Posts filed under ‘Global Climate Change’

A Response to “Pathways to Community Collapse: Can We Intervene?”

correspondence

This is my response to Kathy McMahon, Psy.D.’s excellent article, “Pathways to Community Collapse: Can We Intervene?

Kathy,

My adventures in helping to fortify resiliency mechanisms in communities have been eye-opening.

In Portland, we have successfully deployed a community system with Bright Neighbor that augments the modern communications methods used by people: Facebook, Twitter, mobile devices, laptops and desktops.

We have truly become wired into a constant buzz-buzz-buzz about who is doing what. The government doesn’t need laws to institute Big Brother’s playbook, we have done it for them. People want everyone to know what they are doing, all the time.

If there ever were a concentrated effort to overthrow the capitalist system as it stands, everyone would know about it because if it’s cool, it grows and it spreads. Right now, while everyone is so upset about the economy, we still go about our days tweeting and Facebooking about whatever we decide to publish.

Because community has now moved online, and it knows no geography for communications, but it is relevant when it comes to immediate real world needs.

If we need something, we go to the store and get it. Or we ask a friend, or a family member. And we get what we need. Now, we have lots of ways to track ourselves, sell things to one another, and everyone knows we are all in this together.

Whether you are a kid in Tibet, or a spoiled American brat, we all know that we need to change.

We need to stop valuing nuclear weapons as monetary policy checks and balances. Just alone, the cost of all the Air Force plane crashes of the last year could help install enough organic gardens in America to feed every person. The answers are very simple to solve our many crisis situations.

Until, however, that we either make it mandatory or offer incentives for all citizens to go through gardening training courses, we are not serious about solving our greatest problems.

I suggest that the leaders of governments around the world come to gether for a G20 like meeting focused only on boosting global support for instantly focusing all global efforts on soil restoration, water-harvesting mechanisms for both cities and rural towns, as well as local commerce systems based on time-banking and b2b/b2c/c2b/c2c trade.

b2b/
Business to business: All businesses source locally for their raw materials within a 300 mile radius.

b2c/
Business to Consumer: Support local entrepreneurs starting up soil farming, vermicomposting, tilapia farming, urban chicken, or other micro-farming and permaculture based businesses. Give them easy access to loans to start their business, and create a standard for local permaculture guidelines that allow us to reverse engineer bad 1950’s era home policies. We must not only encourage, but give incentives to do things like give up your dryer for a clothes line, or converting your lawn into a micro-farm.

c2b/
Micro-farmers can specialize in their lawns and grow local organic produce to feed micro-livestock. This creates a fruit/vegetable/meat source for city dwellers, while supporting local food commerce. Add in materials providers such as soil makers, vermicomposters, and other positive-impact businesses, and you have a recipe for reversing capitalism to do good for the planet while still making a profit. This can be achieved by home owners becoming lawn farmers, as we have always said over at our blog, Lawns to Gardens. People will eventually go so far as to harness human poop as a raw material and turn it into a profitable soil-building enterprise.

c2c/
Consumer to Consumer: This has been revolutionized by social media. Whether it is two moms connecting to share a newborn’s car seat, or neighbors trading food, skills, firewood – you name it, it is happening in Portland. Bright Neighbor has created an alternative-economy way of thinking and living supported at the government, community, business, and faith-group levels.

These 4-pillars of society are what hold communities together. As the monetary system continues to crumple, we must focus our efforts on connecting around our common agreements, namely food. At the local level, all other arguments can be resolved without violence as long as their is access to food, water, and shelter.

People will always argue over possessions, including ownership of one another. Whether this relationship is economic, erotic, or plutonic – it comes down to each human’s own way they go about the preservation of their life, living standards, and hope for more before they die.

We all die in the end, so I say let’s party and have a great time while we fix this place up and leave it in the best shape we can for the next set of kids that are going to pop out. Religion or not, we should all work together to preserve our entire species, as well as our neighbors in the animal, plant, and insect kingdoms.

