Thursday, August 30, 2007

Save the Appalachians

Don't let the Bush Administration remove any more Appalachian mountaintops!

I got one of those action emails today from Friends of the Earth with this awful message:

Late last Friday the Bush administration issued a proposed new rule for coal mining that not only sanctions the most ecologically unsound form of coal mining, but may also be adopted with disregard to public comments solicited under law.

According to The New York Times, the rule "will be subject to a 60-day comment period and could be revised, although officials indicated that it was not likely to be changed substantially."

Mountaintop-removal mining literally blasts the top off mountains. It is devastating to mountain communities, uprooting families, filling streams with poison, and turning pristine mountain territory into rubble. With this rule, mountaintop-removal mining will proliferate, when it should be banned by law. That means we must fight the rule on the merits, but before we do that we must ensure that the process for adopting the proposed rule is not a sham.

Someone else pointed me in the direction of an organization called Appalachian Voices, in Boone, NC, which is fighting mountaintop removal. The picture at the top is the banner on their website.

Mom and Dad lived in Mountain City, TN, across the state line from Boone while I was in graduate school in Chapel Hill, NC, so I drove through it numerous times. They moved there while I was still in college in Ohio, so I drove (with a voice major, Frank Coffee from Boone) through the Appalachians of Kentucky and West Virginia when we came home for vacations. They were of course ravaged then by coal mines, and the miners had dreadful lives. But now their mountains are disappearing one by one and the streams are getting clogged with the debris. I remember the mountains as lovely in the spring, full of wild mountain laurel and rhododendron. This is our national heritage, a treasure we don't want to loose because of short-sighted vicious government decisions. We don't need coal. We need more renewables, like solar and wind (and not more TVA dams, either!)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Is solar energy a viable solution to reducing oil dependence?

I originally wrote the following article to answer the debate question used in the title. You can see the rest of the debate at The picture was taken last week at our reunion in Maine.

The sun shines all over the world, not just in the United States!

Already, Japan and Germany draw a (relatively) high percentage of their energy from solar panels. This has been accomplished through excellent government incentives. Those countries have no oil resources of their own and want to limit the use of the coal that they have to avoid the pollutants that burning coal produce. Germany in particular has had a long history of bad air because of burning coal, so it is conscientiously finding alternatives, including enormous wind farms.

Developing countries are leapfrogging over dirty energy methods directly into the 21st century by installing solar panels.

In Africa, an organization called Solar Electric Light Fund (SOLAR - is helping villagers in Ghana, Nigeria, Mali Rwanda and Uganda replace kerosene lamps and diesel generators (or burning cow dung.) Using solar energy, often with back-up batteries, they have electricity for light to read by, computers and TVs. Beyond this simple electrification, using solar power to power water pumps so they don't have to carry water over great distances, solar-powered drip irrigation systems increase the yield of their crops, while medical clinics, where medications can be kept cook in solar-powered refrigerators, improve their health.

China and India want all of the conveniences we have, and need to find energy sources to do so. Since China has enormous coal resources, that is the first place they look for energy. But China also has tremendous pollution problems, particularly in the industrial cities in the east. Although they are building many new coal-fired plants every year, they are also investing heavily in solar and wind. Working with organizations like Environmental Defense, they are creating a very viable solar power industry, because they are aware that they need to make renewables the power of the future. Nevertheless, China is rapidly passing the US as a producer of CO2. We need to help China with its goals for wise development.

What many don't know is that Chinese pollution is carried on the trade winds to the US West Coast, adding to the smog. Helping China go solar has other added advantages for us.

We can also learn from China to create a viable business environment for renewables. Presently far more than half of US government subsidies for energy research go to finding methods to make coal "clean" and dispose of nuclear wastes, the next largest is for fuel cells (which at present appear to be produced using natural gas, also a carbon-based fuel, which is rapidly reaching its peak.) Only a tiny remainder is earmarked for solar and wind. The United States needs to change its priorities to keep up with China.

Fortunately, American business people are doing it on their own anyway, since they realize that solar is the future. A company named Solar Edison ( has figured out a way for businesses like Walmart to finance large installations. Another company, Citizenre, ( is developing a way for residential customers to rent the panels at or lower than what they are paying for electricity now - locked in over 25 years. Imagine what progress could be made with good government incentives and research subsidies! Replacing subsidies for dirty energy with subsidies for clean could easily bring America up to the same level as Germany and Japan. The United States should return to a position as a leader, not a dirty old coach potato!

See the rest of the original debate

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Great News about the Future of Solar!

The start-up solar panel company, which I represent as an Ecopreneur, has just anounced its financial team at
This is the first of a number of press releases we are expecting in the next month or so, about the team, location of the factory, and expected timeline for solar panel availability. (Right now, we're assuming the first panels will be available in about a year.)

We Ecopreneurs are busy signing up customers for the waiting list (so far about 20,000!)and other Ecopreneurs to help people get solar. If you are interested, please click the links and banner on the right!

I have been contributing my writing skills to the company by preparing three extensive training materials for Ecopreneurs, so they are as well prepared as possible to help their customers and Team!

Sunday, August 5, 2007


Originally uploaded by pelleb.
My son took this incredible picture in the hills east of Sacramento. I can't think of anything much more to say about it - it speaks for itself! He wrote,"Does it get any more Californa than this?"

Coming from southern California, we rarely see the sky this blue - except up on Mt Baldy at 8,000 feet.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Winning the Lottery

No, I haven't won the lottery, but Patricia Woods has with her just-published book, Lottery
which even provides a lot of sunshine through all the Washington rain! (I had to get that sun in here somewhere, and Perry really is a "little Mr. Sunshine" as well.)

While I was reading this delightful book, I kept remembering a book I'd read in German about 25 years ago (and still in print!) The Discovery of Slowness by Sten Nadolny, which is about a very slow and strange child, John Franklin, who became a ship's captain and discoverer, and got lost in the ice of the Northwest Passage. You might enjoy reading it after you finish Lottery.

Both draw on the advantages and strengths of slowness, and make you think about how much we "quick" people (and I'm "quick" like John Robison describes in his autobiography Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's) lose out by not being an "auditor" like Perry!

Another theme in the book is friendship, which I became even more aware of after seeing the new French movie My Best Friend. Perry is amazed when someone calls him "weak", because his slowness - and his friendships, make him very strong, strong enough to withstand his vulture family members completely on his own--by giving them what he understood that they wanted--and he no longer needed.

The third theme is "respect." People who are "different" have to fight to gain respect. Perry gains people's attention (and false friendship) when he wins the lottery, but the respect came in the way he lived by using his "auditor" skills to become a good business partner and friend. John Franklin was not fortunate to have friends like Perry, but he also managed to gain great respect with the strengths of slowness.