Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tapping Mother Earth (SFW)

Whaddaya know. I was just talking with a friend about geothermal heat. Seems his brother has a geothermal furnace and it's like an amp that goes to 11. He heats his home. He doesn't pay those 'taller than the guy from Midnight Oil' natural gas bills.

Then I saw a link to 'Geothermal energy a booming business (shameless plug).'

The story says alternative energy mandates and the promise of Obama (cue power chord) have increased interest in geothermal energy as a power source. Requests for drilling permits are way up.

This is technology that creates energy using heat stored in the Earth. Perhaps that devil guy from the Dio videos had the right idea (obscure reference alert).

I did a little digging (pun intended) and found something even better than the free heat mentioned earlier. The feds offer a $2,000 tax credit for installing a geothermal furnace in your home. Not bad. Of course, geothermal furnaces cost more upfront, but think of the potential such a furnace has for sparking conversation.

- Green Mullet.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Where I've been

I know I haven't been around for a while. My last post was Dec. 24. Aren't the holidays great? Relaxing in your pajamas? Having to work the Day After Christmas? Spending too much time playing video games?

Which brings me to my subject for today: Video games use up a lot of energy. The Natural Resources Defense Council recently conducted a study, along with some smart consultants, and found that the PS3 and the XBOX 360 use gobs of electricity. A post at Plenty mag says the consoles "gobble up electricity as fast as Ms. Pac-Man swallows pellets," a little dated reference if you ask me.

Anyway, the PS3 uses about $134 in electricity a year. Sounds like a refrigerator. The XBOX isn't much better, at $103 a year. The Wii, the most awesome of them all (gosh, my shoulder hurts), uses a mere $10 a year. Hell yes.

So if you get Guitar Hero, for the Wii, you could play something by an eco-conscious rocker and feel good about wasting time.

Also, if you follow the instructions on the NRDC Web site, you can enable the power-saving mode for the (wish you had a Wii) PS3 and XBOX and cut your carbon footprint.

- Green Mullet.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Michigan muck removal starts in 2010

Hopefully the days of Great Lakes goodness that I (and Kid Rock) remember are on their way back. 

The Michigan Legislature passed a couple of bills on Dec. 18 that will limit phosphorus in laundry and dishwashing detergents beginning July 1, 2010. 

This development went unnoticed by Mainstream Media, from what I can tell (thanks Google News). But the Michigan Policy Network has a rundown, with the requisite links, and the Michigan Environmental Council praised the legislation in a year-end wrap-up report. So I feel it. 

This is big news if you care about limiting phosphorus, a nutrient that's been blamed for nasty, stinky dead algae that's been fouling beaches and shoreline property for years in the Great Lakes state. 

Of course, simply cutting out this bit of phosphorus won't cure the problem (hello invasive species), but it will hopefully improve conditions, experts say. It also will lessen the strain on wastewater plants that have to remove phosphorus as part of the treatment process. Similar phosphorus limits will begin at the same time in 2010 in several other states, too.

The new Michigan standards, which actually should begin sooner, will cut phosphorus levels in detergents from a current 8.7 percent to 0.5 percent (a 17-fold decrease if my math is right). Local governments started this wave, by banning phosphorus in residential lawn fertilizers earlier this year. Hopefully that's next for Michigan. 

Have a muck-free holiday!

- Green Mullet

Monday, December 22, 2008

Manta Ray in U.S. waters

Back when Metallica was cool, before Lars and the gang cut their hair, their songs, sold out, got greedy and generally annoying, they released "... And Justice For All" . I bought it on cassette. The first song, "Battery." 

So it's with some nostalgia that I write about the latest twist in the U.S. auto industry spiral. Plenty Mag has a story today about U.S. battery makers forming an alliance to develop and produce batteries for the next generation of domestic automobiles. It's called the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Battery Cell Manufacture, or NAATBCM for short. That's catchy. 

The group aims to get U.S. batteries in U.S. cars. They want up to $2 billion in federal aid, but say a little upfront investment would help create jobs (remember those?). Other countries subsidize battery cell manufacture.

Argonne National Lab says: "Lithium ion batteries are anticipated to replace gasoline as the principal source of energy in future cars and military vehicles. Today, United States automobile manufacturers and defense contractors depend upon foreign suppliers — increasingly concentrated in Asia — for lithium ion battery cells."

