Jim Bacon commented in response to our post “ENERGY INDEPENDENCE OF SUSTAINABILITY:”

“The prospect of Brazilians achieving “energy independence” at the expense of accelerating the clear cutting of the Amazonian rain forest is something that should chill us all.”

He is right of course, but if that is chilling, how about today’s WaPo?

On the front page:

“Canada Pays Environmentally for U.S. Oil Thirst.”

“N.Va Delegates Plan Hail Mary to Fix Roads”

And in Metro Section:

“Intercounty Connector Get Final Approval”

More roads so more people can drive more cars farther and faster and nothing about Fundamental Change is human settlement pattern to make transport more efficient or cut the number of vehicle trips necessary to secure a quality life.

Public transport policy is something that should really chill us all.


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17 responses to “SHOULD REALLY CHILL US ALL”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    More roads so more people can drive more cars farther and faster : Yes!

  2. Scott Avatar

    Energy independence can be achieved now by all countries.

    Look at what Sweden is doing with renewables. Even China, to a more limited extent.

    Again, this country is falling behind because of naysayer attitudes like yours.

  3. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    I am not sure energy independence is now within the reach of all nation-states but all nation-states need to move to drastically reduce energy consumption and move toward a balance of production and consumption.

    Energy independence may be like sustainability, it cannot be a direct goal since, especially the United States, we are so far from balance.

    There are many good examples of energy conservation that need greater exposure than MainStream Media provides.

    Either your last sentence was added by mistake (I note it is a repeat of a comment on another post*), you intended it for Anonymous 12:08 or you fundamentally misunderstand EMR’s work.

    EMR is not among the naysayers standing in the way of energy conservation or energy independence.

    We oppose Brazil achieving energy independence by taking down the Amazon rain forest so the very rich can drive big cars. We oppose environmentally destructive mining of oil sands (or uranium ore) in the Athabasca river basin while we build more roads to burn more gasoline here.

    Since even before 1973 we have supported reduction of energy consumption, creation of renewable sources and the conservation and recycling of energy.

    It turns out the easiest and least painful way to cut energy consumption is the evolution of settlement patterns that drastically reduce the need for vehicle trips (especially private-vehicle trips) to maintain a quality life and the creation of a built environment that conserves and recycles energy.

    *Thank you for your rejection of the idea of passenger rail is dead. More on that later.

    Anonymous 12:08

    Four possibilities:

    You are just trying to make people mad by pretending to believe more roads to drive more cars farther and faster is a good idea and thus do not post your name,

    You are one of the few who actually believe the myth that building more roads so some can drive their cars farther and faster will improve region-wide mobility and access,

    You now live / work in a place where you believe a new road will help you and to hell with everyone else,

    You obtain you livelihood directly or indirectly from the creation of dysfunctional human settlement patterns or OWN land you hope to sell for scattered urban land uses.


  4. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    I don’t see how you can be in favor of balancing production and consumption and at the same time be opposed to increasing any form of production. When oil shale comes into production in the US we may well be faced with creating the equivalent of several new man made versions of the Grand Canyon in order to increase production.

    Moving toward a balance only means that we are approaching unsustainability more slowly: it is postponing the inevitable calamity. So now the question becomes which is a greater calamity, excavating Wyoming and Alberta, or suffering the monumental human effects of having insufficient energy prematurely? This is the old Texas bumper sticker: “Let the Northern B_____’s freeze in the dark.”

    I support reduction of energy consumption when it makes sense, not as a goal in and of itself. I support less VMT when it makes sense, not a as a goal in and of itself. I have trees and fans instead of air conditioning, and I support transitioning to renewable resources, too. But your previous statement was that use of energy is not without consequences, and that makes you sound like a naysayer.

    Vehicle trips are a big use of energy, but it is not anywhere near clear to me that your goal of designing, creating, and building entire new settlement patterns just to reduce car trips will result in a lower use of energy. It may very well be that those car trips are worth every bit of the energy they cost, if not, we may be able to reduce aut energy use and still keep the autos. But the urban heat island comes mainly from buildings and not autos, so I’m very skeptical of your energy saving claim.

    I do agree that local power generation and heat recovery can do a lot to reduce energy costs (what you call MIU’s). But in addition to being opposed to exploiting the rain forests and the deserts, you are also apparently opposed to wind farms, ethanol production, and anything else that makes energy available. Those MIU’s are going to have to run on something, and if it is something renewable than an awful lot of open space is going to be converted to farms of some kind: ethanol, solar, or wind. That means we will likely have more and smaller cities to keep transmission costs low, and we weill have to recognize that cities cannot exist without substantial support from the rural areas: cities are going to have to pay their full locational costs.

    Absent new energy sources, the only other possible result is that, as Jared diamond suggests, a lot of us perish sooner. Since you claim that sustainability requires fewer people, I read it that you prefer we die before we build a new grand canyon in Wyoming.

    That sounds like a naysayer to me.

