Book Review: How Are You Mother Earth?

Calling people of all ages. I’ve finally found a truly entertaining and educational book about climate change and the environment. “How are you Mother Earth?” written by Gordon Hunter, a scientist, takes the reader on the journey with Katie, her boyfriend Mike and her father when they take Mother Earth to the doctor for a check-up.

Well, it turns out that Mother Earth can’t fit in the door and she doesn’t have the same structure as us humans so they work with Nurse Re Corder and a host of other scientists and How Are You Mother Earth?doctors to develop a check-up just for Mother Earth. While the team hunts down the experts, Mother Earth takes a rest on the lawn outside of the doctors office.

During her physical, they test her age and weight, pressure, respiration and air quailty, dermatology and temperature. Along the way not only are you learning about science in a fun way, but you are also learning about humans’ relationship with Mother Earth.

The health report: Mother Earth is very sick.

The cure? “…a cure would be turning away from fossil fuels and turning to alternate sources of energy such as solar and wind.”

The prescription. Each and every one of us.

How Are You Mother Earth? Is cleverly written, the science is easily understood and the illustrations nicely done. This is definitely a book to read to better understand climate change and the health of Mother Earth.

Listen to my interview with Gordon Hunter here: How Are You Mother Earth?

Win a free copy of How Are You Mother Earth? Send me an email or a tweet with the title “How Are You Mother Earth?” and you contact info. The winner will be announced in next week’s DomesticFuel newsletter.

Book Review – Ruminations on the Distortion of Oil

I recently finished reading the book, “Ruminations on the Distortion of Oil Prices & Crony Capitalism,” by Raymond J. Learsy. The book was a historical review of his writings dealing with Big Oil and why oil prices are so high. In other words, “an overview of…our enslavement to oil and the money inextricably tied to it.”

Ruminations-Book-CoverA former commodity trader, Learsy noted that oil prices are gamed and have little to do with market discipline of supply and demand. He explains in the book how commodity markets work (you really have no idea until you read the book and listen to his interview). In fact, Learsy writes that “This administration [Obama administration] has a profound lack of understanding of how oil markets function.” He also says there is no real oversight by our government over the oil industry or over the workings of the OPEC Cartel (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries).

He notes that no global industry is wealthier than the oil industry and the countries that produce the oil. He explains that the oil industry and traders play the commodity market in a way that maximizes the price for oil. He said that a barrel of oil should not be hovering around $100. Rather, according to the CEO of Exxon/Mobil Rex Tillerson who stated during Congressional testimony in 2011, speculation was adding $30 to $40 to the price of each barrel.

“Six hundred million dollars a day is going from consumers to oil interests each day. This is money that is being stolen out of consumers’ pockets everyday,” said Learsy.

He also points out that in President Obama’s diversified energy strategy, natural gas is not included. Today he explains the U.S. has an abundance of affordable natural gas that is being burned off because there are not enough pipelines to transport it.

This book specifically focuses and on uncovering who is responsible for soaring gas prices. If you want to know as well, then read this book. It is available on Amazon.

Listen to my in-depth interview with Raymond Learsy. BTW – You will enjoy what Learsy would do if he were president for a day to fix the oil price situation. Interview with Author Raymond Learsy

Win a copy of Ruminations on the Distortions of Oil Prices & Crony Capitalism. Email me with the subject line “Ruminations Book Giveaway” by Tuesday, December 10, 2013. The winner will be announced in the DF newsletter on December 11th.

Book Review – Solar Photovoltaics Business Briefing

Every day you hear more and more about solar photovoltaics (PV). But what exactly are they? Is the technology good? Why should a business adopt solar PV? All of these questions are explained in the DoShort: “Solar Photovoltaics Business Briefing,” by David Thorpe. I actually read the brief in an airport between flights and came away with a better understanding of solar PV technology and what is on the horizon for emerging solar PV technologies.

DS_Thorpe_LRThis was interesting: a study done by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) concludes that less than 1 percent of suitable land would be needed to cover the current electricity consumption of the region, as well as Europe. According to Thorpe, Desertec has estimated the cost of achieving this by 2050 at $400 bn. Much of this will be investment in the grid connection infrastructure. Others believe that it would be cheaper to generate the same amount of power closer to home. Although Thorpe presents the arguments for both sides, he doesn’t pick a winner.

