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Solutions & sustainability - Jun 7

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Peak Moment Television

Global Public Media
This weekly half-hour program features energy news with Rick Hartmann, followed by host Janaia Donaldson's conversations with guests about community responses for a changing energy future. Topics include local food production, renewable energy, transportation alternatives, sustainability, economic localization, personal responses, and more. How can we thrive, build stronger communities, and help one another in this time of transition?

Peak Moment Television is a project of the Alliance for a Post Petroleum Local Economy (APPLE), a Local Post Carbon Group in Nevada County, California. The show airs on NCTV cable channel 11 in Nevada City / Grass Valley, Thursdays 7pm, Tuesdays 3:30pm. Peak Moment is produced by Janaia Donaldson and directed by Robyn Mallgren of Yuba Gals Independent Media, and crewed by APPLE members, using the facilities of Nevada County TV.

More of Peak Moment and other local media from the Relocalization Network will be available soon with the launch of LocalPublicMedia.org- stay tuned.
(3 Jun 2006)
There are six episodes available at the Global Public Media page as well as some earlier episodes available on Google Video -AF


Relocalization - Our Only Solution to Peak Oil

Stephen Balogh, Groovy Green
Steve brings a list of ways that he plans to relocalize in the face of peak oil.  Perhaps it will inspire you to do the same.
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One of the first warning signs of peak oil is upon us, the inability of oil producing nations to keep up with the increasing demand of worldwide consumers. The ability to control the price of crude oil has fallen out of the hands of the OPEC nations. The government has begun to warn us that price hikes may be less temporary than they previously had stated, now slated to last through 2007. (As you'll note in the article, no reason is given for a possible reduction in prices at that point.)

What is our only option for riding the peak oil production plateau and inevitable slide (or shock, as it may be)? Relocalization.

Dozens of presenters came and spoke their peace at the PeakoilNYC sponsored Local Solutions to the Energy Dilemma Conference. Most touted relocalization in some form, as the nation's (and world's) only hope of coming out safely on the other side of the peak. Michael Brownlee from Boulder Valley Relocalization spoke on day one of the conference, and his words on relocalization are worth reading (.pdf).
(12 May 2006)


Mass Natural

Michael Pollan, NY Times
... On the cultural spectrum, organic stands at the far opposite extreme from Nascar or Wal-Mart.

But all this is about to change, now that Wal-Mart itself, the nation's largest grocer, has decided to take organic food seriously. (Nascar is not quite there yet.) Beginning later this year, Wal-Mart plans to roll out a complete selection of organic foods — food certified by the U.S.D.A. to have been grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers — in its nearly 4,000 stores. Just as significant, the company says it will price all this organic food at an eye-poppingly tiny premium over its already-cheap conventional food: the organic Cocoa Puffs and Oreos will cost only 10 percent more than the conventional kind.

...This is good news indeed, for the American consumer and the American land. Or perhaps I should say for some of the American land and a great deal more of the land in places like Mexico and China, for Wal-Mart is bound to hasten the globalization of organic food. (Ten percent of organic food is imported today.) Like every other commodity that global corporations lay their hands on, organic food will henceforth come from wherever in the world it can be produced most cheaply. It is about to go the way of sneakers and MP3 players, becoming yet another rootless commodity circulating in the global economy.

Oh, but wait. . .I meant to talk about all the good that will come of Wal-Mart's commitment to organic. Sorry about that. When you're talking about global capitalism, it can be hard to separate the good news from the bad. Because of its scale and efficiency and notorious ruthlessness, Wal-Mart will force down the price of organics, and that is a good thing for all the consumers who can't afford to spend more for food than they already do. Wal-Mart will also educate the millions of Americans who don't yet know exactly what organic food is or precisely how it differs from conventionally grown food.

The vast expansion of organic farmland it will take to feed Wal-Mart's new appetite is also an unambiguous good for the world's environment, since it will result in substantially less pesticide and chemical fertilizer being applied to the land — somewhere.

...But before you pour yourself a celebratory glass of Wal-Mart organic milk, you might want to ask a few questions about how the company plans to achieve its laudable goals. Assuming that it's possible at all, how exactly would Wal-Mart get the price of organic food down to a level just 10 percent higher than that of its everyday food? To do so would virtually guarantee that Wal-Mart's version of cheap organic food is not sustainable, at least not in any meaningful sense of that word. To index the price of organic to the price of conventional is to give up, right from the start, on the idea, once enshrined in the organic movement, that food should be priced not high or low but responsibly. As the organic movement has long maintained, cheap industrial food is cheap only because the real costs of producing it are not reflected in the price at the checkout. Rather, those costs are charged to the environment, in the form of soil depletion and pollution (industrial agriculture is now our biggest polluter); to the public purse, in the form of subsidies to conventional commodity farmers; to the public health, in the form of an epidemic of diabetes and obesity that is expected to cost the economy more than $100 billion per year; and to the welfare of the farm- and food-factory workers, not to mention the well-being of the animals we eat. As Wendell Berry once wrote, the motto of our conventional food system — at the center of which stands Wal-Mart, the biggest purveyor of cheap food in America — should be: Cheap at any price!

