”Humanity’s Greatest Environmental Challenge: The Energy Victory Roadmap and You”

February 29th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Events - (Comments Off on ”Humanity’s Greatest Environmental Challenge: The Energy Victory Roadmap and You”)

Interfaith Environmental Network and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Earth Care Committee

 12:00 pm Sunday, Mar. 18th, 2012

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

14311 Wells Port Drive, Austin, 78728

Ph: 512.251.0698

Bob Murray (a St. Andrew’s member) and Joep Meijer will explain the science of climate change and present a scenario where humankind and all future generations “can win big,” instead of succumbing to denial or outrage. Learn about the many measurable actions congregations and individuals are taking today to help solve the climate crisis.

 This program is presented by

 The Interfaith Environmental Network, of Austin, Texas Interfaith Power and Light,
limate Buddies, and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.

Download this file


Energy Efficiency Helps Us Adapt to Climate Change

February 29th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Efficiency - (Comments Off on Energy Efficiency Helps Us Adapt to Climate Change)

From Sustainable World

Energy efficiency is one of the most important tools to reduce the impact of climate change by reducing use of fossil fuels. Additionally, energy efficiency and related energy demand management measures also can address some of the energy sector’s vulnerabilities to climate change impacts:

·         Deploying energy-efficient technologies mitigates the higher demand from increased temperatures;

·         Demand response programs and efficiency programs aimed at peak loads can counteract the increase in peak demand due to increased use of air conditioning;

·         Builders can “future proof” buildings against predicted changes in weather patterns by employing advanced architectural techniques to counteract extreme climate conditions;

·         Cities can reduce ambient temperatures, and make buildings more efficient, with cool or green roofs;

·         Constructing distributed generation, especially efficient combined heat and power (CHP) plants, can provide secure electricity for large energy consumers or microgrids that are less subject to grid outages due to extreme weather; and

·         Water efficiency programs can address climate impacts on water resources and reduce energy use for pumping and treating water.

These are the type measures our team is lobbying that our utility of the future should be addressing. They are discussed in more detail in the white paper below from the Alliance to Save Energy:


“We’re just trying to save the environment”

February 27th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Inspiration - (Comments Off on “We’re just trying to save the environment”)

In this inspiring little video produced by our friends at the Dogwood Alliance, you’ll see 10-year-old Cole and three of his friends travel from North Carolina to the KFC headquarters in Louisville, KY to deliver over 6000 hand-drawn postcards from youth across the South asking the company to green their packaging.

As Cole put it: ” We just want them to use a little more post-consumer recycled fiber and we’re happy. We’re just trying to save the environment.”

Right on, Cole! Making a difference is taking one step at a time. And to keep walking. See here how Cole and his friends take the first step and are starting to walk.



The Terawatt Challenge

February 27th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Our Future | Recommended reading - (Comments Off on The Terawatt Challenge)

From Joep

The late Nobel laureate Richard E. Smalley, Ph.D., presents his talk “Our Energy Challenge” for the Columbia University Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center on September 23, 2003. He is a true visionary for energy strategy. The Terawatt Challenge outlines the challenges we have to overcome to win the future. He frames why energy is the starting point for all other things we want. He defined that most of the “Top Ten Problems of Humanity for Next 50 Years” are in this order (see below), and are all mostly defined by the first: Energy!

  1. Energy
  2. Water
  3. Food
  4. Environment
  5. Poverty
  6. Terrorism & war
  7. Disease
  8. Education
  9. Democracy
  10. Population

His wikipedia page includes the following information:

Richard Errett Smalley (June 6, 1943 – October 28, 2005) was the Gene and Norman Hackerman Professor of Chemistry and a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Rice University, in Houston, Texas. In 1996, along with Robert Curl, also a professor of chemistry at Rice, and Harold Kroto, a professor at the University of Sussex, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of a new form of carbon, buckminsterfullerene (“buckyballs”).

Below are 7 partial videos of a talk he gave in 2003 that outlines our challenge and his vision. This is part of our foundational study material for Climate Buddies. 




Karl Rabago, why he is in

February 27th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in People - (Comments Off on Karl Rabago, why he is in)

From http://www.dailyenergyreport.com/2011/04/why-austin-energy-promotes-energy-efficiency/

Here is a video and transcript of one of the panelist for the IEN March Forum on solar energy. It will inspire you to see his kind of motivation and drive to make Austin Energy an utility that not only boasts clean energy but is also more service oriented than just selling kilowatt-hours. Conservation is step number one and key. We need to see more of this kind of leadership.

I’m Vice President of Distributed Energy Services. I hold the position that oftentimes is distributed itself among a lot of other functions in many other utilities. Basically, I provide all the customer facing services associated with energy efficiency, green buildings. I perform market research and product development. We manage the key accounts. We’re all the stuff on the customer side. Green power. So, oftentimes, like I said, these are distributed around a bunch of other utility functions in other utilities. What makes it nice about having them in all in one place is I get a chance to see that constellation of new events, if sort of new effects and new drivers that are facing the utility sector.

