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Kicking Our Fossil Fuel Addiction: one man’s efforts to live sustainably
John Watson, Totnes Times via Transition Culture
When I started trying to reduce my own fossil fuel dependency, I thought I could produce energy by renewable means without changing my practices – the way we are going as a nation. Being in a rural situation I was able to install a small hydro plant, a small wind turbine, photovoltaics and a self-made solar panel for hot water. But all these technologies depend upon oil – the photovoltaic and thermal solar panels and the components of the wind turbine all require oil for their manufacture – so this is the wrong way. Realising this, I began to do what I should have done initially:

• First draught proof and double insulate everything.
• Use good economy light bulbs (some are better than others).
• Make a habit of shutting doors and switching off lights.
• Use curtains and shutters wherever possible
• Cut off cold areas such as patios (I use 1 in. cavity boards slid behind the curtains).
• Close off stairways by the same methods.
(14 Feb 2006)

Kinsale Action Plan – sending up shoots around the world…
Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
Since the Kinsale Energy Descent Action Plan was produced last June, it has been amazingly virulent, popping up all over the place, something akin to Japanese Knotweed, but hopefully more useful. I just Googled it to get a sense of where it is appearing and what it is leading to and was quite impressed with the results. A group in Edinburgh called Portobello Energy Descent and Land Reform (PEDAL) are attempting to build an urban eco-village on a site they saved, in an earlier incarnation, from being turned into a supermarket. They talk about developing an Energy Descent Action Plan for the area, and have drawn inspiration from the Kinsale model.

Pippa Johns in Brighton has begin to explore how the model might be used there, and recently ran a workshop on the subject. Richard Heinberg is using the Kinsale model as one of the inputs to his Powerdown project in California. The Oil Awareness Group in North Carolina in the US are using the plan as a template for their work.
(13 Feb 2006)
The list continues – and it’s great to hear of so many projects around the world. Worth checking this post. -AF

Peak Oil Denial Comes in Many Forms…
Rob Hopkins, Transition Culture
Denial about oil peak takes many forms. One of my favourites was the elderly man I had a conversation with about peak oil, me being under the impression that we were having a mutually understood intelligent two way conversation about the impacts of a diminishing fuel supplies on the UK economy. At the end he said, in all seriousness, “yes, Peak Oil, I used some of that on a table once, it came up lovely”.
(8 Feb 2006)

Rain gardens ‘cut city pollution’
Mark Kinver, BBC
“Rain gardens” can dramatically cut the amount of pollution in urban storm water, according to a study by US researchers.

Most of the rain that falls on cities lands on impervious surfaces, such as roads, where it absorbs pollutants before it finally drains away.

The team says a shallow depression in a garden containing bark mulch and shrubs can remove up to 99% of toxins.
(27 Jan 2006)
There are some online rain garden resources available here: -AF

Standby electronic chargers gobble power – some in industry seek to delay reform

Greg Lucas, SF Chronicle
Sacramento — Some makers of cordless phones, battery-powered drills, MP3 players, laptop computers and other electronic devices are balking at new California regulations to reduce the amount of power the appliances use when charging or sitting idle while plugged into wall sockets.

State energy commissioners adopted sweeping standards in 2004 to decrease the use of “standby” power by household electronics. When fully phased in, the rules will affect everything from television sets to microwave ovens and home stereo systems.

For consumers, the new regulations could increase the cost of some devices by as much as $1 or as little as 25 cents to 30 cents, according to a Natural Resources Defense Council report. But the same report said improved efficiency could generate energy cost savings of $1 to $11 over the life of the product.

“Plasma televisions use 400 kilowatts to 500 kilowatts per year. There’s cable boxes that use as much power as a refrigerator. Electronics now use 50 percent more kilowatts than air conditioning,” said John Wilson, a California Energy Commission adviser. “People don’t realize electronics are becoming a major part of their electrical bill.”
(10 February 2006)
Related: Computer manufacturing soaks up fossil fuels, UN University study says (UN)

Japanese Putting All Their Energy Into Saving Fuel

Anthony Faiola, Washington Post
…As President Bush calls on Americans to break their addiction to oil and increase energy efficiency in the face of soaring prices, perhaps no people serve as better role models than the energy-miser Japanese.

With the world’s second-largest economy and virtually no domestic sources of fossil fuel, Japan has had little choice but to turn energy efficiency into an art form, experts say. Japan has dramatically diversified its power sources over the years, becoming far less dependent on oil while cultivating a culture of conservation.

Kamiita’s decision to turn off the heat, which brought it national media attention, came after a nationwide “warm biz” campaign led thousands of businesses and government offices to set their thermostats no higher than 68 degrees this winter while encouraging employees to wear sweaters and jackets at work. If it sounds like a gimmick, consider the figures from the similar “cool biz” campaign launched by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s cabinet last summer. Companies including Toyota, Hitachi, Isuzu and Sharp asked everyone from chairmen down to salarymen to strip off their much-loved ties and jackets as office air conditioners were set no cooler than 82.4 degrees. In metropolitan Tokyo alone, the campaign saved 70 million kilowatts of power from June through August — enough to power a city of a quarter-million people for one month, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co.
(16 February 2006)