There were several things I particularly liked about the book. One was Thorpe included a formula for calculating output. This varies by country and project. In addition, he included specific advice to installers, general design advice, ideas on where a solar PV project should be situation (roof versus ground mounted), costs, how to estimate cost savings (once again this may vary by project and country) and also gives advice on sourcing and how to talk to suppliers.

While the majority of the book is focused on European projects, legislation and funding schemes, the basic information is applicable no matter where your business resides. For those looking for a basic understanding of solar PV and enough information to research a project of your own, then this business brief is definitely for you.

Win a free copy of this DoShort. Email Joanna Schroeder with the book title in the subject line. Include your full contact information in the body of the email. The winner will be announced in next week’s DomesticFuel.com newsletter.

Book Review – Demystifying Food From Farm to Fork

This week I read, “Demystifying Food from Farm to Fork,” by Maurice J. Hladik. Many of you may be familiar with Hladik, an agricultural expert who has spoken at events all around the world including Commodity Classic. The goal of the book is to take a look at food production from “farm to fork”.

demystifying-food-from-farm-to-forkAs with many concepts, farm to fork can be defined in many ways. Hladik defines it as, “Pertaining to the human food chain from agricultural production to consumption. In other words, from our readers farm to my table.”

As Hladik takes the reader through the varying stages in between the planting, growing and harvesting of food through manufacturing and eventually to the table, he explained the pros and cons, addressed any surrounding controversies and presented both sides of each argument. For this I was very impressed, as many writers take the view of “it’s my way or no way”.

Hladik also points out certain areas that he says are portrayed in the media as myths. One area he addressed was that of ethanol production and food prices. He writes, “There is a widespread conviction that the use of massive quantities of corn for the production of ethanol, and to a lesser extent soy beans for biodiesel, substantially contributes to hunger throughout the world….In reality, there is enough food in the world to go around, but getting it to all those who need it is a challenge.”

He continues by writing that the world does not need all the corn and other grains that are dedicated to biofuel production, and thus corn might as well be used for this purpose (he also rightly points out that a diet solely of corn does not constitute a balanced diet). In addition, he explains during his examination of “food versus fuel” that because of the increased need for corn for ethanol, along with the fact that growers are harvesting more bushels per acre than ever before, that should the unforeseen happen, the corn can be diverted to other areas – in essence, ethanol production is “money in the bank”.

This book is very well suited to those of us who are not very familiar with agriculture, and gives the reader a good, brief introduction into all the steps it takes to deliver our food to the table.

Book Review – The Year God Forgot Us

Pssst…I have the secret recipe for renewable fuel. Want to know where I found this recipe that will take down big oil? In the novel, “The Year God Forgot Us,” by Dennis Nau. Ok, so I don’t really have some super duper secret renewable fuel recipe, but this week’s book was a fictional look at 1936, during the Great Depression, where the town of Bernadotte, North Dakota believes they have met the man who will revolutionize fuel by stealing a secret recipe developed by the Mormans.

The Year God Forgot Us Book CoverA stranger drives in to town and fills up his tank with water, shakes his truck, and drives off. This leads to town gossip and eventually the driver begins frequenting the local cafe when he comes through town and begins planting the idea of the secret fuel recipe and how the town can “buy” the recipe and become rich. Al, the leader of the pack” says, “The Mormons are the devil. Satan.  Satan with a suit on. That’s the Mormons. They discovered the secret formula of how to turn water into gasoline, the Mormans did.”

Eventually Al unveils the catalyst as wheat flour, a dream for struggling wheat farmers. As the town gets excited about the gasoline venture, Johnny, the proprietor of the cafe says, “A lot of money would stay in this area, wouldn’t do out east to people in Boston and New York. It wouldn’t go west to Los Angeles. The money wouldn’t be parked in banks in Chicago. We grow wheat here. Think of what this would do to the demand for wheat. Why, every farmer in North Dakota would be able to make enough money for a decent living. This would benefit all our neighbors…”

While I’m not going to spill the beans on what happens, the narrative is colorful and I could almost imagine sitting on the bar stool eating breakfast at the cafe and watching and participating as the events unfold. While the book isn’t about “biofuels” per se, it does lay out the foundation for the future fuel as American farmers  – exactly what is happening today as farmers grow energy crops. I would be remiss if I didn’t say the language could be offensive to some, but Nau means no disrespect to Mormans or others. The scam in the book is perpetrated on Americans of all race and creed and the tale is told true to its time  – 1936 during the Great Depression.

