Currently viewing the tag: "Energy"

You are invited to attend the ***FREE*** alternative fueled vehicle roadshow event in Miami.

A statewide vehicle showcase tour and series of presentations on the economics and practicality of implementing alternative fuel transportation solutions for industry and government, using natural gas, propane, biofuels, and electric vehicles.

Registration is required for this free event:

http://www.afvroadshowmiami.eventbrite.com

Wednesday, September 19, 2012 — 9:00am-noon

701 NW 1st Court

Miami, Florida 33136

 

 

 

President Obama unveiled his “Blueprint for Energy Security” yesterday, including a plan to cut oil imports http://transitmiami.com/files/tag/by 1/3 over the coming decade.css. To say that the President’s plan is disappointing is an understatement. While paying lip service to all the typical rhetoric about our dependence on foreign oil, the President’s ‘blueprint’ for the future reads like an affirmation of the status quo   - not only does it lack vision, it ignores the fact that the challenges facing our energy future are transportation related.

The point is the ups and downs in gas prices historically have tended to be temporary.  But when you look at the long-term trends, there are going to be more ups in gas prices than downs in gas prices.  And that’s because you’ve got countries like India and China that are growing at a rapid clip, and as 2 billion more people start consuming more goods — they want cars just like we’ve got cars; they want to use energy to make their lives a little easier just like we’ve got — it is absolutely certain that demand will go up a lot faster than supply.  It’s just a fact.

The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity, our long-term security on a resource that will eventually run out, and even before it runs out will get more and more expensive to extract from the ground.

Seventy percent of our petroleum consumption goes to transportation — 70 percent.  And by the way, so does the second biggest chunk of most families’ budgets goes into transportation.  And that’s why one of the best ways to make our economy less dependent on oil and save folks more money is to make our transportation sector more efficient.

We’ve also made historic investments in high-speed rail and mass transit, because part of making our transportation sector cleaner and more efficient involves offering all Americans, whether they are urban, suburban, or rural, the choice to be mobile without having to get in a car and pay for gas.

With all this rhetoric, you would think that the ‘blueprint for energy security’ would involve seriously expanding the transit capacity of our cities (where most of the population lives), but that’s not the case.

Now, meeting the goal of cutting our oil dependence depends largely on two things:  first, finding and producing more oil at home; second, reducing our overall dependence on oil with cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency.

Now, last year, American oil production reached its highest level since 2003.  And for the first time in more than a decade, oil we importehttp://transitmiami.com/files/tag/d accounted for less than half of the liquid fuel we consumed.  So that was a good trend.  To keep reducing that reliance on imports, my administration is encouraging offshore oil exploration and production — as long as it’s safe and responsible. 

If we are talking about seriously lowering dependence on foreign oil we should be lowering our dependence on all oil, foreign and domestic. Expanding US oil production is a cheap polical game that does not have a chance at impacting our dependence on oil or the price of oil at the pump. Maybe our production is up since 2003, but as the graph below from the US Department of Energy shows, US production peaked in the mid-1970’s.

From the US Department of Energy

US production has no chance of offsetting our annual oil appetite. Not even close. Our daily oil consumption is 18 million barrels per day, while our proven reserves of crude oil amount to about 19 billion barrels - that’s enough oil for about 1,000 days or 2.7 years at current rates of consumption!  Considering the challenges associated with accessing the remaining domestic reserves, one has to question the benefits of draining every last drop of oil from US soil given how little is left. It simply is not worth the environmental cost. With these numbers - who is the president fooling?

We’re also exploring and assessing new frontiers for oil and gas development from Alaska to the Mid- and South Atlantic states, because producing more oil in America can help lower oil prices, can help create jobs, and can enhance our energy security, but we’ve got to do it in the right way.

 Recent innovations have given us the opportunity to tap large reserves –- perhaps a century’s worth of reserves, a hundred years worth of reserves -– in the shale under our feet.  But just as is true in terms of us extracting oil from the ground, we’ve got to make sure that we’re extracting natural gas safely, without polluting our water supply. 

