More Oil Spill Live

Oil Spill Video Feed Stirs the Web

by Claudine Zap

2 hours ago

399 Votes

The oil gushing out of the busted rig in the Gulf of Mexico has not been stopped. But it can be watched. As investigators try to pinpoint the blame, and oil company executives point fingers, the curious are heading to the Web to take a look at the deep-sea drama unfolding 5,000 feet underwater.

Turns out, the oil company BP has a video feed of the rig, which now gives a front-row seat to the unending oil leak. Under pressure from Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts, executives made the live feed available to the public. The video is being hosted at the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming website.

News of the live feed caused searches to surge 1,725% on "bp oil spill live feed" in just one day. Searches also gushed on "bp live feed," "bp oil spill live cam," and "bp oil spill live."

According to the AP, a mile-long tube is capturing 210,000 gallons of oil a day, but a lot of oil is still escaping — and can be seen, lava-lamp-like, oozing out on underwater camera. The company initially estimated 210,000 gallons was the total amount of the spill — and now admits it was, well, way off. At worst, the amount of oil that has already spilled is a dozen times more than the Exxon Valdez disaster.

Here's an image from the live feed:


As if any more proof were needed that the world is watching, the video feed crashed due to enormous Web traffic, so instead of a plume of oil, viewers are treated intermittently to a black screen. However, clips of the live footage were captured and are now being showcased on various sites. For live video feeds, check out BP's homepage.

Or you can try the Select Committee on Global Warming's website.

Be patient: The video feeds are overwhelmed with traffic, so they are often slow or simply not available.


Scotty has stopped using BP Gasoline!!!

Scott's Contracting



Finance Bill Affects Consumers

On Friday May 21, 2010, 10:27 am EDT

For consumers trying to figure out what the financial overhaul bill means for them, the legislation the Senate passed Thursday offers some tantalizing possibilities.

Merchants might offer more discounts to people who pay cash. You could get a free credit score every time a lender or landlord penalizes you with a lousy interest rate or rejects your application because your score is not up to snuff. And many mortgage prepayment penalties would go away.

But some of the measures that could have the most impact on consumers are not in the House version of the bill that passed in December. So we will not know which new rules will exist in what form until the two sides haggle in conference and produce a final bill.

One last-minute Senate addition would lower the fees that merchants pay to process many debit card transactions. If banks lose revenue as a result, they could make up for it by adding fees to checking accounts or cutting back on rewards programs. Retailers say that once card costs fall, they will hire more workers and hold the line on prices. There is a fair bit of disagreement about who has the better argument.

It will not be clear until there is a final bill — and perhaps for years afterward — how much money the measures will put in your pocket or whether it will keep it from being picked. But the basic outlines are clear, so here are the areas to watch as a final bill emerges.

DEBIT AND CREDIT CARDS The Senate bill contains an amendment with provisions that could affect how you use your credit card. You have probably encountered those irritating hand-written signs that forbid card use unless you're spending more than $10 or so, even though stores are generally not supposed to do this. The bill would allow such minimums, as long as stores were not setting minimums for, say, Bank of America's card but not Chase's. Merchants would not be allowed to set different credit-card spending minimums for, say, a Visa and MasterCard.

Stores would, however, be able to offer discounts based on what card a customer was using. So someone with an American Express card, which often costs the merchant more than other cards, might pay the full sticker price of an item that costs $100 while Visa and MasterCard holders could get a $1 discount.

The bill specifies that cash discounts are acceptable, as are lower prices for people who use debit cards. They could not, however, charge one price for Visa debit cards from one bank and another for Visa debit cards from a different bank

Why does the bill include this provision? Because it also orders the Federal Reserve to set rules that would lead to lower fees for merchants who accept debit cards. Key to this provision is the fact that merchants would pay those lower fees only to banks with more than $10 billion in assets. Smaller community banks and credit unions would still get the same amount of merchant fee income that they are getting now. That might have led a merchant to accept the less-costly Visa cards while turning away the more expensive ones (or setting minimum purchase amounts for the pricier ones).

You would think that small banks would like having a revenue advantage. They are certain, however, that if the bill passes as is, big banks, which produce a large portion of the revenue for Visa and MasterCard, will pressure the two companies into lowering the fees that merchants would pay to accept the small banks' cards as well. So they are lining up with the big banks to oppose the bill.

Dan O'Malley, the chief executive of PerkStreet Financial, is trying to build an online banking service around giving customers rewards for using their debit cards. Those merchant fees finance his perks, however, and if those fees fall, he's got problems. Most banks would have their own challenges if they were to lose out on a big chunk of fee revenue.

"It becomes a gamble," Mr. O'Malley said. "Monthly checking account fees will come back. And maybe retail prices will come down, but nobody knows."

Indeed, the merchants who have been pushing for lower fees for years argue that the reduction would benefit consumers, since they would then pay lower retail prices.

