31 December 2009

Applied Materials Moves Solar Expertise to China

Here is another example of the changing leadership in the world economy:

The world's biggest supplier of solar-manufacturing equipment has opened a research and development center in China, and its chief technology officer will relocate from Silicon Valley to that country next month. Applied Materials, founded in 1967 as a semiconductor company, has manufactured in China for 25 years, but is expanding its presence to be closer to its customers and develop products suited to the country's urban population.

For the rest of the article click here.

29 December 2009

Any Red Flags Here?

Above you see a very interesting chart. It ought to be mailed to every American voter prior to the 2010 elections.

In this chart, you see US spending expressed as a percent of GDP. In the simplest terms, the steeper the climb, the more money the US is spending and borrowing.

You can see from the portions of the graph I have annotated that the times when the steepest climbs have historically come have been in times of great national stress - Civil War, World War 1, The Great Depression, World War 2, that is until the "Reagan Era" came about.

It is interesting to see that during the 12 years of Reagan/Bush 1 and again in the 8 year reign of Bush 2 we saw precipitous climbs in spending, but without a national crisis. The only decline in almost three decades came with the Clinton presidency. Clinton was rewarded for his foresight and political courage with the '94 loss of congress.

Now here we are, in a time of incredible national stress, a time which is on par with the Great Depression and one, which historically we would expect spending to go up, and the Obama administration is being pilloried with criticism of his increase in national spending.

What we need now is a call to all Progressives to work towards not only shoring up the democrats, but in replacing the blue dogs with green ones.

In 2010, the Repubes are going to strongly challenge Tom Periello and Rick Boucher, as they feel they are vulnerable. We need a strong, independent with national purpose to challenge Goodlatte. The best defense of Boucher (who is too right for my tastes) and Periello is to find someone to challenge Goodlatte in a strong way. What we need now is to increase the progressives in the congress and do not let the group think that the Dems will lose seats in 2010 take the wind out of our sails.

The repubes are wrong. It is that simple.

Do I hear any volunteers or nominations for Goodlatte's seat?

28 December 2009


27 December 2009

What our past energy use says about our future.

Below is a graph of per capita primary energy usage in Kg. of oil. What is instructive is to note the brief US dip after the '73 oil embargo and again after the '79 oil crisis. What you should also take from this is the relative lack of decrease per capita in almost any country, pointing out that energy is a very hard thing to ween away from. So what does this mean?

This means that the only way the human species is going to change is through force. That force can be many things from lack of available resources through over use, war or natural disaster or being forced to confront the cliff off which we as a species are insisting on hurling ourselves.

In my humble opinion, that latter won't happen, it is against the human tendency for selfishness and short sighted gratification, so that leaves the former. Where does that leave you and I. All I can say is be prepared to adapt and cope. Start transitioning now to lessen the shock later.

26 December 2009

25 December 2009

Ronnie Trash

24 December 2009

HO, Ho, ho

23 December 2009

What does Copenhagen mean for you?

The "climate summit" was a real fizzle. I think we all knew that the realistic chances of meaningful change being made was almost nil as the United States (25% producer of carbon emissions) never spent any real time making the climate talks a priority. Obama's last minute trip was way to little and way, way to late.

But, realistically, what did we expect?

So what do you and I do now? Well the same thing I have been pushing since I started this blog. It comes down to a simple concept:


So, let's commit ourselves to pursuing transition on a local level. Start a transition steering committee. Begin making the type of changes in your personal life that can be an example to neighbors.

Refuse to spend money in the Wal Marts and Targets of the world. Direct your spending toward local businesses, that sell local or fair trade products. Do not be seduced by cheap anything.

Shop in local food stores, farmers markets and as much as possible directly from the farmer.

Almost every developed nation is now seeing a locavore movement, plug in!

Folks, we know that the kind of change that is needed will not happen if we wait for government. The kind of change that will make a difference is beyond hope of being achieved, so at this point the call is to adapt and get out ahead of the curve.

Our Katuah bioregion is a great area to weather the coming storms (literally!).

Remember, make the start and begin the discussions because we do not know how long before the situation becomes critical!

22 December 2009

Neel Kashkari - Remember Him?

I came across a Washington Post article about Neel Kashkari. He is the thirty year old former Goldman-Sachs exec. that Henry Paulson brought with him to DC to be his aide. He is also the guy Paulson chose to put together the TARP program. Where is he now?


He checked out from DC and is living off the grid in the mountains on the California/Nevada border.

Get a clue folks!

21 December 2009

We Must Seize the Energy Opportunity or Slip Further Behind

I recently came across an article that laid out many of the arguments I have been putting forward about the United States lack of vision regarding investment in the "New Economy". I found it to be very succinct. Here is an excerpt:

we lag behind most of our competitors in the rest of the world in a four key ways.

We have no national energy portfolio standard that encourages clean, renewable power and shifts away from dirty and dangerous energy.
We have an outdated electrical grid unsuited for the task of carrying energy from regions rich in wind, solar, and geothermal potential to the people who need the energy.
We don’t make dirty energy companies pay for the pollution they pump into the air; in fact, we give them billions every year in tax breaks.
And we don’t invest enough in research, development, and deployment to inspire our entrepreneurs and leverage their discoveries by helping bring their bold new technologies to market.

