5/31/2012

Fracking “FRESH” Act Stinks of Dirty Money


Fracking “FRESH” Act Stinks of Dirty Money

The oil & gas industry has once again bought favor from Congress.
The Fracturing Regulations are Effective in State Hands (FRESH) Act will remove the federal government’s authority to regulate the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Introduced in the Senate in March 2012 by Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and in the House by Representative Louis Gohmert (R-TX), the measure will place control of fracking on both state and federal lands in the hands of states. To date, nine Senators andtwenty-six members of the House of Representatives have co-signed their respective versions of the measure.
Co-Signers of the Act in both the House and the Senate have taken almost 4x as much money from the oil & gas industry than the average sitting member of Congress, analysis using the Dirty Energy Money database shows.
The average co-signer has taken over $433,000 during their tenure in federal office, while the average member of Congress has taken just under $112,000.
Co-Signers have taken over twice as much money from the industry – an average of $37,000 – in this 112th Congress as the average member of Congress, who’s taken $17,000.
Let’s pause for one second and recognize that it’s a problem that even those who have not supported the FRESH Act are taking money from the industry. Our decision makers should be listening to their constituents, not special interests.
Back to the issue at hand. Why is this a problem? Fracking is a hugely controversial practice that directly impacts the lives and health of local communities. Putting the power to regulate the industry solely in the hands of states is irresponsible. Here’s why:
  • States certainly have an important role to play in regulating fracking, as do local communities. However this industry is booming, and state regulatory efforts are not growing fast enough to stay apace. Colorado has drilled over 43,000 wells in the last ten years; Ohio has issued 126 new drilling permits for the Utica Shale in the first 5 months of 2012 alone. The rush to drill leaves many local inspectors scrambling to keep up. A recent study by Earthworks highlights the inadequacy of Colorado’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, for example, a state-level mechanism in one of the hottest fracking zones in the country.
  • More broadly, we cannot ignore the critical importance of federal regulation of common goods like air and water. Air and water cross state lines and therefore require federal oversight. Someone living in West Virginia deserves just as much protection as someone living in Wyoming.
  • If the industry thought States would do more to protect citizens and hold industry to account, they would not be pushing for this change. Removing federal oversight means less regulation, more pollution.
The FRESH Act helps one group only: the industry. We must continue to demand that our decision makers listen to the interests of their communities, rather than the special interests funding their election campaigns.
Lauren Pagel of Earthworks contributed to this post. 


Fracking “FRESH” Act Stinks of Dirty Money



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Sharp achieves solar cell efficiency record of 43.5%

Sharp Corp. announced it has achieved the world's highest solar cell conversion efficiency of 43.5 per cent using a concentrator triple-junction compound solar cell.
Sharp said the basic structure of this latest triple-junction compound solar cell uses the company's technology that enables efficient stacking of the threephoto-absorption layers, with InGaAs (indium gallium arsenide) as the bottom layer.
These solar cells are used in a lens-based concentrator system that focuses sunlight on the cells to generate electricity.
Sharp successfully capitalized on the ability of this cell to efficiently convert sunlight collected via three photo-absorption layers into electricity, and also optimised the spacing between electrodes on the surface of the concentrator cell and minimised the cell's electrical resistance, the company said.
The measurement of the world's highest concentrating conversion efficiency (43.5 per cent) was confirmed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Germany.
Compound solar cells have been used primarily on space satellites due to their high conversion efficiency. However, the company aims to apply this latest development success into concentrator photovoltaic power systems that can generate electricity using small-surface-area solar cells and make them practical for terrestrial use.Sharp achieves solar cell efficiency record of 43.5%

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Great News for Windows with R30+Attributes


Light 12-Glazed Window on the Horizon

In the USA, most windows are probably single- or double-glazed and some builders will use triple-glazed windows for Passive House and other high-performance homes.  But in Hanover, Germany, a 12-glazed window prototype by Mariusz Paszkowski and Antoni Kostka was the star of the recent International Passive House Conference, according toDer Standard.  Check out these windows with aerogel!
The two scientists, in conjunction with SUPERWINDOWS, showcased INVIS160stackand INVIS160tweed, and both of the prototypes are about 160 mm thick, though they weigh no more than a double- or triple-glazed window unit.
INVIS160stack (above) is an insulated glass unit with two external glass panes that sandwich 10 layers of specially coated film without materially compromising visibility.  The inventive window makes it possible to achieve European U-values of 0.15 W/m2K, or the U.S. equivalent of R38 (R = 1/(.15/5.678)).
INVIS160tweed (below) is similar to INVIS160stack except that what’s sandwiched between two glass panes is several layers or sheets inclined at a 45-degree angle (as opposed to parallel to the external panes).  This approach makes it possible to achieve European U-values of 0.05 W/m2K, or the U.S. equivalent of R113 (R = 1/(.05/5.678)).
Of course, there’s a lot of work and investment to be done before these are suitable for commercial production, so there’s no pricing or availability yet.  But watch this space for window innovation.
Credits: SUPERWINDOWS.
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Light 12-Glazed Window on the Horizon




