Thursday, December 18, 2008

Energy Co-ops: People Sharing, Prospering and Conserving

When Franklin Roosevelt 75 years ago signed into law the Civilian Conservation Corps in my hometown he was challenged by his critics. FDR responded that when the unemployed started to plant trees and become vested in other environmental improvements in their communities they become shareholders in saving their land. Energy co-ops are not only saving their land, they are also creating a necessary, new paradigm for investing in local economies at a scale that functions to revitalize other aspects of community.

Fostering energy co-ops creates many, complementary economic and environmental benefits. Shareholders lessen their energy bill by investing in small-scale energy production and conservation. This, in turn, incrementally lessons our nation’s dependence on imported foreign oil and our overall carbon footprint. By investing in and lending to small, local businesses, they also contribute to the creation of new “green” jobs and re-circulate money within the community, which has been shown to benefit the local economy by a factor of 3x. When the co-op works their share goes up in value, jobs are created, energy is produced and saved and joyful human interaction result. This county will not lessen its dependence on foreign oil until this nation harnesses citizen’s involvement. We can not afford to wait to develop green infrastructure in neighborhoods, towns and region without engaging Americans of all walks. Energy co-ops also develop positive feedback loops by transforming the homeowners into more self reliant energy conservers. People who buy co-op shares become motivated to get the best return on their collective efforts by promoting the businesses they own a shares.

Today I am a member and helped start several co-ops as both my grandfathers done during the depression. With our present financial crisis I feel most secure in investing in an energy co-op.

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (“EESI”) states the most important jobs for the new Congress in January will be to pass an economic stimulus bill to jump start the economy, create jobs, and revitalize American industry – a tall order, which could cost between $500 billion and $1 trillion [1]. It will be vital to includes in any new legislation innovative projects creating jobs and economic activity such as Energy Co-op(s). Energy Co-ops will strengthen our long-term economic security, and address the reality of climate change. Since the fall of Wall Street we must take strengths of private sector and integrate them with non-profit enterprises. Shareholders can be great decision makers and wise managers.

There are many efforts in the works to expand Energy Co-ops. One good example is Co-op Power (www. cooppower.coop). Co-op Power operates in the New England area as a consumer-owned cooperative to maintain an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable energy future.

Over 48,000 co-ops already operate in the United States and 120 million Americans are co-op members. Roughly 10,000 credit unions (with the total assets of over $600 billion) supply financial services to 83 million members. 36 million Americans purchase their electricity from rural electric co-ops. $80 billion of Community Health Care Providers are owned by their policy holders; and approximately 30 percent of Americas farm products are marketed through cooperatives. [2]”

The tenor of the time is to explore and experiment with new ways energy co-ops can give us local environmental and economic relief. Co-ops can plant seeds to stimulate both energy conservation and community economic development. What better way in getting people to both buy shares and reap the benefits as shareholders? Let’s share it and cooperate together to form American energy co-ops and collectively profit. Cooperation both in nature as in human life is crucial. Energy co-op equate to numerous happy returns or one triple bottom line where people share, prosper and conserve together. Energy co-ops are investments in many ways we can help preserve ourselves, our communities and our earth.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Profiting from Less Government Waste

Never have we faced a more complex financial crisis. Lessening government waste offers pathways how we can best resolve our situation. Government must clean up their own house if they wish others do to the same.

We as a nation must become conservers not consumers. Never has an American generation used so much and invested so little for future generations. We have incentives to spend however not to save that wastes instead of conserves.

The American government must create a new form of saving based decision making. A more effective American requires close examination as to what exactly what, how, why and where America loses, discards or throws away numerous forms of its resources. Preventing further market failure will only happen when we embrace both full cost accounting and integrate environmental management thinking into all aspects of public decision making. If we as nation wish to maintain our precarious world leader status role we must readdress investing in our country in a less wasteful manner.

Just one example of mismanagement is our nation's capital. The Washington DC area not only produces more carbon dioxide than Sweden, Denmark and Finland but our government stimulates the most significant global loss of resources. For example, the District of Columbia and other government's budgets are based on the principle of "use it or loose it." Government must shift from this behavior of consuming more to understanding performance is measured by output over input.

American can explore new management techniques that are effectively developed offering various regulatory approaches preventing market failure that drastically cost taxpayers more in the future dollars. How can private markets be stimulated while trustworthy performance systems mandated to make the market- and federalism-based systems work effectively? Critical to this national policy shift is how everyone-governments, companies, and citizens, in the United States and around the world-must come into partnership profiting from government waste reduction. How will these partnerships be created and sustained?

Today we face a new policy arena of massive financial experimentation, uncertain results, complex relationships, and an inescapable mandate for improvement. It is clear that neither the public nor the private sector can stay where they are. Both sectors have created ways that do not fully optimize their executive of goods and services since wasteful practices of this process are self-serving. Increasing productivity can result when a new equation is reached. Our output and inputs must balance with increased environmental and social considerations on how the general welfare is impacted on the way we do business. We can no longer dump on our earth and its inhabitants.