Somehow I doubt, however, that merchants would throw a parade and immediately cut all prices by half a percentage point on every item on the day this bill goes into effect, if it comes to pass. Maybe prices won't go up as much as they might have otherwise. But it will be hard for merchants to point to the vague idea of less-steep increases and satisfy angry customers who may suddenly be paying $10 a month for a checking account or earning half as many debit card rewards because their bank can't afford to be as generous anymore.

"This is an incredible con job," MasterCard's general counsel, Noah J. Hanft, said. "Under the guise of helping small business, this is just a shrewd and cynical effort that ultimately harms consumers."

That is the case he will make to the Congressional reconciliation committee. The provisions are not in the House bill, and it's not clear if House members will be willing to accept any of them.

MORTGAGES The Senate bill outlines three new changes, many of which echo the House bill.

First, mortgage lenders would face restrictions on when they can charge borrowers a penalty for paying off their loan before the term of the mortgage is up. They wouldn't be able to charge pre-payment penalties at all for mortgages that have balloon payments or for those that allow people to make low enough payments that the mortgage balance rises instead of falls (so-called negative amortization loans), among others. For more standard plain vanilla mortgages, pre-payment penalties would only be allowed in the first three years.

Second, the bill forbids anyone who sets up mortgages for customers from accepting compensation that would vary depending on the loan type. This is intended to protect consumers from some of the shenanigans that went on several years ago, when banks paid mortgage brokers extra money for putting customers in loans with high fees and lousy terms.

Finally, the bill requires banks to consider applicants' income, assets and credit history before making a loan. How quaint, right? It would be funny if it wasn't so pathetic that this even needed to be in here.

CREDIT SCORES In an issue that is not addressed in the House bill, the Senate bill, through an amendment, requires anyone who uses a credit score as a reason for taking an adverse action against a consumer to give the score to that person for free. So if you don't get the best mortgage or credit card interest rate, the lowest insurance premium or the apartment you wanted, you would be able to see the grade that hurt you. This can cost you about $15.

The lender or landlord will have to give you the score they used, which will usually be a FICO credit score. I had hoped that Congress would give consumers free credit scores every year to go along with the three free credit reports they can get, but it didn't happen.

BROKERS AND FIDUCIARY DUTY Senators had no luck inserting an amendment into their bill that would require all brokers to act in clients' best interests. Currently, many of these professionals need only to recommend investments that are merely suitable. The House bill includes the "best interests" requirement, and if it prevails, many more stockbrokers — and insurance salesmen pushing certain kinds of expensive annuities — would have to meet a higher standard.

The House's so-called fiduciary standard has been the subject of debate for a long time, and the insurance industry will fight fiercely in conference to keep it from becoming law.

NEW CONSUMER AGENCY Both bills call for the creation of a consumer financial protection agency. The agency would oversee many consumer loans and work to make the products more transparent.

It's hard to predict exactly how power the agency will ultimately have and how aggressive it will be as it attempts to set new rules. In the very least, however, it will give consumers someplace else to go when things go awry.

Lest we forget, the whole point of this bill is to keep something like what went on in the latter half of the last decade from ever happening again. Perhaps the new cops on the beat will sound the alarms sooner when we inevitably go off the rails again in the years to come.

Provided by:Scott's Contracting

oil spewed already could fill 102 gyms

At worst, oil spewed already could fill 102 gyms

A May 17, 2010 satellite image provided by NASA shows a large patch of oil visible near the site of the Deepwater oil spill, and a long ribbon of oil AP – A May 17, 2010 satellite image provided by NASA shows a large patch of oil visible near the site of the …
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COVINGTON, La. – Drip by drip, day by day, the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico is adding up to mind-boggling numbers.

Using worst case scenarios calculated by scientists, a month's worth of leaking oil could fill enough gallon milk jugs to stretch more than 11,300 miles. That's more than the distance from New York to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and back. That's just shy of 130 million gallons.

If the government's best case scenario is used — and only 5.25 million gallons have spilled — those milk jugs would cover a bit more than a roundtrip between New York and Washington. But the government is revising that number, with a team of scientists working around the clock to come up with a more realistic and likely higher figure.

Here's another way to think of just how much oil has gushed out since April 20: At worst, it's enough to fill 102 school gymnasiums to the ceiling with oil.

That's nothing compared to the vast expanse of the Gulf of Mexico, where there are 643 quadrillion gallons. Even under the worst case scenario, the Gulf has five billion drops of water for every drop of oil. And the mighty Mississippi River pours 3.3 million gallons of new water into Gulf every second.

Under the rosiest scenario, little more than four gyms would be filled. That's how the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration visualizes oil spill volumes on one of its websites.

At worst, the amount of oil that has already spilled is a dozen times more than the Exxon Valdez disaster. At best, it's only half as bad. Realistically, it's probably somewhere in that huge middle in between.

No matter what, it already is way too much oil for the delicate parts of the Gulf ecosystem, said Darryl Felder, a biologist at the University of Louisiana Lafayette.