Best Books of 2012

Best Books of 2012If your New Year’s resolution to is get a bit smarter about alternative energy and the environment, then start your education with the Best Books of 2012.

Here are the top five best books I read in 2012.

5. “The Powers That Be,” by Scott L. Montgomery

4. “Eaarth,” by Bill McKibben

3. “Sustainable Transport Fuels,” by David Thorpe

2. “Rooftop Revolution,” by Danny Kennedy

1. “Rebuild the Dream,” by Van Jones

Enjoy your reading!

Book Review – Build the New City!

Here is an idea to take into the new year – build a new city – or a utopia for the future. Author Todd Durant proposes the U.S. “Build The New City!” to solve three major problems: create millions of jobs, preparation for population growth and rising sea levels and national pride.

Build The New City Book CoverSome of our readers may be familiar with South Korea’s Songdo IBD, a $35 billion “smart” city and the largest real-estate development in history. Another similar idea is Tatu City in Kenya. One of the keys to both of these cities is that they are being built with climate change in mind. Durant proposes that the U.S. build a similar city from scratch that incorporates urban living, energy efficiency, renewable energy, public transportation and green spaces.

The New City would be built using the concept of the DurantHybrid for urban transportation and neighborhood planning. The New City will be built upon five principles: 1) federal and state governments absolutely must not be involved in any aspect of the funding; 2) funding of the New City must come entirely from private enterprise and investment; 3) the military should not be involved; 4) issue millions in municipal bonds that will serve to raise money for the building of the city; and 5) the workers who build the New City must be paid well.

Durant acknowledges that he is not a city planner, and the book is big on ideas and light on an actual plan. The idea has merits – the U.S. does need to rethink how it is renovating urban living for the future that may be affected by climate change and diminishing fossil fuels. However, realistically, I can’t foresee a future with a new city but I can see some of Durant’s concepts incorporated into the rebuilding of current cities. Have your own ideas? Share them at www.buildthenewcity.com.

Win a copy of this book. Email me with the name of the book in the subject line and your contact info in the body of the email. The winner will be announced in the January 9th issue of the DomesticFuel newsletter.

Book Review – Green Jujitsu

Can you define sustainability? More than likely, but it is also likely that your definition is different than a colleagues, family member or friend. The green movement touts sustainability but how do you actually integrate the idea of sustainability into your business? To answer this question, I turned to the DoShort, “Green Jujitsu,” written by Gareth Kane.

Green JujitsuThe book focuses on how to help businesses become more sustainable and how to make it stick. The answer? Harness the strengths of your employees rather than focusing on their weaknesses. Kane aptly uses the analogy of the martial art of jujitsu. This concept is focused on using your opponents strength, energy and momentum against them and levering into submission. While Kane doesn’t promote bringing your employees to submission, he does promote the idea of bringing people on board with sustainability initiatives by understanding their strengths and weaknesses.

I often struggle with the way the renewable energy industry promotes itself and have come to believe that the industry is not using the right language and stories to gain public and policy support. In some regard, I feel I’ve found an ally in Kane and his message.

He notes that oftentimes, “The green movement has a well-earned reputation for presenting sustainability as the hair-shirt option….We are bombarded with litanies of how we should be ashamed of ourselves as a species….Hand up who wants a guilt trip? The answer is to make it fun; ditch the hair-shirt and make sustainability sexy.”

In other words, make sustainability attractive, positive and compelling.

While this book hits the mark on guiding a business through the process of engaging employees into sustainability practices that will also help to save money, it is also a good lesson in messaging for the industry.  This book should be read by both sustainability leaders and champions, but also by those who are helping the industry to craft its sustainability messages.  Green Jujitsu is a “art” the industry could, and should get behind.

