Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Environment prevails in Texaco case!

This is something that came in from the NRDC publication Nature's Voice, which I thought was worth sharing.

Of all the environmental organizations I've given my money, time and attention to, NRDC seems to reap the biggest results and have the most fingers plugging holes in the dam. S

After an epic 19-year battle, NRDC has struck a breakthrough court settlement with Texaco that will pour millions of dollars into environmental restoration projects on the Delaware River.

The oil giant relented just as NRDC litigators were preparing to head back to court in October for the fourth trial of the longest-running "citizen suit" in history.

Under the eleventh-hour agreement, Texaco will hand over $2.25 million to local groups that are working to restore the very stretch of the Delaware that the company illegally polluted over the course of a decade.

"This fantastic victory belongs to our Members," said Mitch Bernard, NRDC's director of litigation. "They have backed this case since 1988, and today we have shown that no company -- no matter how rich or powerful -- is above our environmental laws."

NRDC won the first round of this historic case back in 1992, when a federal judge ruled that Texaco had violated the clean water law on a total of 3,360 days and ordered the company to pay a fine of $1.68 million, stop its illegal pollution and assess the damage it had caused to the fragile river ecosystem.

After repeatedly defying court orders and suffering legal setbacks at the hands of NRDC and our local partners, Texaco paid the fine, reduced its pollution and produced a multiyear report on the impacts of its contamination of the Delaware.

Now, the company has granted long-awaited restitution to the ecosystem itself. Texaco's hefty payout will fund groups that include Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, the Delaware Native Plant Society, the Delmarva Ornithological Society and Delaware State Parks.

The monies will advance projects like tree planting, wetland restoration, meadow management and osprey nesting.
--Nov/Dec 2007 issue of NRDC's Nature's Voice

Monday, November 19, 2007

Informative response to the 11/17 "Carbon Negative" post

Here's an interesting response I received with respect to my post 2 days ago.

"30% of carbon emissions in the US comes from the burning of fossil fuels for home heating and electricity. The majority of this is attributed to coal-burning power plants. If people lived in smaller houses and moved away from coal and oil for those houses, that would make a huge difference. Driving less, or driving smaller, hybrid vehicles would make a huge dent in the 40% of our carbon emissions that comes from cars. The other 30% is attributed to the use of fossil fuels by business and industry, so the individual really needs to focus on homes and cars.....the rest is small potatoes if we're talking about global warming. To make a significant impact, we should spend our time getting everyone closer to carbon neutral, then we can worry about carbon negative."

I decided to post this because it's from a source who's reliable and knows what he's talking about.

Typically the best way to respond to posts is by inserting them in the comments section that you can click on, and I totally invite you to do that... I'd love to hear from all of the readers who have taken the time and interest in The P-patch.

However, I'll make exceptions occasionally and post comments that are uniquely interesting, engaging, or informative, as I've done here.

United Nations IPCC Fourth Assessment Report is out

The new UN report on climate change and global warming assessments is out---and as you can imagine, things don't look pretty... as if we expected anything different.


Read it for yourself. There's actually some interesting details in the study, especially in terms of what they're able to determine vs. what the jury is still out on.

For example, it doesn't look like they're able to make any hard determinations as to whether or not the urban heat island effect contributes to global warming. It also mentions that as ocean temperatures warm, water expands; thus adding to the rising levels. I can't say that ever occurred to me before. S

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Being "Carbon Negative"

In most discussions I have with folks who really want to engage on the environment, the topic of how we're modifying our lifestyles, routines, and habits to be carbon-neutral is brought up.

I've decided that despite being college educated, to fully grapple with this topic I need to continuously educate myself. Reading. Dialing in on specific channels, news reports and programs. Watching specific documentaries related to the subject matter. Focusing in on resources and bastions of information online. Being part of online environmental watchdog groups. Online discussion groups. Finding the time and any means necessary to get smarter about this critical subject.

In a recent conversation related to the carbon-neutral issue, I decided to take the concept a step further---how does one become "CARBON NEGATIVE?"