Green portions of stimulus as percent of 2008 GDPUnited States lags other large developed nations in wind power capacity
Annual solar cell production

For the entire article click here.

20 December 2009

Peak Oil ~ Who Knew?

Prediction from 2003 proving true.

18 December 2009

17 December 2009

16 December 2009

Copenhagen climate change conference: 'Fourteen days to seal history's judgment on this generation'

Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year's inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world's response has been feeble and half-hearted.

• How the Copenhagen global leader came about
• Write your own editorial
• The papers that carried the Copenhagen editorial
• In pictures: How newspapers around the world ran the editorial

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.

But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June's UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: "We can go into extra time but we can't afford a replay."

At the deal's heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.

Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.

Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world's biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.

Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of "exported emissions" so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than "old Europe", must not suffer more than their richer partners.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.

But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.

Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature".

It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history's judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.

15 December 2009

The article that help launch Peak Oil awareness

Check this article out. It is the first article that really started people talking about peak oil.

14 December 2009

China Sprinting Past the US in Wind Production

Leadership of the global wind market is about to change hands. The United States—the birthplace of the modern wind industry—has held the top spot in new installations since 2005, growing at 50 percent a year and adding a record 8,540 megawatts of wind generating capacity in 2008. But if the credit-crunched U.S. industry adds only 8,000 megawatts in 2009, as anticipated, China’s new installations of some 10,000 megawatts will make it the world leader in annual additions. Having doubled its installed capacity in each of the last five years, this relative newcomer is now poised to dominate the wind energy industry for years to come.

For the rest of the article click here.

13 December 2009

12 December 2009

More From David Roper, PhD

David Roper, the retired Virginia Tech professor has turned out to be a font of wisdom backed up with a sharp, inquisitive mind and lots of both data and mathematical skills. In a page entitled "World Fossil-Fuels Depletion" he analyzes past production and reserves and casts forward the amount of fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) and the production rate over time. Embedded in this wonderfully thorough analysis is this optimistic prediction of US gas prices out to 2030.

I just want to point out that this graph smooths out rough spots and does not predict intercessions by war, embargo's, revolutions or the world choosing not to be trading in dollars. for more of Davis wonderful work click here.

11 December 2009

What about the New Economy?

As the century turned the talk about the new economy was all aflutter. The concept is that the world is changing from a carbon fueled economy to a new more sustainable model that would rival the previous revolutions in agriculture and industry.

Oh how right we are. I have personally seen the changes happening to move humanity towards this sustainable future. So, you may ask, how can I see it?

Well, America here is the unfortunate truth.

As an American we are only seeing the very edge of this revolution. There is some really amazing cutting edge research going on in the US. i was contracted by the US Department of Energy to review stimulus grants relating to high performance thermal envelope design and super performance windows. I can state unequivocally that there is some truly mind blowing research going on. While the US has always been good at supporting basic research, we fall short on the support of products beyond that stage. So while the folks doing the cutting edge research here have names like Chu and Patel, we (the US government) does not support the technology after initial development, preferring to let the "Angel Investors" do the next round of support. Unfortunately for our country, many great ideas go undeveloped in this country because of this.

Fortunately for those who are not American, there are forward thinking governments that support the so called "valley of death" for development of technology. And it is these governments that are creating the 'New Economy'. By embracing the concept of creating a sustainable society and supporting the innovation it takes to make that society a reality, places like Germany, Denmark, China, Korea, Brazil and Spain are rapidly growing a 'New Economic' model.

With the current lack of political will and the surging of the regressive right, the United States will look back in 20 years and say, "hey where is my 'new economy'. When we finally awaken from our sleep, we will be faced with a hollowed out society that has a declining middle class and an incredibly advanced military. So what will be our role? Why to protect those that can afford our services! (See the new copper mining operations in Afghanistan. China is doing the mining and the US is doing the protection.) So get ready America, your new role as the protector of the new economic powerhouses assures a bright future.

10 December 2009

09 December 2009

Just what I've been saying for years.

I read an article recently that put very eloquently what I have been saying for 15 years. The American middle class has maintained its prosperity through an ever closing window. The post war economy saw the greatest expansion of the middle class in history. With wages rising quickly and the American standard of living the envy of the world.

This incredible surge was made possible by cheap and plentiful energy and the fact that America's major competitors were recovering from a war that devastated commerce and industry. This combined with the coup at Bretton Woods that replaced the then current world trading currency, the pound, with the dollar provided for a boom in manufacturing and the cold war provided a continuing war time economy (remember Eisenhower's warning about the military industrial complex) which lead to incredible middle class wealth.

In 1973, this changed with the end of cheap oil and the beginning of strong inflation. What did Tom and Sally American do then? Why they sent Sally to work to augment the family income so that they did not have to give away any of the luxuries they now felt entitled to. This worked for a while.

Well for those of you who follow my blog, you know that inflation never left, it was just hidden by successive administrations tinkering with statistics. This combined with the fact that the American middle class wage has not kept pace with even the understated inflation rate made Tom and Sally have to dip into their next best store of potential cash and mortgage and second mortgage their home for cash to keep up with the American dream. What happened when we were running out of equity in our homes? REAL ESTATE BOOM - made up equity to leverage.

Now the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost. Tom and Sally need to face the tough reality that thanks to their short sighted planning their children would not have the same opportunities as they had. Their children would be the first American generation since the depression to regress in their standard of living.