Recent innovations in natural gas exploration you say? Hmmm… you wouldn’t be talking about the amazingly destructive process of extracting natural gas by injecting fissures in the earth with a high pressure toxic cocktail, only to dump the waste from the process into neighboring rivers, lakes and valleys? Yeah, I pass on that one too.

And that’s just the plan on the supply side of things - on the demand side the president points to biofuels and nuclear energy as big winners. Sigh…is he serious?

Mr. President we need solutions that will address the real problem: we have built our lives around the car. We live in cities that are designed for cars, and we rely on an economy that is run by cars (and trucks). We need to change how we live - we do not need gimmicks that dance around the problem. How about funding a massive transit expansion program that can really impact vehicle miles traveled in cities - after all, cities are less likely to reject federal money the way partisan governors have with high speed rail money.

While you are at it, be a champion of cities. Promote smart growth planning as a basic policy of the federal government. Wherever federal dollars go to urban development, housing, or transportation they should be tied to policies that create walkable, pedestrian friendly urbanism. FHA and other banking policies currently discourage mixed-use developments, while military bases across the country are being planned and built under the same suburban paradigm that helped create the energy crisis in the first place - policies that can change with minimal cost to anyone and have a greater impact on our energy use.

We need that.  We need you to dream big.  We need you to summon that same spirit of unbridled optimism and that bold willingness to tackle tough challenges and see those challenges through that led previous generations to rise to greatness -– to save a democracy, to touch the moon, to connect the world with our own science and our own imagination.

Ditto, Mr. President - right back at you.

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Nonetheless, there are concerns that rising gas prices could stall increases in airport travelers as the airline model can’t handle oil prices above $100 per barrel

-José Abreu, Miami-Dade aviation director quoted in a recent Miami Today article.  For reference West Texas Intermediate crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange reached $105.21 per barrel today.

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The government spends billions of dollars to support the energy industry, which allows it to make energy cheaper than it should cost on the open market. These subsidies—either in the form of tax breaks or direct funding—favor some types of energy over others, giving our country a skewed sense of what each gallon of gas or wind-powered electron costs. This is a look at where the government directed its subsidy dollars from 2002 to 2008.

Image Courtesy of  The Environmental Law Institute

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httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txKEUfc5Rn8

A friend of mine from FPL sent me this video and petition request for a special legislative session to expand the solar energy industry in Florida.  The video is from the University of Central Florida and starts slow but makes some important points about the industry side of energy production after minute 3:12. 

If you agree with UCF that the Cost of Doing Nothing only worsens the prospects for Florida’s future, please consider signing the following petition:

We, the undersigned, do hereby express our support for the expedient passage of a renewable energy policy in Florida during a special session to take place prior to year’s end. Such a policy would create significant economic and social opportunities for our state by immediately stimulating the economy, reducing unemployment and providing millions of dollars in new revenue to local governments.

A renewable energy policy would create a new industry and with it, a substantial number of direct and indirect jobs in Florida. The jobs created by this industry would allow for the development of a broad and diverse market that would include research & development, equipment manufacturing, project development & construction, system assembly and import/export. Specific benefits from this market would ultimately lead to increased revenues for the state, energy independence from fossil fuels and a cleaner environment from the reduction of air pollutants.

We support a renewable energy policy similar to House Bill 7229 from the 2010 Legislative Session which would encourage the development of diverse forms of renewable energy projects including large scale solar, biomass, wind, and rooftop solar, with a cost cap to protect Florida consumers. This type of policy would establish a sustainable market for renewable energy, and provide incentives for companies to relocate to Florida from out of state and overseas to create jobs at a time when unemployment is at a record high. In fact, according to a recent study by the Washington Economics Group, legislation similar to House Bill 7229 could quickly create tens of thousands of jobs in Florida, put over $2 billion in new wages into the pockets of Florida’s workers and invest over $4 billion into the state’s economy.