Let me say that fundamentally, what the utility does today or has to do in the future is not changing. Ultimately, we’re still providing energy services. But no longer can we hide behind the fiction that all we’re doing is selling kilowatt-hours. New technologies, new service providers, and essentially, new competitors are quickly moving into this space. When Google can get into your space, when the Home Depot can get into your space, when Costco will sell you a solar panel, the utility needs to be nimble enough to redefine what energy services means. For us energy services is: “How do I make my building more efficient? How do I make my energy bill more affordable? How do I take advantage of new information technologies so that I can understand my use of energy and improve it according to my own preferences?”

The utility comes at this from two places. First of all, it’s the place that faces the cost of maintaining the infrastructure, the networks, securing the power, ensuring the delivery of that power to customers. Second of all, we have the potential with all these smartness to orchestrate this for the benefit of our shareholders. As a municipal utility, that’s the citizens of the city of Austin, Texas. If we get smart about taking advantage of smart technologies, we can make smart cars, smart buildings, and a smart grid all work together for the benefit of customers. And again, since we face those costs, we’re the ones who maintain the infrastructure, who make sure that the electricity is on all the time, we have the chance to leverage those smart options for the benefit of all of our customers.

Some customers today already enjoy the opportunity to manage their electricity. Anybody that pays a demand charge, of course, knows that they can control their demand and manage their bills. With information technologies deployed to the smart grid and other smart things like smart buildings and smart cars enables this more and more customers to do that. For the utility, that means either that your revenues are going to erode as customers take more control and become their own generators, their own energy managers, their own energy suppliers, their own energy brokers; Or facilitate that, maintain a role in it by not just selling them naked kilowatt-hours, but also focusing on comfort and other benefits. What this opportunity of things like demand-response, dynamic pricing, time differentiated pricing, distributed generation, the whole range of distributed energy services — my title, — allows the utility to do is to meet the customers’ demand for energy services with new tools. If we get smart about them, we can figure out which ones deliver the greatest value at lowest cost that should be more profits. If we don’t get smart about it, somebody else will look at that difference between cost and value and try to close it on behalf of the customer themselves.

In my energy efficiency group, when I arrived at this job a couple of years ago, I sort of gave them a bit of a, I guess you’d say, a Cohan or a rhetorical question. I said: Imagine that our transfer to city hall, which today is X million dollars. Imagine that we could get a deal from city hall to hold that number flat and just adjust it for inflation. Imagination also that we sold our electricity by the square foot, say, 10 cents per square foot per month, and then, what kind of services would we provide. Well, certainly we provide low cost supply, stuff like the wind energy blowing out west, and our cost effective older fossil lines including our coal units and our natural gas units that are very efficient. But we’d also start doing things like looking at maybe retrofitting airconditioners, adding insulation, delivering a range of energy services that would allow us to maximize our profit, if you will, with that 10 cents per square foot number, while delivering the full range of comfort that the customer is satisfied with. And it’s that kind of mental exercise and originality that will lead to the business exercise of redefining the way we sell and price our product. This idea is not new. The idea of selling comfort, of selling energy services has been around for a while. But it seems like now we have the information technology tools and the economic imperative to begin solving these problems. And the utility is a logical place to start.

Clean energy is extremely reliable. If the sun shines, solar cells make electricity. If the wind blows, wind turbines generate electricity. What happens is that some resources aren’t more intermittent than others. And that makes the job of the power scheduler more difficult. It increases the opportunity for demand-response. It adds complexity to our pricing curves, not just a sort of simplistic high at 4PM, low at 2AM kind of scenario. It increases the value of things like storage, especially storage on the hoof, plugged in electric vehicles. So, it makes for what we have to do a bit more complicated. But, it doesn’t mean necessarily that it’s a problem for the innovative utility person. What this is is being surrounded by abundant opportunities.

I think about it this way. Here in Texas, a lot of wind comes on at night, right? So does our coal. So, already here in Austin Energy, wind purchases which are very cost effective are backing down our use of coal. That’s great! To continue that trajectory, however, we have two choices. We either try to get our customers to run their air conditioners at night, which we do practically, with ice making technology, which makes ice at night and allows them to use that thermo storage during the daytime. Or, we usher in this era of plugged-in electric vehicles and charge these vehicles at night, which we’re also doing at Austin Energy. So, we have now, and if we add in sort of control and management and price signals to managing all those technologies, then we have more options than we’ve ever had before. We get more value out of the least expensive resource, the most environmentally friendly one, as well. We deliver our local benefits and we encourage industries that are even better for the local environment, as well. So, there are win-win solutions, win-win-win solutions, in triple bottom line talk. And the utility that focuses on them whether they do it for the environment, they do it for the economy, or they do it for society is going to win if they do all three.

