boys of GE, Phillips and Sylvania.  These legacy light makers have been raking in billions by producing one of the most inefficient products ever made.  

light-bulb-glowing-filament-light-blue-uncropped-lores-3-ahdThe average incandescent light bulb loses more than 70% of the energy it uses in heat.  How’s that for helping to warm the globe?  Those bulbs not only waste money and produces more carbon in the air, but all that heat comes with other high prices.  It deteriorates the materials that surround the light bulb and worse than that, during the summer that heat drives up cooling costs. 

Legacy light makers could have given us energy saving bulbs many years ago but they dragged their heels and stayed behind the curve because their priority has always been healthy profits over a healthy planet. And now these same Legacy light makers are pushing their new CFLs -but they’re also pushing their old planet cooking bulbs just as hard.  I say cross them off your list and do not buy CFLs made by GE, Phillips, Westinghouse, Sylvania or the other names you know form the 20th Century.

LINEUP-dim

I recommend buying your bulbs from manufacturers like Neptun, Overdrive, Durabright and MicroBrite all of whom are leading the way with CFL technology that keeps improving, and all of whom have made CFLs and energy saving lighting their priority and specialty.

I ordered my bulbs at 1000bulbs.com.  There are plenty of other retailers on line so you can search for the best prices.  Lowes and Home Depot are both now carrying a wide selection of CFL bulbs.  The selection at OSH (owned by Sears) sucks and the shelves are typically in disarray.  Maybe it’s different where you live.

P1250254One thing you’ll lose by making this switch is the full range of dimmability you get with incandescent bulbs.  These lights seem to dim to about 50% of the full power.  The box says it’s actually 20%, but I don’t know how they’re measuring that.  Either way, I can live with the dimming because I don’t dim my lights more than that anyway.  But the more you dim your lights, the less energy they use, so dimming is important.

And I’m definitely not digging the buzzing sound that comes from the light switch when I do dim the lights.  I don’t know if it’s caused by my new bulbs or my existing fixtures.  The info on the bulbs says they’re compatible with all dimmable lights made from 1995 onward.  That’s right around the time I had all these lighting fixtures and dimmer switches put in.  So maybe it’s my fixtures giving me the buzz.

bee-movie-0The buzzing isn’t on the level of a swarm of bees, (which means that idea I had about a cross promotion with BEE Movie won’t fly) but it will make the bulbs a tougher sell with the average American.  So far I haven’t seen this complaint from other users – but maybe now that I’m putting this out there, I will.

Another big difference is the fact that these bulbs take about 20-45 seconds to warm up to full power.  I’ve read comments from others who’ve made this switch and some of them talk about how cool and mellow it is to have the lights gradually get brighter instead of the instant full intensity.  That’s a nice way to spin it, but I’m not sure that will fly with the average consumer either.  

P1250246This is a tough creative challenge because the whole concept of time today has become so condensed.  Less than a minute was a short period of time 15 years ago, but today 30 seconds is dial-up speed and that won’t cut it for anyone under 40.  Make that under 50.

So I don’t think we’re going to sell people on the concept of “it’s not too long to wait in order to help save the planet” no matter how much sense that makes.

Right now the CFL Manufacturers are using phrases like “FastStart Technology” but the technology will need to cut or eliminate that warm up time and I have no doubt that they will.  They’ve already made huge advances in just the last couple of years. 

In the meantime, I’d focus on the cost savings and the green benefits and target homeowners over 50 as well as kids in grammar and junior high schools.  I’d push the kids to “Make your parents do the right thing to help save YOUR planet and help save them lots of money at the same time.”  We can easily activate those kids into advocates armed with the simple facts and have them evangelize the issue with their parents and grandparents.  Today’s kids can guilt their pushover parents into anything and I say turn them loose.

ledhalogenstyleFor me these bulbs should work for the next five to seven years and save us at least a grand in electric costs – probably a lot more than that because electric rates are just going to keep going up.  When the time comes to replace them I’m betting we’ll do so with LED bulbs.  That will cut my lighting energy use by 70% over these fluorescents.  More about LED bulbs in another post to come.

Check out this  Madison, Wisconsin Gas and Electric web based PDF page on residential lighting and your green choices.

 

Greening the Media

P1180924As with most things, if you want to green the media you’ve got to get your hands dirty.  You can’t just read something and get upset, you need to reach out and get someone else upset – and by upset I don’t mean “angry.” I mean as in “upsetting the apple cart” by overturning it.

Today it’s just too quick and easy to reach out and respond to the person who wrote the story, the person who edited the story and the outlet that put the story out to the public.  In a content consuming world content is king for a day.  And in the 2.0 world we live in, WE supply the content that keeps stories alive and reframes them.

