July 14, 2006 – Volume 10, Issue 8
I N · T H I S · I S S U E


The Power of the Increment

Just back from an inspiring trip to Mammoth Lakes, California where I spoke at the Off-the-Grid Energy Fest. What “Simple Steps” can we all take to be more energy conscious and responsible? What are the no and low-cost measures that make sense now?

EcoMotion’s guiding principle is the Power of the Increment -- that concerted small actions will inspire greater and greater steps to accrue fantastic benefits. How could I motivate workshop participants? My idea was simple: Draw a collection of simple steps from the audience, and let the power of the increment do its magic!

With the help of a makeshift white board and single black pen, in less than an hour the group had put 37 steps on the board, actions that they had individually completed, from no-cost measures to reducing ecological transportation, lifestyle, and diet footprints.

One gentleman offered up his solution: sleeping with his beagle to stay warm at night! “Will all dogs work equally well?” We had a lot of fun.

Participants then rated the “simple steps.” Which ones are really low cost -- less than $100 -- and really simple? This drew significant comment. Consensus was reached that 16 measures were indeed “simple.” Thanks to group dynamics, participants gave themselves the message this time. The 16 are basic actions that immediately save energy, money and the environment. Each of us will likely go home and take a simple step!

Carbon Sequestration

Japan hopes to slash greenhouse gas emissions and fight global warming by pumping carbon dioxide into underground storage reservoirs. The country proposes to bury 200 million tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2020, cutting CO2 emissions by a sixth.

Many believe that underground storage – one form of carbon sequestration -- underlines the new urgency felt by industrialized countries to rein in the effects of global warming. By capturing carbon dioxide from power plants and factories and pressurizing it into liquid form, it can be injected into underground aquifers, gas fields, or gaps between rock strata, safely keeping it out of the air. One concern, however, are massive releases caused by earthquakes; another is the $52/ton “prohibitive” cost.

Japan’s project would dwarf similar underground carbon dioxide storage operations in Norway, Canada and Algeria, each of which sequesters about 1 million tons a year. Tackling carbon dioxide is a top priority for Japan, a key driver behind to the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement to cut global output of carbon dioxide by 2012. Still, Japan is the world's second-largest economy and one of the world's top offenders, expelling 1.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year.

In related news, Kansas University hosted a conference this week on carbon sequestration. The process isn't new, scientists noted: For years, oil companies have used carbon-dioxide injections to better exploit a field's dwindling oil supply. And the risk of CO2 releases? Very little, according to the Kansas Geological Survey. "The oil stayed down there 50 million years. As long as we're careful, the carbon dioxide will stay down there another 50 million years."

Celebrities and the Environment

Look who’s driving a hybrid! (Circle the ones you know.)

Patricia Arquette, Kevin Bacon, Ed Begley, Jack Black, Hart Bochner, Prince Charles, Billy Crystal, Ted Danson, Larry David, Ellen DeGeneres, Kirk Douglas, Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio, David Duchovny, Will Ferrell, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, Woody Harrelson, Salma Hayek, Arianna Huffington, Billy Joel, Bill Maher, Ewan McGregor, Donna Mills, Jack Nicholson, Donny Osmond, Alexandra Paul, David Hyde Pierce, Brad Pitt, Rob Reiner, Tim Robbins, Kurt Russell, Oliver Sachs, Susan Sarandon, Alicia Silverstone, Andrew Weil, Robin Williams

• Mandy Moore had her car adapted to run purely on vegetable oil.
• The Prince of Monaco is traveling to the North Pole to bring about awareness of the shrinking ice caps.
• Brad Pitt is narrating a new series on PBS called Design: e2 that investigates environmental issues and encourages smarter solutions.
• Willie Nelson and Bonnie Raitt are touring the country in biodiesel-powered buses. Willie Nelson is marketing his own fuel called BioWillie.
• According to London’s Daily Mail, Hollywood stars Brad Pitt, Daryl Hannah and Sir Ian McKellen have all installed solar panels or wind turbines on their homes.

"I’ve been flexing all my life, so why not Flex Your Power? I love it. Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective resource in meeting our needs."
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the 5th Annual Flex Your Power Awards

Mammoth Lakes Steps Up

Mammoth Lakes is on a roll with a passion for greening the community, responsible energy use, and acting locally while thinking globally.

The community’s biggest employer and energy user, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, is at the forefront of the movement there. Lisa Isaacs (center in photo) is in charge of MMSA’s environmental affairs. It has done extensive infrared photography work to find energy leaks in its facilities; it has also explored one of the region’s valued renewable resources. MMSA’s Juniper Springs Lodge sits atop a geothermal test well.

The year-old, non-profit High Sierra Energy Foundation was formed by the City, MMSA, and community leaders to take proactive steps to secure the community’s energy future. (HSEF President Dave Harvey at left in photo, Ted Flanigan at right.) HSEF just published the “Mammoth Energy Smart” guide with specific information for developers, remodelers, and the general public on efficient use in the high alpine climate. The Foundation is focused both on geothermal exploration, thanks to a grant from the California Energy Commission, and on energy efficiency, through its partnership with Southern California Edison. Residents and business leaders there are committed to responsible energy use; climate care is readily apparent.

At Mammoth’s recent Off-the-Grid Energy Fest, the citizens of Mammoth were proud of “simple steps” they have already taken, and were eager to share them for responsible energy use. A one-hour interactive session was telling and highly motivational.

Which of 37 Mammoth Lakes Simple Steps have you a) considered, and b) completed?