I’ve surprised myself because I’ve been in this business long enough that I was a real champion of the so-called deregulation movement. I thought it was essential that we break, if you will, in some fundamental way the old vertically integrated monopoly so that we can introduce clean energy technologies and different thinking. But I would tell you that public power municipally owned utilities that are vertically integrated perhaps offers our best hope for rapidly advancing clean energy technologies, smart grid technologies, and more customer friendly energy services.

We did a calculation recently because of the way things run here, and the way we purchase energy, and the way we are directly accountable to our customers. We have a pretty aggressive system of managing costs. It starts with energy efficiency, but it continues through things like sophisticated fuel purchasing strategies. As a result to that, in 2009, which is the most recent year for which EIA data (Energy Information Administration data), is available. In 2009, even after gas prices fell substantially, we were outperforming virtually all the rest of the major electricity providers including those in the so-called competitive areas. We were doing it because not only were our rates stable, but our bills were substantially lower. Bills of Austin Energy customers are 15% lower than the average Texas electricity bill because our consumption is low. Because for 25 years we focused on energy efficiency. In fact, if all the customers of the top 17 electricity providers in Texas have been Austin Energy customers in 2009, they would have saved almost $4.6B, including competitive utilities.

Why am I here? First of all, the electricity business is the biggest industry in the world. It’s the most polluting. I am a vowed environmentalist. Second of all, with an industry that big, I’m also a grandpa. My granddaughter was born in the year 2000. As I tell many people, I remember when I first saw her I realized that with modern medicine and good luck, she’d likely live to be a hundred. And there it was in the year 2000 I was given a lens that was a century long. And I realized that professionally the things I ought to do, ought to try to benefit my granddaughter and everyone else for at least that hundred years. Here at Austin Energy, as the VP of Distributed Energy Services, I have an opportunity to do that in a lot of ways. I get a place to sort of carry up obligation to myself and the future generations, I’m accountable to local citizens on a daily basis because I’m part of the municipal utility, and I am supported by a bunch of leaders in our city council, in our city management organization, and here in the utility who want to make this stuff happen. Who want the good result, or at least at the very worse one that is a hedge against the uncertainty. And that’s good enough for me.


SMA the world largest producer of invertors gets Carbon Neutral

February 25th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Carbon Positive | Renewables - (Comments Off on SMA the world largest producer of invertors gets Carbon Neutral)

From Joep

Did you know that half your carbon footprint comes from buying stuff and services outside categories like energy, transportation, food, water and travel? So we need to find places to spend our money where they are doing their part. An example that is proofing the very concept of solar energy is the company SMA that builds invertors. You need invertors to get electricity from your solar panel to your wires at home. They have built a new manufacturing facility, the largst in the world, and it is carbon neutral. They use mostly use solar energy, and supplement it with some bio-based heating and heat from surrounding sources. The facility is 18,000 square meter big and puts out 4000 invertors per day which adds up to 4 gigawatts of invertor potential per year. This is showing that the industry that wants to power the world shows us that they are powering themselves as a proof of concept. Go SMA. We want to see many more companies work like this.

Go here if you want to read more about it.

Download this file

IEN Monthly Symposium: “Solar Energy: Pragmatics + Opportunities for Austin, Now”

February 25th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Events | Our Future | Renewables - (Comments Off on IEN Monthly Symposium: “Solar Energy: Pragmatics + Opportunities for Austin, Now”)

From IEN outreach

Join us for a superstar symposium on solar power in Austin, TX!


The Interfaith Environmental Network of 



Invites You to Attend our Monthly Symposium

7:00 pm Tuesday, March 6, 2012
St. David’s Episcopal Church
301 E 8th St. (downtown Austin)



This month’s symposium features an open discussion and Q&A with

Karl Rábago (VP Distributed Energy Services, Austin Energy)
Bob Murray (Consultant, former GM Seattle City Light)
Mike Sloan (Founder and President, Virtus Energy)
Stan Pipkin (Managing Director, Lighthouse Solar)


Solar Energy:
Pragmatics + Opportunities for Austin, Now”


This spectacular panel of solar electricity experts will address exciting opportunities for cooperative purchasing of solar panel equipment for homes and houses of worship, good news in today’s solar industry, practical steps for participating in cost reduction programs, and much more.

Join us! These are exciting times for incorporating solar energy into your world. Come learn from some of the nation’s finest about what you and your congregation can do to save money and become more effective environmental stewards.




When: Tue, 3/6, 7pm to 8:30pm
Where: St. David’s Episcopal Church
301 E 8th St. (downtown Austin)
Free parking on site.
We hope to see you!

More information at http://www.interfaithenvironment.org/monthly-meetings/

Bill Gates on Energy and Climate: Innovating to Zero

February 24th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Victory Scenario - (Comments Off on Bill Gates on Energy and Climate: Innovating to Zero)

From TED Talks 2010

At TED2010, Bill Gates unveils his vision for the world’s energy future, describing the need for “miracles” to avoid planetary catastrophe and explaining why he’s backing a dramatically different type of nuclear reactor. The necessary goal? Zero carbon emissions globally by 2050.