Yes our hardest task to be held fully accountable to national policy of new performance measurements. These measures must balance flexible environmental partnerships offer, integrated management system and ingenious paperwork processes. Preventing pollution, improving environmental performance, and integrating approaches across media have lagged behind. The performance-based process must evolve through trials and tribulations into proven practices.

Our money will never reside fully in our bank account. Our saving resides in how we better invest in how the American government works. We are all shareholders in the United States government. First are countless ways to vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in our political system. There are diverse ways we drain resources that could otherwise go to Americans as the beneficiaries.

All Americans are resource managers. We can learn to be more skillful and ingenious or the opposite. Both we and the Feds must better educate to ways to improve the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of federal functions, programs, and policies. Remember how we tax is a core reason why we revolted from the English. To become more competitive in the international marketplace we must explore opportunities exist to streamline, target, and consolidate programs to improve their delivery. We have the opportunity to better weed out programs that are outdated, ineffective, unsustainable, or simply a lower priority than they used to be.

A national dialogue is required of our federal mission to prioritize our national goals. By deploying a variety of tools and, stimulating participation of many organizations, such a reprioritization of what the federal government does, how it does it, and in some cases, which does the government's business, is required to better budget on our fiscal future.

Important as safeguarding funds from fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement is to pursue widespread opportunities to improve the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of existing federal goals and program commitments. The basic goals of many federal programs-both mandatory and discretionary-enjoy broad support. That support only makes it more important for us to pay attention to the substantial opportunities to improve cost effectiveness and the delivery of services and activities.

In conclusion good oversight is essential. We must lessen duplication and or even working at cross purposes. Is the program financially sustainable and are there opportunities for instituting appropriate cost sharing and recovery from nonfederal parties including private entities that benefit from federal activities? Can the program be made more efficient through reengineering or streamlining processes or restructuring organizational roles and responsibilities? We will prosper once our nation formulates greater government waste reduction measures. Will will both get a return on and of our investments.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Allow Conservation to Work!

Seventy five years ago my hometown, Edinburg, Virginia was the site of the first Civilian Conservation Corp camp. For the last four years I have failed to get full time work in promoting conservation. Over half my life I have help advance the recycling oil, preserving our drinking water and other endeavors to create a more healthy climate.

Now, we can create new prosperity that not only saves our nation but but creates a new green commerce. Conservation work can offer a tremendous economic opportunity – but only if we take advantage of this huge potential enterprise.

Today, these conservation industries generate 8.5 million jobs and nearly $1 trillion in annual revenue in the United States, and they contain some of the fastest growing sectors in the economy. If America fails to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency, it runs the risk of losing ground to global competitors. Other countries like Germany, Denmark, and China will take the lead and reap the economic benefits.

Let's create millions of new green jobs that America desperately needs. Jobs that can’t be outsourced and use the skills of today’s workers. Green jobs aren’t just the jobs of the future – they will revitalize our economy and our well being. In recovery, Americans will discover millions of new ways to reduce, reuse and recycle resources for our future.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Can We Afford Not to Act?

In the last several years I have observed some most disturbing developments. The threat of potential global destruction due to climate change, unending wars, spiral American deficit, exponential corruption, human rights violation, the validation of American torture, extraordinary corporate greed, numerous human rights and constitutional violations, lack of governmental and corporate accountability and host of other worrisome circumstances. One thing is most pressing is that we must carefully act to insure our future.

It is the consensus of hundreds of eminent climate scientists who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize that we must act now. The head of this Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, R.K. Pachauri urged that how we develop in the next seven years will determine or climate by mid-century. He remarked, “We have to act now to price carbon and create incentives to change the way we use energy and spread technology and thereby avert nothing less than an essential threat to civilization.”

In my view these events have corroded American democracy and accelerated worldwide despair. Our current President and his colleagues has misled, and maligned by his misguided self-righteous fervor. His arrogance has jeopardized our American ideals of truth, honesty and decency. Most alarming is the Bush has ignored acting on climate change. I believe history will show this as the most dangerous precedent by our reckless President. The repercussions of Bush’s presidency will haunt our country for many decades unless we revitalize our nation.

We are facing the decline of our well being if we do not have the courage to face that we must make immediate decisions about all facets of our life. It is time to for us to do things out compassion not out of fear. We must change our way of business and this is going to be painful one way or another. Comfort is a tough thing to challenge. American is no longer an island. Everything today is global and our small actions here affect people all over the world. It is time America not just be one part but united to the greater whole this world.

Anyway I can exercise more wholesome ways to better the world. In view of what is happening how can I best go forth? I do not wish to be an accessory to American Dream that has become a nightmare. Constantly, I remind myself to find the eye of this hurricane of events so to be motivated to by inspiration not Yes there can find more comfort by a life style using less not more. I volunteer whenever I can and serve whenever I am asked if feel this is still not enough. I ask you for greater wisdom and guidance. . With sense of alertness may I pay be of greater service. May I be blessed with this purpose and find the energy to daily exercise this vow to best serve my world and myself.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Our Expanding National Debt Crisis

It is imperative that we start to save instead of consume. Americans have over $14 trillion worth personal debt. We must not pass these costs to our next generations. Back in the mid 1960’s we were a nation that was in the black that in last few decades declined seriously into the red. 80 percent of our debt has occurred since 1990.

