Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Story of Stuff


This year we are a pair of clumsy guys... during our annual tree critique nad feijoada, a wreath and lights fell offthe chimmney and crashed otneh floor, brigning with ita few santas and all the lights... early on a snow globe fell off a shelf and burst on the floor... which made me remember one of my favorite silly links:

And of course the good folks at wikipedia have posted the history of snow globes:

Keep on shak'n!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

California won a major legal battle Wednesday in its fight to implement a global-warming law

State can regulate greenhouse gas from autos, judge rules
By Dale Kasler and Jim Downing -
Last Updated 11:21 am PST Wednesday, December 12, 2007

California won a major legal battle Wednesday in its fight to implement a global-warming law that would lead to steep increases in motor vehicle fuel economy.

A federal judge in Fresno tossed out a lawsuit filed by the world's major automakers that tried to overturn AB 1493, a law that requires a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2016.
The automakers had said the law was unconstitutional because it mandated a big jump in mileage standards - a matter that is under the authority of the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They further argued that the California standards would raise vehicle prices by as much as $6,000 per vhicle, leading to fewer sales and tens of thousands of auto-plant layoffs.

But U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii rejected those claims, ruling that the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and arresting climate change must go forward.

The judge's decision doesn't mean the law automatically takes effect. California still needs a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement AB 1493.

Last month the state sued the EPA to force a decision on its waiver request. On Wednesday EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood said the federal agency will rule on the request by the end of December. If the EPA turns down California's request, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other state officials have vowed to sue the government again.

The Fresno decision came as climatologists and policymakers, including many from California, convened in Bali, Indonesia, to hammer out a worldwide treaty on curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

State officials and environmentalists have said AB 1493 can be implemented using largely off-the-shelf technology. They say the additional cost per vehicle is probably no more than $1,800.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, responding to the decision, continued to criticize the California law, saying, "We need a consistent national policy for fuel economy, and this nationwide policy cannot be written by a single state or group of states - only by the fedeal government."

The alliance noted that leaders of Congress, working on a new federal energy bill, recently agreed to raise fuel economy standards for all vehicles from an average 25.3 mpg to 35 mpg by 2020. The bill has passed the House but not the Senate, and may run aground because of issues not related to fuel economy.

The judge's decision was greatly influenced by two earlier court cases. Last spring the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal EPA had the duty to regulate greenhouse gases. More recently, a federal judge in Vermont threw out the automakers' lawsuit over a copycat law.

Vermont is one of 11 states that have adopted California's standards; five others are considering doing so. But all are on hold pending the EPA's decision on California's waiver request.

Environmentalists hailed Judge Ishii's ruling. "We keep winning," said David Bookbinder, a lawyer with the Sierra Club, which participated in the case. "The courts are simply not buying (the automakers') arguments."

He said he wouldn't be surprised if the automakers file an appeal, adding: "Sooner or later they're going to have to stop throwing lawyers at the problem and start hiring engineers."

Call The Bee's Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Prius Versus Hummer: A Nickel for Your Thoughts

Prius Versus Hummer: A Nickel for Your Thoughts

fro mthe ask Mr. Green on :

Hey Mr. Green,I am looking to replace my 11-year-old commuter car with a new one and was thinking about getting a hybrid. But I have heard that the energy used just to produce the battery in a hybrid is more than a Hummer uses over its lifetime. Now I'm wondering if I would be better off getting a really fuel-efficient regular car.
My other concern is that the battery in a hybrid may not last for the life of the car. As you can see, I prefer to keep my cars for at least ten years. Will a hybrid battery work that long?
Please help! I want to do what's best for the environment, so I'd appreciate it if you could clarify this matter for me. —Jennifer in Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Hey Jennifer,Some wonderful urban legends have sprung up about the Prius and its battery, the most colorful being this claim about the hybrid being less ecofriendly than a Hummer. Some of the more thrilling chapters originated in one study done by a marketing company that was not peer-reviewed but, unfortunately, was widely quoted in the media. Writer George Will, who is syndicated in 450 papers, penned an April column on the topic, headlined "Use a Hummer to Crush a Prius." The story was also pumped into the Internet-disinformation pipeline by gleeful bullies for whom size is apparently quite important, and before long the Prius had morphed into a sort of traveling toxic-waste dump trailing clouds of diabolical fossil-fuel exhaust.

