Why ride a bike instead?

Never mind global warming.

Yes, there seems to be a clear consensus among the scientific community confirming “global warming”, which is defined as “an increase in the earth’s atmospheric and oceanic temperatures widely predicted to occur due to an increase in the greenhouse effect resulting especially from pollution” by the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

“Many scientists predict that such an increase in temperature would cause polar ice caps and mountain glaciers to melt rapidly, significantly raising the levels of coastal waters, and would produce new patterns and extremes of drought and rainfall, seriously disrupting food production in certain regions” according to the Concise Encyclopedia.

The term “greenhouse gas” or GHG has emerged to describe the pollution responsible for the greenhouse effect and the US EPA credits over 80% of the source of GHG to electricity production (34%), transportation (27%) and industry (20%). So, with over a quarter of GHG pollution coming from transportation there is plenty of room for reduction but this has not been enough of a reason to convince people to stop driving and flying in jets.

Therefore offered herein are a few more considerations to enlighten the willing.

Other pollution. Ever wonder where tire rubber goes? A motor vehicle will wear through several sets of tires in its lifetime and all that rubber must go somewhere! Ditto for brake pads and a variety of petroleum based fluids that leak out. None of this pollution is regulated at all, so it is in our air, water soil and food.

Personal finance. AAA says the average cost for car ownership is over $9,000 per year. This is the direct cost to drivers and doesn’t include the public costs to construct and maintain infrastructure, nor the increased cost of health care and other indirect costs.

Physical health. Speaking of health costs, epidemic obesity due to poor eating habits and inactivity is a prime driver to increasing health care costs. It is unsafe for children to walk or ride a bike to school, contributing to childhood obesity.

Mental health. Motor vehicle users are insulated from the natural world and from each other. The experience of riding a bike is fun and allows a real connection to the natural world.

Public space. The public roadways have become so unsafe walking or riding a bike is out of the question for most people. It is not even safe for children and pets in front of their own homes because of the speeding motor vehicles that dominate these public spaces. They are only slightly aware of the carnage left behind and known as “road kill”, which is dead wildlife that makes the error of wandering into the path of a speeding vehicle.

Social effects. Road Rage is a term coined to define the behavior of especially rude drivers, but most drivers experience some level of frustration and behave badly when isolated from each other inside closed compartments. If people acted the same in line at the bank or grocery store there would be brawls every day. Safe from confrontation and inspired by NASCAR drivers are in competition to make it to the next red light first.

Political influence. All of these costs add up and enrich petroleum, defense, motor vehicle, and the finance and insurance business is most lucrative regarding motor vehicles. What other product has the government stepped in and required people to buy? Why is the US military at war in the middle east? How much political influence does the petroleum industry have? What other industries receive multi billion dollar bail outs when their business models collapse?

So, never mind the global warming caused by private motor vehicles, there are plenty of other reasons to park the car and ride bikes instead.


Novozymes "enzyme cocktail" to make biofuel from cellulose

First-Ever Car Powered by Government Paper Waste Makes Debut at Washington Auto Show
Novozymes to demonstrate improved enzyme technology for advanced biofuels

WASHINGTON – For the first time in U.S. history, a vehicle fueled by government office waste paper and waste cardboard will drive the streets of Washington D.C. today. Global bioinnovation company Novozymes has partnered with Maryland-based Fiberight to provide the demonstration fuel.

“The advanced biofuels showcased here today demonstrate that the enzyme technology is ready for market. What we need now is commercialization and deployment of advanced biofuels in order to help meet our country’s most pressing energy and environment challenges,” said Adam Monroe, president, Novozymes North America.

During today’s ‘Ride ‘n Drive’ event, government VIP’s and members of the media will get the chance to test drive a flex-fuel Chevrolet HHR at the Washington Convention Center. In the exhibition hall, a flex-fuel Ford F150 – also fuelled with the wastepaper-based biofuel – will be on display throughout the week. Both vehicles run on E85, a blend of 85 percent biofuel and 15 percent gasoline.

