Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Audubon of Florida reports that a Houston based oil and gas lobbying group, known as Consumer Energy Alliance,  has been asked by Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos to make recommendations for a state energy policy.  The group will be holding hearings at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel in Orlando July 18-20, beginning at 9:00am.  Topics to be considered include:

Energy use in the key economic sectors; Outer continental shelf energy development off Florida; Electricity generation and new nuclear power plants in Florida; Energy efficiency and conservation in Florida; Alternative and renewable energy production and use in Florida.

The hearings are apparently open to the public, however a RSVP is required to attend.  Please email Natalie Joubert at njoubert@consumerenergyalliance.org or call her at 202-778-2103 to make your reservation.  The Hotel is located at 9939 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32819.

The Audubon notice did not include any explanation why an oil and gas lobbying group was chosen to host these hearings and make recommendations to the Senate President.  It would appear imperative that renewable energy, clean energy, energy efficiency and natural resource conservation advocates plan to attend, including those supporting solar energy, offshore wind energy, ocean energy, biomass, ethanol, biodiesel, electric vehicles including trains and that smart growth, professional planners should also attend.

Sam Kendall


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David and Alice Wagner had a 3.6 kilowatt photovoltaic system installed on their home in Altamonte Springs in 2007 and they have opened it to the public in the ASES/FREA Tour of Solar Homes every year.  When you look at David’s meticulously kept records of reduced electrical usage you can see why they’re so happy.

He set up a three-year base period of kilowatt hours purchased monthly from Progress Energy before the installation and compared that to his kwh purchases every month since the installation.  In the base period he purchased an average of 1,688 kwh monthly.  In the three years including ’08, ’09 and 2010 his monthly purchase averaged 373 kwh, about 78 percent less.  Go Figure!  During March, April and May of this year his Progress Energy bill was $34, $19 and $14 respectively.  The cooling load during the summer boosts up his usage and he says he averages $50 to $55 a month over the year.  Quite a savings from the days when he was paying over $200 a month!

In the beginning days of solar photovoltaic homes it was necessary to include electrical storage for nighttime and cloudy days.  This meant the cost of the system was higher because you had to include batteries.  When it became possible to interconnect a system into the local utility grid it was no longer necessary to buy batteries.  The grid acts as an electrical storage system.  Great savings, but still one significant drawback.  When the grid blacks out, say because of a hurricane, PV systems must shut down, too.  The reason is the electronics in your home could be damaged because the power of the sun fluctuates as it moves across the sky during the day.  Your home requires continuous, uninterrupted power.  Nevertheless, most PV owners today are satisfied to rely on the grid.

The Wagners made the additional investment to protect against grid failure.  By keeping eight, 12-volt batteries continuously charged by the solar system, they can keep the refrigerator, computer and some lights running in the event of an emergency.

It’s already been tested, David says, and it works great.  He was on the computer one evening and walked out into the next room to find most lights out and the grid down.  He said the switch to battery backup was instantaneous and he didn’t even know it had happened.  Another back-up option solar homeowners might try would be a diesel generator.  That would typically cost less than batteries and biodiesel is now available in some Florida locations.

David and Alice have incorporated more than energy savings into their lifestyle.  They have also reduced water consumption.  In the front yard they have cut back on the amount of grass that might need irrigation and they are planting a native plant/butterfly garden.  Once these plants become established they’ll survive on rainwater.

David says in the back of his mind he sees an expanded PV system and an electric car in the garage.  Stop by and let him tell you about that during the next Tour of Solar Homes.

Sam Kendall

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If he were alive today, would Ronald Reagan give President Obama that advice?  Do you think Reagan could now see the reasons to go solar that he couldn’t see in 1986 when he had Jimmy Carter’s panels taken down off the Whitehouse?  Now, Reagan would know that the heat and drought in Russia has destroyed their wheat crop and is driving up wheat prices around the world.  He would know about the melting snow on mountains in Pakistan causing historic flood devastation.  He would see the oiled wetlands and wildlife along the Louisiana coast and the weatherman would confirm that the US is experiencing record heat this summer.  Would information like this persuade the former president that he had been wrong to take down the panels?

Still, even today, the opposition where President Reagan sided in 1986 remains the most profitable industry ever in the world.  Profitable industries are still popular in our society even though we agree that their profits result in damage to marine life, coast lines, atmospheric stability and international relations.  Would Reagan have the courage to stand up to this wealthy, pernicious lobby now that the predictions about catastrophic oil spills and global warming have become real?  Would you?