Here is the link to the TED website if the video does not work http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates.html


Austin Council split, external auditor ordered, postponing implementation and more discussion likely

February 22nd, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Policy - (Comments Off on Austin Council split, external auditor ordered, postponing implementation and more discussion likely)


Rising energy rates called for a special work session at Austin City Hall Wednesday.

Austin City Council remains split over Austin Energy’s latest proposal calling for a phased 12.5 percent rate increase. All members agree more time is needed to examine rates, yet a firm timeline has not been set.

Wednesday morning council members Laura Morrison, Sheryl Cole and Mike Martinez introduced a temporary solution. The plan pushes the March deadline to vote on rates to September and offers a 3.5 percent flat raise on Austin Energy bills.

“What we propose is a list of sessions where we can walk through each of the issues in a very orderly and comprehensive manner so that we have all the issues out on the table, and make sure that we are doing the job that we’re responsible for doing,” Council member Laura Morrison said.

Another plan from Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole calls for a more aggressive schedule, set to adopt rates by May.

The council is expected to vote on the plans at next Thursday’s meeting.



From statesman

Council orders auditor to examine Austin Energy

The Austin City Council ordered the city auditor this morning to examine whether Austin Energy really needs as much money as it would collect under a proposal to raise rates.

City Auditor Ken Mory said he could have the audit completed by late April. That points to a decision on the rate proposal not coming until May.

Austin Energy is proposing to raise rates 8.7 percent this year, and a 3.8 percent increase in 2014. Not everyone’s rates would rise that amount, though; the utility, after concluding that many businesses have been paying more than the true cost of serving them, would raise rates for those businesses a relatively small amount. Residential customers would see an average increase of around 20 percent, once the increase is fully in place.

Critics say the city-owned utility has not proven it needs the amount of money it says it does, and could make due with a smaller increase.

The council is now still discussing various aspects of the rate-increase proposal.


2013 Budget Good for Energy Efficiency and Renewables

February 22nd, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Efficiency - (Comments Off on 2013 Budget Good for Energy Efficiency and Renewables)

President Obama’s 2013 budget supports energy efficiency with $1.2 billion in spending. Efficiency efforts are a much more cost effective method of serving our energy needs than building more power plants. Whereas building new plants costs about 6 to 14 cents/kWh, efficiency efforts cost about 1.6 to 3.3 cents/kWh, says a recent study from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. Efficiency efforts together with the renewable energy and Energy Star programs bring the total Department of Energy spending in these areas up to $2.3 billion. The budget also cuts fossil fuel subsidies $4 billion. These subsidies worldwide totaled $409 billion in 2010, up $110 billion from the previous year! While all these allocations are not expected to survive, these areas are expected to “do well” in the final budget, says Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. Read more here and here.



Rate proposal – focus on congregations

February 22nd, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Policy - (Comments Off on Rate proposal – focus on congregations)

Here is the latest rate proposal focussing on the impact on congregations and comparing the initial and amended proposal with additional assessment from Austin Energy, for your information. 

A third hearing will be held on Thursday March 1st, at 6pm at City Hall. We need to keep the drum drumming.

Download this file

More information can be found here http://www.ourpoweraustin.com/


World oil supply

February 20th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Events - (Comments Off on World oil supply)

Courtesy Pat

Dear Friends and Family,

On February 14, an important debate on the topic of “The World Oil Supply: Looming Crisis or New Abundance?” was held between Dr. Tad Patzek, Asso. for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, Board Vice-President and chair of the University of Texas Department of Petroleum Engineering and John Hofmeister, former Shell Oil president at the University of Wisconsin. The views of both Dr. Patzek and Hofneister were surprisingly similar.

This important debate even broke some news I’d not heard before. But since everyone might not be able to watch an hour-long video, I compiled some specific quotes (and times) from the video. The following quotes were all taken from what Patzek said.

Please feel free to share this email with your friends. Mike Quinn, Austin

Video of this hour-long debate is available at:






~8:59: So here I stand in front of you, and as the incoming Vice-President of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and I’m wondering what should I tell you in these [opening] eight minutes that will not frighten you too much and yet will perhaps move you to thinking about changes in your life styles in general and changes in how we run our country.

~9:45: No matter how we slice it, the world oil production has not been increasing, really, over the last five, six years.

~10:25: Conventional oil fields, the one’s that were easy to produce are declining, that is a fact, has been a fact since 2004.

– 13:10: In less than 20 years, in less than 20 yrs, if China and India grow their economies the way they do today, they will consume all available net exports of the world. Okay, has it sunk in? Very good.

~17:00: It is my position that the overall production of liquid petroleum hydrocarbons […] is in fact either stagnate or declining right now. Most of it i declining.