"A lot of this is diffused now in deep layers," said Felder, who is coordinating a seven-volume scientific encyclopedia on the Gulf. "It's like it's under the rug. You can't see it on the surface, so it's kind of out of sight, out of mind. But it's not out of mind to most of the biologists who are concerned about its long-term effects."

There are many uncertainties about how much has spilled. It's not even clear if the leak began on April 20, when the rig exploded, or April 22 when the rig sank, or on April 24 when the Coast Guard first noticed two leaks.

Originally, BP and the federal government said 42,000 gallons were flowing per day. Then the number was upped to 210,000 and that's been the best case scenario, with calculations that the spill didn't start until April 24.

The best case scenario seems increasingly unlikely. On Thursday, BP acknowledged more oil than that is pouring into the Gulf. The company said its makeshift tube put in place to suck up the leak is siphoning 210,000 gallons a day into a barge — the full amount of oil the company said was leaking. Yet, there's still lots of oil flowing out into the Gulf that can now be seen live on a webcam.

"Anyone can look at that and determine that even though it can't be metered or measured, it's significantly less than it was," said company spokesman Steve Rinehart. "That suggests pretty clearly that taking 5,000 barrels a day (210,000 gallons) out of that stream puts a real dent in it."

Federal officials acknowledge their 210,000 gallons-a-day figure needs to be revised. NOAA director Jane Lubchenco said the old estimate was based on a long-held international scientific formula based on surface slick observations. But the way this oil slick changed makes that calculation no longer useful, she said.

The worst case scenario is based on the upper end of broad estimates from several scientists for the daily flow rate of the leak based on video observation — somewhere between 840,000 gallons a day and 4.2 million gallons a day.

Some experts say the 4.2 million gallon rate is probably way too high, just like the government figures are way too low. That's because somewhere around 1.2 million to 1.6 million gallons a day is all that can realistically be expected from that type of well if it were working right, they said.

Ian McDonald, a Florida State University oceanographer and expert tracking the spill, said both estimates were wrong, but the government figure is especially wrong.

"We don't know how bad this is," McDonald said Thursday. "One of the problems is it's going to be very hard to know."

McDonald said the spill's surface slick is now more than 14,600 square miles, larger than the states of Maryland and Delaware combined.


Borenstein reported from Washington.

Scott's Contracting

New Name Same Great Innovative Productss

Akeena/Andalay adopts Westinghouse brand name Print PDF

May 18, 2010

LOS GATOS, Calif., May 17, 2010 (press release) -- Marrying one of the most famous consumer brands in the world with the most innovative name in solar power, Akeena Solar, a leading installer and manufacturer of high-performance solar panels, has entered into an exclusive worldwide agreement to manufacture, distribute, market and install its solar panels under the Westinghouse name.

The Westinghouse partnership is a validation of Akeena's award-winning technology that integrates the brains of a solar energy system into the solar panel itself, reducing the parts count by 80 percent and improving performance and reliability. Akeena's alternating-current (AC) systems are safer and produce up to 25 percent more energy than ordinary direct-current (DC) panels.

As solar purchasers move from early adopters to mainstream consumers, a lack of brand recognition derails buyers. This agreement directly addresses that issue, combining a trusted brand name with the reliability, performance and safety that buyers want.

"Partnering with Westinghouse moves us one giant step closer to the goal we've had since I founded Akeena: installing solar panels on every sunny rooftop," said Barry Cinnamon, CEO of Akeena Solar.

Added Cinnamon, "Since the beginning, we've worked consistently to make solar more mainstream. We began as a rooftop installer. We then designed our own easy-to-install solar panels that gave customers superior reliability and aesthetics. We improved our design by manufacturing higher-performance AC panels, and built a dealer network that has grown to more than 25 states and Canada. We then partnered with Lowe's Home Improvement stores for installation services, along with the first do-it-yourself solar panels stocked on retail shelves.

"Now, with the exclusive rights to the Westinghouse Solar brand, we look forward to accelerated growth without large up-front brand investments," concluded Cinnamon.

"Since George Westinghouse founded the Westinghouse Electric Corporation in 1886, the world's electric grid has operated on AC power," said James F. Davis, vice president, Westinghouse Electric Corp. "For more than 100 years, Westinghouse has literally set the standard for reliable electric power and home appliances. We approached Akeena when our research indicated their integrated solar-panel technology could help make solar mainstream. Akeena's safe and reliable AC solar panels are a perfect complement with Westinghouse's heritage. We are pleased to introduce Westinghouse Solar as the newest member of the exclusive Westinghouse family."

As part of the Westinghouse transition, Akeena's wholly-owned subsidiary Andalay Solar will be renamed Westinghouse Solar. This Westinghouse Solar subsidiary will manage the design, manufacturing and distribution of Akeena's award-winning AC solar panels. Akeena Solar, the California-based parent company and its authorized dealers, including Lowe's Home Improvement stores, will have the exclusive rights to install Westinghouse Solar panels.