Novozymes multi-year research and development efforts have resulted in an enzyme cocktail that can now be used to make advanced biofuel from agricultural residues, municipal waste and energy crops. The biofuel demonstrated at the show is produced by Fiberight (www.fiberight.com). After a sequence of pulping, pre-treatment and wash, enzymes from Novozymes turn the paper and cardboard waste into sugars that are then fermented into biofuel. A sample of the paper feedstock will also be on display throughout the show.

The company is no stranger to the government spotlight. President Bush visited Novozymes headquarters in North Carolina in February 2007 to learn about enzyme technology which resulted in part of the plans for the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Novozymes also received two contracts from the DOE for its research efforts to bring down the cost of enzymes and improve their efficiency in converting cellulose to biofuels. The first contract for $2.2 million was given in 2002, and the second for $12.3 million was given in 2008.

As a result of this work, Novozymes has been able to achieve significant reductions in enzyme costs over the years, notably the 50 percent reduction announced in 2009. Most recently, the company received a $28.4 million tax credit toward the construction of its enzyme manufacturing facility in Blair, Nebraska which will create 100 new green jobs.

Advanced biofuels can deliver up to 90 percent CO2 emission reduction compared to gasoline and are the most cost-efficient way of reducing CO2 in the transport sector. In 2009, the deployment of Novozymes’ technologies in all industries resulted in the reduction of CO2 emissions totaling approximately 27 million tons – the equivalent of taking 7 million cars off the road.

Resignation Letter from US Foreign Service Officer Matthew P. Hoh

US Foreign Service Officer Matthew P. Hoh,
Senior Civilian Representative, Afghanistan

September 10, 2009

Ambassador Nancy J. Powell
Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Ambassador Powell,

It is with great regret and disappointment I submit my resignation from my appointment as a Political Officer in the Foreign Service and my post as the Senior Civilian Representative for the US Government in Zabul Province. I have served six of the previous ten years in service to our country overseas, to include deployment as a US Marine office and Department of Defense civilian in the Euphrates and Tigris River Valleys of Iraq in 2004-2005 and 2006-2007. I did not enter into this position lightly or with any undue expectations nor did I believe my assignment would be without sacrifice, hardship or difficulty. However, in the course of my five months of service in Afghanistan, in both Regional Commands East and South, I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan. I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end. To put simply: I fail to see the value or the worth in continued US casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year old civil war.

This fall will mark the eighth year of US combat, governance and development operations within Afghanistan. Next fall, the United States’ occupation will equal in length the Soviet Union’s own physical involvement in Afghanistan. Like the Soviets, we continue to secure and bolster a failing state, while encouraging an ideology and system of government unknown and unwanted by its people.

If the history of Afghanistan is one great stage play, the United States is no more than a supporting actor, among several previously, in a tragedy that not only pits tribes, valleys, clans, villages and families against one another, but, from at least the end of King Zahir Shah’s reign, has violently and savagely pitted the urban, secular, educated and modern of Afghanistan against the rural, religious, illiterate and traditional. It is this latter group that composes and supports the Pashtun insurgency. The Pashtun insurgency, which is composed of multiple, seemingly infinite, local groups, is fed by what is perceived by the Pashtun people as a continued and sustained assault, going back centuries, on Pashtun land, culture, traditions and religion by internal and external enemies. The US and NATO presence and operations in Pashtun valleys and villages, as well as Afghan army and police units that are led and composed of non- Pashtun soldiers and police, provide an occupation force against which the insurgency is justified. In both RC East and South, I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul.

The United States military presence in Afghanistan greatly contributes to the legitimacy and strategic message of the Pashtun insurgency. In a like manner our backing of the Afghan government in its current form continues to distance the government from the people. The Afghan government’s failings, particularly when weighed against the sacrifice of American lives and dollars, appear legion and metastatic:

* Glaring corruption and unabashed graft;
* A President whose confidants and chief advisors comprise drug lords and war crimes villains, who mock our own rule of law and counternarcotics efforts;
* A system of provincial and district leaders constituted of local power brokers, opportunists and strongmen allied to the United States solely for, and limited by, the value of our USAID and CERP contracts and for whose own political and economic interests stand nothing to gain from any positive or genuine attempts at reconciliation; and
* The recent election process dominated by fraud and discredited by low voter turnout, which has created an enormous victory for our enemy who now claims a popular boycott and will call into question worldwide our government’s military, economic and diplomatic support for an invalid and illegitimate Afghan government.