~17:40: (Short discussion of Saudi Arabia’s situation, e.g. SA will be out of exports in 20 yrs due to increasing domestic demand.)

~22:02: I am on this offshore safety advisory committee and we are beginning to think about opening the Arctic to drilling and it’s a very very risky and very involved procedure to go there.

~22:40: A couple of years ago, in 2005 lets say, incremental oil per rig drilling in the United States was about a thousand or 1400 barrels of oil per day. So that’s how much new oil was brought to … on production per rig in the US. Well last year it was 100 barrels of incremental oil. So we have vastly increased drilling, the cost of this has vastly increased, but we’re bringing less production per rig because it is so difficult to produce that oil.

~26:55: Available net exports, which is global net exports available to the United States, other than China and India, will decline at this projected rate by about 50%, half in the next eight years.

~22:35: We all talk about liquid transportation fuels because that’s really what first comes to mind, but you also need to think about heating oil, you also need to think about food whose cost is going up, and then everything else, right? Because oil is you know, the blood of modern society. It permeates every nook and cranny of every society on this planet.

~28:22: This is what I do and I encourage others to do the same. Try to think of simple things, simple steps that your can do that are within your power to insulate yourself as much as you can from the up coming shocks. They are coming. So take it for granted no matter what Daniel Yergin and others tell you.

~28:42: So what are these simple steps? I’ll just mention one. Solar water heaters for example. This is a low tech solution that is used in most countries of this planet including really far up north countries like Sweden and Norway and if it can heat a house there, it can really heat a house in Wisconsin. And then you are loosing your heating bills for heating oil or natural gas whose price will also go up. It’s unduly low right now.

~29:15: So if I were to give you one advise here, yes, there will be difficulties and yes do something about it yourself. Don’t wait on others.

~32:03: I would not be advocating so strongly waiting for the very smart people to make decisions for us because they have proven over and over again that they are not so smart after all.

~38:40: [Sigh] I guess, you know, I have to again wear my engineering hat and I have to warn you that, for example, getting liquids out of coal using the FischerTropsch process has been known for awhile in fact Germany has run most of its war machine by 1945 using their own FischerTropsch plans, some of them in what today is Poland, one of them near Auschwitz, and some of them in France, some in Spain. And it was a very expensive experiment, a very highly polluting experiment. Then South Africa, during Apartheid, was also running a war economy essentially, by delivering fluids from coal, liquids from coal, and that is an incredible environmentally polluting technology. And the fact of the matter is that in the United States where easy coal exists which is southern Wyoming and then much less accessible coal in South Dakota, I’m sorry, in south Montana, there’s no water. You need tremendous amounts of water for coal processing. 

~39:48: When it come to biofuels, you don’t ask how much fossil fuels you use to produce biofuels. That’s irrelevant. Ask yourself this question. How many gallons of water per miles driven on biofuels. And that’s about a hundred to a thousand times more than on fossil fuels. So when you subscribe to biofuels, you have a license on environmental destruction and on water consumption.

~43:31: Well again, this is a very serious question and it requires serious thought. So I have some very bad news for you. OPEC in fact has just relaxed all their production quota. Why is that bad news? Because they can’t cheat anymore. Why is that bad news? Because they can not produce up to their quota anymore. Okay? So they met earlier this year or late last year and they just did away with all production quotas. Okay?

[To put the above in some context, the Texas Railroad Commission similarly relaxed all production quotas just after Texas (and by extension, all of north America) passed peak oil in 1970. North American oil production has declined ever since. With Saudi Arabia now post peak oil production, so is the world…]

~44:40: In terms of imports, in fact the Middle East is not a major region of the world from which we are importing, in particularly Saudi Arabia, from which we are importing oil. Our main suppliers of oil are in fact Canada, Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Argentina, Trinidad and Tobago, all in Western Hemisphere.

~45:20: In order for us to eliminate all imports from Saudi Arabia, you know what it would take for the Americans? Inflate your car tires properly. [Laughter] Okay, that’s all it takes.

~53:30: So [sigh] I’m an engineer and a scientist, and I’ve spent the last 30 yrs thinking about energy and thinking about its confluence with the laws of physics and the laws of nature and my outlook on what can and can not is somewhat more conservative than John’s. That’s just by the nature of the thing.

~53:55: I also will submit to you that we as a nation, each one of us, uses about 100 times more energy every year than we need to live, as food. If we were to digest this amount of energy, each one of us would be a male Sperm Whale weighing 40 tons, and being taller than this building. This is a five story building, okay, as tall as this building. So look at your neighbor and imaging a big fat  Sperm Whale, because that who we are [laughter], even, even if we bike. [More laughter.]