"Westinghouse-branded solar panels will begin shipping to customers in the U.S. and Canada later this summer. ..."

ASES National Solar Conference, booth #123.

Scotts Contracting, St Louis 'Renewable Energy' for Andalay/Akeena/ Westinghousesolar information. Akeena/Andalay Solar Panel Info> http://www.stlouisrenewableenergy.com/solar.html

-- Scotty, Scott's Contracting scottscontracting@gmail.com http://www.stlouisrenewableenergy.blogspot.com http://www.stlouisrenewableenergy.com scotty@stlouisrenewableenergy.com

“Our study develops a mathematical model to describe the designs it adopts and why, which could help direct design of future photoelectric devices.”

Purple is the New Green

by Marie Guma-Diaz, University of Miami
Published: May 17, 2010

Purple bacteria were among the first life forms on Earth. They are single celled microscopic organisms that play a vital role in sustaining the tree of life. This tiny organism lives in aquatic environments like the bottom of lakes and the colorful corals under the sea, using sunlight as their source of energy. Its natural design seems the best structural solution for harvesting solar energy. Neil Johnson, a physicist and head of the inter-disciplinary research group in complexity in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami, thinks its cellular arrangement could be adapted for use in solar panels and other energy conversion devices to offer a more efficient way to garner energy from the sun.

According to the study, purple bacteria adapt to different light intensities by changing the arrangement of the light harvesting mechanism, but not in the way one would think by intuition.

"These bacteria have been around for billions of years, you would think they are really simple organisms and that everything is understood about them. However, purple bacteria were recently found to adopt different cell designs depending on light intensity," says Johnson. "Our study develops a mathematical model to describe the designs it adopts and why, which could help direct design of future photoelectric devices."

Johnson and his collaborators from the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia share their findings in a study entitled "Light-harvesting in bacteria exploits a critical interplay between transport and trapping dynamics," published in the current edition of Physical Review Letters.

Solar energy arrives at the cell in "drops" of light called photons, which are captured by the light-gathering mechanism of bacteria present within a special structure called the photosynthetic membrane. Inside this membrane, light energy is converted into chemical energy to power all the functions of the cell. The photosynthetic apparatus has two light harvesting complexes. The first captures the photons and funnels them to the second, called the reaction center (RC), where the solar energy is converted to chemical energy. When the light reaches the RCs, they close for the time it takes the energy to be converted.

According to the study, purple bacteria adapt to different light intensities by changing the arrangement of the light harvesting mechanism, but not in the way one would think by intuition.

"One might assume that the more light the cell receives, the more open reaction centers it has," says Johnson. "However, that is not always the case, because with each new generation, purple bacteria create a design that balances the need to maximize the number of photons trapped and converted to chemical energy, and the need to protect the cell from an oversupply of energy that could damage it."

To explain this phenomenon, Johnson uses an analogy comparing it to what happens in a typical supermarket, where the shoppers represent the photons, and the cashiers represent the reaction centers.

"Imagine a really busy day at the supermarket, if the reaction center is busy it's like the cashier is busy, somebody is doing the bagging," Johnson says. "The shopper wonders around to find an open checkout and some of the shoppers may get fed up and leave…The bacteria are like a very responsible supermarket," he says. "They would rather lose some shoppers than have congestion on the way out, but it is still getting enough profit for it to survive."

The study develops the first analytical model that explains this observation and predicts the "critical light intensity," below which the cell enhances the creation of RCs. That is the point of highest efficiency for the cell, because it contains the greatest number and best location of opened RCs, and the least amount of energy loss.

Because these bacteria grow and repair themselves, the researchers hope this discovery can contribute to the work of scientists attempting to coat electronic devices with especially adapted photosynthetic bacteria, whose energy output could become part of the conventional electrical circuit, and guide the development of solar panels that can adapt to different light intensities.

Currently, the researchers are using their mathematical model and the help of supercomputers, to try to find a photosynthetic design even better than the one they found in purple bacteria, although outsmarting nature is proving to be a difficult task.

Marie Guma-Diaz is a science writer for The University of Miami.

Scott's Contracting, St Louis Renewable Energy
or scotty@stlouisrenewableenergy.com

Oil Production Peak Much Sooner Than Expected

Oil Production Peak Much Sooner Than Expected 

May 14, 2010
by Craig Severance

A storm is quickly approaching, and the world is not ready for it.

The permanent end of the era of cheap oil is coming as soon as next year, according to a raft of official reports that have made their way into energy media over the last few months.  Governments are now beginning to acknowledge the looming crisis. Yet, perhaps because they waited too long to prevent it, leaders are not yet alerting the public.

The entire world economy is built on cheap oil,  A permanent oil production shortage will thus lead to The End of The World (As We Know It).  What will come on the other side of this -- will it be good or bad? 