Our support for this kind of government, coupled with a misunderstanding of the insurgency’s true nature, reminds me horribly of our involvement with South Vietnam; an unpopular and corrupt government we backed at the expense of our Nation’s own internal peace, against an insurgency whose nationalism we arrogantly and ignorantly mistook as a rival to our own Cold War ideology.

I find specious the reasons we ask for bloodshed and sacrifice from our young men and women in Afghanistan. If honest, our stated strategy of securing Afghanistan to prevent al-Qaeda resurgence or regrouping would require us to additionally invade and occupy western Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, etc. Our presence in Afghanistan has only increased destabilization and insurgency in Pakistan where we rightly fear a toppled or weakened Pakistani government may lose control of its nuclear weapons. However, again, to follow the logic of our stated goals we should garrison Pakistan, not Afghanistan. More so, the September 11th attacks, as well as the Madrid and London bombings, were primarily planned and organized in Western Europe; a point that highlights the threat is not one tied to traditional geographic or political boundaries. Finally, if our concern is for a failed state crippled by corruption and poverty and under assault from criminal and drug lords, then if we bear our military and financial contributions to Afghanistan, we must reevaluate and increase our commitment to and involvement in Mexico.

Eight years into war, no nation has ever known a more dedicated, well trained, experienced and disciplined military as the US Armed Forces. I do not believe any military force has ever been tasked with such a complex, opaque and Sisyphean mission as the US military has received in Afghanistan. The tactical proficiency and performance of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines is unmatched and unquestioned. However, this is not the European or Pacific theaters of World War II, but rather is a war for which our leaders, uniformed, civilian and elected, have inadequately prepared and resourced our men and women. Our forces, devoted and faithful, have been committed to conflict in an indefinite and unplanned manner that has become a cavalier, politically expedient and Pollyannaish misadventure. Similarly, the United States has a dedicated and talented cadre of civilians, both US government employees and contractors, who believe in and sacrifice for their mission, but they have been ineffectually trained and led with guidance and intent shaped more by the political climate in Washington, DC than in Afghan cities, villages, mountains and valleys.

“We are spending ourselves into oblivion” a very talented and intelligent commander, one of America’s best, briefs every visitor, staff delegation and senior officer. We are mortgaging our Nation’s economy on a war, which, even with increased commitment, will remain a draw for years to come. Success and victory, whatever they may be, will be realized not in years, after billions more spent, but in decades and generations. The United States does not enjoy a national treasury for such success and victory.

I realize the emotion and tone of my letter and ask that you excuse any ill temper. I trust you understand the nature of this war and the sacrifices made by so many thousands of families who have been separated from loved ones deployed in defense of our Nation and whose homes bear the fractures, upheavals and scars of multiple and compounded deployments. Thousands of our men and women have returned home with physical and mental wounds, some that will never heal or will only worsen with time. The dead return only in bodily form to be received by families who must be reassured their dead have sacrificed for a purpose worthy of futures lost, loved vanished, and promised dreams unkept. I have lost confidence such assurances can anymore be made. As such, I submit my resignation.


Matthew P. Hoh
Senior Civilian Representative
Zabul Province, Afghanistan

Cc: Mr. Frank Ruggiero
Ms. Dawn Liberi
Ambassador Anthony Wayne
Ambassador Karl Eikenberry

Pickens (Shale) Plan Smells Like Methane

I have examined the “Pickens Plan” and it seems to be a new variation of the old shell game but on a grand scale, from Shale to shining Shale.

Oilman T. Boone Pickens first wind farm, which when completed sometime around 2016 for about $10 Billion, will be 5 times bigger than the worlds largest to date (735 MW in Abilene, TX) at an ambitious 4000 MW. In his presentation we are told his plan is to replace 22% of U.S. electric power generation , the amount currently done with natural gas (NG), with wind power generation in ten years, freeing the NG for transportation use. Is this plan realistic? If not, what is he really up to? It smells like methane to me!