Newspapers are a great example because they are a dying legacy media who cannot afford to lose more subscribers or readers than they already have.  Even better, a higher percentage of the people we want to reach read the newspaper.  People in positions of power, influence and financing still read newspapers 

Recognize an opportunity to reinforce good coverage and to seize the media platform when the coverage is bad.  And by “good” I mean, fair, honest and accurate.  By bad I mean, biased, off-base, incorrect and misleading.

If you’ve been watching for the past eight years – and longer – you’ve seen the evolution of the news cycle and conventional wisdom into the pack mentality the media operates under today.  The truth is that the media loves the green issue, sees it as having long, popular legs with users and thinks it can sell lots of advertising around it.  And they’re right.  More and more newspaper print ads take a green sales angle 

It’s not because the media’s heart or even intellect is in the right place, it’s because they’ve lined up behind the conventional wisdom and the polling data.

What that means is that the media is scared of being on the wrong side on green issues and they’re scared of pissing off the green community.  And they should be.  That gives us leverage and we need to use that leverage, flex the power that comes with that leverage  and use the media the same way the conservative right and the Bush war supporters used the media before they were found out to be wrong and the polling turned against them.

We in the green community don’t have that handicap because we are not wrong and the polling will only continue to move in our direction.

So when we read a really crappy article about an important green story like the piece Alan Zarembo wrote on the Alternative Energy & Transportation show in the October 21 issue of the L.A. Times, we don’t have to just get steamed because of the bad reporting and mediocre writing – and we don’t have to accept it.  We just need to use the reporter’s email address at the end of each story and take them to task.  Here’s an example:

Dear Mr. Zarembo,

I am writing to tell you how disappointed I was in your article covering the Alternative Energy and Transportation Expo. I was hoping to learn something about the different alternative energy options available and about the progress different manufacturers have made in non-gasoline powered engines. But instead, what you offered was 18 paragraphs focused on the Melnik family, a single paragraph about the actual event, and one additional paragraph that showcased your own uninformed, cliche-ridden bias: “The expo, in a hangar and adjacent parking lot, attracted plenty of bicycle advocates, vegans and people worried about their carbon footprints.”  Instead of offering an iota of honest insight into an event that I wanted to learn about, you wasted half a page with the condescending story of a woman who comes across as a clueless moron. A woman who finds plug-in/electric vehicles “a problem for me.” Any research into public opinion about Americans’ desire for alternative energy vehicles would have taught you how UNrepresentative your subject focus was and how off base your snarky coverage of this event was. 

I’m very sorry you were assigned to this important story to Southern Californians which you trivialized in a juvenile manner. Your focus on the Melnik family was the lazy, thought-free approach to this story and your slacking on this job is painfully obvious.  Thankfully a simple blog search yielded multiple pieces superior to yours in every way. Too bad the newspaper I pay for offered me so little news value by comparison.  But I did learn one valuable thing from your article. In the future I’ll save myself the nonproductive time and aggravation when I see the Alan Zarembo by-line and I’ll just skip the piece knowing in advance what you have to say about the subject.  

Most sincerely, Joe Galliani

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I was direct and harsh, and that’s exactly what Zarembo’s piece deserved.  However, I didn’t get personal or engage in name calling I just told it like it is.  And of course I used my real name, which surprising is rare among the rants reporters receive.

I wasn’t surprised when Zarembo emailed his reply a few hours later:

You’re right–we should do a comprehensive story on this issue. But unfortunately this was not the chance. I was handed this assignment at noon on Saturday, and the best I could do in that time–the debate on this issue in a single family. Unfortunately, this is just the way things work sometimes. The story was not my preference, and if you do read more of my articles, you will see that many are painstakingly researchered over many weeks. Sincerely, Alan

Frankly, I found this to be a weak rationale and what he really did was confirm my opinion that he had done a lazy job.  But having established contact with Zarembo and wanting to be able to communicate with him in the future, here’s how I responded:

Alan,

 You’re right – you have done some excellent, painstaking work on much bigger stories than this. I appreciate your thoughtful reply. I still don’t buy the angle you chose, but at least now I can chalk it up to a rush job rather than lazy work. Thanks for responding to my harsh email.  Regards, Joe

 And I didn’t stop with the reporter, because that’s not where the real power rests at a newspaper, so I wrote a letter to the editor as well.  I wasn’t surprised when they printed it a few days later.

dency_ravBut I was surprised to see the other letter on the subject and delighted with how powerful it was, coming as it did from Moira Nelson, someone who together with her husband Dency are well known in the green community for their family’s commitment to walking the green walk and having done so for a long, long time now.

And I’ve been equally stoked at the reaction I got from others with similar viewpoints, some of whom are now reading this post.  Can you feel the strength and energy growing exponentially?  I can.  And the more we connect and work together, the more our power and influence will continue to build.  But it requires us to recognize the opportunity and seize the moments that are ours for the taking.  Like with the media.