Book Review – Who Turned Out the Lights?

Should we be entertained when reading about America’s energy crisis? Dare we be regaled by clever cliches, fun word pairings and sarcasm when learning our basic Energy 101 facts? Yes to infinity. And I experienced just these things when reading “Who Turned Out the Lights?” by Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson. Reading this book  was a guilty pleasure because I enjoyed the lighthearted book just a bit too much when technically the topic of energy, tends to be, well, a bit dull.

The book was a “guided tour” through the country’s energy crisis.  Beginning with reasons why the U.S. needs to get its act together, the book chronicles the country’s failed attempts at energy security and diversity, discussed three flawed ideas that could get the country off track, and laid out 10 facts all people should know about energy. Did you know that one out of four Americans can’t name a fossil fuel? Yikes.

The tour then takes you through a discussion of various types of energy and alternative energy sources. While this section was good, the book was published in 2009 so some of the information was outdated so reader, digest this will a sprinkle of salt. For example, in the section about ethanol (a biofuel that surprisingly the authors don’t hate) they mentioned subsidies and the tariff on Brazilian ethanol (neither of which still exist).

However, there was one element of this section that really stood out. Many argue that the low hanging solution is to improve fuel economy and some go so far to declare that this has been accomplished. While on the outside, yes, this is correct, on the inside, it is not actually the case. As Bittle and Johnson aptly point out, when fuel economy gets better, people drive more. So at the end of the day, actual fuel consumption doesn’t actually go down, it remains virtually the same.

There were other areas this book addressed, and explained well, that other books have not. Continue reading

DoShort Review – Sustainable Transport Fuels

What do you do when you’ve got a frustrating case of insomnia? You read books about energy. Okay, maybe not something you would do but it always keeps me good and entertained. Last night I read the DoShort, “Sustainable Transport Fuels Business Brief,” by David Thorpe in less than two hours. That is part of the sell – learn about a topic in 90 minutes or less. This is a brillant concept lads.

So what did I learn? I got a briefing on research, development and deployment of sustainable fuels around the world. The DoShort kicked off with a brief overview of the history of transportation fuels, relevant legislation, and the role of emissions reduction in determining the sustainable viability of a future fuel.

Next were a series of briefs on various types of fuels beginning with biofuels. The discussion included current technologies and technologies to watch, feedstocks, infrastructure, partnerships, pros and cons and opportunities and challenges. This same type of format was used in the brief sections about electric vehicles, hydrogen vehicles, fuel cells, and a fuel I’d never heard of called hydrazine hydrate. There is even a concept car developed by Daihatsu. Who knew?

Much of the brief was focused on biofuels, since today they are the primary source of alternative fuels for the transportation sector (when specifically discussing fleets, the leading fuel is propane autogas). Here was an interesting tidbit I picked up: according to the IEA Bioenergy Implementing Agreement there are at least 67 local, regional or global initiatives to develop sustainability criteria and standards for biofuels.  (And if you’ve been reading this blog for the past six years you notice that biofuels, and currently the Renewable Fuels Standard, are constantly under attack). The most significant initiatives are: The Global Bioenergy Partnership, The Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, International Organization for Standardization, and the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification System.

While I have encyclopedic volumes of energy info stuck in my head, I got most of it reading many good, but dense books that took hours. What I’ve also known is that most people don’t have the time, nor interest, in reading all of these books. That’s why I do it for you and why I now consider these DoShorts such a winner – the reader of “Sustainable Transport Fuels Business Brief ” can sit down at a meeting and can impress the boss with a working knowledge of transportation fuels, in 90 minutes or less.

Book Review – Winning the Energy Wars

This week I read “Winning the Energy Wars,” by R. Paul Williamson. I often find myself surprised that after reading and reviewing more than 100 energy and environmental books, that I would find one with a new and unique angle. But I did. The premise is one you often find in an energy book – the United States energy “strategy” is not working. The twist comes into play when Williamson gives us an educational lesson about the different types of energy – he used a favorite business tactic of mine – the SWAT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats).