There is 313,901 MW of NG electricity production in place now ( 216,269 MW NG Combined Cycle + 97,632 MW NG Boiler). Pickens record shattering 4000 MW farm is not even close to this, so surely he means when the whole middle of the country has wind installed. OK, 313,901/4000 = 78.47 more wind farms the size of his will be needed in the next ten years. Are there 78 more T. Boone Pickens types lined up and ready to build wind farms? With $7.8 Trillion dollars in funding? This seems unlikely, but maybe, those oil guys have been doing pretty good at the pumps lately.

Let’s continue to examine this a bit.

A key to the part of the plan that claims to replace 22% of NG power generation with wind power generation is getting the right of way for transmission lines on a scale not seen since the railroads were built. Could this happen on the national scale envisioned on the map used in his presentation? Maybe, but probably not without a huge fight over property rights and compensation, and with environmental groups, which is the first reason Pickens needs the government’s help, and perhaps why we needed all the new eminent domain laws recently enacted. It’s important to note that Pickens own 4000 MW project will only tie into the Texas grid (ERCOT), which is separate from the other two power grids that serve the United States. This reduces the risk for his project in regards to transmission right of way as it’s all in Texas, and will have little impact on the rest of the nation’s electricity consumption. Predictably, environmental and property rights groups in Texas are resisting new transmission lines there, and T. Boone needs the government to step in and make new laws or bend old ones so he can carry out his plans. So even if there are 78 more oil-men that have “seen the light”, it is the transmission line issues that are far from resolved and this whole wind farm thing begins to look like a fantastic smoke screen, and maybe it is.

Pickens and his pals need the American public to buy in so they have repackaged an old message (wind & solar to solve our energy ‘crisis’) in a shiny new website with a good ol’ boy that made good spokesperson (Pickens) to sell “The Pickens Plan” to ‘merica. When the camera’s are switched off and the ‘boys’ meet in the back rooms, it will be Deutsche bank’s new report “From Shale to Shining Shale” that they will be huddled over. As part of his testimony, T. Boone gave copies of this 50 page document to members of congress and others for their private reading pleasure. He told them it is about new technology to process shale, and ‘new discoveries’ of massive new deposits in America that doubles the supply of natural gas previously thought available. Pickens testified “Five years ago I would have bet $100,000 to a cup of coffee, and drank the coffee” against this kind of a find.

One would think this information would immediately lower the price of natural gas but when asked about that T. Boone was quick to bluntly state no one should expect any lower price. So much for the free market laws of supply and demand!

Which leads us to the real reason T. Boone Pickens was in congress last week, which was to hook up with the boys in the back rooms to cook up the deals it will take to exploit the information in the Deutsche bank report, “From Shale to Shining Shale”. Extraction of hydrocarbons can be a messy process and shale is just about the dirtiest and least energy efficient of all. Big oil knows all about shale and has for decades. To date it has been cheaper and more environmentally friendly to pump oil out of the ground, but now with crude well over $150 barrel shale makes economic sense – that is so long as there is no environmental costs included in the calculation. Ah, those pesky EPA regulations! This is what T. Boone was roaming the Halls of congress about. He needs relief from government interference via environmental laws to exploit the ‘recently discovered’ increased supply of natural gas!

Suddenly it is all clear why an oilman is ringing the alarm and the “Pickens Plan” is the vehicle that will be used to exempt shale gas extraction and retort from the rules painstakingly made over the years as environmentalists have battled big business for protection of the world we all share. The plan is for everyone to look at this fanciful wind farm proposal while in the real world extraction on a massive scale will be authorized and blessed with government subsidies.

Why is this a problem you say? Well, if climate change is on page 2 for you, as it is for T. Boone, then odds are good it isn’t a problem, for you. But if global warming caused by increased emissions of CO2, health of our fresh water supply, pollution and damage to the land are on page 1 for you, then the Pickens Plan deserves a deeper look.