I hate to say i told you so but .....

And what about the 'New Economy'. More about that in another post.

For a good article that discusses many of these points from someone who is much brighter than I click here.

08 December 2009

An interesting look at peak oil from the inside.

Two International Energy Agency whistleblowers have come forward with startling claims about the world's supply of crude oil, according to a report published Tuesday.

"We have [already] entered the 'peak oil' zone," an unnamed former IEA official told British newspaper The Guardian. "I think that the situation is really bad."

A second whistleblower reportedly claimed that the IEA's current figures are inflated due to pressure from the United States and a pervasive fear that the announcement of falling oil output in the future could cause markets to respond with panic.

The claims come on the same day the IEA plans to publish its annual "World Energy Outlook" report for 2009.

"Many inside the organisation believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90m to 95m barrels a day would be impossible but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further," one of the IEA sources reportedly told the paper. "And the Americans fear the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to oil resources."

For the rest of the story click here.

07 December 2009

06 December 2009

05 December 2009

New Idea for Defeat of Bob Goodlatte

As those of us in southwest Virginia are aware, we have a congressman who is in the far right of the Republican party. Unfortunately, most voters in this district are also of the same mind.

I have a different idea of a tact to unseat Goodlatte. Run an independent campaign that is focused on the transition required by peak oil, environmental degradation and economic collapse. Run by instilling an awareness of the future that will compel both liberals and conservatives to think about their votes.

Do not even take on Goodlatte in anyway but to point out that he lacks the knowledge of the problems and the kind of independent thinking it will take to change the situation. I don't know if this is possible, but we may even be able to get the Dems not to run anyone against him making it an independent vs republican challenge.

I think if people are made to confront the changes that are coming and the absolute lack of political will that has been the case, maybe we will have a chance to unseat this Republican dittohead!

04 December 2009

Shift Happens

03 December 2009

CEED Update


01 December 2009

The Oil Casino: SEC Heading for Monte Carlo

This is a long article on the subject of oil and gas reserves and due diligence.

My purpose is to alert you to the revision of SEC Regulation S-K and Regulation S-X effective January 1, 2010. Concealed in a handful of benign new regs is a financial truck bomb that's going to blow away "proved reserves" as a meaningful metric of oil company assets.

Old definition: Proved Reserves are those quantities which can be estimated with reasonable certainty to be commercially recoverable from known reservoirs under defined economic conditions. Proved quantities are limited by the lowest known hydrocarbon as seen in a well penetration unless otherwise indicated by definitive geoscience, engineering, or performance data. Seismic data alone is not sufficient to define fluid contacts. Undeveloped locations may be classified as Proved in undrilled areas of a reservoir that can be judged with reasonable certainty to be commercially productive.
New definition: Industry is no longer constrained by the criterion of certainty. An operator can book incremental proved reserves from planned enhanced recovery projects (gas injection, acid fracturing) based on a pilot project. Coal seam gas, bitumen, oil shale and other unconventional resources can be booked as Proved Reserves. Estimated reservoir properties in the aggregate is a departure from the old rules. The new SEC definition does not require that an analogous reservoir has to be in the immediate area or in pressure communication. Seismic analysis and reservoir models are sufficient to book Proved Reserves.
Hold on to your shorts, it gets worse.

For the rest of this excellant technical discussion click here.

29 November 2009

28 November 2009

Peak Oil

27 November 2009

Peak Oil

26 November 2009

Peak Oil

25 November 2009

Passivhuas Makes Builder Magizine

INNER WARMTH: Passive House Institute’s Smith House, which it built in its home city of Urbana, Ill., exhibits the design and technology features of passive construction, including a heat exchange system that makes conventional HVACs superfluous.

By the end of this year, Passive House Institute(PHIUS) should have at least 150 consultants trained to spread the gospel about building energy-efficient houses that can maintain a comfortable indoor temperature without using furnaces or air conditioners. For more of the article click here.

24 November 2009

Action Now or Reaction Later

We all face the same global issues of climate change, economic uncertainty and resource scarcity, however the specific circumstances and reactions to these are each different. The concept of "thinking globally but acting locally" is what this is all about. If you live in northern Georgia the most pressing issue for you to consider may be drought and water scarcity, if you live in Cuba you may be faced with energy shortages most immediately, if you live in the Ukraine environmental degradation may be your most pressing issue. Regardless of the area, if you are conscious of the circumstances this species finds itself in, there is plenty to think about.

Unfortunately, Americans as a whole are either totally unaware or worse in denial about the impending changes. Be that as it may, as I have said before, this is the most exciting time to be alive, a time of extreme change and revolution.

I encourage you to think about the issues facing your local community and to decide to make a step towards sustainability. Join or start a group to discuss the issues. Make a start at changing your thought process to one of long term harmony. Start making the changes in your mind that will allow you to flourish in the coming time of change.

Peak energy is here, unsustainable population is here, species collapse is here, the future holds tremendous turmoil to those who try to cling to the old paradigm. I guarantee in the US that we as a country will be the last to embrace the coming changes as a society. It is clear to me that the US political "leadership" is leading us off a cliff. They do not have the vision or will to make the type of changes the next 40 years will require. Therefore, it is up to us, you and me to make those changes.

Act now or react later, it is your choice.

