• Home

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Surprise! Pittsburgh one of the first metros listed on Google Transit

The Port Authority of Allegheny County, known for the chunnel to nowhere (NSC), hiking fares, and cutting service, is actually listed on Google Transit, a site that should come in handy for those needing a last minute ride on the Bus or T.

Google Transit seems much smarter than some of the other trip planners out there. One of the best parts of Google Transit is that it gives you several options for your trip, including an option to drive. However, by default Google tells you to walk instead of putting you on a bus or telling you to drive for a half mile. I love this because I think most of us Americans are so glued to the front seats of our cars that we forget how easy and healthy it is for us to walk half a mile.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

EcoGeek's response to Clean Coal Advertisers

Do you ever find yourself thinking "bullshit!" as you drive by one of those Clean Coal billboards that are posted around town? I thought this response to the coal industry from EcoGeek.com's Hank Green deserved a mention here:

No...you're not green. You're full of crap.

Your industry turns mountains inside out, poisons the water of the rural poor in America and throughout the world. Your industry has never made an environmental move in its long and storied history without being forced to by a government. The promotional video for 'clean coal' at your lame PR site lauds a carbon sequestration plant that has now been canceled because it was determined to be pretty much impossible. The cleanest coal plants in the world still create more sulfer dioxide than the environment can deal with without acidifying the rain and the soil.

Of course, the future is in sequestering carbon, right? Pumping it into the ground so that it never hits the atmosphere. The problem is, building a sequestered carbon coal plant is actually more expensive than building a solar thermal plant. Why would we stick with you when solar is revving up to be cheaper than coal without expensive, unrealistic sequestration?

The only thing that makes you seem even a little green today is how extremely destructive you used to be. You cannot be, you will never be, green. Give up...go home...enjoy the next few decades because they will be your last.

We're moving on without you, and you're going to have to deal with that. Actual clean technologies are here now. We don't need you anymore. There are 45 gigawatts of renewable energy planned for the United States. You are not renewable...you are not America's Power...you are not the future and you sure as hell aren't green. Stop pretending.


Hank Green and the EcoGeek Team

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Rustbelt Revolutionaries

This past Friday morning, on my way back into town from a meeting out in Monroeville , I had an idea - I should swing through, Braddock, which is located in the heart of the steel valley, to check out a company that I had read about in Pittsburgh Magazine a few months back. I googled "Fossil Free Fuel" on my phone, and was able to pull up an address and phone number. The young man who answered my call, David Rosenstraus, told me to feel free to stop in to check out their shop located at 223 Braddock Ave.

As I drove down Braddock Ave I noticed US Steel's Edgar Thompson Steel Works (pictured above right) several blocks ahead. How fitting, I thought, that a local pioneer in the new green economy is located up the street from Andrew Carnegie's first steel plant.

Fossil Free Fuel is a small outfit that creates and installs biodiesel kits that burn Vegetable oil, was started in Buffalo New York back in 2004. After relocating to Allentown PA in 2005, the company moved once again in early 2007, this time just outside of the city of Pittsburgh after they were introduced to the mayor of Braddock by Steel City Biofuel's Nate Doyno .

As I approached their shop, I noticed a Mercedes Benz diesel automobile parked out front. The car, probably a model from the early to mid 1980's, had a decal in the back window that stated "This car runs off of 100% Vegetable Oil". Sweet, I thought.

As I stepped through the front door, and then the office door to the main work area, I could tell that the guys running the place were a couple of car gurus. Diesel engines on one side of the room, spare parts, machines, blow torches, and yes, several vehicles that were in the process of being converted to run on 100% vegetable oil.

So how do they do this? According to David, after initially using existing parts for their conversion kits, FFF started offering their own set of components, which include heat exchangers, fuel tanks, filters, hoses, fittings, pumps, and also the software that works with the on board computers. When it comes to the fuel side of the equation, FFF has a related entity that goes around to area restaurants to collect used vegetable oil. The oil is collected in large tanks affixed to one of their trucks and is then transported back to the shop where the oil is filtered to remove water and any food particles. This is a critical step in the process as not filtering used vegetable oil can lead to a severely damaged engine. You can read more about the specifics here at FFF's online FAQ

Here are some additional facts that I gathered during my talk with David:

  • An installation of FFF's conventional biodiesel fuel kit is $1500, and $2000 for a "main tank conversion."
  • The guys typically have 3 or 4 cars in the shop being worked on at a given time, with each conversion taking roughly 30 hours.
  • Most of the conversions are on vehicles that get sent to Fossil Free Fuels originate from outside the Pittsburgh area - most come from the NY, PA, NJ tri-state area.
  • FFF also ships kits to those who want to do the installations themselves
  • While some of the vehicles that come in for installations are the older Mercedes Benz Turbo Diesel models, a good number of the installations are done on some of the newer Mercedes and Volkswagons