This essentially means that one not only ends the carbon emissions they put into the atmosphere, but they figure out how to put "good air" (in the form of oxygen I guess) into the atmosphere, or make meaningful decisions that put into motion the wheels of environmentalism to reverse a negative carbon effect.

For example, a close friend of mine, who works for the EPA, is in a unique position of being able to "declare" himself as carbon negative due to the nature of his background and the work he is doing; such as helping communities around the world to build wastewater treatment plants, or serving as a consulting environmental engineer to advise communities on renewable energy choices that are independent of oil.
He does not own a car, and walks to work. He's a guy who talks the talk AND walks the walk. That's great for him, and for us, and he makes the world a better place because of it... but even though he's making a great impact, that's the actions of only 1 person.

We need to find the tools for the everyday person, address larger matters domestically in America, and break down the cause and effect of our everyday lives to successfully find the pathway to being CARBON NEGATIVE.

I'll start by identifying what I DO know, and make a quick list of the areas in our lives that are oil dependent.
  1. transportation; such as auto, rail, watercraft, mass transit, air travel, space travel, and what related technological advancements bring to bear
  2. energy; powering the grid, heating, cooling, etc.
  3. infrastructure; such as streets, underground PVC pipe, etc.
  4. construction
  5. everyday tools and utensils; such as plastics, your toothbrush, etc.
  6. industry and manufacturing
  7. machinery
  8. agriculture
  9. novelty and luxury items; such as vinyl records, picture frames and other collectibles.
  10. Other? There must be more. Any suggestions?
Then here's a list of what I don't know, or may not be completely clear about, in terms of the subject matter that's been brought up as I've been writing:
  1. Identifying tangible ways and means, or critical pathways, to arrive at an action or event that produces a CARBON NEGATIVE result.
  2. What exactly is CARBON NEGATIVE? Oxygen being released from a tree that you planted? Is it only oxygen, or are there other elements involved (that are the antithesis of carbon)? Not having a strong chemistry background, this is probably my weakest area.
  3. Is it theoretically possible for a community, or the American public for that matter, to become CARBON NEGATIVE?
That last question is probably the overlying question who's answer we won't be able to get to until we've done further research and engaged in a very protracted discussion---and arrived at some determinations... and we may never be able to answer that question.

I don't really have a plan for the CARBON NEGATIVE discussion, it's really evolving even as I write it---at least initially. Maybe as things unfold we can break it down into more specific sub-topics, focus on individual issues, and identify correlations and relationships amongst certain sub-topics... then maybe we'll be able to come up with some solutions and, I'm hoping, a blueprint to follow in being as effective as possible (and hopefully CARBON NEGATIVE) in our everyday lives.

Feel free to post any comments and help out, as you're all part of this discussion too! S

This blog needs "a little focus."

I'll be the first to admit it.

The P-patch has been a bit unfocused. Barry Bonds rants... hither and tither with this environmental anecdote and that greeny thingy. News spots here and there.

I'm going to try to sit down and really make an effort to focus more clearly on the environmental issues facing us today. I'm working on a few ideas.

All I can say is that I'm learning, and trying to develop something meaningful here. Bear with me as I work out the kinks a bit... hopefully I can evolve what I'm passionate about into some meaningful topics for discussion. S

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Green Bag Company

Here's a company worth checking out, the maker of green grocery bags: Green Bag - Making a Difference. You have probably started to see these pop up in grocery stores.

The vision this outfit embraces is, in a sense, a microcosm of the environmental movement as a whole---in that it's about the continuous effort to modify human behavior and daily routines---a major component of ensuring the success in the battle to save the planet.

This outfit is also part of the growing economic sector of green and earth-friendly products that are becoming available.

We use these reusable green bags whenever we go shopping---and yes, it took a few times of remembering to get them from the car to haul them into the store. Just keep them in the trunk of your car that you usually use when you go shopping. After a couple of times you'll remember to bring them in with you.