The Chinese now finance our war. Today Our American economy is 70 percent dependent on consumerism reflected by our $17 trillion dollar personal debt. A new documentary, “I.O.U.S.A.” presents why our debt is of serious concern. 66 percent of the gross national product stands at more than $9.6 trillion or 37 percent of GDP. David Walker, former U.S. comptroller general has been outspoken regarding the potential disaster of our total $53 trillion dollar total unfunded liabilities such as Medicaid, Social Security and Medicare. This equates to roughly $175,154 per man, woman and child.

To put this in perspective the debt in 1957 was $693 billion - or about $4,000 per capita. Today’s debt is 76 times higher from over 50 years ago. The economy is 2-3 times more debt-dependent - with at least $29 Trillion DEBT EXCESS - - compared to the 1950-1970s.

Americans must begin to save a few percentage of their income similar to New Zealand and Australia. It is imperative that both taxpayers and the U.S. government awaken to this crisis and prevent the peril of our debt. As Ben Franklin once said, “I am not so concerned on the return on investment as the return of my investment.”

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Environmental Deform or Reform?

Neal Peirce wrote on June 8th in the Washington Post, “ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT NEEDS AN ADRENALIN SHOT.’ From my experience I totally agree. Widespread environmental action is now critical. The recently defeated global warming bill authored by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Virg.) bill to cut greenhouse gases and address climate change is another example of environmental stalemate and partisan bickering. Also this may show Americans are too self absorbed to address this planet-threatening crisis that everyone else in the world is worried about.

Mr. Pierce cites James Gustave “Gus” Speth, the dean of environmental studies at Yale but an outstanding leader in this profession. In his new book, “The Bridge at the End of the World” (Yale University Press) a long list of concerns. Americans suffer from major contamination of the majority of our water bodies, polluted living conditions in over three-fifths of our nation’s counties. Two-thirds of Americans live in counties that register pollution levels over EPA’s fairly basic standard. In the last forty years our miles of paved roads are up 53 percent, vehicle miles traveled up 177 percent.

In addition there is widespread soil erosion, loss of vegetation-and depletion of many other natural resources. Not only are the planet’s species disappearing at about 1,000 times the normal rates just look at our vanishing coral reefs due to climate change. One example is that the increased burning of fossil fuels is causing the loss of tens of millions of acres of forest in the U.S.

Speth references the culprit of environment on our United States, and wealthy, industrial countries consumer economies. Also he references the 63,000 multinational firms with 91 million employees. Simply our nation’s corporate world allows America’s future generations to pick up the tap because they promote consumer addiction. Yes, we will have to pay big time latter evident by the escalating price of oil.

Speth documents that global businesses get $850 billion of public subsidies yearly for their activities in agriculture, energy, transportation and more -- about 2.5 percent of the global economy. Increased profits are short changing addressing essential environmental needs.

Just look at the average size of American homes has increased 50 percent, electricity consumption per person 70 percent, municipal wastes per person 33 percent since our first Earth Day 38 years ago. More, more, more will result in less and less in our future unless we save now!

The question Speth raises is how do we encourage consumers by suggesting “greener” lifestyle choices. People of all walks and at all levels must lessen their consumption. We have to change the bottom-line and invest in the well being for countless generations. Programs that stimulate conservation in every setting of our country can spark a new American “Green Revolution.” Otherwise our earth’s future health will be jeopardized by our consumer addiction. Can American’s everywhere awaken to this monkey on our back? Let’s reactivate the American Spirit so to save our country from ruin!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Full Cost of Oil in America

The cause and effect how we use oil in American reveals both triumph and tragedy. Petroleum has been both a blessing and a curse for America. We comprise less than 5 percent of the world's population, but consume 25 percent of all oil produced or about 20 million barrels or 840 million gallons. Since 1751 when the Industrial Revolution began we used the amount of fossil fuels burned that is equivalent to all plant growth on Earth for the last 13,300 years. We use this black gold there's no end to the stuff, though experts estimate we've got 50-100 years' supply left at current consumption rates.

The world is currently consuming oil at the rate of 30.2 billion barrels per year. Based on the forecasts 50 to 100 years forecast is our global supply. We, Americans consume about 20.6 million barrels of petroleum per day (7.5 billion barrels per year). Currently, about 70% of the petroleum we consume is used for transportation. Light duty vehicles and freight trucks take the largest share while aircraft take less. However, from the standpoint of fuel efficiency, aircraft are the least efficient while light duty vehicles are the most efficient. However, overall fuel consumption increasing by almost 7 million barrels per day with only slight changes in the distribution of use.