You can disprove most of the false claims by doing a bit of math. Regarding the hybrid battery, let's say a Hummer is driven 200,000 miles in its lifetime. Its EPA rating is 14 miles per gallon in the city and 18 miles per gallon on the highway. Let's be real generous and assume it is driven only on the highway at a reasonable speed, yielding the maximum mileage. Divide 200,000 by 18, and you're talking 11,111 gallons of gas.

Next let's calculate the Btus in that amount of gasoline and convert them to kilowatt-hours. Gasoline has between 115,000 and 125,000 Btus per gallon, so the Hummer would burn through about 1.3 billion Btus over those 200,000 miles. Since there are 3,412 Btus in a kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy, this would convert to almost 400,000 kilowatt-hours, which, at the rock-bottom price of five cents per kilowatt-hour, would be about $20,000, or almost as much as the price of a Prius. If the energy to make the hybrid battery came from fuel oil, which has around 140,000 Btus per gallon, it would take an estimated 9,524 gallons of oil to match the Hummer's 1.3 billion Btus. At $2 a gallon, that's also about $20,000.

Now if Toyota is truly spending that much money on the battery alone, U.S. automakers can stop worrying about the Japanese competition pronto. Either that, or Toyota is cooking up the most brilliant marketing strategy in the history of modern capitalism: investing unprecedented prodigious funds in a loss leader!

In any case, the study indicting the Prius has been discredited by a number of reliable sources since its appearance early this year. As David Friedman, the research director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Clean Vehicles program, put it: "This study has been completely contradicted by studies from MIT, Argonne National Laboratory, and Carnegie Mellon's Lifecycle Assessment Group. The reality is hybrids can significantly cut global-warming pollution, reduce energy use, and save drivers thousands at the pump."

Among the many critics of Hummer hugging, Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute noted that one of the many flaws of the CNW Marketing study is that it is based on fudged figures. As he points out, it assumes a Hummer would travel 379,000 miles in its lifetime and last 35 years, whereas a Prius would only go 109,000 miles and last 12 years. So of course, using these figures, the amount of energy needed to make the Prius is going to come out high on a per-mile basis. (Who knows? In real-world time the Hummer might well have a shorter life because when the owners get bored with their mega-toys and want to dump them, no one may want to buy these gas hogs. Note also that I could've fudged and used that 379,000-mile figure, which would've jacked up the Hummer's lifetime energy use for fuel alone to a value of around $37,000.)
Getting back to the Prius's nickel metal hydride battery, laments about its other environmental iniquities were largely based on reports of environmental devastation from nickel mining in Sudbury, Ontario, where 10 percent of the world's nickel is mined. The problem is that these reports described Sudbury 30 years ago, not today. Yes, nickel mining is a nasty business, but in the 1970s, Sudburians started to clean up the mining mess and make huge strides in rehabilitating their environment. As Canadian Geographic declared recently in giving one Sudbury group an award for restoration, "Once derided for its barren landscape, Sudbury, Ontario, has experienced an environmental makeover since the 1970s. Today, the former industry-blighted moonscape has been transformed."

In any case, Prius batteries, which contain 32 pounds of nickel each, require only a fraction of the world's supply. More than 94 percent of the 1.55 million tons of nickel mined each year is used for stainless steel, alloys, and electroplating. So the batteries for the one million hybrids Toyota has sold so far have required only one percent of the world's annual nickel-mining production. Since the estimates on nickel recycling indicate about 80 percent is being reused, a million Priuses' share of newly mined nickel would really only be about two-tenths of one percent.

Additionally, Toyota researchers say that a Prius battery will last for at least 180,000 miles. There's no reason to believe that the company is inflating its figures, for the simple reason that Toyota issues an eight-year or 100,000-mile warranty on their batteries. Company representatives say that very few batteries have failed and that some fleet cars have already racked up 200,000 miles and the batteries are still going strong. The Prius batteries are also completely recyclable, and Toyota's recycling program even issues a $150 credit when they're finally retired.