~54:30: So, I appeal to you that we can become very large Orcas which would make us Western Europeans, or even Dolphins which would make us Chinese. [Laughter]

~54:45: So that’s the first remark. So you expect me to give you a technological, you know, brewhaha about better technology changing our lives, but I will end with [paraphrasing my dear old friend Wendell Berry who said] a humming bird successfully crossing the Gulf of Mexico adapts mile by mile to the distance and it does not exceed its own physical and mental capacities and makes its trip on contemporary energy. So there’s something to think about.

~55:33: So how can we modify our behavior to follow the good example of the humming bird? Well, Wendell says, first, we must not work or think on a heroic scale and in this age of global industrialization, heroes often risk the lives of others whom they never met in places they have never been to. And they very often cause permanent ecological damage in other places. We are all guilty of this.

~56:04: Two, we must abandon the delusion that damage caused by industrialization can be undone by more industrialization. And I’m telling you this as a scientist and technologist.

~56:15: Three, we must quite solving our problems by constantly moving on. So abandoning whatever problems we’ve created in our direct environment and just departing and moving on and happily forgetting where we are. So the converse is true, we must think more about the places in which we exist and about our families and neighbors and do something about the place we are at, in our lives.

~56:50: We must learn the sources and costs of our economic lives. So the decisions we make every day, sometimes on a whim, you know, that big SUV that I drive to pick up a gallon of milk 10 miles from where I live. That’s in fact a very common occurrence in Texas, at least. I bet it never happens here. [Laughter]

~57:10: So why don’t we change it? We must also give up the notion that we are too special to do our own work and clean up our own mess. […] We should reconsider and scale our activities so not too many others have to clean up our mess.

~57:55: And again, we must look close to where we live and build local places with our neighbors, friends and families, and I said it several times, because I think in the end that’s what matters. And only then, we will change our leaders who will follow us. And so I do not have as high hopes for our government as some other people might. I think it’s an essentially paralyzed government and it’s paralyzed by the fact they exist to extort money to promote their existence, so… [Laughter]

~58:35: And I think most of us are not in that situation and so we actually really do need to do somethings on our own, and not wait for others to tell us.

~59:25: Talk less, do more. And that’s what I want to leave you with. Do more and talk less. Thank you. [Applause]


Energy Challenges for UT, Texas, and the World

February 20th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Events - (Comments Off on Energy Challenges for UT, Texas, and the World)

From Sustainable World

From Fracking to the 40 Acres: Energy Challenges for UT, Texas, and the World

On Friday, February 24, at 7 PM, Dr. Michael Webber will discuss the energy challenges faced at UT, in Texas, and across the globe. Professor Webber is Co-Director, The University of Texas at Austin Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy. Also of note he is City Councilman Spellman’s appointee to Austin’s Electric Utility Commission. Each council member gets to appoint a member to this board. I hope we can get an insight to his way of thinking and the kind of advice he may be giving Councilman Spellman on the Austin Energy rate change with perhaps a new orientation and business model. The meeting is on the University campus Welch Hall (WEL) Auditorium (Room 2.224). More details here.


David attended the presentation and provided us with the following notes:

Below are some interesting points Dr. Michael Webber highlighted during his February 24, 2012 talk:

The average Britain       uses two times the energy as the average Chinese

The average American  uses two times the energy as the average Britain.

The average Texan        uses two times the energy as the average American. (575 BTU/year)

Natural gas will be a source of energy in the near term. Water aquifer contamination from fracking is the result of bad practices (poor well lining). These can be minimized to a tolerable number of incidents. Fracking induced mini-earthquakes are also due to bad practices (reinjecting used water into know fault areas). These can be eliminated. Energy from Natural gas burns cleaner than coal. Coal plants use more water than fracking. It didn’t sound like he thought water usage was a barrier. Most of the water usage is up front (3-8 M gallons); about half comes back up from the well, to be re-injected.

He projected there to be only 2 to 5 decades of natural gas available; it can act as a bridge to the future (solar, wind, nuclear). Within one to two decades natural gas will be outselling petroleum. The trucking industry is already seeing the economic wisdom of moving to natural gas powered engines. Conventional diesel engines are easily converted to natural gas. Current prices are $2.50/million BTU for natural gas versus $18.10 for diesel.

He lamented how sad it is that we spend so little on Solar R&D. Americans spend more on potato chips and dog food than we do on Solar R&D. Pharmaceutical companies will spend more developing one drug than we spend on Solar RE&D. A Manhattan Project-style R&D effort could solve our energy needs in less than a decade he thought.

He has been involved with several projects on the UT campus that installed about .5 MW of solar power. This includes: Manor Garage roof and the UT Facility Complex. The Manor Garage was a platform for study of different kinds of solar panels from First Solar, Sharp, and Sun Power. He said the results were online. These energy sources are a small part, though, of the 60-70 MW UT generates and uses under normal conditions. UT has a 140MW generation capacity.

Texas is rich in these resources: geothermal (hot water), uranium, natural gas, sun, as well as wind. Texas uses more natural gas than any other source for generating electricity.