Or better yet; if you walk to the store or take the bus, you can feel really cool carrying the bag around with you as you perpetuate the cause! It might even make for a conversation piece with a stranger... who could turn out to be the person you settle down with!

So there you are. The Green Bag Company even manufactures love connections and creates families. Not bad, eh? Just remember to keep the door closed and the noise down a bit.

Like I said previously, it's about just modifying---ever so slightly---your daily routine... and hey, you might actually feel better about doing it, too. S

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Our beloved anti-hero---the ANTICHRIST of baseball himself---is... in... the... NEWS!

"Wow!!!" YOU say: "No kidding, Sweva? Really?"

In which I respond: "No, I'm only kidding. It's just all a dream... along with the doping... and the lying... and the years of 'tude... and the complaining about no shoe endorsements... and the bitching about getting paid millions to walk and stand... and the tarnished records spanning nearly 150 years of the national pastime... it's all a dream..."

Wowwy, zowwy, wake up!

I wish that were the case, but unfortunately not... I can say, however, that the latest news on Mr. Dopehead has to do with... um... dope... ITSELF!

Then you respond: "Kinda like that line Tim Curry used in the Rocky Horror Picture Show, about 'Having the key to life... itself?' Really?"

"No, no, no, not really. Close, though."

Pardon my digressing... and pardon me if I'm a little giddy with... gid, I guess. I hate to say I told you all so, but it looks like the fun's about to begin... okay, I'll try to be fair, with the innocent until proven guilty thing... yeah, whatever.

I'm sure he'll be courting all sorts of offers from other clubs now. Read the news below.

SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- A federal grand jury indictment on Thursday charged Barry Bonds, baseball's record home run hitter, with perjury and obstruction of justice and accused him of testing positive for performance-enhancing steroids.

The indictment charges Barry Bonds with lying when he said he didn't knowingly take steroids.

Bonds, 43, repeatedly denied he had knowingly taken performance-enhancing drugs during his December 2003 testimony in an investigation that focused on a San Francisco-area laboratory.

The grand jury in San Francisco returned a five count indictment against Bonds, which includes four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice and accuses him of lying when he said he didn't knowingly take steroids given to him by his personal trainer, Greg Anderson.

The indictment includes the first official public acknowledgement that Bonds allegedly tested positive for steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.

"During the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances for Bonds and other professional athletes," the indictment said.

Perjury convictions carry possible prison terms of up to five years, while obstruction of justice can bring a 10-year sentence.

Bonds is scheduled to make an initial court appearance December 7, the Justice Department announced.

Shortly after Thursday's indictment, a federal judge released Anderson from prison, said his attorney, Mark Gerragos. After admitting to distributing steroids, Anderson was jailed for refusing to cooperate with prosecutors investigating whether Bonds lied to the grand jury.

"I'm gratified that Greg is walking out," Gerragos said. "However, after reading the indictment there doesn't appear to be anything new. I think keeping him in there for a year was punitive."

In a written statement Thursday, Bonds' attorneys expressed disappointment that "the government did not extend us the courtesy of sharing a copy of the indictment."

"It goes without saying that we look forward to rebutting these unsupported charges in court," said the statement.

Bonds has denied taking steroids at any time in 2001 when he was pursuing the single-season home run record. "During the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances for Bonds and other athletes," the indictment reads. He is also charged with lying that Anderson never injected him with steroids.

President Bush, a former baseball team owner who has spoken against steroid use, is "very disappointed to hear this," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. "As this case is now in the criminal justice system, we will refrain from any further specific comments about it. But clearly this is a sad day for baseball."

Bonds was granted immunity for his December 4, 2003, testimony before the grand jury. The indictment states Bonds was promised his testimony would not be used against him except in the cases of "perjury, false declaration or otherwise failing to comply with the court's order."

Bonds filed for free agency last month on the first possible day after the World Series ended with Boston's sweep of the Colorado Rockies -- severing his tenure with San Francisco. Giants owner Peter Magowan told him last month the club would not bring him back for a 16th season.