Public Unaware.  Except for a few stories in financial pages such as London's Financial Times, this earth-shaking news has yet to reach the Mainstream Media.  While "Peak Oil" researchers have long warned of approaching oil shortages, the difference now is these dire warnings are being validated by the highest government and oil company officials.  Yet, no political leader has had the courage to make a major announcement to prepare the public for what lies ahead.

This public blindness is tantamount to the isolationism that gripped the U.S. in the years preceding WWII.  While the highest government leaders did their best to prepare for inevitable war, they were hamstrung by the resistance of a public unable to accept what really lay ahead.  Similar to today, some politicians advanced their own careers by feeding on the public's desire to believe no coming storm could ever reach them.  Yet, the storm came anyway. 

The Limits of Oil.   The looming crisis we now face is often referred to as "Peak Oil" -- a status where global oil production will reach a plateau, then begin its irreversible decline.  

Oil fields follow a production curve where output increases at first, then reaches a plateau or "peak", after which a steep decline occurs.   Because existing oil fields decline, oil companies must continually develop major new finds just to maintain existing production.  If these new projects do not exceed the decline of existing fields, it becomes impossible to maintain oil production, let alone grow oil output to fuel economic growth. 

The problem in recent years is that new oil finds have been smaller, deeper, and in more difficult to reach places.  Cheap oil prices simply won't support the investment needed to develop them, so oil companies have not invested heavily enough to keep up with demand.  Lester Brown of Worldwatch Institute notes that major oil companies, awash in cash, have instead spent billions buying up their own stock, aware their existing reserves will soon increase greatly in value.

Did Global Oil Production Permanently Peak in 2008?  Until 2008, world energy forecasters had always assumed global oil production would keep up with economic growth.  According to classic economic theory, as world economies grew they would demand more oil, and oil companies would respond by investing in more exploration and development.  "Peak Oil" was considered decades away.

Beginning around 2005, however, world oil production began to hit a brick wall, and by 2008 global oil demand actually exceeded supply.  With only a 2% shortfall of supply compared to demand, oil spiked to $147/barrel, and U.S. gasoline prices soared to over $4/gallon.

That same year, the International Energy Agency for the first time published a "bottom-up" oil analysis, evaluating each of the world's major oil fields to see if production actually could continue to increase.

After looking at the oil field data, the IEA revised its forecasts of future oil production downward, yet still took a very optimistic official view, by using rosy projections of as-yet-undiscovered oil fields.

Independent researchers, however, using IEA's same "bottom-up" data, have now stated the IEA was wildly optimistic.  The Global Energy Systems Group has concluded the world actually reached Peak Oil in 2008, and global oil production will now begin to decline.   Investment alone cannot fix the problem as the decline rates of existing fields are accelerating.
Significantly, though IEA's official forecasts remained rosy, IEA's Chief Economist Dr. Fatih Birol began urgently telling anyone who would listen the era of cheap oil is over, and "we have to leave oil before oil leaves us".  If we do not "leave oil" behind us fast enough, economic growth may be choked off as oil prices rise to unaffordable levels. 

From "Tin Hat" Theory to "Crikey!"  In the last few months, there has been a sea change in attitudes about global oil supply among top officials.  The UK government, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Joint Forces Command, among others, have begun to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation.

On March 25th, the French publication LeMonde reported on a semi-private U.S. Department of Energy Roundtable held in April 2009, where top U.S. DOE energy analyst Glen Sweetnam presented the graph below summarizing prospects for world liquid fuel production vs. demand:

The chart includes all known sources of supply, including undeveloped projects and "unconventional" sources such as tar sands.  It politely labels the expected gap as "unidentified projects". The gap occurs very soon (beginning in 2011) and is very large -- roughly 10 million barrels/day by 2016.  To put this in perspective, 10 mbd is roughly equivalent to the entire output of Saudi Arabia, and is well over 10% of total world demand. (Recall $147/barrel in 2008 occurred with only a 2% shortfall.) 

DOE still avoids any use of the words "Peak Oil", instead talking of an "undulating plateau" of oil prices & production.  Shortages will lead to higher prices and more investment, spurring more production and lower prices.  However, oil price volatility discourages new investment, so production plateaus.  Richard Heinberg of Post Carbon Institute asks "What's the difference?"  in  "Quacks Like a Duck...".

Whatever you call it, there is now a growing official consensus the world faces serious oil supply shortages beginning in the 2011-2015 time frame and continuing.  Rick Monroe of the staff of Energy Bulletin has provided links to the growing list of official warnings here.  

Peak oil analyst Jeremy Leggett, who participated in a closed-door UK government summit on oil supply March 22, summarized the recent awakening of official realization: "Government has gone from the BP position – ‘40 years of supply left, the price mechanism works, no need to worry’ – to ‘crikey’."

The End of "As We Know It".  The coming oil descent can be seen as both a crisis and an opportunity.    