Solar power in West Texas should be able to use the same distribution lines as wind power, thus not require more new expensive lines to be built. To be practical, solar power just needs to be priced competitive with daytime peak prices of other fuels.  (Note, solar advocates say we are already at this point for utility scale solar power farms. This assumes Federal subsidies. -David)

Over time, fuel sources that predominate have declined in carbon intensity: wood to coal to petroleum to natural gas to nuclear energy. Solar is now competitive with nuclear; coal is getting more expensive each year.

He noted that the US imports no oil from Iran, less from Saudi Arabia than from Mexico, and most of our imported supply comes from Canada.

He is in favor of the XL pipeline because our refining of this “oil sand” would be less damaging to the planet than if it was done elsewhere. We have the best and cleanest refineries in the world on the gulf coast. This Canadian oil is a very low grade crude oil that is hard to refine. If we don’t refine it, it will be shipped to China, where refining is much dirtier than in Texas. He thought it would be impractical for China (or Canada) to hire the staff needed for construction of a clean refinery from where the engineers are now (on the gulf coast).

This oil-sand crude is very rough on pipeline material. The cost of long term maintenance should be collected as part of the upfront construction costs.

 —– other research from after the presentation:

 A recent EPA report said fracking “poses little or no threat to drinking water” but an agency whistle blower said the report only focused on the injection of fracking fluids, while ignoring other aspects of the process such as disposal of fluids (see Wikipedia on Fracking Environmental Concerns).

 A 2011 report from a Duke University published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined methane in groundwater in Pennsylvania and New York states overlying the Marcellus Shale and the Utica Shale. It determined that groundwater tended to contain much higher concentrations of methane near fracking wells (see Wikipedia on Fracking Groundwater Contamination).

Three meals that matter

February 17th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Food - (Comments Off on Three meals that matter)

This video takes a closer look at our food and where it comes from. For those of us lucky enough to get 3 meals a day, we’ll eat about 100,000 meals in each of our lifetimes. That makes our choice of what to eat one of the most impactful decisions we can make! Find out how 3 meals a day can sustain not only our bodies, but also our planet and society.

Earthhour 2012

February 17th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Events - (Comments Off on Earthhour 2012)

Earthhour is coming up on March 31, 2012. At 8:30 pm we will be turning off our lights as our symbol of coming together and saving the planet. Millions of people all around the world will join in. Watch the video, get inspired, check out the website http://earthhour.org/ and commit to your action, share it with us and on their youtube channel with many many wonderful pledges (http://www.youtube.com/user/earthhour/videos)

Quick-Charger a Breakthrough?

February 17th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Transportation - (Comments Off on Quick-Charger a Breakthrough?)


In January 2012, Nissan will begin taking orders for a low-cost 480-volt DC quick-charger that can recharge a Nissan LEAF from “empty” to 80-percent capacity in 30 minutes. A quick top-up of an electric vehicle’s battery—say from half empty to nearly full—could happen in about five or six minutes. “That makes it the equivalent of stopping for gas,” said Brendan Jones, Nissan’s director of LEAF marketing and sales strategy.


That quick-charge capability has been in place for some time, but the cost has been in measured in the multiple tens of thousands of dollars. The news here, which might even be considered a breakthrough, is that Nissan’s quick-charger will sell for $10,000. When I spoke with Michael Farkas, the CEO of Car Charging Group, he said, “The sweet spot for DC fast charging is about $12,000 to $15,000.” It appears that Nissan has put more sugar in the sweet spot, by bringing the price down to $10,000. This could allow municipalities, small business (and even groups of EV owners), to sprinkle quick charging across popular EV markets. The cost of installation remains the wild card.

Jointly developed by Nissan and Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo Corporation, the DC quick-charge station is a compact unit designed specifically for the US market. The charger uses the CHAdeMO quick charging protocol and operates on 480 volts.

With a starting price of only $9,900, Nissan’s quick charger costs roughly one third the price of comparable units available today, according to the Japanese automaker. Additionally, Nissan claims that the unit is one half the size of most of the currently available DC quick chargers, while still retaining identical performance.

Brian Carolin, senior vice-president of sales and marketing for Nissan North America, stated, “A low-cost DC quick charger unlocks the potential for unprecedented electric vehicle use and adoption. We anticipate thousands of these chargers will be installed across the country.”

Nissan and Sumitomo will launch an online charger ordering system in January 2012. Installation of the DC quick-charge units will begin in spring of 2012.

Meanwhile, Better Place—the biggest champion of EV battery swapping—has secured an additional $200 million through a Series C equity financing round from a consortium of top-tier investors. Since its establishment in 2007, Better Place has raised more than $750 million globally.

“We are entering the next phase of growth for our company where we prove that our solution works, that it’s in demand, and that it scales, as we begin to push into new markets and attract new investors and new partners,” said Shai Agassi, CEO of Better Place.