Finally, after much Hummering and hawing, there remains your question whether you'd be better off getting a "really fuel-efficient regular car." Well, you might. As previously reported here, I've driven another Toyota, the Corolla, and gotten 42 miles per gallon, a mile more than its official EPA rating. That's pretty competitive with the Prius, especially when you consider that the Corolla costs about $7,000 less. So that regular car may be a sensible alternative to the Prius, but not because the Prius is environmentally worse than the Hummer.

Environmentally,Mr. Green


Views expressed by readers may not reflect those of Mr. Green or Sierra magazine. Reader suggestions have not been researched or tested.
Read more advice from Mr. Green, including his Web-only mailbag, and submit your own environmental questions at

California State University Audit

California State University:
It Is Inconsistent in Considering Diversity When Hiring Professors, Management Personnel, Presidents, and System Executives


Our review of California State University's (university) hiring processes and employment discrimination lawsuits revealed the following:

  • The university has issued little systemwide guidance to the campuses regarding the hiring process.
  • Campuses are inconsistent in their consideration of gender and ethnicity when hiring assistant, associate, and full professors.
  • Campuses use differing levels of detail when estimating the percentage of qualified women and minorities available for employment, decreasing the university's ability to effectively compare data among campuses.
  • Campuses have hiring policies that vary in terms of the amount of guidance they provide search committees for Management Personnel Plan employees, and one campus has developed no policies for these positions that relate to nonacademic areas.
  • While the hiring process for presidents requires input from many stakeholders, the hiring of system executives is largely at the discretion of the chancellor in consultation with the board of trustees.
  • As of June 30, 2007, the university spent $2.3 million on settlements resulting from employment discrimination lawsuits filed during the five-year period we reviewed, and $5.3 million for outside counsel in defending itself against such lawsuits.
see full report at:

and then of course there is:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas on the Ponderosa

Our Annual Holiday Tree Critique on the Ponderosa... you can see in detail here how quickly the group broke into intense discussions about the tree and the decorations...
Luckily no one was hurt during the collapse of the wreath over the hearth...

It was great fun!