The advancement of electric cars and hybrids will significantly effect on petroleum consumption. All-electric vehicles powered by rechargeable batteries can help most to reduce oil consumption, because only 2% of our electricity is generated from oil. Also, there may be some technology improvements in diesel-powered freight trucks,

Some Americans believe it is time for us to drill up north. However, even at full production in 2020 or beyond, proposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is estimated to produce 800,000 barrels of oil daily, 0.7 percent of global production. Estimates of undiscovered oil, has been estimated by experts to amount to 39.1 billion barrels including reserves in the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf, the Alaska National Petroleum Reserve, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the restricted areas of the Lower 48 States. At our present rate of consumption, these reserves would supply our needs for a little over 5 years.

In the U.S. is a good example of what is going to happen to many others in the world. We are currently depending on other countries to supply us with 66% of the oil we need. It is believed we have passed our peak of oil production in 1970’s or 80’s. Presently our petroleum comes from: USA Petroleum Production-34%; Petroleum Imports from OPEC-27% ; Non-OPEC Petroleum Imports-39% (Canada, Mexico, Russia, etc.)

There is a price for using oil besides impacting climate change. Exploration, development, production, product treatment, and waste management activities associated with oil and gas production projects can have a variety of impacts on the environment. There is the one trillion gallons of oilfield waste we inject into deep wells in addition to the 3 billion tons of oil and gas wastes we generate yearly by our oil and gas exploration and production in the USA.

Oil extraction results in the destruction or alteration of wildlife habitats, erosion, sedimentation, pollutant loading of groundwater and surface water from product and/or waste leaks and spills, groundwater contamination from communication between production or waste injection zones and underground sources of drinking water, release of hydrocarbons and hydrogen sulfide to the atmosphere, and decreased soil productivity from land spreading and/or releases of reserve/mud pit contents. While oil and gas professionals have developed practices that have reduced the generation of waste to avoid such environmental catastrophes. Also there has been improved economics of drilling and production operations leading to safer operations.

In the United States alone, more than 2 million wells have been drilled in the search for oil and gas since the first few successful wells in the mid 1800s. Of these wells (averaging about 1000 meters in depth but ranging to as much as 8000 meters), only about 1 exploratory well in 10 has found oil in sufficient quantities to justify production; and 1 in 50 has found enough oil to repay its total costs. Increased shortages will force new searches for oil and gas into more remote and hostile environments. Some drilling may not be offset by profits reaped by actual oil and gas discovery. The difficulty of finding oil and gas now is finding it in pores of rocks as a mixture of oil, salty water, and natural gas. The oil clings tightly to the pores of the rock to resist even the most elaborate schemes to get it out.

Just from the American consumer, we waste 400 million gallons of used oil and 500 plus million oil filters are lost yearly in the United States (each containing around seven ounces of oil). The current sampling method to evaluate the toxicity of oil, Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) is not the best test since it was designed for municipal landfills. I ask you to simply reflect on the fact that one gallon of used oil improperly disposed can contaminate one million gallons of fresh water or ruin the water supply for 50 people for a year.

For over a century Americans have greatly benefited from oil. Now the question is how we find alternative from this dwindling natural resource and how will this transition impact our economy. The future holds what complexity, expense, and the environmental impact of increased exploratory drilling will result. Americans we will be increasingly learn of the full cost of oil to our country.

Monday, May 12, 2008

America- Green Is Lean

"The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment." Senator Gaylord Nelson

As oil peaks, food prices rise and our dollar falls, Americans now must reinvent themselves. Jared Diamond writes about in his book, “Collapse” the fragile legacy we are leaving our future generations. America is awakening that environmental work is not just a global priority, however, a necessity for the well being for future generations. Lessening global warming is just one example of America’s responsibility to address our ecological crisis. This is a wake-up call for a new relationship of renewal for Americans of all walks to become lean and green.

First, to renew ourselves we understand the price of most things and now we must show a greater spirit to demonstrate how we value all things. We are so tied to others in the world in thousands of ways. Second when we show our appreciation to our greater interconnections new opportunities become born. Such wise inquiry awakens to citizen in the priority of basic needs over personal desires.

Our American culture is at a crossroads where its very disposability symbolizes a form of terror. This is about limits and a new form of tough love called thrift. The very high maintenance of our material world has a price tag. A revolution is happening now in our nation. It is about the renewal of the American spirit. Do we just address human needs or question the very greed that threatens our future environment? Consumerism is dying since our debt both personal and government has spiraled out of control. Responsibility and freedom comes down to a simple economic term called savings. This idea of saving is all about investing in a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

It is not can but we must excel a new democracy that nurtures and protects our ecological life support systems. Both private and public sectors have made enormous gains yet there are looming tremendous losses if we do not change our destructive patterns. Now we face our greatest global challenge in our history. It comes down to question the very foundation of governing.

Governing must intend to nurture, protect, or defend individuals, our nation and the world as a whole. If we, the American people, do not start to plan, think and invest in the long term conservation then we will suffer from our political short term failings.

Such a shift will include exploring clean renewable energy, efficient transportation and agriculture, and the non-toxic production and protection of our forests, oceans, grasslands and wetlands. A more sustainable path will liberate us.