We urge our legislature to call a special session and pass a renewable energy policy before the end of 2010. Today, 36 states plus D.C. have renewable energy policies. These states are reaping the benefits of a clean energy economy by attracting industries that could be coming to Florida. Other countries, such as China, have also positioned themselves to capture existing and future renewable markets with significant manufacturing capability and through the creation of over 1 million clean energy jobs. There is no time to lose…the time for action is NOW! We urge the Florida Legislature to pass this policy immediately.

Support A Cleaner America

 You can sign the online petition at: http://www.citizensforcleanenergy.com/. You can read through House Bill 7229 and make up your own mind.

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This morning CNBC reported that 65% of McDonalds’ sales are derived from their drive-thru business. As long as we have drive-thrus in this country we can pretty much forget about any real serious energy policy. We are digging deeper offshore oil wells and importing oil from unfriendly nations such as Venezuela so that we can stuff ourselves with unhealthy food, all while we burn oil as our cars are idling.

The Sierra Club estimates that Americans burn about 50 million gallons of gas per year waiting for food in the drive-thru queue. At $2.50/gallon of gas Americans are spending $125,000,000.00 per year sitting in the drive thru queue. I’m sure we can find a better place to put our money.

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From the NY Times:

Elected leaders in New York City will propose a suite of laws and other initiatives on Wednesday aimed at reducing energy consumption and related emissions of greenhouse gases by requiring owners of thousands of older buildings to upgrade everything from boilers to light bulbs.Owners of larger buildings would have to participate in an online “benchmarking” program of the Environmental Protection Agency that creates a profile of a building’s overall energy efficiency. The results would be made public along with the property’s tax-assessment information.

Owners of larger buildings would have to participate in an online “benchmarking” program of the Environmental Protection Agency that creates a profile of a building’s overall energy efficiency. The results would be made public along with the property’s tax-assessment information.

Pssst….Elected ‘leaders’ in Dade County, wake up. You’ve been dozing off. Considering our vulnerable (and tenuous) relationship with local weather (heat, humidity, hurricanes) and the calamitous effect climate change will have on our region we need to be aggressive in mitigating our carbon footprint and lowering our energy consumption.  Duh….

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Starting today, Tri-Rail is now using biodiesel fuel in all their conventional trains. The Diesel Multiple Units (DMU’s) will continue to use regular diesel because of their warranty, but the rest of the trains will now be reducing their impact to the environment. Of course, I’m sure cost was the main issue here, with biodiesel costing enough less than regular diesel to offset the reduction in efficiency. Read Tri-Rail’s press release here.

I, for one, can’t wait until next week when I get to ride a train that smells like french fries. It’s got to be better than the diesel fumes that assaulted ones nose every time a train pulled in to a station before.

Via: Reconnecting America:

Next time you’re stuck going 20 mph in the fast lane, waiting forever to get through a traffic light, or trying to find your way out of a giant concrete parking structure, remember that it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time for America to rediscover the human scale. It’s time to build communities for people, not cars.

Hope everyone has a happy and safe fourth of July!

As you celebrate Independence Day, don’t forget some of the other things we need to seek independence from. The Sun-Sentinel reminds us to declare independence from cars by accommodating all modes of transportation, while the Miami Herald reminds us to share rides to achieve the same goal. Seems like most media outlets around the country are taking advantage of Independence Day to write a piece on independence from cars and/or energy, thanks to rising fuel prices. I think The Globalist takes the cake with a Declaration of Energy Independence.

Speaking of independence from cars, how are you getting to your celebrations today? I am thinking of cycling to see the Fort Lauderdale fireworks on the beach, though I might take the Water Taxi part of the way. That way I won’t have to hunt for and pay for the rare parking spot. What alternative modes of transportation are you using today?

Photo by Flickr user yatta, watching fireworks from the train in NYC.