10, 2007

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honorable members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen.
I have a purpose here today. It is a purpose I have tried to serve for many years. I have prayed that God would show me a way to accomplish it.
Sometimes, without warning, the future knocks on our door with a precious and painful vision of what might be. One hundred and nineteen years ago, a wealthy inventor read his own obituary, mistakenly published years before his death. Wrongly believing the inventor had just died, a newspaper printed a harsh judgment of his life’s work, unfairly labeling him “The Merchant of Death” because of his invention – dynamite. Shaken by this condemnation, the inventor made a fateful choice to serve the cause of peace.
Seven years later, Alfred Nobel created this prize and the others that bear his name.
Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken – if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose.
Unexpectedly, that quest has brought me here. Even though I fear my words cannot match this moment, I pray what I am feeling in my heart will be communicated clearly enough that those who hear me will say, “We must act.”
The distinguished scientists with whom it is the greatest honor of my life to share this award have laid before us a choice between two different futures – a choice that to my ears echoes the words of an ancient prophet: “Life or death, blessings or curses. Therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”
We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency – a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst – though not all – of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.
However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world’s leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill applied to those who ignored Adolf Hitler’s threat: “They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent.”
So today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.
As a result, the earth has a fever. And the fever is rising. The experts have told us it is not a passing affliction that will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion. And a third. And a fourth. And the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing alarm, is that something basic is wrong.
We are what is wrong, and we must make it right.
Last September 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is “falling off a cliff.” One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.
Seven years from now.
In the last few months, it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our world is spinning out of kilter. Major cities in North and South America, Asia and Australia are nearly out of water due to massive droughts and melting glaciers. Desperate farmers are losing their livelihoods. Peoples in the frozen Arctic and on low-lying Pacific islands are planning evacuations of places they have long called home. Unprecedented wildfires have forced a half million people from their homes in one country and caused a national emergency that almost brought down the government in another. Climate refugees have migrated into areas already inhabited by people with different cultures, religions, and traditions, increasing the potential for conflict. Stronger storms in the Pacific and Atlantic have threatened whole cities. Millions have been displaced by massive flooding in South Asia, Mexico, and 18 countries in Africa. As temperature extremes have increased, tens of thousands have lost their lives. We are recklessly burning and clearing our forests and driving more and more species into extinction. The very web of life on which we depend is being ripped and frayed.
We never intended to cause all this destruction, just as Alfred Nobel never intended that dynamite be used for waging war. He had hoped his invention would promote human progress. We shared that same worthy goal when we began burning massive quantities of coal, then oil and methane.
Even in Nobel’s time, there were a few warnings of the likely consequences. One of the very first winners of the Prize in chemistry worried that, “We are evaporating our coal mines into the air.” After performing 10,000 equations by hand, Svante Arrhenius calculated that the earth’s average temperature would increase by many degrees if we doubled the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Seventy years later, my teacher, Roger Revelle, and his colleague, Dave Keeling, began to precisely document the increasing CO2 levels day by day.
But unlike most other forms of pollution, CO2 is invisible, tasteless, and odorless -- which has helped keep the truth about what it is doing to our climate out of sight and out of mind. Moreover, the catastrophe now threatening us is unprecedented – and we often confuse the unprecedented with the improbable.
We also find it hard to imagine making the massive changes that are now necessary to solve the crisis. And when large truths are genuinely inconvenient, whole societies can, at least for a time, ignore them. Yet as George Orwell reminds us: “Sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”
In the years since this prize was first awarded, the entire relationship between humankind and the earth has been radically transformed. And still, we have remained largely oblivious to the impact of our cumulative actions.
Indeed, without realizing it, we have begun to wage war on the earth itself. Now, we and the earth's climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: "Mutually assured destruction."
More than two decades ago, scientists calculated that nuclear war could throw so much debris and smoke into the air that it would block life-giving sunlight from our atmosphere, causing a "nuclear winter." Their eloquent warnings here in Oslo helped galvanize the world’s resolve to halt the nuclear arms race.
Now science is warning us that if we do not quickly reduce the global warming pollution that is trapping so much of the heat our planet normally radiates back out of the atmosphere, we are in danger of creating a permanent “carbon summer.”
As the American poet Robert Frost wrote, “Some say the world will end in fire; some say in ice.” Either, he notes, “would suffice.”
But neither need be our fate. It is time to make peace with the planet.
We must quickly mobilize our civilization with the urgency and resolve that has previously been seen only when nations mobilized for war. These prior struggles for survival were won when leaders found words at the 11th hour that released a mighty surge of courage, hope and readiness to sacrifice for a protracted and mortal challenge.
These were not comforting and misleading assurances that the threat was not real or imminent; that it would affect others but not ourselves; that ordinary life might be lived even in the presence of extraordinary threat; that Providence could be trusted to do for us what we would not do for ourselves.
No, these were calls to come to the defense of the common future. They were calls upon the courage, generosity and strength of entire peoples, citizens of every class and condition who were ready to stand against the threat once asked to do so. Our enemies in those times calculated that free people would not rise to the challenge; they were, of course, catastrophically wrong. Now comes the threat of climate crisis – a threat that is real, rising, imminent, and universal. Once again, it is the 11th hour. The penalties for ignoring this challenge are immense and growing, and at some near point would be unsustainable and unrecoverable. For now we still have the power to choose our fate, and the remaining question is only this: Have we the will to act vigorously and in time, or will we remain imprisoned by a dangerous illusion?