The new American Revolution is a global paradigm shift to define what economy truly means. Our Founders from our first American Revolution brought forth a vision to pursue happiness that is tied to helping our “general welfare". Now we must continue this revolutionary concept to the next level. Not just our rights and freedom are at stake but maintaining our existing quality of life. We have to focus on the bigger picture not just our individual selves. We as a society must become fully responsible and invest in many enterprises that foster hope for the next generation. Renewal comes when we less waste less thus stimulating future prosperity. “ECOnomics” is what is all about, saving, renewing and preventing waste. America- green means becoming lean.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dreaming of A Green Bethesda

Dreaming of A Green Bethesda
Waste less equals sustaining more.

When you say Bethesda, Maryland the first thing that comes to mind is the President’s hospital and the home of National Institute of Health. However, seeds for our future prosperity are now being planted here. My vision of Green Bethesda is an organic merging of the arts with the sciences to celebrate a richer quality of life. This effort can emulate nature so to mimic and embodies the wealth of diversity and inter-relationships

Health, economy and environmental management are all interconnected and related. Now, Bethesda, Maryland is one setting transforming this vision into reality. A sound body comes only by conserving at home and celebrating the heartfelt psychic benefit of exploring wiser ways to conserve. In recovery not only there is discovery, yet innovative new technologies and ways to enjoy a better life.

Green Bethesda is investing in increased environmental wellness affecting our entire community. For example, if we in this area can reduce our carbon footprint by becoming more energy efficient. Up to forty percent of those reductions would pay for themselves. Promoting and attracting like-minded people, businesses and cultivating future green enterprises is the tenor of the times. Green Bethesda symbolizes a change accelerating not just increased energy efficient technologies but founding new carbon neutral enterprises.

Green Bethesda is about stimulating people to better manage our natural resources. As America ventures into new marketplaces to trade carbon, water and biodiversity, Green Bethesda offers new form of eco-park near our nation’s capital. Trillions of dollars are going to be invested and millions of green jobs created in the upcoming years developing livability endeavors.

Green Bethesda is about changing our culture from consumers to conservers. Green Bethesda can demonstrate when we better take care of the world; we better everything including ourselves.

Green Bethesda shows the vital connection between increased well-being, health and improved environmental management. Best resource management and other environmental community actions will benefit Bethesda in exponential ways. Bethesda will profit from not just pollution prevention since becoming more green directly result in increased commerce, freedom, and joy. Green Bethesda is a celebration of life since it acts to sustain livability in all its forms!

If you wish to become involved go to
www.bethesdagreen.org

Thursday, April 24, 2008

U.S. Materials Flows Accounting Report

A recent World Resources Materials Flow report* tracks the ebb and flow of how stuff goes through our economy and out into the environment . For example of these 169 materials are toxic substances— such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, and others—whose life cycle, reflect the strengths and weaknesses in our national regulatory policies and procedures.

According this study the U.S. showed more efficient use of fossil fuels, metals and minerals, and renewable resources. However, the trend in per capita consumption of material (a coincident indicator) is increasing, with a rise of some 23 percent over the study period. If the U.S. economy were solidly on a path to sustainability, this indicator would be declining.

The total consumption of materials (a lagging indicator) grew 57 percent over the study period, to 6.5 billion metric tons in 2000. If the United States had been a sustainable economy during this period, we would have avoided the creation of 25 billion tons of waste (and its subsequent disposal into our air and water and onto our land).

This report documents the challenges of our time is improved resource management and to shift to environmentally preferable materials. Meeting this challenge will require new processes and increasingly complex, far-reaching partnerships among government, business, and civil society. Material flows accounting can provide the common scorecard that all the parties need to facilitate these collaborations and make them in the fure more successful.

This is the third report, focuses on the United States and accounts of material flows from 1975 to 2000. It presents the accounts in aggregate and by economic sector, examines specific flows of environmental or economic importance, and recommends next steps.

FINDINGS
1. Consumption. In absolute terms, total material consumption increased from 1975 to 2000 by 57 percent to 6.5 billion metric tons in 2000. Per capita consumption increased by 23 percent. The majority of growth can be explained by an 83 percent increase in built infrastructure of materials associated with industrial development.

This report documents a national increase of 52 percent in the number of housing units and a greater intensity of material use per housing according to U.S. Census Bureau findings from 1975 to 2000.

2. Material Efficiency. While both total and per capita consumption of materials increased between 1975 and 2000, consumption declined relative to GDP by 31 percent. This gain in efficiency is attributable to a general dematerialization in the U.S. economy: 84 percent of the absolute growth in GDP during the study period was in the services sector.

3. Material Outputs. Nearly 2.7 billion metric tons of materials were returned to the environment as waste (outputs) in 2000. Total outputs have increased by 26 percent since 1975, and the most environmentally harmful outputs—synthetic and persistent organic chemicals, radioactive compounds, and heavy metals—have increased by 24 percent to 16 million metric tons. While many policies to control point-source and industrial pollution levels have curbed hazardous releases into the environment, toxic releases from diffuse sources such as imported consumer electronics have increased. For example, more than 60 percent of the cadmium consumed in 2000 was contained in imported batteries. Only 32 percent of all cadmium was recycled in 2000.