The end of cheap oil will be the end of living life "As We Know It".  Those who try to continue doing things in the old ways that depend on cheap oil will experience severe hardships.   

Yet, there will be opportunities.  Those who prepare now will be better able to weather the storm, to see the rainbow on the other side.

The End of...Gas Guzzlers
To win WWII, Americans had to give up buying new cars, as auto factories were converted to weapons production.  The opposite will now be true -- we will need to buy different vehicles that use little or no gasoline or diesel.    

Think back to 2008.  When gas prices hit $4/gallon, families with gas guzzlers suddenly found they were paying $400/month for fuel.  Prices for very nice SUV's and heavy trucks plummeted -- you couldn't give them away.  Meanwhile, buyers lined up to buy hybrids.  The time to unload your gas guzzlers and buy something else is now. 

The End of...Cheap Food?
I love my big burgers, but this too may come to an end if corn-fed beef gets too pricey.  To replace a paltry 6% of U.S. gasoline, we already feed 1/3 of the entire U.S. corn crop to the corn ethanol industry, with impacts worldwide on crop prices, conversion of rain forest to cropland, and ocean dead zones from fertilizers. Ethanol corn use is projected to increase to 1/2 of the entire U.S. corn crop by 2015 under Congressional mandates. 

If you actually had to raid your refrigerator to fuel your car, you would see the obscenity of feeding food to machines. Yet this is exactly what we are doing.  One of the worst decisions ever made was to build the infrastructure to convert food crops to fuel, because we have now directly tied the price of food to the price of fuel.  As oil prices rise so will the price of food.

Even if we were not directly feeding our food supply to our machines, our very production of food is heavily dependent on petroleum. There may be hope -- a study just released by Iowa State University shows farmers could be just as productive using half their present fuel use. Yet, lower fuel use depends on crop-rotation away from fuel-intensive corn, a move unlikely to happen if corn prices are tied to skyrocketing oil prices. 

It is unlikely Congress will find the sanity to eliminate taxpayer subsidies of ethanol.  Therefore, a switch away from gasoline to electric vehicles may be the only way to keep food prices affordable.  

My big burger days may soon end -- but at least my waistline could be better for it.  Those whose waistlines are already too thin -- the billions of hungry people in the world -- will feel the impact of higher grain prices much more.  In 2008, food price riots broke out worldwide the last time oil prices skyrocketed.  We must stop feeding food to cars. 
The End of...Globalization?
Higher oil prices mean the world is about to get a lot smaller, as the cost of transporting goods halfway around the world will no longer be cheap.  Jeff Rubin, former chief economist at CIBC World Markets, argues  "a lot of long-lost jobs are going to be coming home".  

Rubin has written a book Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization.  He notes that already in 2008 high oil prices began to make U.S. steel and furniture producers competitive again.  Rubin expects China's economic growth to be fueled more by growth in their own consumption. 

Walmart may once again carry products labeled "Made in USA". 

The End of...Pristine Wilderness?

Millions of us are now viewing once again the movie Avatar  -- James Cameron's wonderously beautiful tale of a pristine world.  This time, however, we are not magically transported to Pandora in a theater by the magic of 3D.  Instead, we may notice ourselves driving a small DVD home from the store in a 3,000 lb. vehicle, to view it on our big-screen TV.  

If we truly look at ourselves, we will see that we are the voracious society in search of our own "unobtanium ".  Our unobtanium is oil, and shouts of  "Drill, Baby, Drill!" have shown there are those among us who are willing to do anything, and destroy anything, to acquire it. 

As oil becomes scarce and prices skyrocket, these shouts will grow louder, coupled with skapegoating tactics to lay blame for the oil crisis at the feet of those who wish to preserve our most precious natural areas.   

There will once again be pressures to open to drilling Alaska's pristine wilderness, the Arctic National WIldlife Refuge.  If this is done, it will not solve the crisis, as EIA projected ANWR would likely reduce oil prices only 30-50 cents per barrel (about a penny per gallon of gasoline).  Yet, hunters take note, a wildlife area critical to scores of species of North American migratory birds would be violated. 

Despite the British Petroleum oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, expanded offshore oil development in all U.S. coastal waters will likely be approved.   Whether another Deepwater Horizon event occurs may be determined by whom we elect -- those most beholden to the oil companies, or those willing to strictly regulate them.

Canada has already begun the rape of its northern forests to exploit tar sands, the surface mining of which results in a landscape of complete devastation.  Similarly, there will be calls to utterly devastate the forests and water resources of Western Colorado to exploit oil shales. 

Only a move away from oil as quickly as possible can save these pristine areas from the destructive forces of a desperate society

We Can Do It.  Though Americans resisted the recognition that WWII was coming, once it came they rose valiantly to the call to action. A similar can-do spirit is needed now for the transition to a post-oil world.  

This crisis is coming soon.  It is too late to prevent it, so we simply need to get used to it.  Peak Oil is happening.

