It is time.

Maybe it is the lack, until this week, of gardening to do (no planting, no harvesting) or the reading I have been doing of late, but my mind is all wrapped up with what kind of future we are leaving for our future generations in the next 50 years. Doom and Gloom stuff: Peak Oil and Global Warming, but more importantly what the hell I can do about it.

Flex Fuel/Biodiesel needs a reality check.
OK, the math doesn’t work. There simply isn’t enough acreage to grow enough fuel crops-in fact covert all the corn in the US (oh-we would also have to all go vegetarian cause the feedlots would shut down) and we only get 16% of our usage. Once all the ethanol plants that are in the works start running we will be diverting the equivalent of ALL of Iowa’s corn to ethanol. We are currently exporting 70% of the world’s corn, if we keep a larger % of that back to make Ethanol, that means Africa and SE Asia start going hungry. Choosing between higher food costs and higher fuel costs sounds like a lose-lose for the world’s poor and may be the final stake to get me biking 19 miles to work every day. Check out last week’s Talk of the Nation Science Friday. Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institue talks amazingly Good Sense. Ethanol isn’t the answer, we must drive less and get the absolute most mileage out of our fuels. I am sticking to my guns: Flex Fluel Plug in Hybrids powered by PV and Wind. Leading to my next 2 ideas.

Plug in Hybrids
CAL CARS gets 130mpg with their plug in Pruis. Cut 30% effeciency out due to ethanol’s lower energy level, and you still have roughly 100mpg. The kicker is that the first 30 miles are pure electric-that is 90% of most people’s driving. Even using the 100mpg figure we go from the average American using 1000 gallons of gas to travel 20k miles to 200. We get a significant % of Americans to do this (Wake UP Congress!) and we buy oursevles enough time for Natural Capitalism to work-get lithium ion batteries up to speed for automotive use and real change to happen in the next 50 years on civic development and the death of suburbia. When Omaha looks more like Stockholm we can slow down and walk to work.

Go Solar!
I spent 2 days this past week driving thru southern Minnesota. This time I saw a sight that literally brought tears to my eyes-I counted 20 6 MW turbines just from I-90 alone. In fact MN is currently producing almost 800MW of Wind Power, putting it 9th in the country. That is awesome, but they haven’t even scratched the surface of the 75,000 MW in Wind Potential. Good news is that we, as a Nation, are currently powering 1.6 million households with Wind, bad news is that leaves 60 million on coal and nukes. The average home uses just shy of 30kWh per day. My home-complete with 2 computers, central air, and all the fixin’s uses 16kWh, and that is only thru creative use of fans instead of the AC on most days, using compact flourescents, and turning lights out when we leave. We haven’t even really started looking at appliances yet and we are at a 45% reduction!!!
PV is a reality-here in WI WE Energies, like many Utilities offers consumers the chance to purchase 100% green energy for a 30% premium. The ‘problem’ is that for 3 years now they haven’t ben able to meet the demand, so WI now has a 400% increase in Wind Power planned. In the mean time WE energies is offering government and business customers an unbelievable deal-they will buy PV power at $.22 kW hour.-almost double what they are charging me for mine. Remember that whole Natural Capitalism thing? It works.
Payback on a PV system is about 10 years. Here in WI with our incentives (about 50% of installed price) and with WE energies buy back options we are talking 5-6. This is real, people! If we decide to stay in this house my garage will be 100% covered in Solar Cells by May. Be the Change!

Get Closer!
This one is the most critical and the hardest to implement. We need to get closer as a nation. Closer to work. Closer to the grocery store. And perhaps most important of all:

Closer to Each Other.

I am not a religious man, but I am an ethical one. I believe in the power of helping those in need, so, among a myriad of other things, we virtually always stop if someone is pulled off the freeway. Traveling 1400 miles this past week gave us several oppurtunities-the first had a blown head gasket, and he was limping to the next GM dealer. The second was merely tightening a loose trailer hitch. The third was a young mother with a 6 month old in her arms and a 3 yr old in the truck. They were out of gas, it was 85 degrees. And they had been there for 3 hours… no one had stopped. Again: in 3 hours on the weekend before Sturgis on I-90: no one stopped for a mother with a baby in her arms. Jesus, what is happening to us that we are so wrapped up in our lives, or too scared of god-knows-what that we let a mother sit in the heat for that long? If the Doom and Gloom is right-and things start to get ugly, the difference between the Depression of the 1930’s and Bosnia of the 1990’s will be our ability to relate to and care for the family next door. If the Doom and Gloom is wrong babies are still sitting in the heat for 3 hours without water. We must do better!

The solutions to the problems of tomorrow are listed above-they are Global Issues. The problems of today I experienced yesterday on my trip home–holding a baby I don’t even know the name of.

Think Global: Act Local. Go kiss your kids/dog/sig other. Call your Mom, look at a sunset, write a poem. But please do something to reconnect yourself with Human Emotion-let yourself love someone.

2 Responses

  1. The Talk of the Nation piece was really interesting. I was particularly intrigued by the idea of using hybrid poplars and willows for fuel production. We have willows growing wild on our property already, and I’ve been thinking of putting in a few hybrid poplars for a relatively quick source of wood (not to mention a fast shade/windbreak solution).

    But I agree wholeheartedly that reduced consumption is the key…

  2. The woody cellulose makes so much sense, the only reason I can see why we aren’t persuing it more is the 10-15 year lead time, or perhas the lack of infrastructure compared to our huge Corporation of Corn. No one in this administration is willing (able?) to think that long term.

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