US Carbon Emissions Decreasing Steadily

This is an interesting, hopeful article written by a serious environmentalist. Nice to have some good news :) Enjoy!

United States Headed for Massive Decline in Carbon Emissions

By Lester R. Brown, Mother Earth News

(Lester R. Brown is president of the Earth Policy Institute and author of the book "Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.")

For years now, many members of Congress have insisted that cutting carbon emissions was difficult, if not impossible. It is not.

During the two years since 2007, carbon emissions have dropped 9 percent. While part of this drop is from the recession, part of it is also from efficiency gains and from replacing coal with natural gas, wind, solar and geothermal energy.

The United States has ended a century of rising carbon emissions and has now entered a new energy era — one of declining emissions. Peak carbon is now history. What had appeared to be hopelessly difficult is happening at amazing speed.

For a country where oil and coal use have been growing for more than a century, the fall since 2007 is startling. In 2008, oil use dropped 5 percent, coal 1 percent, and carbon emissions by 3 percent. Estimates for 2009, based on U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) data for the first nine months, show oil use down by another 5 percent. Coal is set to fall by 10 percent. Carbon emissions from burning all fossil fuels dropped 9 percent over the two years.

Beyond the cuts already made, there are further massive reductions in the policy pipeline. Prominent among them are stronger automobile fuel-economy standards, higher appliance efficiency standards, and financial incentives supporting the large-scale development of wind, solar and geothermal energy. (See data on the Earth Policy Institute website.)

Efforts to reduce fossil fuel use are under way at every level of government — national, state and city — as well as in corporations, utilities and universities. And millions of climate-conscious, cost-cutting Americans are altering their lifestyles to reduce energy use.

For its part, the federal government — the largest U.S. energy consumer, with some 500,000 buildings and 600,000 vehicles — announced in early October 2009 that it is setting its own carbon-cutting goals. These include reducing vehicle fleet fuel use 30 percent by 2020, recycling at least 50 percent of waste by 2015, and buying environmentally responsible products.

Electricity use is falling partly because of gains in efficiency. The potential for further cuts is evident in the wide variation in energy efficiency among states. The Rocky Mountain Institute calculates that if the 40 least efficient states were to reach the electrical efficiency of the 10 most efficient ones, national electricity use would be reduced by one third. This would allow the equivalent of 62 percent of the country’s 617 coal-fired power plants to be closed.

Actions are being taken to realize this potential. For several years, the DOE failed to write the regulations needed to implement appliance efficiency legislation that Congress had already passed. Within days of taking office, President Obama instructed the agency to write the regulations needed to realize these potentially vast efficiency gains as soon as possible.

The energy efficiency revolution that is now under way will transform everything from lighting to transportation. With lighting, for example, shifting from incandescent bulbs to the newer light-emitting diodes (LEDs), combined with motion sensors to turn lights off in unoccupied spaces, can cut electricity use by more than 90 percent. Los Angeles, for example, is replacing its 140,000 streetlights with LEDs — and cutting electricity and maintenance costs by $10 million per year.

The carbon-cutting movement is gaining momentum on many fronts. In July, the Sierra Club — coordinator of the national anti-coal campaign — announced the 100th cancellation of a proposed plant since 2001. This battle is leading to a de facto moratorium on new coal plants. Despite the coal industry's $45 million annual budget to promote “clean coal,” utilities are giving up on coal and starting to close plants. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), with 11 coal plants (average age: 47 years) and a court order to install more than $1 billion worth of pollution controls, is considering closing its plant near Rogersville, Tenn., along with the six oldest units out of eight in its Stevenson, Ala., plant.

TVA is not alone. Altogether, some 22 coal-fired power plants in 12 states are being replaced by wind farms, natural gas plants, wood chip plants, or efficiency gains. Many more are likely to close as public pressure to clean up the air and to cut carbon emissions intensifies. Shifting from coal to natural gas cuts carbon emissions by roughly half. Shifting to wind, solar and geothermal energy drops them to zero.

State governments are getting behind renewables big time. Thirty-four states have adopted renewable portfolio standards to produce a larger share of their electricity from renewable sources over the next decade or so. Among the more populous states, the renewable standard is 24 percent in New York, 25 percent in Illinois, and 33 percent in California.

While coal plants are closing, wind farms are multiplying. In 2008, a total of 102 wind farms came online, providing more than 8,400 megawatts of generating capacity. Forty-nine wind farms were completed in the first half of 2009, and 57 more are under construction. More importantly, some 300,000 megawatts of wind projects (think 300 coal plants) are awaiting access to the grid.

U.S. solar cell installations are growing at 40 percent a year. With new incentives, this rapid growth in rooftop installations on homes, shopping malls and factories should continue. In addition, some 15 large solar thermal power plants that use mirrors to concentrate sunlight and generate electricity are planned in California, Arizona and Nevada. A new heat-storage technology that enables the plants to continue generating power for up to six hours past sundown helps explain this boom.

For many years, U.S. geothermal energy was confined largely to the huge Geysers project north of San Francisco, with 850 megawatts of generating capacity. Now the United States, with 132 geothermal power plants under development, is experiencing a geothermal renaissance.
After their century-long love affair with the car, Americans are turning to mass transit. There is hardly a U.S. city that is not either building new light rail, subways or express bus lines or upgrading and expanding existing ones.

As motorists turn to public transit, and also to bicycles, the U.S. car fleet is shrinking. The estimated scrappage of 14 million cars in 2009 will exceed new sales of 10 million by 4 million. This shrinkage will likely continue for a few years.