  5. Scott Avatar


    How about building solar panels on school roofs like NJ is doing?Distributed power makes them MORE energy independent and saves money!

    Solar power, combined with fuel cells and nanotechnology, is the future.

    Why don’t we have them here?
    Dominion Power and its lobbyists.

    And naysayers like you.

  6. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    I’m in favor of solar and other new technology. I’m in favor of conservation. I own a home with an advance geothermal heat pump, to save energy and noise pollution, and another home with no AC for conservation reasons.

    I don’t doubt for a second that solar cells etc. are the future. but show me the NJ school with enough solar panels on the roof to actually power the school, and show me one where they actually saved money doing it. Last I knew, you can still buy power cheaper than you can buy solar cells. The real reason we don’t power our schools with solar cells is common economic sense.

    That’s why solar cells will eventually be part of the future and not now. What is happening in NJ is a technology demonstration, not an economic demonstration.

    Dominion Power is already required to pay it’s highest marginal production rate to those that resell energy to the company by reversing their meter using solar panels or wind power (when it is available). Even at that rate, solar cells can’t yet compete or we woulod all do it. When we do, the company will still provide a valuable service by providing the buffering and distribution that makes (partial) solar aned wind power possible. They should expect to get paid for that service.

    All I’m saying is that, as conservationists, we need to advance real solutions that make real sense and back them up with real facts. The solutions must make sense environmentally (which isn’t always as obvious as some claim). In addition they have to make sense economically, ethically, and politically, otherwise we are shooting ourselves in the foot.

    I don’t think that name calling and demonization advances the cause politically: it just makes us look like radical nut cases.

    On the other hand,I can’t see the sense in advocating that we excavate 45 acres of aggregate somewhere, just so we can haul it in hundreds of trucks someplace else in order to build a 45 acre platform in the sky on which we are going to construct a city. This idea is supported by the unsubstantiated claim that this saves energy and is the best possible solution to our habitation needs, and then we turn around and bash someone who wants to excavate someplace that isn’t being used for anything else anyway, on the sole basis that they must have evil intentions because they want to make some money.

    To my way of thinking, naysaying is saying that there is only one way to go, because it naysays every other possibility. Solar panels don’t work for schools, yet, but they do work for cattle fences, remote pumps and many other applications. Lets be reasonable about it, and promote what works best for now, even if it is not forever.

    In the meantime, lets think freely about what might really work eventually and what it means. I suggest that renewable power is going to mean farms of some kind: solar panel farms, wind farms, and ethanol farms. They are going to need a lot of space, and people to take care of them. Maybe that suggests that New Urbanism will be outmoded before we get it built.

    I don’t know the answer, but suggesting that we think a little about this potential situation or that in order to make something that actually works is not necessarily the same as naysaying.

  7. Steve Avatar

    How does the idea of Brazil’s “independence” fit with the recent stories about how Bolivia is putting the screws on Brazil?

    See, e.g.,

  8. Scott Avatar

    “The Bayonne Board of Education has shown dedicated focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The Board’s forward-thinking approach has saved taxpayers over $40,000 to date, through the construction of PV arrays on nine public school buildings in the district. Bayonne was one of the first New Jersey schools to apply for a solar rebate from New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program to reduce up front costs. The solar installation combined with energy efficient lighting upgrades will reduce their energy requirements by 50 percent. Once completed, the project will produce about 2 MW of power and save the school district an estimated $500,000 a year. In addition, the solar electric system will provide an opportunity for students, teachers and community residents to learn first hand about the benefits of solar energy.”

    Of course, I am not saying it has to be solar, it can be wind or wave or bio. But the fact is that Dominion is actively lobbying against using renewable energy in Virginia.

  9. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    I can’t really tell from that what this says, but if you are right, I stand corrected again.

    What is sounds like is that they saved $40,000 on the construction, not the operation. It is further muddied by combining it with the savings from lighting changes and future projections.

    It is even more unclear because some of the costs were covered by a third party. I get suspicious when I see claims that are deliberately written this fuzzy.

    What I’d like to see is How much did the installation cost, total? How many watts does it supply.? Based on some reasonable period of time, how much does it cost per watt/hour and how much can you buy watt/hours for? If the difference is a positive number, then how long is the payback period? Does that make any sense considering the payback you might have had from some other project of equivalent cost?

  10. Scott Avatar

    You can kick the tires all you want. In fact I encourage you to do so. But keep in mind that

    1) The solar makes the school a good source of power in case the grid does fail. Its good redundancy in case of disaster recovery.

    2) Instead of just being another empty building during the summer time, the school produces energy for the grid- it makes the facility a profit center during the summer instead of a cost center. Do you know how much it costs to maintain Richmond school buildings during the summer?

    3) It helps the environment by producing and using cleaner energy that would otherwise be produced by and used from coal or nuclear.

  11. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Now you are getting closer. I like number 2). That actually makes sense, but only if the solar panels actually produce power at a profit. I have not seen anything that says you can produce power with solar cells cheaper than you can buy it. If you can’t do that, then it isn’t a profit center.