4. International Comparisons. Per capita material consumption in the United States is more than 50 percent higher than the average of 15 European Union countries. This difference could be due either to the presence of more extensive extractive
industries (e.g., mining and forestry) here.


RECOMMENDATIONS
Developing a system of national material accounts could enable more effective policymaking in both the public and private sectors. The establishment of a central organization—a Center for Material Flows—to manage the collection, analysis, and dissemination of material flows accounts in the United States. Also established a materials accounting framework to fully capture the physical and chemical changes observed in materials and expand and synthesize core data across the life cycle of a material. Finally integrate such material flows analysis into environmental and economic decision-making. Because material flows accounts track the movement of goods into and out of the economy, they can be used as early warning indicators of potential threats to human health and undesirable changes in natural resources.

Certainly the U.S. will prosper by improved material flow accounting to track where everything comes from and where it goes!

* DONALD ROGICH, AMY CASSARA, IDDO WERNICK, MARTA MIRANDA, MATERIAL FLOWS IN THE UNITED STATES, 2008,WRI:ISBN 978-1-56973-682-1 http://materials.wri.org.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Green Gardening

Green garden is about being mindful of being gentle with the earth. The less you waste the more you and the land benefits. Protecting resources is the key focus. For example, our Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. However since it is one of the most productive in the world, its continual decline due to nutrient over-enrichment is of concern. Over thirty years of research illustrated that the main concerns of the Bay were nutrient over-enrichment, dwindling Bay grasses, and toxic pollution. Invasive plants are just another environmental challenge destroying fragile ecosystems. Land can be used and developed in ways that minimize impact on water quality improve water quality and allow aquatic life to flourish.

Also, climate change is creating all sorts of other concerns. Increased rainfall and drought and a host of other concerns; refer to arborday.org and refer to Hardiness zone map.

The EPA estimates that 54 million Americans work on their lawn and do landscaping each weekend burning 800 million gallons of gasoline with their lawn mowers, leaf blowers and weed eaters. Unfortunately the emissions from these devices are much worst than our late model cars.

A tremendous area of concern is non-point source pollution from the 5 million lawns in the Bay since excessive lawn fertilizing is a significant source of nutrient pollution. So developing and implementing home nutrient reduction strategies is critical. Better managed lawns would reduce the amount of excess nutrients entering the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, thus improving water quality.

Nationwide we spend annually $350 million on grass seed and manage over 30 million acres of lawn. Each year Americans apply 100 million tons of fertilizer and over 80 million pounds pesticides to their yards.

Another source of nitrogen pollution comes from air emissions mowing and collecting these clippings. Roughly, 40 hours per year the average homeowner spends behind his power mower using 10 gallons of gas emitting ten times more hydrocarbons then a typical car. Grass clippings consume a large part of landfill space during the growing season requiring further cost to transport and dispose of this valuable material.

Finally, 30 percent of the water on the East Coast goes to watering lawns. A 10,000 square feet of turf uses 10,000 gallons of water per summer.

Green Garden Maintenance Practices

1) Use water wisely
2) Reduce toxins (pesticides and fertilizers) and run-off
3) Lessen erosion
4) Integrated plant and pest management
5) Yardcycle and compost
6) Cultivate more natural ways
7) Protect and preserve ecosystem

The art of gardening is simple process. You get what you put into it. If you fail to plan you will plan to fail and impact others living things. Be skillfull and enjoy emulating nature where you waste little and harvest a wonderful organic experience!

Green Work

On April 17, seventy five years ago in my home town of Edinburg, Virginia the first Civilian Conservation Corps began. Today the need for green jobs can offer the economic opportunity of the century – but only if we take advantage of this huge opportunity.

Today, these industries generate 8.5 million jobs and nearly $1 trillion in annual revenue in the United States, and they contain some of the fastest growing sectors in the economy. Among the study’s findings are: if the country fails to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency, it runs the risk of losing ground to global competitors. If policy and regulatory barriers to the sustained development of the industry are not addressed now, other countries like Germany, Denmark, and China will take the lead and reap the economic benefits. However, this new report also illustrates the tremendous opportunity for the United States to harvest these green collar jobs and how these industries, with the correct support, are poised to be economic powerhouses for the 21st century .

A new report from the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society shows that as many as 1 out of 4 workers in the U.S. will be working in the renewable energy or energy efficiency industries by 2030.

This is the nation’s first comprehensive report on the size and growth of the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries – and the numbers are great news for American workers. This green collar job report shows that these industries already generate 8.5 million jobs in the U.S., and with appropriate public policy, could grow to as many as 40 million jobs by 2030.

