Birdwatching at the Reservoir

Ending a bird walk. Ending a bird walk.
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Clean Energy Subsidies and the Presidential Debate

In last night’s Presidential debate, Governor Mitt Romney stated Clean Energy subsidies in Obama’s 2009 Recovery Act were $90 Billion in one year, while Oil and Gas subsidies are only $2.9 Billion per year.  He also stated that half the companies subsidized failed.  President Obama didn’t give a response, but I will. First off, the $90 Billion was not all handed out in one year, it’s a program that lasts over a number of years. Second, Clean Energy is a new industry, and should enjoy assistance until economies of scale can kick in.  The Fossil Fuel industry started at the beginning of the 20th century, and matured during World War II.  Here’s a quote from an excellent article on this topic:

...between 1918 and 2009, the oil and gas industry received a cumulative $446.96 billion in subsidies compared to just $5.93 billion given to renewables in the years between 1994 and 2009. Meanwhile, the nuclear industry benefitted from a cumulative $185.38 billion in federal subsidies between 1947 and 1999.

The analysis this article refers to doesn’t include the $90 Billion in the Recovery Act, but even adding that in, you can see we have a long way to go to match the $446 billion oil and gas has enjoyed.

As for whether the government should be able to pick winners and losers, there is a tradeoff to be made here.  Our government can do nothing, and let entrenched industries strangle innovation (our policy from 1968 to 1992 with the exception of some Carter initiatives), or we can give a boost to an industry that shows promise of removing the damage to our health, our environment and our climate that the established energy sources do not.  Our representatives and our administration may do a bad analysis, as they did when they pushed for corn based fuel sources, but it doesn’t mean we should try to make a change for the better.

Also we need to consider that in a new industry, there will be a lot of losers.  Experimentation and innovation invites the chance of failure.

In the Gas industry, companies spent billions in the past 10 years, some of it our tax dollars, building import terminals to take compressed natural gas off ships and put into pipelines across the country.  Now, thanks to the expanded use of hydraulic fracking, those facilities are useless, unless they spend billions more converting them to export the excess natural gas we are now pumping out of the ground (Plenty more can be said about hydraulic fracking, check out

In the Solar industry, we have Solyndra, which bet that the price of polysilicon would remain high and was wrong and didn’t have a fall back plan.  Our tax dollars gave them a start, and when they asked for more two years later, we said no.  How is that a failure of our subsidization process?

So when someone tells you the Clean Energy subsidies are too expensive, remind them that subsidies for the Coal, Oil, Gas, and Nuclear were all much higher in their first 40 years.  Remind them that the decision to use these resources ignored the environmental, and thus economic damage that ensued.  Remind them that jobs that capture a renewable resource will never go away.

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Exciting Development For Community Solar

Our colleagues over at Ecocentric Blog have been doing a fabulous job of educating folks on the FOOD, ENERGY and WATER nexus which is a huge contribution ! -  most of what I read these days is about a single system impact or opportunity and its really important that citizens understand the interconnectedness of these systems.  Ecocentric Blog also does significantly deep reporting on each of these topics so everyday folks can become really versed in how best to leverage different points in the system for the greatest impact.  Am excited to share this post with you as is particularly close home - right on Long Island.    Jersey City needs to commission a similar study.  Is anyone looking at city-wide renewable energy opportunities for Jersey City ?? New Study Finds Long Island Can Meet 100% of its Electricity Needs through Renewables

A new coalition of clean energy advocates believes Long Island can power its future solely through renewables and energy efficiency by 2030.




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DIY Extended Tree Pit

How much water do young street trees need? More water than their standard tree pits can soak up during a rain storm. Building manager Cheryl Russo was tired of watering the young trees out front, and noticed that when it rained, large amounts of rainwater traveled unused down the sidewalk and into the street gutter. This gave her a brilliant idea - make the tree pits bigger to capture more water! Genius - let nature do the work.

The "Tree Rain Garden Project" is at 2 Union Street in the Bergen Lafayette neighborhood of Jersey City. With a consultation from friend Steven Latham, Cheryl was able to capture  rainwater for the well-being of the property's street trees and other plantings, while also creating a more attractive property border. That is three benefits in one simple project - self watering trees, more beautiful site, and less stormwater going into the city's sewers. See the slideshow below for step by step walk through of the installation of the extended tree pit.

2 Union Building Tree Rain Garden Project

Now if only more property owners would let alone take care of their trees, but help capture stormwater before it enters the city's combined sewer system. On a large scale, it would reduce flooding and sewer overflows into the surrounding rivers. Thanks for setting an example Cheryl and Steven!

If you would like to contact Cheryl or Steven for more information about their project, please email them at cherylvision[at]aol[dot]com  or  stevlath[at]gmail[dot]com.


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SJC Green Drinks + ART - Special RAIN GARDEN Celebration

the amazing mosaic work of Monique Sarfity, which incorporates repurposed materials like glass bottles and scrabble pieces the amazing mosaic work of Monique Sarfity, which incorporates repurposed materials like glass bottles and scrabble pieces
the amazing mosaic work incorporating old Scrabble tiles the amazing mosaic work incorporating old Scrabble tiles
mid-raindance performance mid-raindance performance
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