23 November 2009

CEED Update

We broke ground on the CEED a two weeks ago and true to Murphy's Law of Construction, it promptly rained, and rained and rained. I thought about looking for gopherwood and converting my measurements to cubits, but the rain has eased and we hope to get footings in the ground soon.

22 November 2009

Exciting Breakthrough in Energy Storage

Here is a perfect example of American ingenuity at work. I wonder what foreign government will have the foresight and will to fund the commercial development.

21 November 2009


Click on the link below for important information.

Watch it all, you will not be disappointed.

20 November 2009

Climate Change Wake Up Call II

Here is a very important message on climate change.

Two years ago, the United Nation's International Panel onClimate Change forecast an increase in global temperatures by the end of the century of between 1.8C and 4C, depending on the success of nations in reducing their carbon emissions. But now an international team of scientists, led by Professor Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia, argues that the world is in fact on course for a 6C rise in temperature by 2100. These might sound like small numbers. But their implications could not be bigger – or more dangerous.

For the rest of the article click here.

Dr. Pachauri's Hopenhagen Message

Dr. Pachauri's, Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change supports Hopenhagen campaign.

19 November 2009

Hopenhagen 1

18 November 2009

An excellant commentary by Ron Jones

Inline ImageDesperate times may demand desperate measures, but be careful what you ask for.

Ever since the President signed a bill last week that included provisions to extend and expand the tax incentive for first time home buyers, and now some other folks as well, the trade associations for the housing industry have been throwing a self-congratulatory message party to convince the nation's home builders, and others in the shelter industry, that their universal interests have been served. The public relations specialists, who actually contrive the wording on their behalf, have the spokespeople for the industry groups reveling like drunken sailors in a daisy chain of back slapping victory celebration.

Not so fast. In an open letter to some of these folks back in March of this year I expressed (in part) the following:

"Publicly, the members of the industry … have predictably circled the wagons and hunkered down under a communal blanket of denial when confronted with the notion that builders themselves, regardless of size, are at least partially responsible for the combination of factors that contributed to the disastrous economic situation we are now facing, along with the rest of the country, indeed, apparently the rest of the world.

While we may not have planned all the courses of the meal—nor anticipated or especially concerned ourselves with the raging heartburn and indigestion that would eventually result from the gluttony engaged in by so many who lapped up the seemingly endless flow of gravy—at best we stood by and did little while we watched as the greediest among us slaughtered and plucked the golden goose of home ownership in plain site of anyone who was paying attention.

To the surprise of some, that bird has been resurrected, not once, but amazingly, twice! Not only that, it has been reincarnated in the form of the federal sow, the mother protector and provider of nourishment for all those willing to overcome the stench of the trough. And when the first teat ran dry, we simply squealed and squirmed until a second was provided to quiet our cries.

It seems that no matter how deeply ingrained the aversion to "government interference" runs in the DNA of the industry (don't we still hold sacred the eternal claim that ours is the most overregulated and persecuted occupation in history?) and how often the choruses of our hymns are sung by the choir as we hold regular worship services for the gods of market-driven free enterprise and the American Dream, we have eagerly added another entrée onto the dinner plate already bearing tried- and-true menu favorites like the mortgage interest deduction and other recipes for topping previous calorie counts of ever-higher home ownership numbers.

The apron strings binding us to the federal government have just been cinched with a new set of tight and very complex knots, which will be difficult to release. In the immortal words of former New Mexico Governor Bruce King, the last of the old-style western cowboy governors: "We might have opened ourselves a box of Pandoras."

When the new supply of government milk and honey runs dry in a few months, will we find ourselves shouldering our way to yet another spigot or do you suppose we can actually wean ourselves off this new source of sweetener and return to our professed preference, free enterprise? In truth, is our current celebration of success going to bear a bitter harvest because these devices actually amount to a premature picking of the next crop of market demand that will only repeat itself down the road?

A wise man once warned me: "We have to be careful to not become what we despise the most." My March letter to the "spokesmen" concluded with the following:

"The 'golden goose' I spoke of earlier is not nested in the windfall profits expressed not so very long ago on those gaudy quarterly reports of the publicly trade building corporations, whose business is really little more than mass producing containers in which to package millions of America's families when the boom is on. Nor does it reside in the glowing, intoxicating bumper-crop lists of housing starts that we all feasted on during the recent fat times.

The real Holy Grail of this nation's home builder is embedded in the American Dream itself, which, in our rush to harvest profits we have helped to plunder by going along with the notion that home ownership is a right, not a privilege to be earned, and that the price of everything of importance can be accounted for in our fixation on first cost, which allows us to systematically devalue the fruits of our labors that have been held so dear, practically sacred, by our fathers and grandfathers, most of whom would never have understood the concept of dollars-per-square-foot or why we would allow ourselves to be suckered onto such a treadmill of destruction designed by someone else for their own self-interest.

If it is not too late already—some say it may be—I encourage … builders to re-establish our credibility … through a return to the values that made home building an indispensable thread running through the fabric of our great nation—its economy, its culture, and its peoples—from generation to generation."

It would be hard to deny that for the housing industry these are, indeed, desperate times. But let's make sure that the medicine we have prescribed for ourselves is not more harmful and habit forming than what prompted us to take it in the first place.