Oil use and imports are both declining. This will continue as the new fuel economy standards raise the fuel efficiency of new cars 42 percent and light trucks 25 percent by 2016. And because 42 percent of the diesel fuel burned in the rail freight sector is used to haul coal, falling coal use means falling diesel fuel use.

But the big gains in fuel efficiency will come with the shift to plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars. Not only are electric motors three times more efficient than gasoline engines, but they also enable cars to run on wind power at a gasoline-equivalent cost of 75 cents a gallon. Almost every major carmaker will soon be selling plug-in hybrids, electric cars, or both.

In this new energy era, carbon emissions are declining, and they will likely continue to do so because of policies already on the books. We are headed in the right direction. We do not yet know how much we can cut carbon emissions because we are just beginning to make a serious effort. Whether we can move fast enough to avoid climate change remains to be seen.


Winterizing ideas...

It's only mid-october here, but we already have the heat set to come on while we sleep -- just to keep the house at 55F! It is COLD here for October, and there is actually snow forecast for saturday, which is very unusual.

So, I am already looking around the home getting ready to winterize. Generally, I put plastic on all the windows to keep more heat in, especially the big sliding glass door sets we have in our dining room. But, this year we are thinking of putting our house on the market (after we finish up a few small home improvements, like patching old holes in the ceiling!) SO I don't think I can put plastic on the windows because it just doesn't look that great, and might get people thinking that the house is too drafty to buy... (any thoughts?)

Instead, I have gone out and invested in some faux silk, lined curtains to hang in the dining room, which I hope will work similarly. Our other windows are quite airtight, so I am not as worried about heat loss there...

I am also scraping plans we had to make a small external solar heater, b/c it would have to be right by our front walk for optimal sun exposure, and let's face it, it just wasn't going to look too pretty :( But I still have hopes to turn my southern facing window box by my kitchen sink into a solar heater. How you ask? By installing a plexiglass sheet (removable with small screws) over the inner opening, with a small gap at both the top and bottom. I would fill bottom of the window box with an attractive layer of dark rocks to attract and store heat. Natural convection will draw the cold air in the bottom and push the warm air out the top, which will create some nice heat for the kitchen/dining area during the day, I hope. I tried it out last year with some impermanent plastic sheeting and it seemed to work rather well.


Most Benevolent Outcomes

I read an article a few weeks ago about working with the Divine to acheive positive results. This article made things so simple for readers that although working with my higher self, my guides or my guardian angels is not really new for me, I thought I would give their method a shot.

Basically, the author suggests that you use a very simple format to ask for assistance -- whether it is with finding a great parking space or solving financial woes. The guidelines are simple: It works best if the situation affects you personally. You can not affect things negatively (even if you try, for your guardian angel or higher self just won't let that sort of thing happen). You can ask for assistance with as many situations as you desire, as often as you desire.

The format for asking for this help could not be simpler:

You say "I ask for a most benevolent outcome for ________(fill in the blank). Thank you."
Use emotion and real feeling, and then let it go. Trust that what you desire will be fulfilled.
And when it happens as you asked, make sure you say "Thank you" again!

Some of you may ask: Do you have to believe in Angels to use this? No, I don't think so -- though I do believe you probably need to believe in some sort of a higher power, even if it simply a physics sort of belief that All is Connected on a quantum level.
I have been experimenting with this since I read the article and it does really work. I see this working for a variety of reasons.

The first is faith and hope. When you ask, and then let it go, you are trusting the universe to provide, and really, that is what it wants to do. So when you allow it to do so, presto: it happens!

The second is that the more a particular phrase enters the mass consciousness and is used by people all over, the more power it gains. Magical symbols become magic because of our attention to them. So this phrase "Most Benevolent Outcome" has now entered mass consciousness (the author of the article has a book, and gives seminars, so it is really spreading quickly) and each time you use it, it has more power. Just as the "Hail Mary" prayer has become more and more powerful with each utterance. Words gain power. Symbols gain power. Intent breeds power.

The third is that when you formulate an MBO request, you are clarifying your desire, which makes it easier for the Source, God or the Universe to respond to what you are asking. The clearer you are, the more heartfelt your request, the better the outcome.

The fourth is that the formula works very well with the Law of Attraction. You are putting your desire out there, and you are feeling positive emotion (hope, faith, excitement) about it. These are key ingredients to using the LOA successfully.

So where do you begin? I like to start off in the morning and "request a most benevolent outcome for the day." It puts a positive spin on things from the start :)

Have fun!


Protein-rich Vegetarian Stuffed Pumpkins

We got several little pumpkins from our CSA last week, and last night I decided to cook one for dinner. I made up this recipe, which was a huge hit. A 5-inch pumpkin will easily serve two people, one half for each person (this is a very filling recipe, and oh-s0-healthy-and-tasty!).


One 5 or 6-inch pumpkin, cut in half with the seeds scooped out.
One packet of falafel mix (Far East makes a great one)
One cup of Vegetable broth
One Green Pepper, Diced
Two tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesean Cheese

Mix the falafel mix, broth, pepper, olive oil and parsely in a bowl and let sit while you grate the cheese and pre-heat the oven to 350*F.

Fill the pumpkin halves with the mixture. Rub a little olive oil on the top exposed rim of the cut pumpkin to help keep it moist during baking. Cover the "bowl" part of the pumpkins thoroughly with the cheese, leaving the pumpkin rim exposed.

Bake at 350*F for 45-55 minutes. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving (these come out HOT!)