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Interview: Actor/environmental activist Ed Begley, Jr., on environmental and energy issues
Marc Strassman, Etopia Media
Actor/environmental activist Ed Begley, Jr., talks about a wide range of environmental and energy issues.

Ed Begley, Jr., is an actor and activist well-known for his commitment to walking (or bicycling) the environmental walk as well as talking the environmental talk.

Mr. Begley sat down in his solar-powered Los Angeles home yesterday afternoon to talk, about peak oil, California Proposition 87, wind farms, electric cars, and photovoltaic electricity.

You can watch and listen to what he had to say by clicking on one, two, three, or four of the appropriate menu buttons in the Sustainable Cities Channel contained in the Brightcove Player below.
(24 Aug 2006)
Long four-part interview. On the same page is an audio interview with Los Angeles Department of Water & Power Solar Program Manager Josephine Gonzalez, which can be found right below the four parts of the interview with Begley.

Alternative energy gets mainstream treatment

Keith Phucas, Philadelphia Times-Herald
LOWER MERION – America’s rocky relationship with the Middle East and rising oil prices have rekindled the debate about foreign oil dependency and made calls for energy alternatives urgent.

Energy is central to war and peace, according to Rep. Curt Weldon, R-7th Dist., who said sustaining peace around the globe in the future is likely to hinge on countries having plentiful supplies.

The congressman spoke to academics, entrepreneurs and government officials recently at the Alternative Energy Forum at Villanova University’s College of Engineering.
Weldon, the event’s keynote speaker, is a member of the House Science Committee and the Subcommittee on Energy and the House Armed Services Committee.

“I consider energy a national security issue,” he said.

The congressman believes North Korea could be convinced to trade their nuclear ambitions for oil and natural gas from Siberia and Sakhalin Island in Russia. For several years, a Sakhalin Island natural gas pipeline project has been discussed as a way of supplying the Korean peninsula. Sakhalin is located off Russia’s eastern coast near Japan.

Similarly, Weldon wants to see diplomacy succeed in the current standoff with Iran over its nuclear program and thinks energy could be the key to successful negotiations. Russia should play a crucial role.

“War with Iran is the worst thing we could do,” he said. “Part of our problem is, there’s no diplomacy.”

Weldon, who has butted heads with the Bush administration over taking congressional delegations to North Korea, has been to the Communist country twice.
But Thursday’s conference was as much about alternatives to burning fossil fuels. Weldon encouraged stepped-up research and development of alternative energy sources at regional academic institutions and private companies and proposed funding a future Center for Alternative Energy at Villanova.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., 6th Dist., serves with Weldon on the House Science and Armed Services committees, explained the Peak Oil theory. This view holds that continued growth in worldwide demand for oil and gas will exhaust available supplies in the coming decades. For this reason, Bartlett said it is imperative that the United States develop alternative energy sources now.

He said the nation’s oil production has fallen steadily since 1970. Currently, the U.S. has two percent of the world’s oil reserves, but consumes 25 percent of the world’s oil.
“We were just as irresponsible as a kid in a cookie jar – we pigged out,” Bartlett said.
The Maryland congressman said U.S. needs the Manhattan Project-style effort to solve the country’s energy woes.

Weldon and Bartlett are part of the SMART Congressional Caucus created to foster research and development collaboration among universities, private industry and government in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. The acronym SMART stands for Strengthening the Mid-Atlantic Region for Tomorrow.
(13 Aug 2006)

Letter from Sweden: Fossil Fuel-Free by 2020, Maybe

Alan AtKisson, WorldChanging
“Fossil-fuel free by 2020.” That was the amazing national goal announced by Prime Minister Göran Persson at the launch of the so-called “Oil Commission”, an advisory body whose purpose is to chart a pathway to reach that goal.

In June, the Commission (the full title should be translated as “The Commission to End Oil Dependency by 2020“, but the government translates it a bit erroneously as “The Commission on Oil Independence”) released its first major report, with the nitty-gritty policy recommendations. To end its dependency on oil — which is rather vaguely defined not as completely getting rid of the stuff, but dramatically reducing its use to the point where Sweden does not “need” oil anymore — Sweden would need to do the following in just fourteen years:

  • Increase energy efficiency throughout the entirety of Swedish society by 20%
  • Reduce the amount of gasoline and diesel used in Swedish vehicles by 40-50% (with a combination of efficiency and a faster switch to renewable and biofuels)
  • Reduce oil consumption in industry by 25-40%

…But this remarkably clear-sighted and water-tight economic logic was not shared, for example, by the wood industry association, who see the proposals for increased biofuels and ethanol production as an economic threat. Finished wood products generate approximately ten times the revenues in export income, compared to using wood for fuel, said the association’s CEO (as cited in the trade press). Other industry groups used stronger language like “catastrophe” in connection with the Commission’s proposals, and warned that Sweden’s economy depends on cheap electricity and wood — and the result of the Commission’s recommendations would be higher energy prices, and greater demand on forest resources.

It’s also not clear what the impact of the policy would be on Sweden’s biodiversity, but so far, it is oppositional industry groups, and not environmental lobbyists, who seem to be most worried about such environmental side effects.
(18 Aug 2006)
A BBC report on Sweden 2020 made it seem as if the Swedish effort was mostly focused at enabling private automobiles to continue, but without dependency on foreign oil. -BA