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.
http://www.novozymes.com/en/MainStructure/PressAndPublications/Newsitems/2010/Car+on+paper+waste.htm

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.

Sincerely,

Matthew P. Hoh
Senior Civilian Representative
Zabul Province, Afghanistan

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

Ways I reduce my carbon footprint now

Food

No red meat in my diet
No charcoal grill
Rarely use full size oven
Mostly use microwave oven to heat food
Switched from electric to gas range
Grow food in my yard: Tomatoes, Cucumber, Zucchini, Onions, Figs, Peaches, Grapefruit
Seek local, organic food products
Resist corporate chain restaurants

Transportation

Walk whenever possible
Pedal-cycle whenever possible

When driving, slowed down to observe all speed limits, never exceeding 55 MPH
Take the train instead whenever possible
Stopped using jet air travel

Housing

Personal living space under 250 SF
Whole space window fan for majority of cooling
NG wall heater thermostat set at 68 degrees Fahrenheit
NG demand water heater
All fluorescent lighting
Low water use toilet and fixtures
Outdoor clothesline

Shopping

Buy local and US made first
Bring my own bags
Don’t buy “impulse” junk
Buy second hand and recycled
Look for minimal packaging when I must buy new
Pay extra for organic and/or local or US Made

There is room for improvement, especially in the area of food, but I feel good about how far I have come in the past few years.

Solar Clothes Dryer in Action

I finally woke up one day and realized how dumb it was for me to be using an electric dryer to dry my clothes. First I stopped using it in the daytime when the A/C was also on, which meant I always had to wait until night to do the laundry. Then I realized a simple solution would be to find one of those old clotheslines and use it instead. Online I found a few versions and vendors and in the end settled on one from my local ACE Hardware for $49.95. Of course I needed clothespins too so all together it cost about $65. There was a receptacle for the pole already in an area of the yard I had just uncovered after removal of a spa and concrete pad.

I have used it a few times now and can honestly say it is a delight. Of course it is just my clothes, so a family would need to share in the fun because it may be hard for one time challenged parent to do it alone. What a great way to save a bunch of energy! How much energy? A typical load would consume about 3-5 kwh, so depending on local rates this would be .30 cents up to more than a dollar each load! Reduction in carbon footprint could be calculated using 1.341 lbs of CO2 per kwh consumed, so using the solar clothes dryer saves 5 to 7 lbs each load!
Tim Castleman's Solar Clothes Dryer