17 November 2009

16 November 2009

German Views on Building vs American

I was discussing the reasons that it has been easier for the Germans to make the transition to high quality sustainable building practices than the Americans with a German Architect at Greenbuild.

Very simply put, the Germans look at buildings as a legacy. When they approach a building project they think about leaving the building to future generations almost as a gift. Cost is a secondary consideration to quality.

We Americans think not about the long term implications of our buildings or their effect on future generations but on the short term implications of up front costs. With cheap energy and a quick buck to be made, why be concerned at what you are leaving to your grandchildren?

15 November 2009

Where to look for sustainable building prototypes.

I have said it before, but will repeat it here. If you want to see what basic prototypical massing and form our buildings should be taking, you need look no further than the regional architecture of an area prior to the invention of air conditioning. In general, this should be the starting place for conceptual design of almost any building.

14 November 2009

Tuck this one away for future reference.

Here is the list of 26 Democrats who voted "Aye" on Stupak but "Nay" on the final bill:

Altmire, Barrow, Boccieri, Boren, Bright, Chandler, Childers, Davis (AL), Davis (TN), Gordon (TN), Griffith, Holden, Marshall, Matheson, McIntyre, Melancon, Peterson, Ross, Shuler, Skelton, Tanner, Taylor, Teague

13 November 2009

Ground is Broken!!!!!!! 11/11/09

Some CEED Photos

11/10/09 Arriving on site

11/10/09 Getting Started

11/11/09 Getting ready for Rain!

12 November 2009

Message from Greenbuild

As usual I am both inspired, excited and depressed from the Greenbuild experience. I sat in on some very exciting classes about some truly wonderful initiatives from greening our schools to sustainable large scale development to to net zero building retrofit strategies. I talked to people from all around the country and the world who are doing really good work.

I also realize how far we have to go in both southwestern Virginia and the US as a whole. This evening the 26,000 attendees were greeted by Al Gore. He gave an impassioned plea for us to get active to push the politicians to have the political will to make the necessary regulatory changes to make this country move on a sustainable path. He listed the same reasons i have, climate change, energy independence and economic growth.

As I sat there a tear actually came to my eye as I thought about the chances of the kind of significant action it would take by the politicians to make the type changes we really need. As I watch the "debates" on health care and cap and trade, and see that Rick Boucher voted against the heath care bill and was instrumental in giving the Coal industry a 10 year free pass in Markey Waxman and see that Tom Periello voted for the Stupak amendment, I realize that these "democrats" don't have the courage to do the right thing for these small, no brainer bills, they definitely wont have the spine for meaningful regulatory reform.

When Al Gore quoted Omar Bradley tonight is was very poignant. Regarding the long term financial commitment to the Marshall Plan he said that it is we should "Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship." We need to take this advice now!

I am hopeful that we have seen the future of the right wing in the defeat in New York 23, but am concerned that the American People, who have never been good at voting for their long term interests, will succumb to the hate mongering, lie spewing conservatives that wouldn't believe the truth if their own Mother's told them, and we may lose seats in 2010. We really need to start a NO GOODLATTE in 2010 campaign now, then we can work on Boucher!

More later, sniff, sniff, Ciao!

11 November 2009


It is Greenbuild week. I will be in Phoenix getting my education on. I will report on anything super cool I find.

10 November 2009

09 November 2009

Grow ZEC

Please help me to grow the readers of ZEC by forwarding a link to those whom you think may be interested. ~ Thank you for the help!

Virginia Getting Ready to Split Over Climate Change

Think of this as a prediction and remember it for future reference. Below you will see a map of the US Geological Survey's assessment of the vulnerability of areas to sea level change. It turns out that Virginia's Hampton Roads is one of the most vulnerable areas in the country because of the combination of subsidence (sinking of land) and sea level rise.

As a state, Virginia seems ready to elect a governor who does not believe in evolution or climate change. If elected McDonnell will undoubtedly slow the meager progress towards meaningful regulatory change needed to combat climate change.

But wait, there is something that will happen to change this. As time goes on, maybe fall 2010 or 2011 or 2012, there will be a hurricane that floods large areas of a coastal city. Maybe in Virginia, maybe not, but it will awaken a sleeping conflict that will tear Virginia apart.

The policy makers in the coastal regions of Virginia are well aware of the predictions of the impact of even a small amount of sea level rise on their areas. While many hide their heads in the sand and fail to confront the issue head on mostly because of strong right wing nut opposition, the earth continues to warm and the sea continues to rise. So what will happen, I predict that sooner rather than later, there will be a natural disaster in the US that will finally push the state's eastern lawmakers to force the rest of the state to confront the challenges of climate change. My guess is that it will come under the reign of McDonnell & Griffith. If so, we will have a grand battle on our hands as the eastern right wing take on the western right wing.

Be prepared and stay tuned. It should be interesting.

08 November 2009

07 November 2009

Wave Power

Notice the political will to provide support for sustainable technological solutions.

06 November 2009

Even Egypt gets it!

Using 50 Millions from a US Group, even Egypt is moving this technology forward.

05 November 2009

VA Wind and Solar Rebates

The Wind and Solar rebates in Virginia are one time stimulus money and limited to 15 million. It is first come first serve, so go and sign up.

Europe Leads the Way!

Here is a nice promotional video from the German Solar Leader - Solar Millenium about a the Spanish projects Andasol 1 & 2. This is the same group that is expected to capture 20% of the US market.