Why not make them here? We used to make good metal here, too

- Green Mullet

P.S. The first time one of my friends heard "Battery," he thought the chorus was "Manta Ray." We all had a good laugh. "Manta Ray!"

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Chevy Volt: Made in China

Nah. I'm just kidding. The Volt will be built in Flint (ho ho ho). I'm talking about the first mass-produced plug-in hybrid car, which went on sale Monday ... in China

Soon, the new cars, from a company owned by Mr. Wang, may be available at Walmart (Kidding, but Warren Buffet owns about 10 percent of the company). 
The car that beat GM to the punch is made by Build Your Dream Autos, and called the F3DM. It gets 60 miles per charge. The (fictional?) Volt gets 40.

Toyota also is working on a plug-in hybrid, to be on lots by 2010. That's the same year (uh huh) as the Chevy Volt. 

Gosh, it sure is easy to pick on the Volt, huh? It's easy to pick on hybrids and electrics in general. Heck, I love to save money on gas. But I sure enjoyed driving my 4x4 SUV today, when it snowed almost a foot in Michigan. Can an electric/hybrid do that? If so, let's hope it's a domestic one. 

- Green Mullet. 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Musta got lost

This morning, I finished my Christmas shopping. Then I went to the store to pick up some refreshments for a Christmas party at the house tonight. On the way home, "Musta Got Lost" came up on the iPod. 

How prophetic it was. Because I just checked my 500+ unread RSS feeds and found this newflash: GM is halting construction of its Volt plant in Flint, Michigan. The Volt, the plug-in electric car. The supposed saving grace for the dying automaker. The next great hope from Detroit. Halted. 

Musta got lost. The automakers didn't get any of the loans they wanted from Congress. But, behold, President Bush may turn out to be the hero on this one. Ho ho ho.

In the meantime, the automakers are showing how much they really care about moving into the future. Apparently, they don't. The Volt, allegedly, will get 40 mpg on electricity alone (if it's ever built). 

The Detroit Free Press says the Volt and Cruze (an efficient gas model) are (still?) expected to launch in 2010. 

Musta got lost. You'd think that if GM really was making plans for the future, hoping to reinvent itself, that the Volt and Cruze project would be Priority No. 1. Autobloggreen says GM execs are still vowing to build the Volt, with or without government money. Is that a threat?

Someone once said that Chinese Democracy would be released before the Volt. Guess what?

- Green Mullet. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Composting RIP

Am I crazy? Maybe, but is composting dead?

First it was recycling. Prices for recycled materials are so low that haulers are losing money, sorting centers are stockpiling stuff like cardboard and plastic, waiting for prices to go back up. We're all on a cycle here, right? Things will get better, won't they? 

Now comes composting. Huffington Post has some holiday suggestions: Don't throw away that food waste, compost it. Because, they say, if you don't, your old food will decompose in a landfill and create methane gas.

Is that so bad? Yes, methane is a potent greenhouse gas, a lot worse than its more famous counterpart, carbon dioxide. 

But there's technology out there, being used at landfills in Michigan and elsewhere, that can harness that methane and turn it into electricity. 

Are there emissions from landfill gas to electricity systems? Yes, but they're cleaner than Old King Coal. So throw away your food waste (as long as your landfill harnesses methane. Mine does). As for throwing away your recyclables, let's see how long the cycle lasts. 

- Green Mullet. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shout at the Earth

When my first daughter was first born, I used to drive her around to get her to go to sleep. I'm sure I'm not the first dad to do this. 

I also used to entertain myself a bit with 80s rock, of course. "Shout at the Devil" is a song that you can't turn off once it pops up on the iPod. Kind of like opening a bag of BBQ chips. You have to finish it. 

It wasn't long before my daughter began learning the lyrics (or at least the chorus) to "Shout Shout Shout Shout at the Devil!" Don't worry, we're not devil worshippers. Just an 80s rock family. We go to church. 

Which brings me to this segue: My daughter is now a lot older (let's say six years, but not in a Number of the Beast way). The other day, she told me it was Big Green Help day, as in the day Nick was debuting a new enviro site with games and all kinds of cool stuff. "Like the stuff you write about," she said. She knows what's important!

