Archive for August, 2010

Help pass the Marcellus Shale natural gas severance tax!

Posted on August 31, 2010. Filed under: Events, News | Tags: , |

Time to take action for PA residents!  Pennsylvania House Democrats and Senate Republicans promised to pass a Marcellus Shale natural gas severance tax by October 1, but now, the gas industry is trying to avoid paying its fair share. Industry lobbyists want loopholes big enough to drive a drilling rig through, seeking to exempt the first three years of production from taxes on each deep gas well. This is precisely the time when the output of the wells, and the revenue for programs such as environmental initiatives, would be the greatest.

Pennsylvania sits atop one of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world — the Marcellus shale formation. Relatively new drilling technology makes it lucrative for drillers to tap into this resource. The PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a record 7,792 drilling permits in 2008 (total) — up from roughly 2,000 in 1999. And the applications keep coming.  Most states with natural gas resources tax the extraction of the gas in the form of a severance tax or impact fee. In 2009 Gov. Rendell proposed a tax identical to the one that has been in place in West Virginia since 1987. This type of tax could initially raise more than $100 million a year and increase to more than $630 million annually by 2014.

Now is the time to reach out to area representatives and urge them to pass the Marcellus Shale severance tax WITHOUT any loopholes.  Make the gas industry pay for their heavy costs on our communities and use the money to offset the costs.  Contact your area representative today!  To write a letter to your area rep about the Marcellus Shale tax, visit PennFuture.

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Camping in the Great Outdoors: Fresh Air, Nature, S’mores and…WiFi???

Posted on August 30, 2010. Filed under: News, Questions | Tags: , , , , , |

WiFi is now blanketing the nation in more remote areas than ever… parks and campgrounds. Campground owners feel almost obligated to include internet accessibility to their list of basic amenities simply because their customers are demanding it.

Many believe that encouraging technology use while camping is in direct conflict with the principle of fully experiencing the great outdoors. Hiking and camping are usually activities people enjoy because one can “get away from it all”. Being disconnected from the modern world and the hectic activity of the daily grind is often part of the beauty of spending time in remote locations. The inability to communicate with anyone other than those you are with and with nature itself is considered part of the experience. Could suddenly offering that tempting ability to stay in constant contact with the world diminish the value of the outdoor experience?

 On the other hand, grounds managers with internet connections can use the added communication ability to boost the marketing of their facilities. Some have installed webcams in strategic locations to feature amazing views on their websites. This may entice more people to come visit the parks. Hikers are encouraged to take photos on trails, share them on their personal blogs, and tweet about their adventures. If the best marketing tool is word of mouth, then taking advantage of technology could simply promote that phenomenon in today’s world.

 For better of for worse, the internet is now accessible, as are you, in areas that were once quite isolated. As outdoor aficionados debate the pros and cons of this, you can now decide if you want to bring that iPad for late night video watching in the tent, or if you’d rather leave the tech-gadgets at home and just “rough-it” on your next outdoors experience.

Rustic Camping

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Clean Currents 1st Annual BIG Company BBQ- Carderock Park

Posted on August 27, 2010. Filed under: Events | Tags: |

Clean Currents staff and families had a blast at the first annual company BBQ at Carderock Park yesterday! There was certainly no shortage of food including: Peruvian potatoes, baked beans, pasta salad, mac&cheese, quinoa salad, burgers&dogs (veggie too of course), mexican layer dip heated in a solar cooker, brownies, cookies, banana pudding (yes, its delicious) and so much more! Are you hungry yet?
We tried to encourage people to bring plates, flatware, cups and forks from home to avoid one time use items, with about an embarassing 30% success rate. Lets go for higher next year!
We also had a blast playing cornhole, volleyball and various other park-y sports.
Thanks to all the chefs and attendees and especially Katherine K. from the solar team for pulling it all together!

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Legislation to Protect PACE financing from Fannie & Freddie

Posted on August 24, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , |

This summer, a storm has been brewing over Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing. This type of financing allows homeowners to finance solar installations or other clean energy investments by addding in the costs into their existing property tax payments. This allows them to spread out the costs over an extended period of time and helps make clean energy investments more affordable for more homeowners. Sounds good, right?

At the beginning of the summer, more and more states were working to implement PACE programs to help homeowners access solar and other renewable energy technologies.

States with PACE financing from Alliance to Save Energy

 But then, in late June, came the news that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac opposed PACE programs because they felt that certain provisions of the programs were against PACE programs conflicted with their mortgage regulations. This put the breaks on many PACE programs.

Now, there are several bills proposed in the house and senate to protect PACE financing programs. In the house, Mike Thompson’s (D-Calif) H.R. 5766, and in the Senate, Barbara Boxer’s (D-Calif) S. 3642 are two pieces of legislation that include provisions that support PACE.

Check out details from the Alliance to Save Energy, and Grist.

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Maryland PSC Approves BGE Smart Grid Upgrade

Posted on August 17, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , |

Here’s some exciting news for smart grid advocates: BGE has recieved approval from the Maryland Public Service Commission to proceed with its amended smart grid upgrade plan! The approval came just in the nick of time to allow the utility to take advantage of a $200 million DOE grant, which had a deadline of August 16th.