I wasn’t kidding when I said that I learned a lot more from the blog community and even from the local Santa Monica newspaper about the Alternative Energy & Transportation Expo than I did from the L.A. Times.  This all started because I’m thinking about my next car and trying to decide whether to go plug-in or all electric.  I’ve only got 40,000 miles on my 1997 Honda del Sol car, and I could easily have it another 10 years, but I’d rather go greener.

 Check out the Expo coverage on:

The Hydrogen Cars & Vehicles Blog

Celsias – Cooling the Planet Community

Edmonds Green Car Advisor Blog

This Recording Blog

and Jory Squibb’s Blog

The Santa Monica Daily Press also did a better job than the L.A. Times did.

 As always, I’m interested in reading what YOU think.  Email me at mrjoe@mrjoe.com

Sustainability Means Feeding the Hungry

P1250022When it comes to promoting sustainable lifestyles from a green standpoint, energy use, recycling, reuse of consumables and cutting the wasteful aspects of our lives are the obvious go-to issues.  

But to me, sustainability is even more basic than that.  You can’t live a sustainable life if you don’t have enough to eat.  Hell, you cannot even sustain life if you’re malnourished and hungry all day.

So feeding the hungry is a green issue for me and like all green issues it’s really a moral issue and another character test for all of us about what kind of person we want looking back in our mirrors.

One of the ways I wanted to celebrate my 50th birthday was by making a significant contribution to mark the occasion, rather than being gifted with more “stuff.”  At this point in life the wise folks know that living is better when it’s simpler.  Getting rid of lots of accumulated “stuff” not only frees up more space, it frees the mind as well – but that’s another story.

In July I read a piece in the New York Times about a growing trend at the birthday partiesof upscale New Jersey kids from 4-16 years of age.  They already owned every toy and electronic plaything they ever desired and their parents didn’t want them collecting another 44 gifts they’d never use.  So some moms and dads were having their kids pick a beneficiary – like the local fire house or a charity – to raise money or donated items for.

Even though Miss Manners didn’t dig the idea, I loved it!  I knew as soon as I read the piece what I wanted to do for my birthday dinner.  I would ask my friends to bring a donation for the L.A. Regional Food Bank instead of a gift for me.  I would feed my friends at a birthday meal and then they could help feed people a lot less fortunate than the lot of us.

It worked like a charm and thanks to the generosity of my pals and a few bucks of my own, I raised $1,000 for the Food Bank.  And as an added bonus, my friend Kim, told me she knew the President of the organization, Michael Flood, and she would put me in touch with him.

P1250026And that’s why I found myself in downtown Los Angeles today and not in one of the neighborhoods where they’re building any new destination location Nokia Theaters or luxury high rises. 

This is a neighborhood that is another galaxy away from the upscale fantasy world I get to live and work in.

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But my life wasn’t always so cushy and carefree and I still remember standing in line to get free cheese and butter from the government during the Reagan years before my talents had been discovered on a nationwide basis.  So I didn’t feel too out of place taking the Slauson exit off the Harbor Freeway and heading through the hood to 41st Street where the Food Bank warehouse and offices are.

It’s an impressive operation and I was lucky enough to spend a little time with Michael Flood and get a tour of the facility.

P1250016Michael has been President/CEO at the L.A. Regional Food Bank since 2000 and has been working in the food bank field for 17 years now.  He confided that despite the broad support the Food Bank receives, his job and their mission gets harder every year.  The numbers of hungry people who rely on their food just continues to grow and so too do expenses like power and cooling for the freezers and refrigerated storage they have.

But I found Michael anything but dispirited.  His strong positive attitude and experienced perspective projected the air of a man on a mission who knows what a difference the Food Bank’s work makes and who intends to keep pace with the growing ranks of the hungry in Los Angeles.

P1250017
As you can see, I haven’t missed any meals for a long time now.

Michael told me that the $1,000 we donated would translate into 5,000 meals for hungry people who needed them.  That made me feel proud – even though I know it’s a tiny difference, it IS a difference.  I can’t imagine ever having another birthday party and not using it to raise money for the Food Bank.  I hope some of you who read this are inspired to do likewise.

I found my visit more encouraging than I imagined because of how much good news I got about our community.  So many different businesses and companies donate food and so many different people from all over L.A. volunteer.  People DO care.

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I found it especially heartening during my tour to see all the volunteers from Chubb Insurance Group who were packing food for individual families.

The Food Bank relies on volunteers and they could use more as they serve more and more people from Long Beach to Lancaster.  The ranks of the hungry continue to grow…

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To learn more about becoming a Foodbank volunteer, contact Ana Martinez, their volunteer coordinator at (323) 234-3030, extension 144 or amartinez@lafoodbank.org

Thanks to Michael Flood for being so generous with his time and for the years of dedicated work he’s done for the Food Bank.  When it comes to walking the walk with their lives, Mr. Flood has covered far more miles than most of us and made a lasting difference in the lives of tens of thousands of people.

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’m looking forward to working with the L.A. Regional Food Bank as a volunteer going forward to help them get the word out about the essential and inspiring work they do.