Firstly, the extraction and refining processes of shale hydrocarbons produce increased emissions as the raw feed-stock is mined and converted to useable fuel. These emissions are regulated and they must have EPA permits to operate, and there are environmental laws that apply. For example, Section 526 of the Energy Independence And Security Act prohibits United States government agencies from buying oil produced by processes that produce more greenhouse gas emissions than would traditional petroleum. Shale extraction is one such process.

But that’s not all. In addition to massive emissions of climate change pollution, both extraction and retort consume vast amounts of water, while mining operations destroy habitat and scar the land permanently. There are lots of laws and rules to be waived for the oil-men to maximize profits, and subsidies must be arranged for things that involve any risk. Special easements, mineral rights and other laws will have to be made, modified and overridden and this all takes a lot of back room dealing by the army of staff personnel involved, and THAT is what T. Boone Pickens is in Washington D.C. to get done.

Pickens singular vision of reducing imported oil has no conservation of hydrocarbons or reduction of climate change emissions in mind at all. In fact, emissions and consumption of fossil fuels are increased overall to extract, retort and refine the methane recovered from shale into liquid fuels for the existing fleet while distribution infrastructure is built out and manufacturers gradually convert the fleet over to NG. Even if the wind part can be done as implied, we are just shifting the use of the same volume of hydrocarbons from power generation to transportation. It is more of the “more” approach, which is the thinking that got us here.

Really, though you’ve gotta hand it to them, this is a masterful snow-job that lots of people will buy into, apparently including the CEO of Sierra Club Inc, Carl Pope. Amazing!


World’s largest wind farm proposed by Pickens
June 13, 2007 by Chris Olsen in KVll


The Pickens Plan

Wkipedia: Energy Use in the United States

Wikipedia: Wind Power

Wikidedia: Oil Shale Extraction


Celebrating Freedom, Independence and Liberty

Celebrating Freedom from Foreign Oil, Energy Independence and Liberty to Travel this July 4th, Independence Day in America, here are three things the Drive 55 Conservation Project needs you to do right now.

1. Buy a 10 pack of bumper stickers and give away at least 8. You can select neighbors and friends, but encouraging local elected officials to “Lead by Example” is also an excellent way to help spread our message.

2. Login and click “Add Map Marker” to get your name on the website map. Include contact info and any comments you want to appear in the marker information bubble in the “Misc” field. Please note, all submissions must be approved and geocoded before they will appear on the map.

3. While you are logged in, sign up for the newsletter to insure you get all the latest news about the Drive 55 Conservation Project.

Enjoy a Safe and Sane holiday,

Tim Castleman

This is modern day alchemy, change the lead in your right foot into gold in your pocketbook; simply observe ALL speed limits and never exceed 55 MPH to reduce consumption 20-50%.

Why I no longer support Ron Paul for US President

In presidential candidate Ron Paul’s Thanksgiving edition of his weekly column entitled “Pain at the Pump” he explains high gasoline prices are due to government taxes and environmental regulations. This is nonsense and here is why.

Firstly, the amount of fuel tax has not changed for years. Everyone has been paying just under .50 cents per gallon for state and federal tax for a long time, no matter what the price of the fuel at the pump has been.

Secondly, he goes on to blame environmental regulations for oil companies not building more refineries. This sort of logic would have car companies failing for having to put in seat belts, brake lights and turn signals. Refineries didn’t get built because the demand wasn’t there to justify the cost and free marketer Ron Paul should know this.

Which leads to the third point Dr. Paul omits, and that is the market forces in play here. As supply goes down and demand goes up, so do prices. This is a no brainer to everyone, isn’t it? Yet no mention is made of this important fact. Paul also fails to report that consumption is up and at record levels, thereby missing the point entirely that conservation will lower consumption which will in turn lower prices.

Too bad, as always if someone or something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Ron Paul is no exception to the rule and I come away truly disappointed in this short sighted oil-industry funded point of view. I no longer support Ron Paul for US President and will formally request the campaign refund my donations. I will redirect my support to candidates that reflect my values and will truly represent me in congress.

