Garden of Edens

Jason Edens, rural solar advocate, InterActivates

Low-income households are often the most gravely affected by energy crises, says Jason Edens of the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, yet they are the least able to afford renewable-energy alternatives. As InterActivist this week, Edens chats about installing solar-heating systems in rural areas of Minnesota and empowering families to warm themselves (but not the earth!). Send Edens a question of your own by noon PST on Wednesday; we'll publish his answers to selected questions on Friday. new in InterActivist: Garden of Edens see also, in Grist: Poverty & the Environment, a special series

Oh Say, Can You, Seattle?

Seattle commission unveils recommendations for meeting Kyoto goals Ex-VP Al Gore and environmental journalist Elizabeth Kolbert were in Seattle last week (both gave PowerPoint presentations, the chic new environmental look for ’06) for a series …

Reporter Michael Grunwald gabs about his new book on the Everglades

For about 5,000 years, the waters of the peninsula we now call Florida flowed south into the Kissimmee River. The Kissimmee emptied into enormous Lake Okeechobee, which in turn spilled over into a vast, shallow …

Switchgrass: The magic wand that transforms crappy biofuels policy into gold, part 2

Now they’re burning coal to make ethanol

TheWatt and Treehugger both flag a story in the Christian Science Monitor that makes my sense of uneasiness about biofuels even ... uneasier. Here's the deal: An ethanol plant that opened last year in Iowa is burning 300 tons of coal a day. You heard me: coal. And it's not an isolated case: The trend, which is expected to continue, has left even some ethanol boosters scratching their heads. Should coal become a standard for 30 to 40 ethanol plants under construction -- and 150 others on the drawing boards -- it would undermine the environmental reasoning for switching to ethanol in the first place, environmentalists say. It's a farce to call ethanol a clean, renewable fuel if it involves burning coal, right? What do you have to say for yourself, ethanol industry? What could you say, what ... term could you use, to answer these terrible charges? Wait for it ... wait for it ... feel the love coming ...

Giant power sucking sound

Here's one problem that should be relatively easy to fix: appliances that use power even when they're not in use. The Economist has a nice summary of the problem: Strange though it seems, a typical microwave oven consumes more electricity powering its digital clock than it does heating food. For while heating food requires more than 100 times as much power as running the clock, most microwave ovens stand idle--in "standby" mode--more than 99% of the time. Apparently, somewhere between 5 and 13 percent of residential power is consumed by appliances that nobody is actually using. Hmph.

Green architects speak

Two nice interviews with architect/designer types: Our own Amanda Griscom Little chats with Richard Cook and DesignBoom talks with Cameron Sinclair. Interesting stuff. (both via TH)

Exxon-Valdez anniversary

Today is the 17th anniversary of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. Some bloggy thoughts and reflections here and here. AP stories here and here.

Seattle climatepalooza

Big climate haps in the Emerald City

It's been a pretty extraordinary couple of days here in Seattle -- "climatepalooza," as Mayor Greg Nickels jokingly dubbed it. Yesterday I went to a small private luncheon with Seattle's movers and shakers. The purpose was to honor both the Green Ribbon Commission's work and visiting author Elizabeth Kolbert. I got to meet the mayor, who was genial and optimistic, reinforcing my sense that he's a bit of a Forrest Gump figure in all this. He got a good idea -- the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement -- from his staff, jumped on it, and now has gotten carried away on a tsunami he doesn't pretend to control. I give him full credit for recognizing and riding the wave. It's a case of accidental greatness, but accidental greatness is greatness nonetheless. His name is on its way to the history books. Kolbert -- obviously nervous and uncomfortable with public speaking -- spoke briefly. She said she hopes Seattle is able to achieve these goals and that others emulate it, because if not, "all hope is lost." Everyone laughed nervously. She didn't.

A proud day for Seattle

I just came from a press conference wherein Seattle mayor Greg Nickels unveiled the recommendations of his Green Ribbon Commission on Climate Protection. This is the first big step in Seattle's attempt to comply with Kyoto -- a mission which, via Nickels' U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, now involves some 219 cities (and counting). I'll have more to say about this event and some others in the past week shortly. For now I just wanted to share something said by former Vice President Al Gore (you'll have to forgive me for paraphrasing -- I didn't record it). He talked of two possible futures ahead of us. In one, our children ask, "Why? How could they let this destruction happen?" In the second, they say, "Thank God they had the moral imagination and courage to rise above their limitations and tackle this problem. And it all started in a city between the mountains and the sea. It all started in Seattle." I'm not much for civic cheerleading, but today I'm pretty damn proud to be a Seattleite.

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