So we logged on. It was fun. We had to take a pledge to be more green. We had to defend the Earth against CO2 monsters (Bush didn't appear). There was something to do with a cow and a gun (see yesterday's post). 

Although I've seen some critics blogging about Big Green Help, I think it can't hurt (now that's clever). 

Think about it: My kid told me that the site was up. She saw it on Nick. She was waiting for the day. We played a bit together. She was interested in learning about ways to "save the planet." She played a game that taught her about global warming. That's much better than having her shout (shout, shout) my name, only to run to the TV and find that she wants the latest toy of the week.

- Green Mullet. 

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Clean Cow Coalition?

Everyone loves cows, right? Their yummy milk (especially with Hershey's Chocolate Syrup). Their yummy meat, on the grill with cheese. Sizzle.

But now those crazy (brilliant) scientists at the IPCC say we need to concentrate on cutting emissions from big farms. What?!

According to EnviroWonk, who turned me on to the Clean Coal Carolers last week, the head of the IPCC says almost a fifth of greenhouse gases come from livestock, and not enough attention is being paid to  'what cows do when they think no one is looking.'

How can we reduce emissions from livestock? Scrubbers at farms? Filtered cow pants? Sequestration? 

No, something even more frightening: Giving up meat.

Gasp! Could you imagine (I'm speaking to carnivores here): No Thanksgiving, no Christmas ham, tofu cheeseburgers? Is global warming really THAT bad. Of course it is. 

I promise to eat more salads (can't make any promises about bacon bits). I vote for anaerobic digesters, to turn manure into electricity. And more sustainable farming practices. 

But more importantly, how will the livestock industry respond to this impending War on Meat? 

The Clean Cow Coalition? A friendly cow talking about how good milk and meat is for you. Singing little baby cows. Cute pigs. Remember Babe? How could you eat that? Answer: With BBQ sauce. 

- Green Mullet. 

P.S. The IPCC has some competition on this one. There's a group out there called LEARN, working to "facilitate the development of cost effective and practical greenhouse gas mitigation solutions." God bless them, every one.

P.P.S. Burger King has just released a meat-scented body spray

Huff, Puff and Blow Some Good Cheer

The folks at Huffington Post, reportedly the top enviro blog out there, have a post today on giving the "gift of change" for Christmas. 

They point to a "Starter Kit for Change," developed by some "awesome Hot Chicks at RockLovePeace." Of course, I clicked for more. 

The kit has the endorsement of Al Gore (kinda), who told the Hot Chicks that "I look forward to utilizing the included components." Wow, you had me at "Hello."

The kit (starting at $40, which is A LOT of change) includes a bunch of the same stuff you'd normally roll your eyes at, but this stuff is enviro-friendly! There's a tree inside, a twirly light bulb and "an envelope to end world hunger" (apparently filled with food). 

Sorry, but I just don't get it. This is a bag of stuff, meant to encourage people to use less stuff. How about a thoughtfully-selected book or a solar charger or some other useful gadget? Just the other day, I saw a Twitter posting on solar Christmas lights. Now that's something useful and practical and green. Also $40.

- Green Mullet.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thoughtful Christmas Picks

This time of year (one family party in the bag, one to go) everyone seems to come out with lists. Best of Lists. End of the Year Lists. Gift Idea Lists. 

Here's mine, carefully crafted in my head as I headed downstate on Saturday for Family Christmas Party 2008 No. 1:

My list of "The Best Christmas Music That Rocks and Is Not Too Annoying." 

This music can be considered to be green, as far as its Christmas-y tone. I haven't examined the carbon footprint of any of these artists. Also, if you (legally) download the music, I guess you're saving fossil fuel and jewel cases.

1. Twisted Sister --- A Twisted Christmas. Anyone who thought Dee Snider and the boys were out of hits, think again. This is a fun bunch of familiar songs. You can sing along and bang your head. A fave: "Oh Come All Ye Faithful," which is done to the tune of "We're Not Gonna Take It." Plus, Twisted Sister totally deserves a few bucks for the holidays, more than your postal carrier. 

2. Merry Axemas, No. 1 and No. 2. --- Cool, instrumental holiday rockers you can play around your parents or conservative house guests. Turn it up, it's OK. You're still celebrating the birth of Jesus, just a little more loudly. "Rudolph" done by Kenny Wayne Shepherd (tribute video). What more do you need? How about "Blue Christmas" by Joe Perry? I'm pretty sure he's playing this one with a lit cigarette sticking out of his guitar. 