Strengths – When providing additional information Williamson uses a “product code”. Use your phone to click on the code to get and additional information not contained in the book. After giving a brief history of U.S. energy policy, he lays out a Sustainable Energy Plan (USA-SEP) and outlines and goes into depth about the “six major benefits of for an energy-wise US to adopt and implement the USA-SEP.” I also found that his website supporting the ideas in the book has some good follow-up resources.

Weaknesses - To prove a point about the extravagant and monumental use of energy around the globe, Williamson wrote out all energy equivalents. For example, 98,000,000,000,000 Btu or 28,720,978,623 MWh. This is a bit hard to quantify when your eyes are glazing over the digits because you can’t truly comprehend the number.  The book had some factual errors and a lot of grammatical errors. For me, this diminishes the credibility of the author.

Opportunities – Williamson proposes a new way to evaluate possible energy sources, aka solutions: EF=R/D (energy future equals resources divided by demand). This is a good way to think through some of the “unintended” consequences or benefits of possible energy actions.

Threats - What will happen if the U.S. does not have the fortitude to tackle the problem and the courage to stick with the solution? As Williamson rightly points out, it takes each of us and together, we can make change.

Win a copy of this book. Send me an email with the subject line “Winning the Energy Wars” and include your contact information in the body of the email.

Book Review – Clean Energy Nation

This week I read Clean Energy Nation by Congressman Jerry McNerny and Martin Cheek. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I found myself likening the book to the classic Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Subconsciously I think it was because one of the recurring themes in Brave New World, first published in 1932, is the Fordship’s desire, after Our Ford ‘s first T-Model,” for its citizens to “consume manufactured articles as well as transport.” Ironically, a portion of Huxley’s predictions came true – globally, people have been conditioned to consume both manufactured items and transportation. It is expected that by 2020 or so, there will be two billion cars on the road.

Clean Energy Nation is like most other energy books and begins with a history lesson about energy with special attention paid to the use and development of fossil fuels. In the words of the New World controller, “…you all remember, I suppose, that beautiful and inspired saying of Our Ford’s: History is bunk. History,” he repeated slowly, ‘is bunk’.” While history is not bunk, as a global population we seem to think that it is, and it bears saying that recurrent energy history lessons are much needed.

The next section of the book delves into America’s energy issues and covers all the usual suspects including national security, environment, economy, agriculture, public health, education, and good government. (Or in the case of the U.S., bad government. Since 1973, the U.S. Department of Energy has missed 34 deadlines to set mandatory energy standards.). Finally, the book gets into a discussion about America’s energy future.

The discussion about the “crossroads” of America was very motivational. Continue reading

Book Review – Rebuild the Dream

This week I read Rebuild the Dream, by Van Jones, which ironically turned out to be a great book to read with the presidential election just three weeks away. Personally, I believe this country is in an economic mess and I wonder at the so called leaders in Washington who threw up their hands and left early without making several key policy decisions that have such an economic impact. But I realize these leaders are in DC because we the people put them there. In an age of instant entertainment TV, Americans seem to no longer go to the polls and vote on import issues like economy and foreign policy and rather vote on social issues. It has been this way, as far as I can tell, since President Regan was in office.

What, I’m sure you are wondering, does my diatribe have to do with Rebuild the Dream? A lot. Van Jones hits the mark in the book about the economic struggles this country is having and offers suggestions on turning things around. And it starts at the grassroots level with people just like you and I.

Jones’s true calling is working with the private sector and policy leaders to spread the benefits of green job opportunities into struggling communities. Many of the green job opportunities he refers to include educating youth and adults about things such as solar panel installation and installing wind turbines. Many will recall that for a short time, Jones worked as part of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy (he did not work directly with President Obama). Quite frankly, I think his work has and will continue, to have greater impact in the private sector because this is where true change evolves and succeeds as his book aptly demonstrates.

But what the book really focuses on are the main insights Jones has gleaned from reviewing the past years of political struggle in the U.S. (2003-2011).  He focuses on three areas in the first part of the book: the political movements around Barack Obama in 2007-2008; the Tea Party movement in 2009-2010; and the emergence of Occupy Wall Street and the 99 percent movements. (I am part of the 99 percent and more than likely you too are part of the 99 percent.) Continue reading

Book Review: Rooftop Revolution

There are some books you read and you feel a bit smarter and then there are some books you read that get you excited and compel you to action. Rooftop Revolution by Danny Kennedy got me re-energized about solar energy. In simple terms, the book is about the economic and environmental benefits of solar power. Kennedy focuses on photovoltaics, a method of generating electric power by converting solar radiation (photo) into direct-current electricity (voltaic) using semi-conductors because he believes this technology is a game changer.