– Randy White / Bright Neighbor

April 12, 2009 at 3:08 pm Leave a comment

Why Oil Companies Need $150 Per Barrel Of Oil – The Case For Destroying The Rewable Fuels Standard

The following is a letter to the EPA written by David Blume that was just published in Renewable Energy World.

David Blume

by David Blume, Author

The purpose of the Renewable Fuels Standard is to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, reverse the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, and eventually end the toxic releases from petroleum, coal, and other fossil fuels. The idea is to replace these fuels with clean alternatives like ethanol, which, unlike fossil fuels, are based on captured solar energy that is constantly renewed.

When the alcohol industry agreed to sacrifice the Clean Air Act’s oxygenate standard in exchange for its proposed Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), I was staunchly opposed. Advocates of the RFS said it was a more honest, direct way for us to work toward making our fuel renewable and American, and to wean ourselves from the toxic waste of the petroleum industry (otherwise known as gasoline).

Make no mistake about it: historically, gasoline has ALWAYS been a substance into which oil refineries dispose of whatever waste remains after making valuable products. Just as in the cattle industry, where half of the steer sells as US $15/lb. steaks and the other half ends up as cheap hamburger, in the petroleum business, half of a barrel of oil becomes gasoline. Quite frankly, no one wants to dispose of the 21 gallons of poisonous leftovers at the bottom of each barrel (just how much carcinogenic benzene, toluene, or xylene does anyone really need?)

The Clean Air Act’s oxygenate standard made sure that many of the toxic components in vehicle exhaust would be thermally decomposed (read: burned) to carbon dioxide, rather than remaining as Kevorkian carbon monoxide and a witch’s brew of volatile organics. Destroying these toxins in vehicle exhaust relies on the presence of plenty of oxygen to do the job, and alcohol is about 30% oxygen. Since the act was a regulation that had to do with our health, no discretion existed for waiving oxygenate. That standard was all that stood between Big Oil’s profits and hundreds of thousands of deaths each year from respiratory and cancer illnesses. It also was permanent-it had no expiration date.

But in a poor bargain, we traded a standard based on citizens’ health for one based on economic and environmental values, i.e., the Renewable Fuels Standard. The oil companies insisted that we couldn’t have both, but if we would let go of the oxygenate standard, they would not stand in the way too much on the RFS. Of course, they lied and then only permitted an RFS level that we were already meeting prior to passage of the legislation, so that the regulation had no teeth to increase our use of renewables (very clever of those oil companies).

Well, we did manage, over much opposition by Big Oil, to increase the RFS modestly above the existing level, and investment into the Midwest to make alcohol took off. Big Oil mistakenly thought it could keep the alcohol genie in the bottle…but much to its dismay, the genie escaped and started building distilleries in 2005-6.

Now at the time the bargain was made to trade in the oxygenate standard, I complained to everyone in congress and in the alcohol industry that the RFS would be very easy to waive. It was easy to predict all sorts of conditions where governors or the executive branch could say something like, “These environmental regulations are all well and good, but if they get in the way of economic interests, we just won’t be able to afford to do the right thing.”

“No, no,” the RFS advocates retorted, “we will make sure that a ‘no backsliding’ provision is written into the new legislation.” Well gee, that tidbit didn’t quite survive into the final draft. Now some oil-saturated governors are trying to use their statutory power to get the EPA to waive the standard, so oil companies won’t be forced to use farmer’s fuels.

Instead of cleaning up our air, dealing with Peak Oil, reducing dependence on foreign oil, and reversing global warming, we are doing exactly what I feared. We are talking about simply setting aside the RFS for reasons that ignore health, ignore national security, ignore our dependence, ignore our war to control Mideast oil, and ignore planetary climate stability in favor of simple short-term economic gains. The proposal is even more disingenuous, since the alleged economic gains are not even real. For instance, there is no shortage of corn, no matter what you read in the press. We just had the best crop in 33 years, and we are still trying to find silo space to store the huge surplus. We have increased the amount of animal feed we send around the world to record levels, which is a direct result of our increased alcohol fuel production. We use only cornstarch for alcohol, and all the non-starch parts of the corn become high-quality animal feed. More corn production for alcohol means more animal feed, which means more food. It’s simple.