Tim Castleman

Drive 55 Conservation Project

Peace Train to DC

What owns who?

A recent report says the average car payment has jumped to $514(1) per month, or $6,168 per year, on a rapidly depreciating asset.

Add to this the actual costs of using the car of $9,641(2) and we see that the average American worker is spending $15,809 of their annual income for their car.(3)

The average American worker earning $31,858-41,386(4) per year must pay at least 20% as income tax ($6,371-8,277) leaving $25,486-33,108 to pay for the car and living expenses. That means the average American is probably paying more for the car than they are for all the rest of their living expenses!

To help offset this cost a $.48.5 cent per mile government subsidy is available to every car owner in one form or another. This is in addition to the other subsidies for infrastructure and to the oil industry for exploration and development.

It is also important to note there are 191 million Americans drivers but there are 201 million vehicles. Drivers are actually outnumbered by vehicles! Manufacturers are building cars that wear out faster in ever increasing volumes. Massive plots of ground are paved over for parking lots, driveways and garages keep getting bigger as yards, open space and sidewalks shrink, all to accommodate the growing population of cars.

So what owns who here? Do you drive a car? How do you feel about working 4 hours each day to pay for that car? Is it really worth it?

Lately there has been a lot of talk about ‘green’ technology and ‘reducing dependence on imported oil’ but consumption is up and the price is falling. Lip service will not change this, what is needed is fundamental change in American society.

We need to remember that public roads existed long before private automobiles and pedestrians have always had the right of way. This important fact has been forgotten and today the public roads have become killing fields, both for those actually in a motor vehicle and for those simply walking or riding a bike on one.

Culturally we have allowed our addiction to comfort and speed to blind us to the harsh reality of the world we have created. Cars dominate every aspect of our lives, including the ability to make a living. Rare is the employer that doesn’t openly require workers to have a car. A person who chooses not to participate in this madness is put at a gross disadvantage not only economically, but also in terms of safety and peaceful living. They are vastly outnumbered by millions of addicted bullies made into potential killers behind the wheel of a car.

As with all addictions, the first step to recovery is admitting the loss of control and damage caused by the addiction. Next in the recovery process is total abstinence, and for the oil addicted this has proved to be a real stumbling block. While noble, individual efforts will not be enough.

Needed now are more leaders that will lead by example. This is not to excuse individuals from action; in fact, people with vision will begin immediately to change their personal consumption simply as a strategy for life of comfort, joy and ease, despite the inevitable disruptions in the supply of cheap oil. However, responsibility for the tragedy unfolding for future generations rests squarely on the shoulders of those who have taken leadership roles, not only in government, but also in our business and family life.

On this anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11/01 Americans have an opportunity to change course.

We can begin by rescinding all forms of government subsidy for energy resources and infrastructure. This includes the $48.5 cent per mile IRS tax deduction, funding for oil wars, highways, the FAA and airline industry, the motor vehicle industry, industrial farming, and any other energy dependent activity.

Legal reform regarding corporate law is also required. Stockholders and corporate officers must be held fully accountable both civilly and criminally for the actions of their corporations. This simple change will have an immediate effect because ownership benefits of big business will equal their liability, thus making small, local business the preferred approach.

Monetary policy reform will include outlawing usury except between businesses, and even then the usury charged may only be used for public benefit projects. The IRS should be abolished and gold should be the standard measure of value. Government may never mandate insurance of any type nor may government own any property other than the minimum needed to efficiently conduct its lawful business.

Political reform should include 100% public finance for campaigns, strict term limits, and abolishment of the Electoral College system in favor of direct democracy.

This may all seem like a tall order, so if discouraged, remember the children.

Tim Castleman

1) Average Car Payment over $500, term length below 60 months, BY SARAH A. WEBSTER, DETROIT FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER. http://automotive-advertising-marketing.blogspot.com/2007/08/average-car-payment-over-500-term.html
2) AAA Exchange http://www.aaaexchange.com/Main/Default.asp?CategoryID=3&SubCategoryID=9&ContentID=23
3) AAA data includes average 6% interest on auto loans
4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States#Income_and_social_class