Think solar panels on the rooftop of every home and business around the world. Kennedy envisions this dream coming to life through a Solar Ascent where Rooftop Revolutionaries take part by putting solar systems on their homes.

Rooftop Revolution is not only a book about solar energy, but a book about how solar energy can change the future of power. It is also a guide for people to learn how to become part of the fight against Dirty Energy. Using his own experiences and telling stories of others who have gone before us, he tells the past, current and future story of solar energy. He does this through relatable stories, memorable acronyms (King CONG: the four headed monster of coal, oil, nukes, and gas) and easy to do steps.

Dirty Energy, says Kennedy, is telling one story, a story full of misused facts and half truths to make you believe that if you move to alternative sources of energy, such as solar energy, the world will go back to the Dark Ages and to add insult to injury, pay more for less power. Kennedy says this is not true but in fact the price of solar has been cut in half in recent years and with the advent of solar leases, people can begin to save money as soon as they flip the switch to solar. As more solar gets adopted, the technology will get even better and solar energy will continue to cost less and less. (Did you know that even though the U.S. has huge reserves of natural gas, it is getting more and more expensive?)

Kennedy is an activist for change. Back in the day he joined revolutions as a member of Greenpeace, today he is a part of the Rooftop Revolution, helping people all over the world generate clean, cheap power with the sun – solar energy. He writes, “So get involved….Right now it’s important that everyone know the truth about solar’s power and how we should be making energy. Our future – our safety, our prosperity, and our environment-depends on the success of the Rooftop Revolution.

While most of us do not have the means of the money to start a solar company (Kennedy is the founder of Sungevity), there are still things we can do. One thing is to become a Rooftop Revolutionary and share this book. So I am. Follow @DomesticFuel on Twitter and tweet this story with #RooftopRevolution in your tweet and you will be entered for your chance to win my copy of Danny Kennedy’s Rooftop Revolution.

Book Review – Climategate

For those of you who believe in climate change, you will criticize me for not only reading but reviewing “Climategate,” by Brian Sussman as the last book in my 2012 La Nina Reading List. For those of you who don’t buy in to climate change, you’ll applaud me for bringing you this review.

Sussman is best known as a TV science reporter and meteorologist and a person who does not buy into the theory of global warming. In fact, he wrote the book to “sound a vociferous warning: global warming is a scam perpetuated by an elite sect of Marx-lovers who believe they can do communism/socialism more effectively than their predecessors; and now, with the ascension of Barack Obama as president, the scam has reached hyperspeed.”

If you have read enough of my book reviews (and if you haven’t get to reading), you will note that Sussman is in the same camp as all the others who don’t believe in climate change – it is a scam with influential players from politicians, to scientists to environmental organizations, to make money.

The book takes a look at the “foundation of fraud” that has led us to where we are today. It dates back to the late sixty’s, early seventies, writes Sussman, with the advent of Earth Day and has gained warp speed with the creation of climate conferences, global treaties and legislation. One of the worst hoaxes of climate change—the Environmental Protection Agency determining that carbon dioxide is a pollutant.

Why are people buying into this theory? Sussman says when citizens lack a frame of reference they are primed to be sucked into believing what “experts” say. In other words, peoples’ lack of education around basic energy and environmental knowledge has left them open to corruption.

So what are the solutions to this problem? The country needs an energy plan that does not involve restrictions and limitations. An effective energy policy will be one that provides Americans with inexpensive and abundant power that includes harvesting fossil fuel resources argues Sussman.

Who is this book for? Not those mired deep in the beliefs of climate change who are weak of heart. You just might have a stroke. This book is best read by those who agree that global warming is a farce and will give you additional arguments to back up your theories.  Ultimately, Sussman diverges from others in his linking those who buy-in to climate change as being a Marxist or communist. Has he gone too far or not far enough?