Global warming authority Bill McKibben (The End Of Nature, Eaarth) has joined a team of students from Unity College in Maine on a trip to Washington to urge President Obama to switch the Whitehouse to solar energy.  Those old Carter panels ended up heating water at Unity College and the students are bringing one back.

McKibben says we need to get mad!  We need to get the movement mobilized again on the outside.   Insiders have worked quietly and diligently, but unsuccessfully, in the Senate trying to build bipartisan support to stop climate change and create more clean energy jobs for the 21st century.  The sight of solar panels energizing the Whitehouse will demonstrate our best intentions to the world and spur the popular movement demanding action from national leaders.  You can join the campaign to PUT SOLAR ON IT here.

Sam Kendall

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I spent the majority of my adult life in service to this nation.  As a soldier for 26 years I knew that I would be called upon to respond to threats to the Constitution, “foreign and domestic.”  On two occasions, I left my family behind to deploy to combat zones with short notice for long durations.  I went in harm’s way because I swore an oath to do so.  Members of congress take a very similar oath.  Some in the Senate appear to have forgotten that oath.

One of the greatest threats facing this country is our dependence on a strategic commodity we do not control, oil.  Countries who do not share a vision of what is in the best interests of our way of life control what we need to keep the engines of our transportation system moving.  Another threat is that posed by climate change.  The droughts in Russia that have spawned wildfires are a manifestation of the hottest months on record.  Vladimir Putin has banned the export of grain as a result of this climate disaster.  Wheat has hit a 23 month high on commodities markets.  Who will this directly affect?  A nation suffering another climate catastrophe, a nuclear armed nation: Pakistan.  With potentially millions of starving people in that flood ravaged country, where will they turn to for food?  Strategic thinkers have long recognized the potential of population migration for causing war.  That is why the Pentagon and the CIA have established agencies to consider the implication of climate change.  Climate change is considered settled science by these organizations.  What is kicked about like a political football is man’s contribution.  My view of man’s contribution is like my view of secondhand smoke: it may not kill me, but I don’t want it around my children.  As a military planner, I always considered the most likely and the most dangerous courses of action my opponent might take and I planned for them.  Significant human contribution to climate change is the most dangerous course of action and we must plan accordingly.  It is irresponsible to think otherwise.

Our addiction to oil, the only strategic commodity, makes us vulnerable from a national security perspective.  Immediate action we can take as voters is to make sure our elected leaders do the following:

1. support a renewable portfolio standard in the state of Florida.  2. Support feed in tariffs so utilities must buy consumer produced electricity at the same rate they sell it.  3. Support elimination of tax breaks and subsidies to coal, oil and natural gas industries.  There are enough economic incentives to continue to produce.  4. Reduce the vulnerabilities of critical military installations to grid failure by supporting and encouraging third party investment for demand reduction, smart grid management and alternative/renewable energy on select installations.  5. Support the policies and legislation as noted below:

a. Increase the standards for efficiency for our cars.  China, Iraq and Venezuela have had no problem enacting such requirements.  What do they know that we don’t?  Let’s deny those oil producers who do not share our best interests the opportunity to dictate to us at the pumps.

b. President Obama’s 2011 budget proposes to eliminate nine different tax expenditures that primarily benefit oil and gas companies.  Cutting these special tax deductions, preferences, and credits would save the government about $45 billion over the next ten years.

c. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act (S-3405) which would eliminate nearly $20 billion worth of big oil tax subsidies while preserving subsidies for companies with less than $100 million in revenue.

d. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) recently introduced the End Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act (HR-5644) which would close big oil tax loopholes worth $30 billion over five years.

e. Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE) introduced the Improving Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Use By Federal Agencies Act of 2010 (S-3251) that would provide Federal Agencies the authority to actually place a price signal on energy security.

6. Defeat the policies and legislation noted below:

a. The Rockefeller Bill, an amendment to be offered in September as part of the Senate Energy Package would prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.  Although Senator Rockefeller is defending his big coal constituents, the rest of us will suffer the consequences of this effort to go back in time.

I have seen the recent commercials from the Petroleum Institute where “little people” talk about how increased taxes on big oil will hurt them.  That is of course if big oil passes along that increase instead of absorbing it in their record setting profits.  We, the little people, must act.  We must hold our elected leadership accountable.  I hope you join us on August 31st as we who have taken the oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, once again deploy in defense of this great country.