Notice all the high tech, green engineering, manufacturing and construction jobs that the US is not fighting for. We need to convince our weakened politicians to grow spines and stand up to the right wing nuts who oppose anything but business as usual.

04 November 2009

2009 Green Living and Energy Expo!

The 2009 Green Living and Energy Expo! will be held 10-6 Friday, Nov. 6 & 10-4 Saturday, Nov. 7.

Please make the effort to come as it will be a great expo.

If you are interested in seeing a presentation on Passivhaus I will be presenting:

"Cutting Edge Low Energy Construction an Introduction to Passivhaus design principles"

at 12:30 on Friday, Nov. 6

This presentation will focus on the basics of Passivhaus design, a scientific European approach to low energy construction and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Passivhaus has a twenty year track record in Europe but has only recently come to the US.

See you there!

03 November 2009

Perfect Example of Long Term Thinking

The German solar thermal firms, Solar Millennium & MAN Ferrostaal have created Solar Trust of America with contracts to build 2 plants in California and 5 more plants in the US.

Once again we have succeeded in handing the lead in a new energy technology to foreign entrepreneurs with more foresight and long term horizons than we seem to be able to muster in the US. With the Solar One and Solar Two projects in the Mojave Desert, in the 1980's and 1990's, we were among the leaders in alternative, sustainable energy development. This technology was pioneering and forward thinking. It was sponsored by the DOE and could have been the basis for the US taking a leading role in the large scale global market of sustainable energy production. Instead of that what happened?

Well, it is the typical US story.

First - the DOE spent money and time to sponsor cutting edge energy technology. (This part of the story is still on going, as the DOE continues to sponsor such research.) The politicians had a photo op upon opening of these projects.

Then - in the US the political will to support such industry was not there. In the time of $1 gas and republican rule, any hint of sustainable energy support was withdrawn. But there was a group that had the political will and was interested in supporting this technology, this group was lead by Germany. Thanks to their parliamentary system of government, the German Green Party was able to gain the minimum vote percentage to become part of a ruling coalition and because of their determined advocacy of sustainability, the German Government adopted a forward looking approach to sustainable energy.

Now - fifteen years later, the technology that the US taxpayer supported through the DOE in the late 1970's and 1980's and the US political leadership promptly dropped (remember the solar system on the White House) is needed in the US and who is installing those systems? Many are being installed by European Companies that have had the governmental support through subsidy and regulation to get them over the "hump" and now they are poised to grap a large percentage of the global market. One German company is expected to own 20% of the US market!

What can we learn from this. We need to learn that long term thinking and political will to support it is what is needed in the US if we do not want to be left behind in the 21st century economy.

02 November 2009

CEED Update

Well this week has found considerable movement on the CEED center front. Even though we have had our permits ready for over one month, we were waiting for the final go ahead from the school folk. We received that go ahead on Thursday, so hopefully we will be breaking ground this coming week! I will keep posting pictures once we break ground so please stay tuned!

01 November 2009

Virginia Energy Rebates

The stimulus money for Virginia Energy Upgrades has been released.

The VA Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy (DMME) has opened its residential and commercial energy efficiency rebate program. The money is available on a first come, first serve basis. The funds are expected to go quickly. You must apply for the funds in advance and then get rebates after the work is done and documented.

Click Here for Details.

31 October 2009

Great Clip

From Frank Capra's 1932 film ~ American Madness.

It is speaking to our condition!

New DIY Renewable Energy Club Forming

REEVA = (Renewable Energy & Electric Vehicle Assn) and will be revived in November in the Roanoke Valley!!

Initial meeting is November 8th Sunday at 1pm at Shoneys at Exit 137 off Route 81

The idea is to make renewable energy affordable for interested people by doing the labor yourself and learning the process.

Typically we'd meet at a project house on solar, wind or EV's for a build & learn session to help people with renewable energy projects and reduce their cost.

30 October 2009


Here is our 350.org day photos from Roanoke:

29 October 2009

Denmark vs. Virginia

In 1973 there was surprise and revulsion in the western world as the Arab world, upset at the US resupply of Israel after the surprise of the Yom Kippur attack, retaliated with a knife in the soft belly of the western world and embargoed oil supplies. For those old enough to remember, it was as rude an awakening to our collective 28-year comfort enjoyed since our victory in 1945. The western world’s reaction to the events of 1973 – 1974, while rhetorically very similar, were in fact were quite different in terms of real world action.

Almost to a country, the western world decried the moves as unacceptable and almost to a country vowed to reduce their dependence on foreign energy supplies. It is here that the story becomes very interesting both for the student of history and as an insight into the probable near term consequences of actions we will take.

In examining the reaction of a western country let’s first look at Denmark. They made the decision to commit themselves to a future that was not dependant on foreign energy supplies. They made commitments not only on the oil side, but also on conservation, heat and electrical generation. In the 1980’s they also made the decision not to allow any nuclear power plants on their soil.

In examining the reaction of the US, and specifically Virginia, we made a lot of verbal noise about energy independence and freedom from foreign energy sources. We made some first steps in the years from 1974 – 1979, but with the election of Ronald Reagan and the return of cheap oil, all focus was diverted and the goals were forgotten.