We will need to adapt -- but we can do that. 

We must repeat this to ourselves, as we face the challenging times ahead:

It's The End of the World (As We Know It) --  and I feel fine.

Scott's Contracting GREEN BUILDER, St Louis "Renewable Energy" Missouri.http://www.stlouisrenewableenergy.com, contact scotty@stlouisrenewableenergy.com for additional information


St Louis Ameren UE Renewable Energy Info

Ameren UE Solar Renewable Energy Rebate Application and Rate Information. If needed information for Solar Panels, Inverters, Total Wattage, etc. email Scotty
AmerenUE's renewable energy initiatives

Leading the way to a secure energy future

Renewable energy is electric energy produced from sources that replenish themselves naturally, never run out, and are cleaner for the environment. These resources include:


Sunlight (solar energy)

Landfill and agricultural waste (biomass)

Water (some low-impact and run-of-river hydroelectric facilities)

As a responsible steward of the environment, Ameren is committed to exploring all of these renewable energy options. In fact, the company already has a number of renewable initiatives under way—see Facts about AmerenUE’s Commitment to Develop Renewable Energy Resources brochure. Other renewable initiatives include:

Pure Power

UE responded to the desires of its customers by offering a voluntary renewable energy program—Pure Power—this program empowers UE electric customers to support wind farms and other renewable energy facilities in the Midwest as well as contribute to regional development. See how the Pure Power program works at www.ameren.com/PurePower.

Participation in this program does not constitute the purchase of energy. Renewable energy credits which represent the environmental attributes associated with past renewable energy generation are retired on behalf of program participants. All renewable energy credits purchased under this program are Green-e certified by the independent Center for Resource Solutions.

Utility Scale Wind-Powered Electric Generation

Working with wind developers who seek partners to develop utility scale wind-powered electric generation (20 MW and larger) for our portfolio. See the latest news regarding our portfolio.

Methane to Megawatts Project

An agreement between AmerenUE and Fred Weber, Inc. includes plans to install combustion turbines capable of generating about 15 megawatts (MW) of electricity by burning methane gas at Fred Weber’s solid waste landfill in Maryland Heights, Missouri. See the latest news on the Methane to Megawatts project.

Solar Home

UE funded a project at the University of Missouri-Rolla to develop a solar home for entry in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Home Competition.

Missouri Schools Going Solar

Supported Missouri Schools Going Solar, a program in conjunction with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources that provided solar panels to schools.


AmerenUE-Funded ‘Missouri Schools Going Solar’ Program Unveils First Solar Array Panel


Missouri Schools Going Solar

Renewable Generating Opportunities

UE continues to pursue renewable generating opportunities, such as wind, solar, landfill gas, agricultural methane, hydro and other alternative energy sources to generate electricity. See details in our 20-year Integrated Resource Plan.

Clean Energy Message

UE has taken its clean energy message to school children (K-6th grade) at more than 350 Missouri schools, through the National Theatre for Children’s live production of “Boomerang Jack and the Unseen Green Machine.” More about the National Theatre for Children.

Net Metering

UE offers net metering. For net metering tariff details and required application (Sheet 13 includes the necessary documents for filing), see our Rates section.

Missouri's Proposition C

UE will comply with Missouri’s Proposition C, which passed on the Nov. 2008 ballot. The Public Service Commission in conjunction with the Department of Natural Resources began rulemaking for Proposition C in 2009; however, final rules have not been published to date. Primary effective date is January 1, 2011. For details on Proposition C, see the Missouri Secretary of State site. View the Missouri Solar Rebate Tariff information or access the Missouri Solar Rebate Application.

Hybrid Bucket Truck

We are one of the first utilities in the nation to place in service a hybrid bucket truck that uses both diesel fuel and electricity. See the Fact Sheet.

For more information about renewable energy at UE, contact our Renewables group at 314.554.2649 or lcosgrove@ameren.com.

Deck and Patio Maintenance Continued

Deck Safety & Maintenance Continued Contact:   Scotty to schedule free estimate for your Deck and Patio Maintenance and Building Needs
  • Loose or Corroded Fasteners

1. Tighten any loose fasteners (nails, screws, or anchors) and pound in any nails that have popped up.

2. Rusted or corroded fasteners need to be replaced because they can cause the surrounding wood to deteriorate.

3. The deck and stairs should appear even and should not sag, sway, or move when tested.

  • Finish

1. Clean away leaves and debris that can be slippery and promote mildew.

2. If mildew is present, or the deck coating has worn away, clean and apply a new waterproofing coating (which will help prevent split or decayed wood and loosened fasteners).

  • Grills, Fire Pits, and Chimineas

1. Make sure any source of fire is placed far away from flammable surfaces. (Or protect the deck surface with a nonflammable pad.)