Mammoth’s 37 Simple Steps for Responsible Energy Use

1. Compact Fluorescent Lamps
2. Zone Thermostats
3. Walking
4. Solar Water Heating
5. Whole House Fans
6. Energy Star Appliances
7. Biking
8. Manual Thermostat Operation
9. Recycling
10. Door Snakes!
11. Taking the Train
12. Shades and Window Screens
13. Double-Pane Windows
14. Pickup Truck Tailgate Removal
15. Riding Scooters
16. Instantaneous Water Heaters
17. Thermal Drapes
18. Straw Bale Construction
19. Low Flush Toilets
20. High Performance Showerheads and Aerators
21. Photovoltaics
22. Reducing Capacitive Resistance (using thicker wires
23. Gray Water Systems
24. Insulation
25. Duct Sealing
26. Planting Trees
27. Taking the Bus
28. Radiant Heat
29. Unplugging Appliances
30. Passive Solar
31. Trombe Walls
32. Indigenous Planting
33. Localized Heating
34. Low E (emissivity) Windows
35. Ceiling Fans
36. Xeriscaping
37. Take a Beagle to Bed!

Household Wind Generators

Southwest Windpower has introduced the “Skystream 3.7,” touted to be the first fully integrated wind generator designed specifically for the grid- connected residential market. Despite its 12-foot rotor diameter and its 35-110’ tower, it’s being promoted as a “residential power appliance.”

According to Southwest Windpower, "Wind energy for the individual homeowner is finally main-stream." With a typical cost of $8,000 to $10,000 to purchase and install, the Skystream 3.7 can pay for itself in 5-12 years.

The 1.8 kW Skystream 3.7 will generate 4,800 - 6,600 kWh per year (7-10 hours a day), providing 40- 90% of an average home's energy needs. In states like Hawaii where the cost of energy and wind speeds are both high, Skystream 3.7 can pay for itself in less than four years.

The State of Pennsylvania recently awarded a $193,000 grant to Southwest Windpower to place 15 small wind turbines in highly visible locations at schools, local government buildings, and other public facilities to get Pennsylvanians thinking about adopting alternative energy sources. The sites selected are spread across the commonwealth and each grant application was required to include plans for educational outreach.

Southwest Windpower is the world's largest producer of small wind generators (400 – 3,000 watts). In over 18 years, it has produced over 90,000 generators – such as the 1,000-watt Whisper Link -- for homes, remote cabins, telecom transmitters, offshore platforms, water pumping, and sailboats. For more information, visit www.windenergy.com.

Solar Thermal Generation

Like solar cells, solar electric generating systems -- or solar thermal -- use solar energy to make electricity. Unlike photovoltaics that convert the light from the sun into electricity, solar thermal systems use the sun's heat to do it. Most solar thermal systems use solar collectors with mirrored surfaces to concentrate sunlight onto a receiver that heats a liquid. The super-heated liquid is used to make steam that drives a turbine to produce electricity.

The world's first solar electric plants (pictured above and known as the Solar Electric Generating Stations) were originally owned by LUZ Solar Thermal. Thanks to its advanced technology, design, and location in the Mohave Desert, it was the only solar plant that generated electricity economically. The future looked bright for LUZ and the technology, but LUZ suddenly closed its doors at the end of 1992 because of a drop in oil prices and an over-budget construction project.

Today the SEGS are owned and operated by FPL Energy, a sister company of Florida Power and Light. FPL is the largest generator of solar power in the U.S. It is also the largest wind generator with 2,750 MW in operation.

Member Feedback: Dr. Mark Shirilau

“I have seen Inconvenient Truth twice. I found it just as fascinating the second time as the first.

Since I've worked in the conservation field for 20- some years, the concept is not a new one to me. I've tended to be a believer, but certainly also accepted the "maybe it's just part of the natural cycle of ice ages" argument. Al's graphs of 650,000 years of temperature/carbon dioxide did a great job of putting an end to that acceptance.

And nothing is more poignant than his map of inundated Manhattan, including a submerged World Trade Center memorial, and the comment that maybe we should concern ourselves with something in addition to terrorism. I have repeated that point many, many times to family, friends, and associates.

The graphs of regional CO2 contributions are telling. The sad part is that China is doing more to catch up to the abysmal American record than we are doing to reduce ours to those of others. Just like it will take more rolling blackouts to really get the population fully committed to energy efficiency once again, maybe it will take a few feet of ocean water to get us really serious about global warming. Hopefully it won't be too late.

I certainly concur that it might not be the best movie of the century, but it could come out to be the most important."

Editorial: Third-World Victims of First-World Affluence
- by Sierra Flanigan

Tuvalu is a cluster of nine coral atolls, just 10 square miles dispersed over 500,000 square miles of ocean south of the equator. The 11,810 residents make a living through the exploitation of the sea, reefs, and atolls, and export coconuts, bananas, and fish. While this remote paradise is usually peaceful, these Polynesian natives are witnessing a horrific reality.

“King Tides,” flooding homes, offices, streets, even the airport, used to occur only occasionally. Now they are appearing frequently. Salt water is bubbling up under streets. “The island is sinking from the inside out,” said the narrator of a recent CNN special on the island nation. Since most of the islands sit at no more than a meter above sea level, Tuvaluans believe that the submergence of their home, and their entire civilization, is only a matter of time. One island has already gone under.

Tuvaluans believe they are victims of energy-hungry economies whose industries release gigantic amounts of greenhouse gases that trigger global warming, glacier melting, and rising sea level. Tuvalu has been seeking support from the United Nations and industrialized nations for years. Over a decade ago at the Kyoto convention on global warming, Tuvalu’s Prime Minister Bikenibeu Paeniu warned that Tuvaluans would be “the world’s first victims of climate change.”

Tuvalu is considering pressing legal action against the U.S., the world’s top emitter of CO2. Aid has been offered by China and Japan, but sea walls and blockades are expensive. As the water continues to rise, Tuvalu’s environmental refugees are going to need a miracle in order to maintain their unique identity without a home.