According the BGE website, the grant will help reduce the cost of the upgrade to consumers by 80%. The costs are estimated to be around $.30 per month for residential customers, but BGE estimates that they will help save consumers and aggregate $2.5 million/year or an average of $100/customer. BGE also announced that it would unveil an energy management portal for consumers in October 2011, ahead of schedule.

In other utility news, Pepco is getting heat from lawmakers and citizens for its inability to keep the power on during storms. The City of Gaithersburg sent a letter of complaint to the public service commission, while Governor O’Malley questioned the utlity’s shortcomings on the Kojo Nnamdi show last week (video below).

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The Grass is Always Greener….

Posted on August 9, 2010. Filed under: Events, News | Tags: , , , , , |

…When you mow it with a battery powered mower! And now, Maryland residents can get their hands on a Neuton CE 5 or CE 6 battery powered mower at a great price during the Great Mower Exchange.

The exchange will be held Saturday, Aug 14 at Camden Yards where the Maryland Department of the Environment and Clean Air Partners will be on hand with 1000 Neuton mowers. Bring your old mower, and receive a Neuton CE5 for $135 or a Neuton CE6 for $175 (a savings of $264-$324!). Make sure you reserve your mower before heading out to Camden Yards!

Got your mower? Tell us about it! Post your comments about gas-free mowing below.

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Reverse your Car Logic!

Posted on August 4, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , |

Last week’s unveiling of the Chevy Volt brought automobile efficiency to the forefront of public discourse.  The long awaited release of the Volt was somewhat of a disappointment, as critics slammed its high sticker price and limited range (40 miles on pure electric charge).  But its mere presence is still a big step forward for greening the auto industry.

Indeed, images of the environmental disaster along the Gulf Coast and creeping gasoline prices are causing many re-consider a “green” auto purchase – of either a hybrid or new electric vehicle.  But before you hop on the Prius, Volt, or Leaf bandwagon, consider the real efficiency gains gleaned from trading in your conventional car with a more efficient one.

Growing up in the United States, we have come to embrace the MPG rating slapped on new car windows.  Gas guzzling SUV’s have MPG ratings of 15 or lower, while the relatively efficient Civic is rated near 30 (combined).  However, we may be looking at auto efficiency from an entirely wrong angle.  Rating a car on “miles per gallon” can be quite misleading.  Comparing fuel consumed per unit of distance and not distance per unit of fuel consumed is a much easier (and more accurate) concept.  If I just lost you, I’ll break this down.

If we measure by gallons per mile instead of miles per gallon, we would be able to gather exactly how efficient our cars are.  For example, what is better?  Replacing an 18-MPG car with a 28-MPG one, or replacing a 34-MPG car with a 50-MPG one?  A quick calculation would tell me that 18 to 28 is only 10, while 34 to 50 is 16.  But if we express these comparisons as gallons per 100miles, we find that an 18-MPG car consumes 5.5 gallons/100miles while a 28-MPG car consumes 3.6 gallons/100miles (a saving of 1.9 gallons.  If you trade in your 34-MPG car with a 50-MPG car, you’d find that the 34-MPG car consumes 2.9 gallons/100miles while the 50-MPG car consumes 2 gallons/100miles (a saving of only .9 gallons!).

Measuring cars in gallons per mile shows that there is a law of diminishing returns when it comes to ever increasing MPG ratings on cars.  Basically, it is much more effective to trade is very low mileage vehicles for higher mileage ones rather than trading in already high mileage cars for even higher mileage ones.

Not that I am against trading in your Civic for a Volt, but think twice before making your purchase, and don’t forget to reverse your car logic!

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A Chinese Omnivore’s Dilemma

Posted on August 2, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , |

A Chinese Omnivore’s Dilemma with Global Consequences…

With the U.S. climate bill stalled indefinitely, and an international agreement even further on the back burner, China’s rapidly growing demand for pork is an ominous trend for global climate change.
According to the USDA, Chinese consumption of pork has increased 127 percent from 1990 to 2010- accounting for 50% of total pork consumption worldwide. Factory farms in China are unable to cover this growing demand, so much of it is imported from the US and other countries. 
The problem is not just the increased import of U.S. finished pork product, but starts much earlier in the food chain.  Corn, a highly resource and carbon intensive crop, is the primary source of feed for livestock in the industrial process.  While the U.S. is the number one producer of corn worldwide, it is dedicating more corn to ethanol production and will not be able to meet growing Chinese demand. Chinese corn will likely come from countries such as Argentina and Brazil, where they will have to convert forests and grasslands into cornfields, eliminating their ability to sequester carbon.
Without a comprehensive international climate agreement that could cover issues including chemical manufacturing, land use, agriculture, and trade, this kind of unsustainable growth remains unchecked, leaving the environment to suffer the consequences. And that’s a real omnivore’s dilemma!
Check out this Grist article for more on the issue.
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