“The green collar job boom is here,” said Neal Lurie, Director of Marketing of the American Solar Energy Society. “Renewable energy and energy efficiency are economic powerhouses.” This new report is called Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency: Economic Drivers for the 21st Century. It is available for free download at: www.ases.org

Key findings of the report include:
· By the year 2030, the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries could generate up to $4.5 trillion in revenue in the U.S., but only with the appropriate public policy, including a renewable portfolio standard, renewable energy incentives, public education, and R&D
· The 40 million jobs that could be created in renewable energy and energy efficiency by 2030 are not just engineering-related, but also include millions of new jobs in manufacturing, construction, accounting, and management
· Renewable energy and energy efficiency industries today generate nearly $1 trillion in revenue in the U.S. contributing more than $150 billion in tax revenue at the federal, state, and local levels
· Revenue from the energy efficiency sector -- including from energy efficient windows, appliances, insulation, and recycling -- is currently larger than revenue from renewable energy, but the renewable energy industry is growing much more quickly. Solar, wind, ethanol, and fuel cells are likely to be some of the hottest areas of growth.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Shenandoah is Not A Sewer

Over the last four years, eighty percent of the small-mouthed bass and sunfish population have died in the Shenandoah River. The Shenandoah is now one of the top five most endangered American rivers. Unfortunately in the last 20 years, both public and private enterprises have been allowed to impair the Shenandoah with sewage. We started with a faulty Broadway plant, then came a failed private firm called Sheaffer International, and today the Town of Broadway has taken over this bankrupt polluter with the same plant manager. This is not the blueprint for success. At this time, Virginia regulators have granted the Town of Broadway permission to dump part of their sewage back into the Shenandoah.

In the fall of 2007, Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) gave just such a permit to the Town of Broadway. This “Consent Decree” sets “interim limits” on river discharges from operations at the bankrupt Sheaffer Plant. These “interim limits” stretch out to January 2011 allowing “permitted” pollution to the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. Even the Decree’s author, DEQ Regional Director Amy Owens, admits, “On its face, the Decree recognizes that Broadway will be in violation of the Permit for about three years.”

Interestingly, Sheaffer plant has had 67 state and numerous EPA violations since it began operating. The Town of Broadway now is the new owner and operating with similar waste loads. It is reasonable to expect more of the same.

The improperly designed Sheaffer system replaced four old, faltering treatment systems: two in the towns of Timberville and Broadway, and two at local poultry plants. These four had been discharging 1.6 million gallons of wastewater a day into the North Fork. They were dumping some 200,000 pounds of unwanted, damaging nutrients into the river annually. Permit violations were a common occurrence. State water revolving funds reward town plants that do poorly and punish ones that try to do the proper thing.

Environmental laws must address just that ¾ not be merely useless pieces of paper. Such lax state enforcement is not isolated as just over in Page County, DEQ allowed a landfill to violate its permit for many years by over two thousand tons of trash per day.

Oh Shenandoah is Not a Sewer
The Shenandoah Valley acts as a major water filter for the Chesapeake Bay. And, the Shenandoah River is the major tributary downstream into the Potomac River where 90 percent of the Washington DC metro drinking water flows.

Poultry is the leading agricultural activity in the Shenandoah Valley. Livestock in Rockingham County generates roughly one-half billion dollars in yearly revenue. This county is first in Virginia producing turkeys and chickens for meat, and second in both categories among all 982 counties in the nation. For decades poultry waste has been linked with water impairment here, according to many scientific studies.

History of Pollution
In 2000, the Virginia Water Control Broad put up more than $2.5 million in technical assistance grants to help start Sheaffer International. Virginia also capitalized the project in 1999 by issuing $8.5 million in tax-free state industrial development bonds.

Ironically, the Sheaffer plant was not designed to treat water for any kind of release into waterways. It simply breaks down waste so that it can be land applied in irrigation. Unfortunately, they did not have a back-up system for seasonally reduced irrigation demands. What’s more, Sheaffer did not factor in moisture limits due to nitrogen pollution already in the groundwater. Bottom-line, their sewage goes downstream.

This faulty plant consists of two cells: the first treats up to 34.6 million gallons for 3 weeks; the second cell treats up to 23 million gallons for 2 weeks. The holding pond can handle 230 million gallons. Storage capacity matters since irrigation is necessarily seasonal. The original idea was that nearly all discharge would end up in the fields. That any engineer could design such a flawed operation is criminal.