...We're also going to see more organic milk — and organic foods of all kinds — coming from places like New Zealand. The globalization of organic food is already well under way: at Whole Foods you can buy organic asparagus flown in from Argentina, raspberries from Mexico, grass-fed meat from New Zealand. In an era of energy scarcity, the purchase of such products does little to advance the ideal of sustainability that once upon a time animated the organic movement. These foods may contain no pesticides, but they are drenched in petroleum even so.

Michael Pollan, a contributing writer for the magazine, is the author, most recently, of "The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals." He also teaches journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.

(5 June 2006)
Long essay by one of our best writers on food and agriculture. -BA


The Grass-Fed Revolution

Margon Roosevelt/Grandview, Time Magazine
Beef raised wholly on pasture, rather than grain-fed in feedlots, may be better for your health--and for the planet
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Until he saw the light, Jon Taggart--6 ft. 5 in., jeans, white cowboy hat, Texas twang--was a rancher like any other in the southern Great Plains. He crowded his cattle onto pasture sprayed with weed killers and fertilizers. When they were half grown, he shipped them in diesel-fueled trucks to huge feedlots. There they were stuffed with corn and soy--pesticide treated, of course--and implanted with synthetic hormones to make them grow faster. To prevent disease, they were given antibiotics. They were trucked again to slaughterhouses, butchered and shrink-wrapped for far-flung supermarkets. "It was the chemical solution to everything," Taggart recalls.

Today his 500 steers stay home on the range. And they're in the forefront of a back-to-the-future movement: 100% grass-fed beef. In the seven years since Taggart began to "pay attention to Mother Nature," as he puts it, he has restored his 1,350 acres in Grandview, Texas, to native tallgrass prairie, thus eliminating the need for irrigation and chemicals. He rotates his cattle every few days among different fields to allow the grass to reach its nutritional peak. And when the steers have gained enough weight, he has them slaughtered just down the road. Finally, he and his wife Wendy dry-age and butcher the meat in their store, Burgundy Boucherie. Twice weekly, they deliver it to customers in Fort Worth and Dallas happy to pay a premium for what the Taggarts call "beef with integrity--straight from pasture to dinner plate."
(4 June 2006)
Long article. Other articles from Time on "Eating Smart" are available at the original.


Chinese take to solar-powered water heaters

Emma Graham-Harrison, MSNBC
Huang Ming's company has earned a fortune manufacturing solar heaters, relatively low-tech rooftop devices which capture the sun’s energy to provide water for baths and washing and are at the forefront of a renewable energy drive.

At least 30 million Chinese households now have one and last year the country accounted for around 80 percent of the world market, said Eric Martinot, visiting scholar at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. “We are at 15 to 20 percent annual growth and I don’t see that slowing down.”

Tubes under the tank

All have the same basic design, a row of sunlight-capturing glass pipes angled below an insulated water tank.

The key to the demand boom, even in the freezing northeast and chilly western deserts, is the vacuum separating the inner tube with its energy-trapping coating from an outer tube.

Sunlight travels freely through the glass tubes but the heat it generates is trapped inside the central one where it can be transmitted to water.

“The vacuum prevents molecules carrying heat away, as there is no direct contact between inner and outer tube,” Huang said.
(5 Jun 2006)


Solar is a real option: CSIRO Report says sun will soon match coal

Rosslyn Beeby, The Canberra Times
Solar thermal technology is capable of producing Australia's entire electricity demand and is the only renewable energy capable of making deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, a confidential coal research report obtained by The Canberra Times says.

The report, by the Cooperative Research Centre for Coal in Sustainable Development, claims solar thermal technology "is poised to play a significant role in baseload generation for Australia" and will be cost-competitive with coal within seven years.

It says solar thermal-generated power is capable of meeting the requirements of two major electric power markets - "large-scale dispatchable markets comprised of grid-connected peaking and base-load power and rapidly expanding distributed markets including both on-grid and remote off-grid applications".

Greens leader Senator Bob Brown said the report clearly indicated Australia should be investing in developing and commercialising new solar technologies to meet growing global demand and has accused the Federal Government of undermining solar research by cutting back funding. "This report demonstrates that Australia's future is definitely solar. It also places a question mark over Government decisions to scale-back funding for research in this area. You begin to wonder if there are vested interests that are making sure cost-efficient renewable energy drops off the agenda."
(26 May 2006)


Greenpeace gives answers to UK energy crisis

Ian Morgan, PUB
Woking Borough Council's success in slashing its own CO2 emissions by 77% is highlighted in a new short film.

'What are we waiting for?' has been launched by Greenpeace and answers the crucial energy questions that the UK faces.

The film was launched by Tim Smit, co-founder of the Eden Project, who said: "This film is guaranteed to make even Tony Blair think again".

'What are we waiting for?' was made by BAFTA award winning Memory Box Films and takes the viewer on a visual tour of some of the world's state of the art decentralised energy projects.
(5 Jun 2006)

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