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Does anyone even care anymore? With all this talk about global warming, alternative fuels, and the trimming of every government budget due to major financial cutbacks, you’d think the community would be up at arms about an approval to build even yet more development on our western fringes. Ecosystem destruction? Check. Vehicular-oriented development? Check. Massive unnecessary infrastructural strains on the County? Check. This approval falls in line with every single reason why living in South Florida has become extraordinarily difficult for the average middle-income family.

I’ll tell you this much, I’m fed up and Transit Miami is going to do something about it.

For those of you who are still out in the dark, the County Commission moved the UDB boundary again last week in order to accommodate some projects in the name of the community saving special interests. Disgustingly, the 9-4 super majority vote is enough to override the impending veto by Mayor Carlos Alvarez. In doing so, our incredibly intelligent elected officials have defied the opinion of local planning experts (not just us), most County residents, and State growth management officials.

But the county commission overlooked those pleadings Thursday when it approved two controversial applications to build outside the UDB — one for an office complex, another for a home improvement center, which includes plans to build a new high school. The state, mayor and planning and zoning board’s pleas also were ignored.

Big box retail and absurdly placed office complexes (with plenty of parking), just what nature called for along the edge of our shrinking everglades ecosystem. 600,000 square feet of office space in a river of grass would equate to something like this:

Miami Everglades UDB Expansion

The county planner said construction outside the UDB isn’t necessary because there is enough space available inside the boundary for several decades.

Sorenson stopped her colleagues before the final vote, warning of a long fight in the courts if the state finds the county didn’t comply with growth management law. Addressing Assistant County Attorney Joni Armstrong Coffey, Sorenson asked what would happen if the county was not in compliance with state growth laws.

”We will be in litigation,” Coffey said.

Where is Norman Braman when you really need him?

Let the lawsuit begin (Note: yet another strain on the public financial capacity…)

With election season now in full swing, the time has come to decide which candidate we think will best lead us for the next four years. Here on Transit Miami, we’ll be taking a close look at the presidential hopefuls to determine which candidate is the strongest on smart growth and livable cities issues.
Without further ado, let’s break down the remaining presidential frontrunners:

The Republicans: Now while Transit Miami is a non-partisan blog, Republicans and Libertarians generally do not have a strong record for supporting smart growth or transit-oriented urban policy. The Republican candidates for this year’s election are no exception. All of the front-runners are soft on climate change, using the typical rhetoric of voluntary reductions on greenhouse gas emissions. Fred Thompson, who has fortunately dropped out of the race already, at one point even mentioned considering opening up the Everglades for oil exploration.

The Democrats: Though far from meeting our high standards, the leading Democratic front-runners are unquestionably more dedicated to livable cities issues than Republicans. Here’s a breakdown of where the top three candidates, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards stand on planning-related issues:

Hillary Clinton:
From “Powering America’s Future: Hillary Clinton’s Plan to Address the Energy and Climate Crisis”:

“Hillary’s big three goals: “Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 – the level necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. Cut foreign oil imports by two-thirds from projected levels by 2030. Transform our carbon-based economy into an efficient green economy, creating at least 5 million jobs from clean energy over the next decade.”

“Creating a market-based cap and trade program, and auctioning 100% of greenhouse gas permits. Hillary would raise fleet-wide fuel economy standards from the current level of 25 miles per gallon (mpg) to 40 mpg in 2020 and 55 mpg in 2030.

“Increased public transit usage is one of the best strategies for addressing the energy and environmental costs of transportation…As President, Hillary will increase federal funding for public transit, including buses, light rail and subways, by $1.5 billion per year. She will also link federal public transit funds to local land use policies that encourage residential developments that maximize public transit usage and discourage sprawl. She will also invest an additional $1 billion in intercity passenger rail systems. Intercity passenger rail is an environmentally efficient alternative to highway driving and short flights; it elieves congestion on roads and airports; reduces the emission of automotive pollutants; and it timulates economic growth by linking metropolitan areas.”

