Tag Archives: Energy

Lexington 2030 – A Vision

What will we be like in 20 years?  20 years ago this summer, the first Bush war for oil began its intial stages.  Tim Berners-Lee was formulating his idea for the world-wide web – yeah the web as we know it hadn’t been born.  The world’s population was 5.2 billion humans.  (Today, it’s 6.8 billion. When I was born in 1964, it was 3.2 billion)

This vision acknowledges the imminent threats of energy descent, and climate change, and the end of globalization.  It accepts the fact that “local” is the path to independence.

This is based on Portland’s climate action plan primarily, as well as other peak oil plans such as Bloomington’s.

I’ve been thinking about what Lexington should be doing to prepare for its next comprehensive plan.  I’m betting on business as usual – denial is very strong here - but I’m also beginning now to sound the alarm:  business as usual will not improve or even maintain our quality of life.  And that’s really all we have, isn’t it?

This is not about my values.  This isn’t a choice between values.  The world is changing rapidly to the negative. We must act now to protect ourselves and our place.

Here’s the goal:  An 80% reduction in carbon usage by 2030.   

An 80 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2030 will entail re-imagining the entire community— transitioning away from fossil fuels and strengthening the local economy while shifting fundamental patterns of urban form, transportation, buildings and consumption.

A vision:

■ In 2030, Lexington and Fayette County are at the heart of a vibrant region with a thriving economy, rich cultural community and diverse, ecologically sustainable neighborhoods.

■ Personal mobility and access to services has never been better. Every resident lives in a walkable and bikeable neighborhood that includes retail businesses, schools, parks and jobs. Most people rely on walking, bicycling and transit rather than driving. Pedestrians and bicyclists are prominent in the region’s commercial centers, corridors and neighborhoods.

Public transportation, bikeways, sidewalks and greenways connect neighborhoods. When people do need to drive, vehicles are highly efficient and run on low-carbon electricity and renewable fuels.

■ Green jobs are a key component of the regional economy. Products and services related to clean energy, green building, sustainable food, green infrastructure, and waste reuse and recovery providing living-wage jobs throughout the community, and Lexington is one of North America’s  hubs for sustainable industry and clean technology.

■ Homes, offices and other buildings deliver superb performance. They are durable and highly efficient, healthy, comfortable and powered primarily by solar, wind and other renewable resources.

■ The urban forest and green roofs cover the community, reducing the urban heat island effect, sequestering carbon, providing habitat, and cleaning the air and water.

■ Food and agriculture are central to the economic and cultural vitality of the community, with backyard gardens, farmers’ markets and community gardens productive and thriving. A large share of food comes from farms within the region, and residents eat a healthy diet, consuming more locally grown grains, vegetables and fruits.

■ The benefits of green infrastructure, walkable and bikeable neighborhoods, quality housing, and convenient, affordable transportation options and public health services are shared equitably throughout the community.

■ Residents and businesses use resources extremely efficiently, minimizing and reusing solid waste, water, stormwater and energy.

■ The Bluegrass region has prepared for a changed climate, making infrastructure more resilient, developing reliable supplies of water, food and energy and improving public health services. Policies, investments and programs are in place to protect the residents most vulnerable to climate change and rising energy prices.

What do you think?

If you care about these issues at all, the City of Portland and Multnomah County Climate Action Plan is a must read:  http://www.portlandonline.com/bps/index.cfm?c=49989&a=268612

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Our energy supply: some basics

 Published Fri, 03/12/2010 – 08:00

by Gail The Actuary

If a person were to listen to Energy Secretary Steven Chu or National Geographic’s Aftermath: World Without Oil, one might think that our energy problems are fairly minor and distant. We can easily add sufficiently renewable energy to substitute for fossil fuels in a fairly short time frame. All we need to do is put our minds (and pocketbooks) to it.

 But if one looks at the situation more closely, one discovers that the situation is quite different. Our energy problems are close at hand, and solutions using what are optimistically called “renewables” are distant and may very well sink the country further into recession.

 
Figure 1- US energy consumption by source, based Energy Information Administration (EIA) Monthly Energy Review Table 1.3.

*Year 2009 estimated based on data through November.

 US energy consumption is already down quite a bit–some might say due to recession, but it seems even more likely that the result is the other way around–high energy prices squeezed the financial system. This in turn caused credit availability to drop and demand for oil, gas, and coal to drop. We have put a huge amount of effort and subsidies into wind and solar, but they hardly show up on the chart. Ethanol isn’t shown separately in the chart this data was taken from–instead it is combined with wood and with other biofuels in a category called “biomass” in the EIA data. The biomass line has thickened a bit, but it is still pretty insignificant.

 The following are a few observations about our current situation:

 1. Even though wind, solar photovoltaic (PV), geothermal, and ethanol are called “renewables”, they cannot be produced without fossil fuels, and need fossil fuels for maintenance. Continue reading

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100% Renewables in 20 Years

Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi, Scientific American

A plan to achieve 100% renewable energy in twenty years.

Key Concepts
Supplies of wind and solar energy on accessible land dwarf the energy consumed by people around the globe. (WWS = Wind, Water, Solar)
The authors’ plan calls for 3.8 million large wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants, and numerous geothermal, tidal and rooftop photovoltaic installations worldwide.

The cost of generating and transmitting power would be less than the projected cost per kilowatt-hour for fossil-fuel and nuclear power.

This is possible  but shortages of a few specialty materials, along with lack of political will, loom as the greatest obstacles.