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Infographic: Home gardening in the U.S. | MNN - Mother Nature Network

As more and more Americans grow their own fruits and vegetables, MNN digs up some dirt on this DIY food revolution.

Infographic: Home gardening in the U.S. | MNN - Mother Nature Network





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How Much and Where From-Dirty-OIL

How much petroleum does the United States import and from where?

The U.S. imported approximately 11.4 million barrels per day of petroleum in 2011 from about 80 countries. This accounted for 45% of the petroleum consumed in the United States, the lowest annual average since 1995.

"Petroleum" includes crude oil and refined petroleum products like gasoline and biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. In 2011, about 79% of gross petroleum imports were crude oil, and about 60% of the crude oil processed in U.S. refineries was imported.

The top five source countries of U.S. petroleum imports in 2011, were Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Nigeria. Their respective rankings vary depending on whether you consider total/gross petroleum imports or net petroleum imports (gross imports minus exports).  Net imports from OPEC countries accounted for 52% of U.S. net imports.

 

Top Sources of Imported Petroleum to the United States in 2011 In Million Barrels per Day (and Percent Share of Total Imports)
Import Sources Gross Imports Exports to Import Source Net Imports
Total, All Countries 11.360 2.924 8.436
OPEC Countries 4.534 (40%) 0.126 4.408 (52%)
Persian Gulf Countries 1.862 (16%) 0.019 1.843 (22%)
Top Five Countries
Canada 2.706 (24%) 0.295 2.411 (29%)
Mexico 1.205 (11%) 0.569 0.636 (8%)
Saudi Arabia 1.195  (11%) 0.002 1.193 (14%)
Venezuela 0.944  (8%) 0.032 0.912  (11%)
Nigeria 0.817 (7%) 0.015 0.802 (10%)
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An Easier Way to Design Floating Stairs - Products, Molding Millwork And Trim, Walls And Ceilings - Builder Magazine

Stair Ways

Architect Jonathan Feldman knows the trick for creating floating stairs at a fraction of the cost.

 
  • Image

    Credit: Paul Dyer Photography

Credit: Paul Dyer Photography

  • Image

    Credit: Paul Dyer Photography

Credit: Paul Dyer Photography

 

Staircases have often added a dramatic touch to a house, but in recent years architects and designers have discovered that there is also a practical and very important use for the contemporary floating version.

"[Floating stairs] can be very dramatic," says architect Jonathan Feldman, principal of San Francisco–based Feldman Architecture. But because they float, he adds, "Light can filter through them. It's one of the great architectural opportunities in a building."

The problem for some builders, however, is that floating stairs are not easy to execute. "They require real skill, they need good structural support, and because of the codes, they usually require tight tolerances," says Feldman, who often designs his homes with this type of staircase. "[They are] often a challenge for builders and contractors and usually expensive for homeowners."

But the quasi-floating stair Feldman designed for this 1860s house in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood is an exception to the rule. Instead of the typical structural support for a floating staircase, Feldman specified standard 2x4 and 2x6 stud framing, which was covered in traditional drywall.

The architect then put in place 3-inch-thick oak treads, screwing them into the framing below and cantilevering them over the structural support. "The treads were thicker than they needed to be," the architect says.

Not as visually heavy as a traditional treatment, the completed staircase permits light to filter down to the living areas on the first level. Plus, Feldman detailed the installation with 12½-inch-by-24-inch slate wall panels that snap into place with adhesive. But the best part of the whole process is that Feldman's staircase design cost 75 percent less than a typical floating version.


http://soc.li/ipKV6xX

5/30/2012

Retrofit Turns Energy-Guzzling Home into Energy Producer - Green Building, Green Remodeling, Solar Power - EcoHome Magazine

Retrofit Turns Energy-Guzzling Home into Energy Producer

The extensive renovation achieved an 80% reduction in energy usage.