Now that the data is coming in, we are seeing that in addition to the utterly nonexistent corn shortage, grain price increases have no basis in ethanol or the RFS whatsoever. In fact, the price increases result almost exclusively from the rising price of oil and greater demand for meat in China and other developing countries. If it were not for alcohol fuel, the price of gasoline would be even higher than it is today, and the net effect on a citizen’s pocketbook would be many times the alleged effect of ethanol on food prices.

This attack on the RFS has been planned since the day it was first passed. Because as we run out of oil, the fossil fuel industry plans to replace petroleum with more tar sands, oil shale, and coal to liquids. As the EPA, you are well aware that these fuels will increase greenhouse gas emissions scores to thousands of times the emissions from petroleum. They will also increase the pollution of our air with countless tons of metals and volatile gases, pollute what water is left after we drain the aquifers to make synfuels, and irradiate/poison the planet with radioactive particles and mercury from coal.

But for these environmentally foul fuels to be economically viable, the price of a barrel of oil needs to climb to about $150. Biofuels, on the other hand, can be produced realistically, ecologically, and sustainably for less than $70 a barrel, without any breakthroughs in technology. If biofuels, and in particular ethanol, increase in volume, the economic viability of all the alternatives that Big Oil wants to develop are in jeopardy. And that’s a good thing, since as the EPA, you know for certain that development of these fossil alternatives to petroleum are unbelievably incompatible with continuation of life on Earth as we know it.

No, the RFS is not a discretionary guideline to be set aside, as powerful economic interests and their tamed politicians dictate. The RFS is a health standard meant to protect all living things from the total degradation of our planet. You in the EPA are charged with the responsibility to act as a bulwark against corporate environmental irresponsibility, and doing the right thing requires more than standing firm on the RFS. Far from being waived, the standard needs to be increased annually, bear no expiration date, and remain in force until every single Btu of energy this country uses is renewable. Ultimately, that means an end to fossil fuels and an economic and energy system based on the sun.

A call to action:

The window to submit comment on this critical EPA waiver is closing June 23rd, submit written comments today, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2008-0380, by one of the following methods: One the web at http://www.regulations.gov, follow the on-line instructions for submitting comments, by E-mail: a-and-r-docket@epa.gov or by fax: (202) 566-1741.

Learn more about David Blume’s Fight to Save The Renewable Fuels Standard.

David Blume is author of Alcohol Can Be A Gas and Executive Director of the International Institute for Ecological Agriculture.

June 19, 2008 at 4:44 pm Leave a comment

Peak Oil Crash = Simultaneous Government and Market Failures

Peak Oil disagreements and conflicts

No one said it would be easy to implement fixes for peak oil or climate change, and it is evident it will only occur with a bottom up and top down approach.

For years now, we have heard the Peak Oil predictions of Kunstler, Simmons, Heinberg, Blume, and other authors preaching their Peak Oil prophecy. As reality begins to pry the fingers from the ears of people who have long ignored our global problems, a critical mass of people have begun to ask “So what are we going to DO about it?”

What are we going to DO about Peak Oil?
What are we going to DO about rapid climate change?
What are we going to DO about market failure?
What are we going to DO about government failure?
What are we going to DO about fixing the food system?
What are we going to DO about fixing the transportation system?

Why is government failing? No one seems to agree, and it is BECAUSE no one seems to agree that man made laws are resisting adaptation to live with nature’s reality. After all, in a consumer driven planet, how can governments force consumer choice if choice is still abundant?

It is exactly for this reason that markets are failing in a growth-oriented global economy. Since resource scarcity is real, we are no longer able to have as much choice of supplies for real world items such as wheat, gasoline, and water.