If you haven’t seen this, here is a marvelous primer on how this could be done – well worth your time in clicking on it!  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=powering-a-green-planet

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Isaac Asimov: A Vision of A Low Energy Future and What It Means For Food

Isaac Asimov wrote this in 1977 for TIME – see what you think:

(Preface from Time Magazine – Americans are so used to limitless energy supplies that they can hardly imagine what life might be like when the fuel really starts to run out. So TIME asked Science Writer Isaac Asimov for his vision of an energy-poor society that might exist at the end of the 20th century. The following portrait, Asimov noted, “need not prove to be accurate. It is a picture of the worst, of waste continuing, of oil running out, of nothing in its place, of world population continuing to rise. But then, that could happen, couldn’t it?”)

“So it’s 1997, and it’s raining, and you’ll have to walk to work again. The subways are crowded, and any given train breaks down one morning out of five. The buses are gone, and on a day like today the bicycles slosh and slide. Besides, you have only a mile and a half to go, and you have boots, raincoat and rain hat. And it’s not a very cold rain, so why not?

Lucky you have a job in demolition too. It’s steady work.

Slow and dirty, but steady. The fading structures of a decaying city are the great mineral mines and hardware shops of the nation. Break them down and re-use the parts. Coal is too difficult to dig up and transport to give us energy in the amounts we need, nuclear fission is judged to be too dangerous, the technical breakthrough toward nuclear fusion that we hoped for never took place, and solar batteries are too expensive to maintain on the earth’s surface in sufficient quantity.

Anyone older than ten can remember automobiles. They dwindled. At first the price of gasoline climbed—way up. Finally only the well-to-do drove, and that was too clear an indication that they were filthy rich, so any automobile that dared show itself on a city street was overturned and burned. Rationing was introduced to “equalize sacrifice,” but every three months the ration was reduced. The cars just vanished and became part of the metal resource.

There are many advantages, if you want to look for them. Our 1997 newspapers continually point them out. The air is cleaner and there seem to be fewer colds. Against most predictions, the crime rate has dropped. With the police car too expensive (and too easy a target), policemen are back on their beats. More important, the streets are full. Legs are king in the cities of 1997, and people walk everywhere far into the night. Even the parks are full, and there is mutual protection in crowds.

If the weather isn’t too cold, people sit out front. If it is hot, the open air is the only air conditioning they get. And at least the street lights still burn. Indoors, electricity is scarce, and few people can afford to keep lights burning after supper.

As for the winter—well, it is inconvenient to be cold, with most of what furnace fuel is allowed hoarded for the dawn; but sweaters are popular indoor wear and showers are not an everyday luxury. Lukewarm sponge baths will do, and if the air is not always very fragrant in the human vicinity, the automobile fumes are gone.

There is some consolation in the city that it is worse in the suburbs. The suburbs were born with the auto, lived with the auto, and are dying with the auto. One way out for the suburbanites is to form associations that assign turns to the procurement and distribution of food. Pushcarts creak from house to house along the posh suburban roads, and every bad snowstorm is a disaster. It isn’t easy to hoard enough food to last till the roads are open. There is not much in the way of refrigeration except for the snowbanks, and then the dogs must be fought off.

What energy is left cannot be directed into personal comfort. The nation must survive until new energy sources are found, so it is the railroads and subways that are receiving major attention. The railroads must move the coal that is the immediate hope, and the subways can best move the people.

And then, of course, energy must be conserved for agriculture. The great car factories make trucks and farm machinery almost exclusively. We can huddle together when there is a lack of warmth, fan ourselves should there be no cooling breezes, sleep or make love at such times as there is a lack of light—but nothing will for long ameliorate a lack of food. The American population isn’t going up much any more, but the food supply must be kept high even though the prices and difficulty of distribution force each American to eat less. Food is needed for export so that we can pay for some trickle of oil and for other resources. Continue reading

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You’ve Met Peak Oil: Welcome Peak Coal

I’ve said many times that peak oil alone will have the effect of ensuring that we reach peak total energy. All of our other energy sources begin with oil.  As the price of oil rises due to limited supply, the cost of other energy will rise as well, rationing demand.

The United States Geological Survey released a report last summer that clearly discusses what they describe as “peak coal” – their term, not mine.  The report shows this entire country is near if not already passed peak coal.  Peak coal simply means the same as peak oil – that moment when we’ve mined one-half of all our reserves.  The best coal and the easiest to get to coal was the first half.  The other half isn’t – it will be the most expensive.

Certainly Appalachia has passed peak coal.  The graph below shows clearly shows the year:  1940.  That was when the most coal was ever mined.  And while we’ve basically had a plateau of production since then, the graph shows how dramatically the drop-off is as we near resource depletion. (The USGS report uses 2005 figures, so there would be another inward spike during the recession of 2007-2009.)  The top graph is the BEST CASE case scenario.  The bottom graph shows more realistic production and decline.

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Better comes from less, not more

“…better comes from less, not more.  A better future for our children comes not from greater affluence, but less, and the preservation of resources for the future.  A better life for us in the present involves fewer hours of work, and thus, more freedom – and fewer possessions and less affluence.”

Want to read about a vision of a better future?  You should. Read it from one of the best writers – Sharon Astyk: http://sharonastyk.com/2009/09/22/dreaming-a-life/

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Biomass Misunderstanding

The Herald Leader has an interesting article today that would appear to address resilience: “State looks at grasses, grains, wood products to produce fuel.” The article covers the discussion occurring around the idea of converting much of Kentucky’s agricultural and timber land into fuel production. Governor Beshear has appointed a task force “to study the state’s capacity to produce biomass and the potential demand for turning it into ethanol and fuel for electricity plants, and evaluate what would be required to develop such an industry.”

The last word is the problem for resilience: “industry.” Continue reading

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