Operation Free is a coalition of veterans and national security organizations dedicated to securing America with clean energy.  The organization is hosting an event in Tampa, Florida on August 31st.

Col. Dan Nolan, US Army (ret.) Col. Nolan is a 26 year veteran of the US Army and current resident of Tampa, FL.  During his military career, Col. Nolan commanded the 1st Armored Division Artillery in Germany and Kosovo as well as served as principal advisor to General Tommy Franks at US Central Command.  Col Nolan is a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point and holds a Masters of Arts from the Naval War College as well as a Masters of Science from the University of Southern California.  Col. Nolan currently serves as CEO of Sabot 6, Inc. which focuses on strategic military planning as it relates to energy security.

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Oh, the frustration of so many years locked in to dirty oil.  We’ve wanted to quit stopping at the gas station but what were our choices?  Seemed like we’d never get off gasoline!  When the Japanese started introducing energy efficient hybrids, American car makers responded with SUVs.  What?  Were they responding to consumer demand or were they driving consumer demand to match low prices at the pump with higher income statements?  Will the BP oil spill finally bring us back to reality?

At last there is some notion of consensus going on among us consumers and the car manufacturers.  We the consumers, wishing so long for clean transportation, are now in a position to make a difference in transportation fuels and fundamentally change our energy infrastructure for the better.  Car manufacturers are actually offering us fuel options!

Ford, GM, Toyota, Mazda, Isuzu and Mercedes have flex-fuel vehicles for sale.  Ethanol is in our gasoline now.  The EPA is weighing whether to support an even higher ratio at the pump.  Flex-fuel vehicles will provide an even higher level of demand.  Their engines are designed specifically for the cleaner, renewable fuel.  The ethanol industry is ready to provide this fuel and Florida ethanol producers are especially going to be the beneficiaries.

Charles Bronson, Agriculture Secretary, has been convening stakeholders at his “Farms to Fuels” convention since 2006 preparing for this opportunity.  Yes, he sided with the off-shore drilling crowd, but he kept his farm fuels conventions on track and this up-coming August meeting couldn’t be more important.

Bruce Stephenson, professor of environmental studies at Rollins college, believes new housing construction may not be in just a temporary lull.  It could last for years, he says.  Bruce has followed the sprawling housing developments in Florida and translated them into large amounts of wasted energy and water.  The plus side of the housing recession is fewer greenhouse gases and and less pressure on landowners to sell farms or green space to developers.  The minus side is that home construction has been Florida’s biggest source of income and employment.

So what industries can replace construction and help stoke up employment?  The Florida biofuels industry is well positioned to move into that role.  County commissioners are listening to applicants who want to build ethanol and biodiesel plants.  Farmers are agreeing to plant energy crops to feed the plants.  A few years ago there wasn’t an E-85 pump in Florida.  We’re starting to see them now.  A new industry is developing in Florida and consumers can help build that industry by investing in the vehicles designed for the fuel.

Celebrate energy independence this Fourth by visiting a car dealership.  This is worth waving the flag!

Sam Kendall

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Twenty-nine states now have renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS) but Florida isn’t one of them.  The amounts vary from 15% in Massachusetts by 2020 to a high of 33% in California by 2020.  The governor has said he wants RPS and last year the Public Service Commission (PSC) presented a draft proposal to the state legislature.  The Senate endorsed the plan but the House went in the opposite direction and endorsed drilling in state waters instead.  Senator Lee Constantine has introduced a bill this year to ratify the PSC draft and you can read that draft here.

States started requiring RPS for good reasons:  fuel diversification and security, price competition leading to more stability, reduction of environmental issues associated with carbon based fuels, opportunities for new businesses and jobs.  Just the threat of RPS has some utilities doing the right thing.  For Florida, RPS would mean some portion of the money spent on energy supplies would remain circulating here in the state rather than being spent in coal states or oil nations.

On February 18, a Cleantech Symposium is scheduled in Orlando to discuss RPS issues within Florida.  You can read more about that here.

Sam Kendall

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The American Solar Energy Society at University of Florida, Gainesville will sponsor a tour of solar homes on October 18, 2008.  This is being billed as the largest solar event in the nation.  You’ll get to visit the largest commercial solar installation in the city and a zero energy home.  Alternative energy vehicles will also be on display and including a trip to a biodiesel production plant.  Get more info and directions at the ASES solar tour page.

Sam Kendall

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