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Archive for January, 2013

A mutual friend told me about Bob Stonerock back in the 1990s.  Solar energy had fascinated me for years.  My friend said Bob was the master.  I knew solar would mean a cleaner atmosphere and slow the rate of turning the planet inside out mining, spilling, burning, polluting, investing and warring over the energy stored in fossilized biomass.  Only recently had I come to understand how the carbon dioxide molecules carelessly farted out the back-ends of our cars were storing up heat and creating frightening predictions about the future weather.  At the time, I was running experiments to find out whether horse or chicken manure would produce the most natural gas.

I called Bob and he invited me over to his house for a talk.  I think he must have been one of the first, or maybe THE first, to have a residential photovoltaic system in Orlando.  He told me about some of the issues he encountered to get his solar system accepted by Orlando Utilities. (OUC is now recognized for progressive renewable energy programs) We discussed all the renewable energy options waiting in abundance on the surface of the earth: solar and wind, of course, and we also talked about the energy available in living biomass.  He gave me the idea to use a small light bulb inside my experiment box to move the temperature up just enough to make those microbes pass gas.

Bob had dedicated much of his life and resources to demonstrating that energy use doesn’t have to sicken us or the planet.  His was the first solar house I had been inside.  Afterwards he generously gave me his old leaf shredder.  I used it to break down various leaves and plants I was using in my experiments.  Eventually I moved on from natural gas to make practical, uncomplicated biodiesel fuel.  Bob even knew which restaurants would leave their used cooking oil outside their back doors (at night).

Bob with Volt Back of Stonerock house FREA---Tower of Power

1. Bob with his new Volt last year. 2. Rear of house

with PV panels at top, pool panels under and inside

  hot water panels on left. 3. Stonerock “Tower of Power.”

Presently bob is president of FREA.  Last week on one of the days when Orlando’s January temperature was ten degrees above normal, the Orlando Sentinel published his guest column about climate change.  You can read it here.

I’ve always thought global warming was all about the numbers of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere.  In the article, Bob does the addition for us.  I’m sure you know the result:  droughts across our food producing mid-west, the north and south poles melting rapidly, a Franken storm in the northeast causing billions in economic loss, acidification of the oceans reducing the fish catch, Greenland’s glacier slipping into the sea.  Guess what? Climate change has only just begun.

So what can Florida citizens and government do?  Here’s what some others are doing:

In 2009, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and New Jersey organized a system of capping and trading CO2 emissions with regularly required reductions.  It’s called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).  The governor of New Jersey has withdrawn the state as he was disappointed that the original criteria have not been met.  The other state representatives are continuing to engage on the issues and appear determined to find the adjustments that lead to the desired reductions.  In the meantime, new, renewable energy industries in those states have been leading the economic recovery.

California is taking action, too.  2013 marks the beginning of their CO2 emissions capping system.  Companies that can’t reduce their emissions below the cap must purchase allowances.  The first auction is already sold out.  Each year the caps will be lowered.  The allowance money is being distributed back to electricity rate-payers whose bills are expected to rise to pay for the newer, clean energy systems.  In 2011, California already had an installed capacity of 19,745 magawatts of renewable energy and was producing 333 million gallons of biofuels.  In that same year, Florida had installed capacity of only 1,421 megawatts of renewable power and produced 39 million gallons of biofuels.  The only area where Florida came close to matching Governor Brown’s state was with installed biomass power.  We had 1,195 megawatts to their 1200.

But cap and trade is just one way to reduce emissions.  A tax on carbon is another.  The Canadian provinces of Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta have all instituted their versions of carbon taxes.  In the US, Boulder, Colorado was the first municipality to enact a carbon tax.  The Bay Area Air Quality Management District in California levied a carbon tax in 2008 and Montgomery County, Maryland added a carbon tax in 2010.

Which method will Florida legislators agree to?  Or will they?  As Bob says, we all must stop making excuses for continuing to use fossil fuels.  We must work individually and through government (together) to end the dependency.

Sam Kendall

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