Bonds, who has hit 762 homers, broke Hank Aaron's record with a shot into the right-center seats off Washington Nationals pitcher Mike Bacsik at San Francisco on August 7. But his achievements on the field have long been shadowed by the drug-use allegations.

He has been selected for 14 All-Star games, a record seven National League Most Valuable Player awards and eight Gold Glove awards.

Looking forward to the outcome of this one! Best of luck in your free agency endeavors, Barry! S

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Solar tower technology

Check out this article on solar tower technology in Spain. It's one of the better advanced power technology options I've seen lately.

This looks like something as a viable
option in the American southwest, where there's a reliable amount of sunlight---it would be great to see Big Oil do something positive for the environment, for a nice change of pace, and invest in something like this.

...but what am I thinking. Of course, that idea would be all too easy and actually make sense.

There is a scene in one of the Austin Powers films where Dr Evil unleashes a giant "tractor beam" of energy at Earth in order to extract a massive payment.

Well, the memory of it kept me chuckling as I toured the extraordinary scene of the new solar thermal power plant outside Seville in southern Spain.

From a distance, as we rounded a bend and first caught sight of it, I couldn't believe the strange structure ahead of me was actually real.

A concrete tower - 40 storeys high - stood bathed in intense white light, a totally bizarre image in the depths of the Andalusian countryside.

The tower looked like it was being hosed with giant sprays of water or was somehow being squirted with jets of pale gas. I had trouble working it out.

In fact, as we found out when we got closer, the rays of sunlight reflected by a field of 600 huge mirrors are so intense they illuminate the water vapour and dust hanging in the air.

The effect is to give the whole place a glow - even an aura - and if you're concerned about climate change that may well be deserved.

It is Europe's first commercially operating power station using the Sun's energy this way and at the moment its operator, Solucar, proudly claims that it generates 11 Megawatts (MW) of electricity without emitting a single puff of greenhouse gas. This current figure is enough to power up to 6,000 homes.

But ultimately, the entire plant should generate as much power as is used by the 600,000 people of Seville.

It works by focusing the reflected rays on one location, turning water into steam and then blasting it into turbines to generate power.

As I climbed out of the car, I could hardly open my eyes - the scene was far too bright. Gradually, though, shielded by sunglasses, I made out the rows of mirrors (each 120 sq m in size) and the focus of their reflected beams - a collection of water pipes at the top of the tower.

It was probably the heat that did it, but I found myself making the long journey up to the very top - to the heart of the solar inferno.

A lift took me most of the way but cameraman Duncan Stone and I had to climb the last four storeys by ladder. We could soon feel the heat, despite thick insulation around the boiler.

It was like being in a sauna and for the last stages the metal rungs of the ladders were scalding.

But our reward was the cool breeze at the top of the tower - and the staggering sight of a blaze of light heading our way from down below.

So far, only one field of mirrors is working. But to one side I could see the bulldozers at work clearing a second, larger field - thousands more mirrors will be installed.

Letting off steam

I met one of the gurus of solar thermal power, Michael Geyer, an international director of the energy giant Abengoa, which owns the plant. He is ready with answers to all the tricky questions.

What happens when the Sun goes down? Enough heat can be stored in the form of steam to allow generation after dark - only for an hour now but maybe longer in future.

Anyway, the solar power is most needed in the heat of summer when air conditioners are working flat out.

Is it true that this power is three times more expensive than power from conventional sources? Yes, but prices will fall, as they have with wind power, as the technologies develop.

Also, a more realistic comparison is with the cost of generating power from coal or gas only at times of peak demand - then this solar system seems more attractive.

The vision is of the sun-blessed lands of the Mediterranean - even the Sahara desert - being carpeted with systems like this with the power cabled to the drizzlier lands of northern Europe. A dazzling idea in a dazzling location.

By David Shukman
Science correspondent, BBC News, Seville