Below: A Mercedes Benz diesel that was in the process of a FFF conversion

If you are thinking about removing yourself from the cycle of petroleum dependence, I encourage you to give the guys at Fossil Free Fuels a call to make an appointment to stop in. I am sure they will be busy at work but also more than happy to take some time to show you around and give you the

Fossil Free Fuel
223 Braddock Ave.
Braddock, Pa 15104


Below left: The computer that allows the driver to switch fuel tanks.
Below right: A newer Volkswagon model near completion

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Van Jones: "We need a green economy that is strong enough to lift people out of poverty...."

The reality is, that there is only one solution to both of the crisis that we face. There is only one solution to the ecological crisis, the crisis of global warming, the crisis of global warming, there is only one solution to the social and economic crisis. and that solution is this: We need a green economy that is strong enough to lift people out of poverty. Simple as that. We need a green economy that honors the earth, but it cannot be a green economy only for the eco-chic, the eco-elite, the people who can afford to buy a hybrid, the people that can afford to put solar panels on their second home. I want them to buy a hybrid, I want them to put solar panels on their second home, but the people who are struggling right now for bus fare - they have a place too.
- Van Jones, 10/31/2007

What do politicians like Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton mean when they say they want to boost our economy through the creation of "Green Collar Jobs?" Van Jones, a civil rights activist out of California, is one of the leading advocates for using the green movement spurred by the race against climate change and global warming to create thousands of jobs throughout urban areas in the United States.

Last week, Van Jones was here in Pittsburgh to speak at the Good Jobs Green Jobs conference. Modeshift has a writeup of Jones's speech at the event. Details from that presentation will be posted but for now check out this interview with Van Jones over at the Grist.

Here is Van Jones speaking on behalf of his non profit "Green for All" about how a "Green wave should lift all boats."

Below is information on the upcoming "Dream Reborn" conference in Memphis the weekend of April 4th, 2008.

"The new dream has to be about the people and the planet too."

Monday, March 17, 2008

A lot more green at this year's Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show

Last year I blogged about the lack of green products and services being showcased at the 2007 Pittsburgh Home and Garden show. The vendors at this year's show, which took place at world's largest LEED certified building - downtown Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence convention center, did a complete 180 degree turn from last year's event. Energy efficient products were marketed by a host of vendors, and so were green energy service providers in the form of Geothermal heating and cooling and also solar and wind power (all pictured to the right). While the sales people at the solar energy installer quoted me an 8000 kw system consisting of 26 solar panels ( a typical residence shouldn't need more than half of that) I was happy to finally meet a solar installer that was breaking into the Pittsburgh market.

The highlight of the green Home & Garden show was an environmental exhibit that was put on by several organizations including the Bidwell Training Center, Steel City Biofuels, and GTECH Strategies, among others. The exhibit showcased green roofs, some environmental projects from the region, and also some of the projects and work being down by both GTECH and Steel City Biofuels.

Over the last few months I have gotten to know both Andrew Butcher, CEO of GTECH, and Nathanial Doyno, Executive Director of SCBF, and I think they are both rising stars of the local green economy. Below are both Nathanial (center) and Andrew taking a break from the action to talk to KDKA radio.

So what were some of the green products that we were interested in purchasing? Since we've been in the market for outdoor furniture for some time but could not bring ourselves to purchase the Chinese manufactured goods from Lowes, we were very intrigued by an Amish furniture company from New Wilmington PA that made it's outdoor furniture out of recycled plastics. While we did not pull the trigger that day, the prices were very reasonable and we intend on making a purchase soon.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Energy and the Election: a live interactive Webinar on March 18th

Energy and the Election:
A Live Interactive Webinar
Your chance to Question and Comment

The EnergyCollective Webinar Series 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008, 2:00 p.m. EDT


Join us for an interactive, Web-based debate sponsored by The EnergyCollective.

Jeff Anderson - Energy and climate change advisor to the Edwards' campaign
Joe Romm - Blogger at ClimateProgress.org, author and advisor to the Center for American Progress
Scott Sklar - Expert on energy and renewables and president of The Stella Group

Mark Lazen - Managing editor for The EnergyCollective and Social Media Today

Some of the questions to be addressed by our panelists will be:

  • What are the major differences between remaining candidates' positions on energy and climate change?
  • What will probably be part of the Democratic and Republican platforms?
  • Are there areas of agreement between the leading candidates, and if so, what is the likelihood of relevant legislation in 2009?
  • What role, if any, will taxes, incentives or regulation play in the leading candidates' positions?