    Number 3) is where I start to wonder. Glass is one of the most energy intensive products there is. After you deduct the power and pollution used to make the solar cells, and construct, manage, and clean the solar cell facilities, it might not be true that they produce cleaner energy.

    This same problem affects trains. Trains themselves run pretty cheap. But if you look at the whole system including the construction, the train stations, etc. then they are an economic and energy disaster.

    I have a real hard time with #1. The school is a source of backup energy? Come on. I doubt the cells can fully power the school, let alone provide backup for anyone else.

    “Consider the small model home set up in Raleigh by the North Carolina Solar Centre. Its 3.6-kilowatt PV system generates about half of the house’s electricity needs. But at $9 per watt, the system would cost a homeowner around $32,000 to install.”

    According to this article solar is still ten time too costly to be workable, although promising advance are in the works.

    Hey, I drive a hybrid and some say that is not cost effective either.

  12. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    It takes about four years of operation for a solar cell to generate as much energy as it costs to make the cell. That doesn’t count the energy it takes to make, install, or maintain the array in the mean time.

    The useful life is 30 years.

    Overall the economic payback will take longer than the energy payback, and the payback expires in 30 years. It is getting better, but it isn’t there yet.

  13. Scott Avatar

    In your response to my number #1, I say something is better than nothing in an emergency. Solar power was very important to recovering from Katrina.

  14. Scott Avatar

    In response to your response for my numbers #2 and #3, you are still not considering that whatever energy is produced from solar mean less energy having to be produced from coal or nuclear. You are not factoring all the costs there. Do you have any idea how much money is involved in trying to keep smokestack smoke clean, store nuclear waste, or decommission plants?

    Look at the big picture. Gorbachev did:

  15. Scott Avatar

    As for trains and rail…

    A GE-made freight engine that hauls goods more efficiently makes such firms as Wal-Mart and Whole Foods more resource efficient in distributing goods to you Dear Reader. Once some of the freight train emissions have been turned into a “nega-input” across multiple supply chains, the Climate Change mitigation gains are irreversible. It is every bit as important to do this as it is for a customer to chose going to the store on a bicycle or in a hybrid vehicle instead of in an SUV.

    By speaking boldly about success, companies like GE help overcome the “noises” made by those who testify that progress must come with added degradation of the environment. And they raise the bar for competitors. Government is paralyzed. With industry leading by example, we might hope government can follow with some ‘Govemagination’. That way the teetering about will be less frightful.

  16. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Scott, you are not listening. I’m on your side, I love solar energy, and I actually use it more than most people: I grow things, by the ton. I agree solar is better, but it is still not cost effective. I’m not about to spend $100,000 to put a solar system on my house because a) I don’t have that kind of money, b) the payback is over 100 years, c) I’d still have to be connected to Dominion to make it work, and they are not going to let me do that for free, d) then I have to clean and weed whack around all those solar panels for the next 100 years.

    It is not going to happen until it makes sense, and it might not even happen then. Haiti has plenty of sunlight and zero trees because they can’t afford solar, among other reasons.

    Your other argument is meaningless. Suppose my solar system saves Dominion some money on cleaning up their emissions. Can I get them to send it to me to help pay for my solar system? NO. And the reason is, they don’t have the money they saved, because they didn’t sell the electricity that would have created the pollution they would have had to clean up.

    What I can do is sign up to buy electricity from a green producer. Of course what I really get is electricity from the closest generating station, and the green producer gets the difference between what I actually got it for and what they could have sold it to me for if they were close enough. It is a great marketing deal for them, and it gives them access to people like you. So, if you are willing to pay more for electricity than it costs in order to support a green electricity producer, knock yourself out.

    I don’t mean to insult you, however, it is my opinion that environmentalists who promote ideas without rational references to the realities of cost, or implementation, or politics, let alone reality, make us all look like nut cases and undermine what we are trying to do.

    We can’t make everyone’s lives better by forcing them to do what we think is good. But, if we are smart enough to find a way to demonstrate that what we think is good really is better, cheaper, easy, obtainable, and optional, then people will flock to our cause, especially if it is also fashionable. Instead, the movement is collecting names like Environmental Nazi, Treehuggers, Green Freaks, and Eco-terrorists. Those kinds of monikers are not the sort of fashion statement that attracts the general public.

    When you demonstrate a solar system that works that I can afford, I’ll be the first one in line to buy it. But if you keep making suggestions that we be more like the Chinese or the Soviets, then I’ll have to consign your ideas to the scrap heap along with the rest of the socialists.

  17. Scott Avatar

    I am talking about governments using private companies to put solar panels on government buildings to challenge a state regulated monopoly. How is that socialist?

    It does not take $100,000 to do this on an individual basis. Its is perfectly scalable.

    At this time, Dominion does not allow customers to sign up for ‘green power’. Wish they would.

    This is not pie-in-the-sky- New Jersey and other states are already doing it. WHY NOT VIRGINIA?

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