 

  • The new structure sits on the fieldstone and brick foundation of the old one. Designer Andrew Webster speced generous glazing on the south and east sides of the house for optimum solar heating and light.
    The new structure sits on the fieldstone and brick foundation of the old one. Designer Andrew Webster speced generous glazing on the south and east sides of the house for optimum solar heating and light.
The new structure sits on the fieldstone and brick foundation of the old one. Designer Andrew Webster speced generous glazing on the south and east sides of the house for optimum solar heating and light.
Why build a new house when you can renovate an existing one, saving resources and materials while enhancing the old home's performance with highly efficient insulation, HVAC equipment, air sealing, and windows?

That's what Sara and Gareth Ross were thinking when they purchased an 1880s two-story house in Amherst, Mass., complete with green and white asbestos shake siding over lead-painted clapboard and a brick veneer addition. The roof was falling, the chimneys needed rebuilding, and the walls were uninsulated.

Despite its lack of curb appeal, the home's location was attractive, within walking distance to the town center and to shops, schools, and the local farmers market. In addition, its southern orientation was ideal for passive solar heating during cold New England winters, and at 2,000 square feet (plus 900-square-foot unfinished attic) the house would provide ample space for the Ross' family of four.

Although it was sorely in need of a facelift inside and out, the couple decided against demolishing the home and instead undertook a major renovation that would exponentially increase the home's level of performance while opening up and modernizing the interior. They also chose to renovate the attic into a guest suite and office.

  • The first floor is open and light-filled, with understated finishes and simple materials such as Vermont slate and ash floors. The renovation cost about $150 a square foot, plus the $200,000 cost of the original house.
    The first floor is open and light-filled, with understated finishes and simple materials such as Vermont slate and ash floors. The renovation cost about $150 a square foot, plus the $200,000 cost of the original house.
The first floor is open and light-filled, with understated finishes and simple materials such as Vermont slate and ash floors. The renovation cost about $150 a square foot, plus the $200,000 cost of the original house.
The deep energy retrofit included a comprehensive insulation and air sealing package that provided an 80% reduction in energy usage compared with a traditionally built home of the same size. Project manager Andrew Webster of Amherst-based Coldham & Hartman Architects used a foam in/foam out approach that provided a high R-value with no loss of existing square footage and a robust air barrier. He filled interior cavities with Icynene open-cell foam and clad the exterior with Dow Tuff-R foil-faced foam.

Combined with an equally efficient roof assembly, Fibertec triple-glazed windows, and a low window/wall ratio, the airtight envelope provided whole-assembly R-values of 20 for the basement walls, 34 for exterior walls, and 57 for the roof. This reduced the estimated peak winter heat loss from more than 100,000 BTU/h to less than 30,000. The maximum cooling load was reduced from an estimated 6.8 tons to less than 1.5 tons, a more than 75% reduction in heating and cooling needs.

The old boiler, 40-plus-year-old furnace, and hot water tank were replaced with state-of-the-art high-efficiency equipment, including: 
--a Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) heating and cooling system from Mitsubishi Electric, which allowed the home's less frequently used guest suite and office to be zoned separately; 
--a Steibel Eltron heat pump hot water system; and 
--a Venmar EKO 1.5 HRV for mechanical ventilation.

RENEWABLE ENERGY
After researching federal and state incentives, the owners decided to implement one more technology that would push their project from energy efficient to energy producing: a 12.4 kW solar PV system from SunPower. Averaged over its first year of operation, the $70,000 grid-tied system produced one-third more energy than the home used. In the first six months of occupancy, the house earned $416 from the electric company in excess electricity.

Thanks to the extreme upgrades, the house qualified for a $32,000 Deep Energy Retrofit rebate from Western Massachusetts Electric and won the 2012 Northeast Sustainable Energy Association's Net Zero Challenge. It is also the eighth home in North America to meet the requirements of the1,000 Home Challenge, an initiative of Pennsylvania-based home performance education organization ACI.

The 1,000 Home Challenge aims to demonstrate how remodelers, designers, contractors, and homeowners can drastically upgrade existing houses in order to alter their environmental impact, says Linda Wigington, ACI's director of deep energy reduction initiatives. Homes in the Challenge must show energy usage for one year that meets a customized threshold of at least a 70% better than average. In projects such as the Ross home where previous energy use information is not available, the threshold is based on location, square footage, and occupancy.

"We're showing that we can be doing things in a way that's not a little bit better or better than average but significantly better," she says.

With its state-of-the-art facelift, the Ross home now performs better than most new houses, Webster points out. "This was a chance to demonstrate the strategies that could be used in all kinds of existing housing stock, to show that older homes aren't lost causes," he says.

Jennifer Goodman is Senior Editor for EcoHome.http://soc.li/uhpx42

Hurricane Season Forecast!