Barack Obama: From Obama’s “Plan to Make America a Global Energy Leader”:

“Build More Livable and Sustainable Communities: Over the longer term, we know that the amount of fuel we will use is directly related to our land use decisions and development patterns, much of which have been organized around the principle of cheap gasoline. Barack Obama believes that we must move beyond our simple fixation of investing so many of our transportation dollars in serving drivers and that we must make more investments that make it easier for us to walk, bicycle and access other transportation alternatives.”

“Reform Federal Transportation Funding: As president, Barack Obama will re-evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account. Obama will build upon his efforts in the Senate to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks, and he will also re-commit federal resources to public mass transportation projects across the country. Building more livable and sustainable communities will not only reduce the amount of time individuals spent commuting, but will also have significant benefits to air quality, public health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Level Employer Incentives for Driving and Public Transit: The federal tax code rewards driving to work by allowing employers to provide parking benefits of $205 per month tax free to their employees. The tax code provides employers with commuting benefits for transit, carpooling or vanpooling capped at $105 per month. This gives drivers a nearly 2:1 advantage over transit users. Obama will reform the tax code to make benefits for driving and public transit or ridesharing equal.”

John Edwards: From Edward’s “Achieving Independence and Stopping Global Warming Through a New Energy Economy”:

“Transform the Auto Industry to Lead the World in Cars of the Future: Edwards believes that everyone should be able to drive the car, truck or SUV of their choice and still enjoy high fuel economy. American automakers have the ingenuity to lead the world in building the clean, safe, economical cars of the future.”

“Raise Fuel Economy Standards: American cars and trucks are less efficient than they were two decades ago, despite the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. Standards in China, Japan, and the European Union are between 40 and 100 percent higher. Edwards will raise standards to 40 miles per gallon by 2016, a step that could single-handedly reduce oil demand by 4 million barrels per day. [Pew Center on Global Climate Change, 2004; Reicher, 2007]”

“Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled: Edwards will create incentives for states and regions to plan smart growth and transit-oriented development with benchmarks for reductions in vehicle miles traveled. He supports more resources to encourage workers to use public transportation and will encourage more affordable, low-carbon and low-ambient pollution transportation options.”

Transit Miami will not take the position to endorse any particular candidate at this point in time but we will however attempt to portray how the candidates stack up on the key issues. We believe Hilary Clinton has the best climate change policy and has the strongest ties to the type of people who will bring about positive environmental changes over the next four years. Barak Obama has the clearest development policy of the three democratic candidates and his platform specifically addresses the benefits of smart growth. Obama is endorsed by many bicycling groups and has even stated that he will push for better pedestrian and cycling oriented policy as president. John Edwards presents the most conservative approach, concentrating much of his policy of fuel efficiency and alternative fuels. We’re concerned about all of the candidates’ positions and emphasis on coal energy and alternative fuels and are disappointed to see that none adequately address better growth principles.

Energy and oil is the dominant theme this week, however the articles about the Everglades and affordable housing in Miami are very troubling.

  • NY Times: Efforts to save the everglades are faltering
  • Newsday: Gas prices affecting community, car use
  • NY Times: Rising demand for oil provokes new energy crisis
  • KITV Honolulu: Gas prices have reached $5 per gallon in parts of Cali
  • Miami Herald: Housing crunch (lack of affordable housing) hitting low-income residents hard
  • NY Times: High gas prices and long commutes having an impact on the sprawl market

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The winds of change are blowing. Here is yet another interesting proposal to harness the energy expended by the burning of fossil fuels. Wind turbines incorporated into highway dividers will reclaim the energy of cars racing by, which will then be used to power public rail transportation.

While it remains to be seen where and how quickly such technologies will be exploited, it gives some sense of comfort to the mind knowing that this kind of thinking, and planning for the future, is in play. Of course it can happen none to soon. It also addresses the concerns of those who find wind farms unsightly. Personally however, I think a wind farm as a border between development and the everglades could be a beautiful and poetic commentary on the transition between man and nature.

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