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Rouge, Rally, Roundtable, and Ralph May 2, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in books, economy, energy efficiency.
Tags: , ,

Regular readers of Bluejay—yes mom, I’m talking to you—may have noticed a break in the usual post-per-day or two-posts-every-three-days routine. It isn’t blogging fatigue. At least not on my part. Although I suspect my readers—yes mom, you again—are getting somewhat fatigued reading everything that comes from my brain, through my fingers, and to WordPress. To quote the immortal Lenny Dykstra “Reading tires the batting eye.”

So after a ten-day break, Bluejay is back. With a somewhat different sort of post. Bluejay is not “personal” blog a la Twitter or Facebook status update stream. I haven’t use it to report on daily activities and don’t plan on doing so going forward. Bluejay is a dumping ground for rants, diatribes, and other commentary, a chance for me to practice non-technical writing, and a form of release. But I am taking a Twitter-like detour to talk about “how I spent some of my Bluejay vacation.”

Mrs. Bluejay and I spent last weekend and Monday in our nation’s capital. Say what you will about what goes on inside the various buildings of Washington, DC, but the buildings themselves are beautiful. The wide sidewalks and the metro make getting around without a car pleasant. And the radial state-named avenues that occasionally give you glimpses of the Capitol are a nice touch too.

We stayed at the Hotel Rouge, one of the Kimpton eco-friendly hotels. Eco-friendly may make it sound like the rooms are lit by candle and the toilet-paper is yesterday’s Washington Post. But Rouge has electricity, soft toilet paper, complementary wi-fi for Kimpton network members. The only discernable eco-friendly members are somewhat dimly lit hallways and a parking discount for hybrids. Woot! Rouge is optimally located a few blocks off of Dupont Circle and one block down 16th from the embassy of Kazakhstan. Chenqui! Next time you travel, please consider staying at a Kimpton hotel. And please be sure to mention Philly Bluejay.

On Sunday, Mrs. Bluejay and I attended the Climate Rally on the National Mall. The epicenter was a concert stage featuring pep talks by various environmental celebrities and occasional music. The headliner was Sting but we were already back at Rouge by the time he showed up. The rally was not heavily attended while we were there, with nearly a 1:1 ratio of porta-johnny’s to ralliers. The most notable attendees were two women standing naked in a wrap-around shower as part of a PETA display, another man dressed as a polar bear, and two Navi on stilts. Many people walked around with “Kill Vampires” stickers and it took some time before we realized that the stickers were referring to vampire currents which electronics draw even when purportedly “off.” The most interesting part of the rally was the EPA P3 competition tent in which groups from different universities presented Phase I results of their green research projects and competed for Phase II funding. Most of the projects were directed at developing countries and involved gravity only water purification and treatment, or low-tech production of methane—not for release into the atmosphere, for capture and use in cooking and heating as an alternative to wood—using anaerobic digestion from various forms of biomass. Apparently, a mixture of cow and goat dung is especially productive. Who knew! I asked the presenters about adding human excrement to the mixture. They hemmed and hawed and then said that a group at a different university was looking at this. Ha! I wonder whether either group won Phase II funding.

On Monday, I attended a symposium on energy-efficiency organized by the ACEEE. The symposium was held at the University of California, Washington Center—ummm, yes—serendipitiously on the other side of the circle from Rouge. There were talks by Robert Ayres, Marylin Brown, Tom Casten, and several other energy-efficiency notables as well as a panel discussion involving representatives from ARM, Dow Chemical, and Verizon. Did you know that Dow consumes as much petroleum annually—both for energy and for stock—as Kuwait produces? You do now. Every other presentation had the McKinsey mid-range greenhouse gas abatement graphic on it. And I think I was the only one in the room who hadn’t read the actual report. I’m doing it now, by the way. If you look at this grahpic, the most striking thing about it is the “residential lighting” bar, ostensibly referring to CFLs but maybe also to LEDs. People, if we all replaced conventional incandescent bulbs with CFLs, we could save about 100,000,000 tons of CO2 per year at an average cost of -90USD per ton or -9,000,000,000USD. That’s right. We would save 100 millions tons of CO2 and9 billion dollars. Why is this potential still left on the table? Don’t tell me it’s because of mercury. Coal-fired power plants produce more mercury than in all the CFLs that will ever be made. And if you have small children and are afraid that they will break a bulb and drink the mercury out of it, buy LED lighting instead! Anyway, the symposium and many of the attendees I met were both quite interesting.

As it turns out, the event following the ACEEE symposium at the University of California, Washington Center was a book signing by Ralph Nader. And so I met the man and got a signed copy of “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!” I didn’t mention that I am still somewhat bitter about the 2000 election. Although in fairness, aside from that debacle, Ralph has been using his powers for good. Mrs. Bluejay—who was off to her own machinations for the day—was jealous. Jeez, it’s not like a got a signed book from Patti Stanger!

P.S. Speaking of blogging as release. Having seen Randy Pausch’s blog, (here is the last lecture if you haven’t seen it), followed the slow death of a husband of an acquaintance through her blog (I can’t find it anymore, I think she took it down), and now reading about this woman’s journey/blog, I am coming to the conclusion that blogging—if nothing else—may be the best way of coming to terms with terminal illness.

P.P.S. Offshore windmills may ruin vistas and kill many birds, especially if placed along migration routes, but they will not ruin as many vistas or kill as many birds as British Petroleum. As if Louisiana hasn’t been through enough.

P.P.P.S. I’m sorry, what’s wrong with these austerity measures? Especially, when the alternative is being picked up at auction by China?



1. eema - May 2, 2010

Mother, there is only one! So I guess you were talking to me. I do read your blog entries, and I found myself in parts of the auto-generated link (Have you read it?), but I must confess — ready? — I skip everything sports. As for praise, well, you know the story about them asking the crow to go get the most beautiful (and I’d add talented and some other superlatives) bird….

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