May 30th, 2012
2012 Hurricane Season Forecast

Will this season bring a big one? Find out!

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Farmers' Almanac NewsletterNEWSLETTER
PHILOSOFACT
Don't be so anxious to give your children what you didn't have that you neglect to give them what you did have.
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Create a Backyard Bird Oasis!
Nokero Solar Light Bulbs
Create a Backyard Bird Oasis!Building a birdfeeder is a fun and educational project for your whole family!
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Looking Up: A Stargazer's Guide to June 2012 Looking Up: A Stargazer's Guide to June 2012 A quick look at what's going on in the sky during the coming month.
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Healthy Comfort Cooking for Spring Healthy Comfort Cooking for Spring The taste of comfort food without the calories!
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Helpful Hint
Helpful Hint To remove fish odors from hands, wash them in one teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in one quart of water.
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Current Moon Phase
Waxing Gibbous Moon, 67% of Full Waxing Gibbous
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Today's Best Day Tasks

Bake, Cut Firewood, Mow to Increase Growth, Dig Holes, Wax Floors, Get Married, Buy Clothes, Entertain Friends, Host a Party

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Gardening Tasks

May 30th - May 31st
Excellent Time For Planting Corn, Beans, Peppers, And Other Aboveground Crops. Favorable For Sowing Hay, Fodder Crops, And Grains. Good For Planting Flowers.

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5/29/2012

The GOP is Threatening Your Job

The GOP is Threatening Your Job


The GOP is Threatening Your Job

If you have to sabotage the economy to win, your ideas suck

Of all the terrible lessons the Republicans have learned since 2009, the worst is: Economic sabotage works.
In 2009, the President’s immediate efforts to stimulate the economy and rescue the auto industry took us from losing 800,000 jobs a month to creating thousands. But, before the policies were even in place, the GOP called it a failure.
KNOW THIS: The Stimulus was the most successful economic effort since World War II. Yet the GOP was able to make it a bad word by employing Karl Rove tactics with Koch brothers money–carefully crafted talking points repeated endlessly.
The recovery was obvious. But it couldn’t move fast enough to undo eight years of Bush/Cheney so the public bought into this baldfaced lie. Plus the GOP won the House in 2010.
Then, last summer, the House GOP did something unprecedented in American history. During a jobs crisis they helped create and did nothing to end, the GOP decided that they would not approve an increase in the debt limit without trillions in deficit cuts. They added to the insanity by saying that they would not approve one dollar in tax increases, even on the richest Americans.
The result? The President and Congress’ approval ratings plummeted, as did consumer confidence—effectively sabotaging any recovery.
The GOP eventually backed away actual default with a complex debt deal that they now refuse to honor.
WHAT? They held the economy hostage for a deal they won’t keep? Why aren’t people in the streets?
The point was never the deal. Hurting the economy was. And the GOP has enough message discipline and sympathetic media to help them avoid the blame. They managed to act serious about the economy even as our credit rating was lowered entirely because they had created a question in the world’s mind about our willingness to pay debts.
As we moved on from this faked crisis, America began creating jobs. Layoffs hit four-year lows. The recovery was so evident, even Mitt Romney had to admit that it was happening. Suddenly, the idea of defeating President Obama seemed like a pipe dream until… May.
Jobs growth, while impressive, slowed a bit. Then an election in Greece sparked a financial crisis in Europe facing a Euro that could collapse.
Markets faltered and our recovery, which so promising weeks before, seemed lost.
Bad news for your economy is apparently good news for the GOP. How did they seek to calm the markets and offer the “certainty” they claim to worship?
Speaker Boehner decided that on May 15 he had to go public and promise another manufactured debt ceiling crisis. BAM.
That right there put Americans out of work. Maybe it cost people their actual jobs, or it just slowed a company from hiring. But homes will be lost, debt accrued, well-being shaken. The Speaker—to force another debt deal he likely can’t stick to—has increased the chances that thousands of Americans could be shaken out of work, into the streets, facing hunger, heartbreak and misery.
Remember this: We have a deficit that is almost entirely made up of policies the GOP passed and would hold the economy hostage again to keep. Simply: GOP policies—the Bush tax cuts, the wars, Medicare D—created the deficit. But the only things the GOP will cut are the social safety net that they’ve always opposed. And they won’t compromise, ever.
A small group of conservative extremists are using their representatives in Congress to threaten your livelihood. Unless America says, “The GOP’s irresponsible economic sabotage must stop,” the next job that it costs us may be yours.
[Chart via @JustinWolfers]



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