But we have plenty of crappy niche Web 2.0 applications rushing to save the day, don’t we? Not enough engineers are focused on real world solutions such as local alcohol fuel and food production made from permaculture systems. Software jockeys are too busy drinking and coding Java to look up and see the ship is crashing on the rocks as both government and markets fail at the same time.

And while local municipalities are now actively creating Peak Oil Task Forces and sustainability commissions to help address the issues, they are powerless in the face of consumer choice. After all, money in people’s pocket means permission to consume. While these task forces seek to offer plans and advice for reducing carbon emissions and decreasing our dependency on fossil fuels – we are lacking the human willpower to change in time to mitigate a population and food disaster.

It is for this reason that these task forces can skip budgeting for “Outreach Programs” designed to talk about Peak Oil problems – and begin to look at funding implementing tools designed to support hyper-local communities, such as Bright Neighbor.

Yes, I am biased because that is my company’s solution (and competition is sure to follow). Right now, municipalities could implement tools to quickly help people learn to grow food at home, safely meet and collaborate with their neighbors, buy, sell, and barter at a hyper-local level, lend things out to one another, make ride sharing simple, among many other communications improvements. One problem is that people can do many of these things using a variety of tools available to them, but there needs to be an aggregated set of tools that eliminates redundancy.

For instance, if a community ends up using five different neighbor-to-neighbor applications, there will be neighbors that never connect. An immediate fix for Peak Oil, climate change, market failure, and local food systems would be to deploy an all-in-one tool that addresses life-support systems, supported by local governments or neighborhood leaders. If all the community members with Internet access and mobile devices in a single neighborhood coordinated to use a single communications system, then the chances of that neighborhood collaborating to help one another grow gardens, share resources, and generally improve their community are greatly increased.

It is the mission of Bright Neighbor to deliver community living tools that we can use now, instead of waiting for things to get worse. Why shouldn’t you be able to find someone in your neighborhood who has a 30 foot ladder right now? Or coordinate music jam sessions while bringing pot luck dinners created with locally produced food? Or help single moms locate other single moms that live around them to safely meet one another and share soccer-mom duties.

There are many ways to get started with Bright Neighbor, and they are life affirming reasons, not “doom” tools. We can gain value from better community living systems today. That is why we are excited to announce Bright Neighbor is now actively seeking pilot communities and neighborhoods looking for community organization and sustainability tools.

To sign up your neighborhood for a Bright Neighbor test run, please visit Bright Neighbor.

April 16, 2008 at 5:13 pm 3 comments

Egads! More Peak Oil Wareness. Oh, the Humanity!

For any late comers to the game!

And just one more reminder…

February 11, 2008 at 12:18 am 1 comment

Stop Worrying About Peak Oil

Stop Worrying About Peak Oil

Is everyone on this planet just a big pussy? Are there so few humans willing to face their own demons and do what it takes to help out their fellow species before so many perish?

Hey you, WIMPY WORKING CLASS!
Are you just going to allow yourselves to keep getting punched in the face by your government captors? How many lumps are you going to allow yourself to take before you fight back for yourselves? When are you going to take control of your own futures – or are you going to just sit there and let yourself suffer from financial and emotional ruin?

Solution – Find your inner warrior! Be brave, stand up and fight for yourselves! I don’t mean literally fight – I mean get off your ass and help save this place by adding to the cause. You can start by looking for a job in earth-friendly growth sectors such as:

– Small scale farming
– Small scale alcohol still production
– Converting gasoline engines to run on pure alcohol (just like race cars do!)

Hey you, CAPITALISTS!
You are such pussies! You are too stupid to invest in the right new markets to solve Peak Oil even though there is tons of money to be made! You would rather invest in the tried-and-true weapons of war to make profits, and that market means the end of us all.

Solution – Invest in brave young entrepreneurs, and don’t stifle their creative class with your old and broken system. Finance the ones offering substitutes

Hey you, FARMERS!
You suck so hard, your grandfather would switch your ass until it bled pints for selling out so easily to monoculture driven food corporations and home developers.