3. OK. The holidays aren't complete without Elvis. In fact, if you don't play an Elvis Christmas CD at least once during the holidays, I think Santa should skip your house. But which one to get? Take my word for it. Get "If Every Day Was Like Christmas," the one that combines the 50s Christmas songs with the 70s Christmas songs. Beautiful. "Silver Bells" and "Santa Claus is Back in Town." Alternate tracks. Tell them Green Mullet sent you. 

4. "The Ventures' Christmas Album." All instrumental. Surfer music that turns into Christmas songs then back into surfer music. Killer. And if you saw these guys at the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame induction, you know they're the real thing. 

5. This list is in no particular order, by the way, or Elvis would be at the top. So No. 5 is "Christmas Gumbo" by Fats Domino. Is he heavy metal? No, does he play a mean clinky piano? Definitely. Some great new Christmas songs here. I'm glad they rescued this guy from the flooding in New Orleans. Blueberry Effin' Hill.

Maybe more later. The holidays are too crazy to list 10 CDs, for now. My dog and cat are tying to destroy the Christmas tree. My kids are running in circles. I have to be at another holiday party in 43 minutes. 

Merry Christmas. 

- Green Mullet.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Have a Coughety Christmas

And be happy about it!

This may be the scariest thing I've ever seen: Chunks of coal singing Christmas carols. Is this a joke? A clever campaign from an environmental group? No, this bit of cheer is courtesy of our friends at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity

The Web site allows you to dress up little chunks of coal, select a background, then select a song for them to sing. I chose "Frosty the Coalman":

"Coughety cough cough / Coughety cough cough / Look at Frosty hack / Coughety coal coal / coughety coal coal / Asthma works so fast!"

Those aren't the lyrics, of course, just the implied ones. 

Leave it up to one of the most polluting industries in the country, the single largest spewer of mercury in the U.S., to tarnish the spirit of the season with a campaign like this. 

One of the songs is called "Clean Coal Night." Is there a way to get baby Jesus (or big Jesus) to give an endorsement? The singers who lended their voices for these songs might as well be singing "See you in Hell" by the ugly (but great) Grim Reaper, circa 1987.

Merry Christmas! And thanks to EnviroWonk for his perspective.

Monday, December 8, 2008

AC/DC predicts public transport future

It's snowing tonight in Northern Michigan. We're supposed to get up to a foot. Maybe there won't be school tomorrow. But work is a sure thing.

The first song on the new AC/DC album is called "Rock 'n Roll Train." The name of the album is "Black Ice." Rail travel was up by 6.5 percent in the third quarter. Black ice is a slippery winter phenomena. Coincidence?

The rail report, from the American Public Transportation Association, says the jump in ridership over last year is the largest quarterly increase in public transport in 25 years. Twenty five years ago, AC/DC had a cassette on the shelves called "Flick of Switch." The backstage pass for that concert tour proclaimed "The Switch Is On."

Even though gas has dropped to around $1.50 from more than $4 earlier this year, people are still riding the subway, bus and commuter rail. They must like it. Imagine commuting to work while reading the newspaper (or surfing a newspaper Web site and dutifully clicking on the ads). Imagine drinking a cup of coffee without having to fight the traffic. 

Of course, I live in the Auto State, where buses and subways and commuter rail are fledgling or nonexistent. I don't think we'll hear any of the begging auto execs mention the new wave. But I must mention this amazing series of events. 

- Green Mullet

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Shhh ... the urban windmills are coming

I love commercial wind turbines. They're big, beautiful, majestic. But I don't live by one. And I don't really know what it's like to live by one, or more. 

I know they can be noisy. There's a flicker effect from sunlight and blades that can drive you nuts. They change landscapes. They can make rural settings seem industrial. 

But the field of wind turbines is moving from, ahem, the field to the city. At least in London. Europe always beats us when it comes to this kind of stuff. 

Environmental Graffiti has a post about Quiet Revolution, a company that's come up with little Saxon-shaped windmills for rooftops and cities. They have a vertical axis, so they're always facing the wind.