Why did this happen and what were the results? Well, the American public has never had a taste for putting off gratification today for the betterment of tomorrow, and the Danes were focused on two generations down the line. An examination of the results thus far is very telling. Here is a brief comparison between Denmark and Virginia.

The GDP per capita for Denmark is $37,300.00
The GDP per capita for Virginia is $46,521.00
Per capita Virginia is 25% richer than Denmark.

The population of Denmark is approximately 5.5 million.
The population of Virginia is approximately 7.7 million.
Virginia has 40% more people than Denmark.

Denmark (proper) is approximately 17,000 sq miles
Virginia is approximately 43,000 sq miles
Virginia is 153% larger than Denmark

Total energy usage per capita in Demark is 46,722 kWH/year
Total energy usage per capita in Virginia is 99,442 kWH/year
The average Virginian uses 113% more total energy than the average Dane.

Electrical energy usage per capita in Denmark is 6,506 kWH/year
Electrical energy usage per capita in Virginia is 13,662 kWH/year
The average Virginian uses 110% more electrical energy than the average Dane.

Cost of electrical energy in Denmark is $0.322 / kWH
Cost of electrical energy in Virginia is $0.104 / k WH
The average Dane spends $2,094 on electricity annually and the average Virginian spends $1,420 on electricity annually.
The average Dane spends $674 (47%) more on electricity annually than the average Virginian.

Percent sustainable energy (including hydro) in Denmark is 17.0%
Percent sustainable energy (including hydro) in Virginia is 2.6%
Denmark produces 554% more sustainable energy than Virginia.

So what do all these numbers tell us. Before I answer that I would like to tell the reader why I chose Denmark. Denmark has the highest cost of energy of any country in the European Union. Denmark also is consistently listed as one of the freest markets in the European Union and also had the least dependency on foreign energy supplies. I wanted to compare Virginia to a real world success story.

So, back to the numbers.

First, we see that Virginia is richer (per capita GDP), larger (population) and has more natural resources (gross land area) than Demark.

Second, there is a simple truth which shines thorough the second set of figures. There is a correlation between energy cost and energy usage. In study after study it has been shown that the higher the energy cost, the lower the usage. We see this in the US in states like Vermont, which has some of the highest energy costs in the nation, but per capita has the lowest energy usage.

Third, we see that this energy independence is costing the average Dane $1.85 per day more than the average Virginian.

So for less than a Starbucks Coffee per day, we could conceivable create a sustainable and foreign intervention free energy supply. Wow, sounds like a deal to me!

So what is standing in our way Virginia? Oh, I can answer that, political will and vision. Here are three items that happened to me at the Conference on Virginia Energy Symposium (COVES) in Mid October 2009:

(excerpts from by blog)

There were 400 or so folk who showed up, most of the regular characters you find at such things: solar, wind and biomass folks, utility reps, college facility people, politicians or there reps, etc..

As I circulated among the seminars and talked to the people at the conference, I got a very clear understanding of how far we are from grasping the scope of the change that needs to be made. At this symposium, I found just what I expected, many of the people on the front lines of energy policy change and renewable generation had a clear understanding of just how much has to happen in a small amount of time.

Unfortunately, the political folks had an inkling of understanding but a lack of will and vision. I will site three examples and you judge for yourself:

At a symposium where an Assistant Secretary of DOE gave a presentation, he discussed the much needed work to be done on existing buildings in the area of energy retrofits. He described energy retrofit as “not low hanging fruit, but fruit rotting on the ground”. There is a huge potential for energy reduction that is easily achievable and compared to other energy reduction strategies, relatively inexpensive. After the presentation during the question and answer portion I asked if we could get Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make it mandatory that any home purchased using their funds (which is the majority of all homes sold in the US) have an energy audit done. We could get folks used to having audits done and use this to quantify the homes energy footprint in an eye towards making energy upgrades mandatory with the sale of homes. This is a program that is not pie in the sky; rather it is currently being done in the UK. The answer was depressing a generic, "we are looking into many ways of encouraging energy audits". To me this was the failure to recognize two facts, first is that the US taxpayer now owns Fannie and Freddie (for all intents and purposes) and secondly it would take no political maneuvering, as Fannie and Freddie can impose that type of requirement at will.

The second was what happened at the final symposium, the summation of the conference. They had four speakers, one from biomass, solar and wind and one from the governor’s office. After the presentations during the questions and answer period I asked this question: I said that it seemed to me that all the presenters were ignoring the elephant in the room. Every alternative energy presenter lamented the fact that it is hard to compete with the cheap energy we have in Virginia, and that with little political and financial support from Richmond, the alternative energy community was facing a tough road. The elephant is Virginia's cheap energy. I asked the governors rep. this ~ since we all generally agree that we need sustainable, non-polluting sources of energy in Virginia and that we have cheap energy here in the olde dominion, why not use that as a positive and raise the cost of energy to create the revenue to pursue a faster switch to a sustainable future. The response was once again what I expected, the gov's rep started in saying that Virginia could not act "in a vacuum" and that making a change while the rest of the US and the world did not would hurt Virginia. I responded that we cannot abdicate our responsibility for energy independence and that is exactly what he was doing by making that argument. He said, "I did not say that" to which I said, "you most certainly did". With that the moderator took another question.