Better Place says demand in Israel from both fleets and consumers has soared, with more than 400 corporations, representing a potential of 80,000 employee vehicles, signing letters of intent with Better Place. In Denmark—where this summer I was able to drive through its first European battery swap station—nearly 7,000 residents have visited the Better Place Center, with 90 percent of the visitors expressing some interest in buying an electric vehicle in the future.

The creation of more EV charging possibilities, in whatever form, can’t be an entirely bad thing. Although, as I discussed with Shai Agassi a few weeks ago, I’m still having trouble seeing how expensive battery swapping stations can scale up to accommodate millions of plug-in vehicles or compete with widespread deployment of quick-chargers (combined with home charging, which is and will continue to be the way most EV owners get a charge).

Regardless, the build-out of Better Place’s swapping and charging network—combined with a low-cost high-volume quick-charging product—makes one thing clear: it’s only a matter of months (not years) before EV owners will have abundant opportunities to juice up on the go.

Carbon Footprint of Food

February 15th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Food - (Comments Off on Carbon Footprint of Food)

Courtsey Amanda

Check out this website that includes a list of foods and compares them on a carbon footprint and relates it to driving your car (miles per ounce of food). Lowest items on the list: lintels, fruit and veggies, highest on the list: cheese, beef and lamb. Beef goes for 6.5 miles by car per 4 ounces. Here is the website http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/eat-smart/. It also includes a pledge to eat less meat and meat from “greener” sources.


Food Rules

February 15th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Food - (Comments Off on Food Rules)

From Michael Pollan

Food for thought on the power of the the sun as our food engine. We are growing enough food to feed 11 billion people, we are just feeding a lot of it to our livestock. We are using fossil fuels at a rate that is 10 times higher than the actula calories that end up in our food. How efficient is that? Check out this nicely animated video

<p>“Food Rules” by Michael Pollan – RSA/Nominet Trust competition from Marija Jacimovic on Vimeo.</p>


Front Yard Gardening

February 13th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Food - (Comments Off on Front Yard Gardening)

Credits Dawnielle.

Our food is vital to our health, our own food is the best way to know what we are eating, to eat local and to eat organic. The average austinites food patterns add up to about 3 metric tons of associated greenhouse gas emissions. Not lastly from transportation. Food for Free is a local non-profit http://foodisfreeproject.org/ that is helping peope grow food in their front yard and community. Here is a nice video:

<p>Food Is Free from The Daily Texan on Vimeo.</p>

Post oil: Boom in electric car sales fuel gas-free dreams

February 13th, 2012 | Posted by Joep in Renewables | Transportation - (Comments Off on Post oil: Boom in electric car sales fuel gas-free dreams)


IEN facebook page featuring Dale and Pat Bulla as stewards of what lies ahead of us.

Post oil: Boom in electric car sales fuel gas-free dreams (VIDEO)

More than a dozen new plug-in electric car models will hit the market by 2012, offering drivers a true post oil experience.

By Mark ClaytonStaff writer / October 9, 2011


With about 1 billion cars and light trucks on the road worldwide – and more than a quarter of them in the United States – more oil is consumed by internal-combustion engines used in transportation than in any other human activity. The private car itself is the most significant source of rising energy consumption for transportation.

However, some drivers are making a break from the pack. They want their private cars, but not the gasoline-gulping internal-combustion engine. They’replug-in electric vehicle owners, pioneers of an emerging, nearly gas-free dream. They’ve gone “post-oil,” even while experts continue to debate when petroleum reserves will run dry (the extremes range from two decades to never).

“It’s a different mind-set altogether,” says Dale Bulla, a retired teacher in Austin, Texas, who has not bought a drop of gasoline since he purchased his Nissan Leaf in April. “[A] big weight is off me. I just don’t have to think very much at all about oil or gasoline anymore. It feels good.”

The mind-set is catching on. Global sales of plug-in vehicles are starting gradually, but expected rapid growth will push annual sales to 1.3 million vehicles by 2017, says John Gartner, an analyst with Pike Research in Boulder, Colo. He expects 2012 to be the first big year with a quarter million plug-in vehicles sold worldwide. At least a dozen new plug-in models from 10 automakers will hit showrooms in 2012.

Pumping a clean jobs agenda and greater energy independence, President Obama wants to put 1 million plug-in vehicles on US roads by 2015.

US plug-in sales will be just 61,000 next year, rising to 303,000 by 2017, according to Pike Research estimates. And Mr. Obama’s goal, says Mr. Gartner, probably won’t be achieved until 2016. Long-term growth projections by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) suggest dramatic growth: 5.8 million plug-in vehicles on US roads by 2020. The Institute’s “high” scenario shows those numbers could soar to 12 million by 2020 and 65 million by 2030

 Here is the link to the full article that includes a video  http://www.csmonitor.com/Innovation/Tech/2011/1009/Post-oil-Boom-in-electric-car-sales-fuel-gas-free-dreams-VIDEO