2. Follow manufacturers' directions for using heaters.

3. Never leave candles unattended.

  • Lighting and Electrical

1. Make sure all lighting fixtures work.

2. Clean light covers to allow maximum light to shine through.

3. Trim any plants or tree limbs that may block light. Make sure all electrical outlets, appliances, and other features are up to code, in good condition, and childproof if children will be present.

4. Make sure electrical cords do not present a tripping hazard.

Article Continues>  click here .  To View the Entire Green Build Stair Case Photos> click here

Scotty with Scotts Contracting is available for all your Green Building Needs. 


Deck and Patio Maintenance

Deck Safety Checklist

Follow the National American Deck & Railing Association's 10-point checklist to keep your deck safe and relaxing.

  • Railings and Banisters
1. Push on railings and banisters to make sure they're secure.
2. Check to make sure they're high enough to keep people safe (most codes require a 36-inch-high railing at minimum).
3. Rails should be no more than 4 inches apart (measured from the inside of the rail) to keep small children and pets from squeezing through. This is especially important if your deck is elevated.
  • Stairs

1. Check railings or handrails to make sure they are firmly in place.
2. Check the risers and stringers, the sides of the stairs that hold up the steps, to be certain they are securely attached.
3. If guardrails are used in the staircase, make sure they are no more than 4 inches apart.
4. If the area behind the stair treads is open, the opening should be no more than 4 inches high.
5. Keep stair pathways clear of planters, decor, and other items that present a tripping hazard.

  • Split or Decaying Wood

Rot is wood's worst enemy, so check several different areas of the deck to be sure the wood is still sound. This includes the ledger board (where the deck attaches to the house), support posts, joists underneath the deck, deck boards, railings, and stairs.
1. Use a tool such as an ice pick or screwdriver to penetrate the wood. If you can easily push 1/4 to 1/2 inch into the lumber, break off a sliver of wood without splinters, or discover that the wood is soft and spongy; your deck might be decaying. (Solid wood will resist the tool.) Small holes in the wood may indicate insects.
2. Replace the damaged wood to maintain strength and integrity.

Green Build Stair Case Remodel by Scott's Contracting

Scotty is available for Free Estimate, Design Consultation, Weatherization Services, and General Handyman Service for your Home and Small Business needs.

Scott's Contracting

Ethanol and the Gulf Spill

By Geoff Styles - Info Provided by: scotty,Scotts Contracting, Green Builder St Louis 'Renewable Energy' Missouri

The implications for the oil industry from the ongoing Gulf of Mexico oil spill are already taking shape, with the administration calling for a Challenger-style investigation and rewriting the playbook for oil & gas leasing and the issuance of safety and environmental permits for offshore drilling. It's less clear how the spill might affect other aspects of energy, beyond boosting the public's interest in pursuing clean energy options. However, it would be ironic if a problem perceived to have arisen because of a "cozy relationship" between oil companies and regulators resulted in an even cozier relationship between the government and the ethanol industry that depends on it for both financial support and the rules that mandate the use of its product. Yet that's exactly what could happen as the administration decides whether to increase the allowable percentage of ethanol in gasoline. read more:

Provided by:Scott's Contracting GREEN BUILDER, St Louis "Renewable Energy" Missouri.http://www.stlouisrenewableenergy.com, contact scotty@stlouisrenewableenergy.com for additional information

Retrofitting Your Home for Passive Solar: Adding Thermal Mass

In previous blogs in this series, I’ve been describing one way to solarize your home: by adding passive solar. The strategy I’ve been describing requires installation of windows on the south-facing walls of your home or business to allow the low-angled winter sun to enter, warming your home in the winter.

Sunroom If you end up dramatically increasing the amount of south-facing glass, however, you may need to add thermal mass inside your home or business. Thermal mass is any material that can absorb solar energy during the day and release it at night and on cold days. It serves as a heat sponge that prevents overheating. It helps maintain a more constant internal temperature. Tile, brick, concrete block, adobe blocks and concrete floors are good examples of thermal mass.

Thermal mass is easiest to install in new construction, and much more challenging to install in retrofits. Tiling floor or adding brick facing to nearby walls may help.

For best results, the thermal mass must be in direct contact with the sun. Adding a second layer of drywall to existing walls in direct contact with the incoming solar radiation works well, too. Mass should be a darker color to increase absorption of sunlight.

One note of caution in all of this: for best results, the south-facing windows you install should be shaded by eaves (overhang) to prevent heat gain in the cooling season. You may need to build eaves over these windows if there is no overhang on the south side of the building, or install retractable awnings that can be employed in the summer to prevent overheating.

Adding new windows is relatively inexpensive, though not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. It will help improve the energy performance and comfort of your home, if done correctly, and will increase the amount of daylighting. This, in turn, could reduce electrical costs by reducing the amount of artificial lighting.

Scott's Contracting GREEN BUILDER, St Louis "Renewable Energy" Missouri.http://www.stlouisrenewableenergy.com, contact scotty@stlouisrenewableenergy.com for additional information

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