The Sheaffer plant had some 67 river discharge violations recorded in the DEQ file, including discharges many times over permit limits reported by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality since it began in 2000. The first overflow of untreated wastewater into the North Fork occurred two months after startup, in October 2000. There were 13 more at the same Timberville pump station by 2006.
Environmental Gridlock in the Courts
The Sheaffer plant, once seen as a solution for the entire Chesapeake Watershed, now turned into an obsolete sewer system. December 2, 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiated administrative action against Sheaffer, citing “gross violations” of its river discharge permit. Remember this action occurred in EPA’s lowest point of environmental enforcement; is this Commonwealth? Since then, there have been a series of lawsuits and injunctions.
Eight months after EPA issued its Compliance Order, three clean water advocacy groups (Shenandoah Riverkeeper, Potomac Riverkeeper and Waterkeepers Alliance) sued Sheaffer for violating its river discharge permit on August 11, 2006. The concerns of Riverkeepers about the health of the North Fork were intensified in 2004 when a devastating fish kill reached upstream as far as Timberville and Broadway – 20 miles from the stream’s headwaters. This generated a lot of publicity. It gave urgency to the idea that something needed to be done about pollution and polluters.
At the end of the waiting period for the Riverkeepers’ suit, on October 12, 2006, Virginia’s Attorney General (AG) stepped in. The AG claimed Sheaffer exceeded permitted river discharge limits for nitrogen and total phosphorus by more than 800 percent in 2005, and more than 200 percent in 2004. Excess chlorine, ammonia and fecal coliform were also cited. And the Sheaffer Plant was accused of discharging raw and partially treated sewage into the North Fork.
What the Future Holds
The design flow for this Broadway/Sheaffer plant is 2 million gallons a day. Pilgrim’s Pride operations average daily discharges of 1 million gallons. In 2000, the other daily flows were: Broadway, 310,000 gallons; Timberville, 140,000; and Cargill (private poultry plant) 144,000. The design allowed for a 21% increase in daily discharges, which in 2000 averaged 1,594,000 gallons each day. In addition, the Town of New Market with its extra wastewater is exploring the feasibility of using this facility.
Pilgrim’s Pride and Cargill in Timberville discharge nearly 1.2 million gallons of pollutant-laden wastewater every day. This is 75% of what’s sent to the Treatment Plant -- and 90% of the nutrient load it could not handle.
Interesting that the EPA’s Comments on the Decree are as critical as those of Riverkeepers. It too says, “interim pre-treatment measures” should be set immediately for the industrial users, and that PPC and Cargill “should be made parties to the Consent Decree.” EPA says its violations were “attributable in large part to the pollutant loading from the…two industrial users.” In particular, EPA cites their high biochemical oxygen demand loading, total suspended solids, and phosphorous.
Riverkeepers continue to press forth. There are two ways to protect the Shenandoah River. Either sue the Town of Broadway in lieu of its current permit, or strictly monitor private sector waste entering the town’s facility. Hopefully in the future any polluter will pay. Also present laws must be enforced to protect public health and our environment.
Conclusion
Pure water is critical for the Valley and so is enforcing the current laws. Virginia must develop market-based punitive measures so that the polluter pays. If there are greater-than-permitted volumes of untreated private poultry waste and chemical discharges, then the polluter should pay their fair share when it goes into the Broadway operation so that the public is not unfairly burdened.

Many small towns (7-9,000 people) in the Valley are spending $30 million dollars each to upgrade their wastewater plants to meet new stringent pollution controls. Broadway and Timberville also have defective collection systems allowing storm water into their sewage streams. Timberville’s problem created spikes that the treatment plant’s pumps and intake pipes were not able to handle. Such spikes, during hard rains, caused the overflow of raw sewage, thus increasing total toxic waste.

Virginia deserves equitable pollution controls. We must stimulate economic development and tourism by preventing this sewage to enter the Shenandoah River. Virginians will both profit from pollution prevention and find a better way to do business if we act now.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

32 Times More Equals Collapse

Jared Diamond in the beginning of the New Year wrote in the New York Times that the average rates at which people consume resources like oil and metals, and produce wastes like plastics and greenhouse gases, are about 32 times higher in North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia than they are in the developing world.

Now we are at 6.5 billion people on this planet, and that number may grow to around 3 billion within several decades. Presently 5.5 billion people of the developing world are growing in numbers while we in the industrialized countries consume 32 times more than the rest of the world.

How many more people can the world sustain? Our developing countries make an increase in living standards a primary political goal to become industrialized. How can we in the rich countries lessen our material consumption since the poor wish to enjoy the American Dream of a high-consumption lifestyle? As millions of people in the developing world wish enjoy the first-world lifestyle how much carrying capacity can this planet take unless we humans use less? There is not enough pie to go around now to if humans are going to survive here.

Just look at China as the leading developing country seeking to increase per capita consumption rates at home. China is the world’s fastest growing economy with 1.3 billion Chinese, or four times the United States population. Yes, our world is already running out of resources rapidly since China is quickly reaching American level consumption rates.

Presently the per capita consumption rates in China are still about 11 times below ours. If they rise to our level and nothing else happens to increase world consumption (no other country increases its consumption, all national populations -including China’s remain unchanged and immigration ceases) just alone China’s would roughly double world consumption rates. Look at the markets for oil and metals to as evidence. Oil consumption would go up by 106 percent, and world metal consumption would increase by 94 percent.

Now if India as well as China were to reach our US rate, world consumption would triple. Finally, if the whole developing world were suddenly to catch up to the US rate it would be as if the world population ballooned to 72 billion people or world rates would increase elevenfold.

We do not have a choice to but everyone on this Earth has to produce, and use less. Otherwise we will suffer major global consequences.

*Jared Diamond is a Professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, is the author of “Collapse” and “Guns, Germs and Steel.”
His article is at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/02/opinion/02diamond.html