The third thing happened in a presentation by Dominion Power’s Vice President in charge of sustainable energy. She gave a presentation about the “smart meter” installations that Dominion was doing and bemoaned the fact that the customers did not seem interested in the monitoring abilities of the smart meter interface. She said that the customers were not monitoring their energy usage to lower their consumption. My hand shot up in an instant and I asked, why not have a usage carrot and stick. For example, if you use the base amount of energy you pay the base rate, but for every kWH you use over that amount the rate increases, and alternatively for every kWH you use under the base amount the rate decreases, I told her that I bet folks would pay attention to their usage then! She brushed my comment aside as unrealistic, but I muttered that I guess the meters aren’t as smart as they want to make out. I also asked her if we could institute a voluntary check box like the neighbors to neighbors fund to support customer generated energy (wind, solar, biomass). I let her know that right now North Carolina is doing this and it has almost tripled the amount of money going to the customer for electrical generation, without costing the utility a cent. Once again she said that she thought it would not work in Virginia.

So you see, this is the situation and the problem. Left in the hands of the politicians, who are guided by those with a lot of money and access and a vested interest in business as usual we are not going to see change.

So what I am asking is to think about the kind of Virginia you want for your grandchildren and act as if your actions today will have a direct effect on their lives, because they do.

28 October 2009

27 October 2009

Another Nice Vid

26 October 2009

More info on the Solar Decathlon

Solar Decathlon Winners Embrace Passivhaus Standard

Technische Universität Darmstadt takes first-place with its surPLUShome, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign second with its Gable Home. Both modeled their entries to the Passivhaus standard

25 October 2009

Nice Vid.

24 October 2009

New Study on the Cost of Fossil Fuels

Here is an excerpt from the National Academy of Sciences regarding the hidden cost of fossil fuel energy:

News from the National Academies

WASHINGTON -- A new report from the National Research Council examines and, when possible, estimates "hidden" costs of energy production and use -- such as the damage air pollution imposes on human health -- that are not reflected in market prices of coal, oil, other energy sources, or the electricity and gasoline produced from them. The report estimates dollar values for several major components of these costs. The damages the committee was able to quantify were an estimated $120 billion in the U.S. in 2005, a number that reflects primarily health damages from air pollution associated with electricity generation and motor vehicle transportation. The figure does not include damages from climate change, harm to ecosystems, effects of some air pollutants such as mercury, and risks to national security, which the report examines but does not monetize.

Requested by Congress, the report assesses what economists call external effects caused by various energy sources over their entire life cycle -- for example, not only the pollution generated when gasoline is used to run a car but also the pollution created by extracting and refining oil and transporting fuel to gas stations. Because these effects are not reflected in energy prices, government, businesses and consumers may not realize the full impact of their choices. When such market failures occur, a case can be made for government interventions -- such as regulations, taxes or tradable permits -- to address these external costs, the report says.

The committee that wrote the report focused on monetizing the damage of major air pollutants -- sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone, and particulate matter – on human health, grain crops and timber yields, buildings, and recreation. When possible, it estimated both what the damages were in 2005 (the latest year for which data were available) and what they are likely to be in 2030, assuming current policies continue and new policies already slated for implementation are put in place.

The committee also separately derived a range of values for damages from climate change; the wide range of possibilities for these damages made it impossible to develop precise estimates of cost. However, all model results available to the committee indicate that climate-related damages caused by each ton of CO2 emissions will be far worse in 2030 than now; even if the total amount of annual emissions remains steady, the damages caused by each ton would increase 50 percent to 80 percent.

For more click here.

23 October 2009

22 October 2009

20 October 2009

Passivhaus Comment

I received this comment and thought it may be helpful to other to share the response.
Nelson Labbe said...

How does Passive House certification work? Does one have to go to a PHIUS certified architect to get a house design/plans and Passive House certification? Can a non-PH architect get house plans certified? If so, by who? PHIUS? What are the approximate costs for PHIUS review, consultation, and certification?
Nelson Labbé

Here is the Reply...

Passivhaus certification for a project requires that the plans be analyzed and and submitted to PHIUS by a Certified Passivhaus Consultant. The design can either be by a TEAM of a certified PH consultant & a non certified architect or by a PH certified architect. Personally, as an Architect and a PH certified consultant I find that it would be difficult and time consuming to coordinate with an architect who does not have a good, solid understanding of the concepts, however, I think a good PH consultant can give the Architect and Client a good overview of PH principals in about 4 hours.

The real tough part is the coordination of the design details with the PHPP (Passive House Planning Package). As a design/builder I can tell you that when I am designing I have both my CAD program and the PHPP open to determine the optimal outcome to maximize efficiency and minimize price.

I would think that the the client should be prepared to spend more for an untrained architect as there will be a learning curve and it is likely that there will be considerable redesign to bring the iterations of the plans into compliance with PH principles.

As far as the costs, that depends on the project and the team. My personal recommendation is that the best, most cost effective approach is true design/build, where the architect, PH consultant and builder are one entity and have one point of responsibility to the Owner.

If you want to pursue separate architect, PH consultant and builder, then I would recommend a very intimate process where the team is assembled day one and the Passivhaus Consultant is responsible for orienting the team to PH principles. I cannot stress how important the builder is in all this. You can have a great design and an efficient PH concept, but without a builder grounded in real world details and a deep understanding of PH concepts, the entire project can spin out of control, because of the high level of quality and attention to detail that is required to implement Passivhaus techniques.

I hope this helps!