Mahatma Gandhi awakened the largest democracy on earth and forged a shared resolve with what he called “Satyagraha” – or “truth force.”
In every land, the truth – once known – has the power to set us free.
Truth also has the power to unite us and bridge the distance between “me” and “we,” creating the basis for common effort and shared responsibility.
There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We need to go far, quickly.
We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer. They can and do help. But they will not take us far enough without collective action. At the same time, we must ensure that in mobilizing globally, we do not invite the establishment of ideological conformity and a new lock-step “ism.”
That means adopting principles, values, laws, and treaties that release creativity and initiative at every level of society in multifold responses originating concurrently and spontaneously.
This new consciousness requires expanding the possibilities inherent in all humanity. The innovators who will devise a new way to harness the sun’s energy for pennies or invent an engine that’s carbon negative may live in Lagos or Mumbai or Montevideo. We must ensure that entrepreneurs and inventors everywhere on the globe have the chance to change the world.
When we unite for a moral purpose that is manifestly good and true, the spiritual energy unleashed can transform us. The generation that defeated fascism throughout the world in the 1940s found, in rising to meet their awesome challenge, that they had gained the moral authority and long-term vision to launch the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, and a new level of global cooperation and foresight that unified Europe and facilitated the emergence of democracy and prosperity in Germany, Japan, Italy and much of the world. One of their visionary leaders said, “It is time we steered by the stars and not by the lights of every passing ship.”
In the last year of that war, you gave the Peace Prize to a man from my hometown of 2000 people, Carthage, Tennessee. Cordell Hull was described by Franklin Roosevelt as the “Father of the United Nations.” He was an inspiration and hero to my own father, who followed Hull in the Congress and the U.S. Senate and in his commitment to world peace and global cooperation.
My parents spoke often of Hull, always in tones of reverence and admiration. Eight weeks ago, when you announced this prize, the deepest emotion I felt was when I saw the headline in my hometown paper that simply noted I had won the same prize that Cordell Hull had won. In that moment, I knew what my father and mother would have felt were they alive.
Just as Hull’s generation found moral authority in rising to solve the world crisis caused by fascism, so too can we find our greatest opportunity in rising to solve the climate crisis. In the Kanji characters used in both Chinese and Japanese, “crisis” is written with two symbols, the first meaning “danger,” the second “opportunity.” By facing and removing the danger of the climate crisis, we have the opportunity to gain the moral authority and vision to vastly increase our own capacity to solve other crises that have been too long ignored.
We must understand the connections between the climate crisis and the afflictions of poverty, hunger, HIV-Aids and other pandemics. As these problems are linked, so too must be their solutions. We must begin by making the common rescue of the global environment the central organizing principle of the world community.
Fifteen years ago, I made that case at the “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro. Ten years ago, I presented it in Kyoto. This week, I will urge the delegates in Bali to adopt a bold mandate for a treaty that establishes a universal global cap on emissions and uses the market in emissions trading to efficiently allocate resources to the most effective opportunities for speedy reductions.
This treaty should be ratified and brought into effect everywhere in the world by the beginning of 2010 – two years sooner than presently contemplated. The pace of our response must be accelerated to match the accelerating pace of the crisis itself.
Heads of state should meet early next year to review what was accomplished in Bali and take personal responsibility for addressing this crisis. It is not unreasonable to ask, given the gravity of our circumstances, that these heads of state meet every three months until the treaty is completed.
We also need a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.
And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon -- with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.
The world needs an alliance – especially of those nations that weigh heaviest in the scales where earth is in the balance. I salute Europe and Japan for the steps they’ve taken in recent years to meet the challenge, and the new government in Australia, which has made solving the climate crisis its first priority.
But the outcome will be decisively influenced by two nations that are now failing to do enough: the United States and China. While India is also growing fast in importance, it should be absolutely clear that it is the two largest CO2 emitters — most of all, my own country –– that will need to make the boldest moves, or stand accountable before history for their failure to act.
Both countries should stop using the other’s behavior as an excuse for stalemate and instead develop an agenda for mutual survival in a shared global environment.
These are the last few years of decision, but they can be the first years of a bright and hopeful future if we do what we must. No one should believe a solution will be found without effort, without cost, without change. Let us acknowledge that if we wish to redeem squandered time and speak again with moral authority, then these are the hard truths:
The way ahead is difficult. The outer boundary of what we currently believe is feasible is still far short of what we actually must do. Moreover, between here and there, across the unknown, falls the shadow.
That is just another way of saying that we have to expand the boundaries of what is possible. In the words of the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, “Pathwalker, there is no path. You must make the path as you walk.”
We are standing at the most fateful fork in that path. So I want to end as I began, with a vision of two futures – each a palpable possibility – and with a prayer that we will see with vivid clarity the necessity of choosing between those two futures, and the urgency of making the right choice now.
The great Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, wrote, “One of these days, the younger generation will come knocking at my door.”
The future is knocking at our door right now. Make no mistake, the next generation will ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: “What were you thinking; why didn’t you act?”
Or they will ask instead: “How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?”
We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource.
So let us renew it, and say together: “We have a purpose. We are many. For this purpose we will rise, and we will act.”
Copyright 2011 by Daniel C. Orey All rights reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.