Eight of the spinners recently went up in Greater London, the largest installation to date. They can power an office used by about 200 people.

OK, I want some of these. Especially since my coal-fired electric power is supposed go up by $125 annually in 2009 (pdf).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Al Gore with Sideburns

When it comes to music, Elvis is the King. When it comes to the environmental movement, that helm is held by Al Gore, Mr. Inconvenient Truth. 

Al sent out a Twitter today about a new Web site, It's about clean coal. Or unclean coal. But that's not as catchy a slogan. 

The site urges people to "Join our Reality Corps and help make sure misleading articles and false statements about coal don’t go unanswered." Sadly, many journalists don't know the difference between spin and science. They are so tied to the old school "quote both sides" mantra that they don't stop to think of separating truth from tale. 

Let me start. First of all, there is a such thing as clean(er) coal. If you use gasification, basically controlling for pollutants before you burn the lumps, you can cut emissions. Not clean, but cleaner. 

You also can sequester the CO2. Not perfect, but better than the old pulverized coal burning we've all come to know (cough) and love. But calling it clean, like calling it green, doesn't make it so. 

So the Reality Corps. video you see on the site is a little off, a little slanted. Sure, we should all strive to increase alternative energy use in the world, but we also need to realize (Al) that we can't change overnight. And my computer won't run without baseload power. That's coal, or (safe) nuclear, for now. 

Then again, Elvis wasn't perfect either. If you don't believe me, see "Charro."

Paid in Muck

Where are these stories in the summer, when everyone is paying attention?! Oh well. 

There's a Kansas study that for the first time tries to quantify how much damage beach muck (dead algae) does to property values. In Michigan, beaches have been fouled by muck for years and state regulators haven't done much more than talk about it. The study says the muck is causing $4 billion in economic losses a year in the U.S. (That's enough to bail out the auto companies for almost a week!)

The info, published in Environmental Science & Technology, says lakefront property values drop by 15 percent every time water clarity is reduced by one meter (a little more than a yard). 

But a news story on the report dances around the issue a bit, using "algal blooms" to describe the disgusting, pea soup, human fecal gunk that continues to mar Michigan beaches. Call it what it is: Money-sucking muck. 

This news is just another reason for Michigan and other Great Lake states to get on the ball and do something. Limit phosphorus and other nutrients from lawns and farms and wastewater plants. Mandate controls on ocean-going vessels that bring in new invasive species. 

Remember, it's the invasives that have cleared the water and helped fuel this mess. I mean, "contributed to the proliferation of algal blooms." Kind of like what grunge did to Hair Metal.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

GM now more awesome

As soon as I get the links to work (all I see is blank space right now), you'll see that Green Mullet has completely sold out.

Just kidding. I have enhanced my blog and its reach by joining the Going Green Network. "What is the GGN, GM?" Well, it's a network of cool blogs (duh) that write about green stuff (double duh). Think Treehugger and Yahoo! Green. And think Green Mullet.

Remember, this is the only place on the Internets that recognizes the inherent link between things rock and things green. Where else can you go and read an interesting tidbit (with perspective) on the latest advance in alternative energy and see that tidbit melded with power chords ? Green Mullet, on the Going Green Network. That's it. Here come the hits ...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Get on the Greenship Enterprise

It's green. It's environmentally friendly, eco-friendly, earth-friendly, planet positive! Or maybe it's bullshit.

A building isn't green just because you say it's green. You can incorporate green features, sure. But they have to be certifiable, sustainable, BS-proof.  

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, known as LEED, is an example.

I'm watching a show on HGTV and the owners are saying the home is green. Uh huh. You're not Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, you can't just "make it so."

I ran into the same claim today while visiting a new building. A builder said it was green. Oh, I said, is it LEED-certified? Is it Energy Star? No answer. Next subject. 

There's a  new report out from the U.S. Department of Energy on the impact of (real) green buildings. 

The authors must be reading my blog, because they (have great taste in music?) say that LEED buildings are the only ones out there that are making the grade when it comes to staving off the worst effects of climate change. 

On average, LEED buildings consume about 25 percent less energy than conventional buildings. The buildings cost more to build, but can you put a price on the planet? And if you can, you can expect the buildings to pay you back in time with lower utility bills (and less guilt?).

The moral of this post: Check the label. Regulators should listen up and green their building codes, too.