Solution – Learn the amazing profitable benefits of growing multiple crops using permaculture!

Hey, all you POLITICIANS!
Every single one of you carries the rotten odor of week-old-cheese or worse. Even if you are convinced your showers have cleansed you. By running for office, you serve yourself while supposedly serving the people.

Solution – Offer REAL platform issues that matter, such as supporting micro-level food production, offer crossover vocational training for making alcohol fuel, and help support programs that assist in eradicating unbridled consumerism. We have to come up with ways to save ourselves from the effects of global temperature increases, not just talk about it.

I want to apologize for offending anyone, but not really. Unless you are actively engaged in helping save yourself, your family, and your friends by departing from your old self, you might not make it.

Now think: What can you do to be a better you?

January 15, 2008 at 2:56 pm 3 comments

Researchers: Ethanol Blends Provide Better Fuel Economy Than Gasoline

Victory

Sweet victory! Lawns to Gardens has long been making the case that David Blume’s work “Alcohol Can Be A Gas” is a definitive “How To” plan for helping ween America off of oil, fix our food system, and slow down global warming. Now there is proof to back it up.

From Biopact.com:

Newly released research suggests certain ethanol blends provide better fuel economy than gasoline, despite biofuel’s lower energy content. The research findings released show that mid-range ethanol blends – fuel mixtures with more ethanol than E10 but less than E85 – can in some cases provide better fuel economy than regular unleaded gasoline, even in standard, non-flex-fuel vehicles and despite the biofuel’s lower energy content. The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) and the Minnesota Center for Automotive Research (MnCAR) conducted the tests, results of which are published in the report titled Optimal Ethanol Blend-Level Investigation.

Previous assumptions held that ethanol’s lower energy content – around 30% lower than gasoline – directly correlates with lower fuel economy for drivers. Those assumptions were found to be incorrect. Instead, the new research suggests that there is an ‘optimal blend level’ of ethanol and gasoline – most likely E20 or E30 – at which cars will get better mileage than predicted based strictly on the fuel’s per-gallon Btu content. The new study, cosponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), also found that mid-range ethanol blends reduce harmful tailpipe emissions.

“This is a compelling argument for more research on the promise of higher ethanol blends in gasoline. There is strong evidence that the optimal ethanol-gasoline blend for standard, non-flex-fuel vehicles is greater than E10 and instead may be E20 or E30. We encourage the federal government to move swiftly to research the use of higher ethanol blends and make necessary approvals so that American motorists can have the cost-effective ethanol choices they deserve at the pump.”

– Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol

The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) and the Minnesota Center for Automotive Research (MnCAR) conducted the research using four 2007 model vehicles: a Toyota Camry, a Ford Fusion, and two Chevrolet Impalas, one flex-fuel and one non-flex-fuel. Researchers used the Environmental Protection Agency’s Highway Fuel Economy Test (HWFET) to examine a range of ethanol-gasoline blends from straight Tier 2 gasoline up to 85 percent ethanol. All of the vehicles got better mileage with ethanol blends than the ethanol’s energy content would predict, and three out of four traveled farther on a mid-level ethanol blend than on unleaded gasoline.

In addition to the favorable fuel economy findings, the research provides strong evidence that standard, non-flex-fuel vehicles can operate on ethanol blends beyond 10 percent. The three non-flex-fuel vehicles tested operated on levels as high as E65 before any engine fault codes were displayed.

Emissions results for the ethanol blends were also favorable for nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and non-methane organic gases, showing an especially significant reduction in CO2 emissions for each vehicle’s “optimal” ethanol blend.

References:

Biopact.com

University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), Minnesota Center for Automotive Research (MnCAR), Optimal Ethanol Blend-Level Investigation, December 2007.

American Coalition for Ethanol: Groundbreaking study finds that certain ethanol blends can provide better fuel economy than gasoline – December 5, 2007.

December 11, 2007 at 10:37 am 1 comment

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