GREEN LEAF!

One of my oldest childhood dreams is now a reality – and more!

That dream was to one day drive an electric vehicle that was charged with electricity provided by the sun.

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After originally dreaming up the idea in Mr. Jackson’s 6th grade science class way back in 1980*, then pondering, dreaming, and researching the idea for many decades until recently, with the convergence of technologies over the last few years,  and by working with great friends, nonprofit supporters, patrons and my amazing students – I have finally made that boyhood dream come true for me and, most importantly, for my students – who are the next generation.  Our children are the generation that will benefit the most from these coming of age technologies – technologies that they will soon come to see as normal and as every day as we kids of the last generation viewed the internal combustion engine, land-line telephone, film camera, CD, and MTV.  *Read all about my 6th-grade epiphany in this blog post I penned on my nonprofit blog.

Now, over 35 years later, I am finally daily driving an electrically driven vehicle whose battery is charged with locally grown electricity from the sun – and a good chunk of water and wind produced renewably generated electricity!  I use this renewable energy fueled electric vehicle for commuting to and from work, as an outreach vehicle for my nonprofit environmental education organization – Earthshine Nature Programs – and as a teaching tool in my middle and high school science classes where I work to demonstrate working models of the “new normal” of these now off-the-shelf technologies to the young minds who will lead us forward into a clean, renewable energy powered, and electrically driven future!

How did all this happen?

It all started in the late summer of 2012 when my wife and I purchased a slightly used 2012 Nissan Leaf Electric Vehicle (EV).  I wrote all about that misadventure in this previous blog post.

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We quickly came to dearly love the little electric car, and for the first 4 years of EV ownership, we charged the vehicle using the local grid provided energy mix.  In 2017 this all changed when my classroom’s new 4.8 kW photovoltaic solar array went online.

Now I charge my EV almost every day with sunlight!

The data I have outlined below reveal that 48% of the power I used to charge EV’s drive battery over the period of this study came directly from solar produced, renewably generated, clean electricity produced by the 4.8 kWh photovoltaic solar array at my classroom/office where I charge on weekdays.

Read more about the construction of our student-built solar array.

Due to the logistics of driving an early, short range, EV – the other 52% of the power needed to get me around during the time of this study came from the local power grid’s energy mix.

That energy mix is not perfect but it could be much worse.  As of only about a decade or so ago it was provided by electricity generated primarily by burning coal – the dirtiest of the fossil fuels.  As it stands today our local energy mix is a blend of coal, natural gas, hydroelectric, solar, nuclear, and wind (more or less in that order).

This 52% of my electric vehicle’s electron fuel originates from the local energy mix which I source from various 120 volt standard electrical outlets at my private residence and at the homes of friends, and the readily available Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE)  – aka car chargers – network located all around my “home range.” (Home range = the area in which I spend the majority of my time.)

When on the road I always try my best to use EVSE that are in close association with, or not far from solar or other renewable energy power sources in the attempt to keep my car’s electric fuel as clean as possible.

But how does all this work you may ask?

First, let us look at the solar side of things.

It all starts with our nearest star – the sun.  Sunlight, which is made up of photons – that can take up to as long as one million years to be produced inside the sun – is produced by our nearest star then zip through space at the speed of light and around 8 minutes later strike my classroom’s photovoltaic solar array – that’s my classroom in the below photo taken by the ENP solar charged camera drone.

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The photons are then converted into direct current (DC) electricity by an almost magical process that takes place within in the blue semi-conducting solar cells contained within the 20 solar modules that currently* make up the array.  After the electricity is produced in the solar modules it travels (again at the speed of light) via wires to the SMA Sunny Boy inverter where it is modified from DC current into AC current and sent into the building’s power grid.  From the there it travels via more wiring to a Clipper Creek Level 2 EVSE.    *I say currently because we are now working on raising funds to complete Phase Two which will add 10 more solar modules to our classroom solar array powering the entire building and the EV with solar!  Learn more about how you can help us make this happen for our classroom and nonprofit on our Patreon page or on our GoFundMe page.

Read all about our very special EVSE – donated by Pine Shore Energy

From the EVSE the energy then travels along a cable into my 2012 Nissan Leaf and charges the car’s battery with clean, locally produced, renewable solar electricity.

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No dirty, toxic, life-destroying fossil fuels needed for this configuration.

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Sunshine + Science + EV + Willpower + Determination + Generosity +Hard Work = a Solar Driven Electric Vehicle!

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Renewable energy + EV’s are the “new normal” and they offer all of us freedom from the subscription to dependency that is fossil fuels.

Although I have been daily charging my 2012 Nissan Leaf in this manner since mid-July 2017, this report will only cover a 4-month time-frame between August and November of 2017. At the end of 1 year, I will recalculate and we will take a look at the changes.

I only live about a dozen miles from my classroom/office and during the week I always charge my Leaf at work. After work and on weekends I often travel around the area for work and play so I must occasionally plug my Leaf into a standard power outlet on my carport at home or use the many conveniently located community Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) public charging stations* that are powered by other local energy sources – and some of these energy sources are not as clean as our favorite neighborhood star.  For these logistical reasons, my Leaf is not entirely powered by the sun – at least not yet. *see map below and visit Plugshare to learn where there are EVSE near you.

The local charging station network as of the writing of this post.  The blue dot is approximately (but nowhere near exactly for security reasons) where I live.

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So, how do I know my Leaf is 48% solar powered?

To answer to that question I took a deep look at my “Leaf Log” – a charging status and usage journal that I have been keeping of my daily charging/driving activities since day one of EV ownership.

I compared my Leaf Log with the daily power production logs from my classroom’s SMA Sunny Boy Inverter and cross-referenced those with the power usage records from Duke Energy – my grid power provider.

The Data.

Time period covered: August 01- November 30, 2017.

Total solar array production to November 30th: 1.36 MWh

Average monthly solar production over the time period: 280.45 kWh

Average daily solar production over the time period: 9.34 kWh

Total number of times the Leaf was fully charged* using solar produced electricity over the time period: 65

*I only recorded data for days where solar production equaled or was greater than the kWh needed to fully charge my Leaf EV.

Total number of times the Leaf was charged at home over the time period: 47

Total number of times the Leaf was charged with local energy mix* over the time period: 53  *Our local energy mix includes a mix of Coal, Natural gas, Hydroelectric, Solar, Nuclear, and wind more or less in that order.  From:   https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/#tabs_unit-1

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Number of kWh from the cleanest solar produced electricity (my classroom solar array) over the time period: 535.19 kWh

Number of kWh from the local energy mix over the time period (home+other local EVSE): 687.3 kWh

Number of kWh sourced from Level 1 home charging: 357.3 kWh

Number of kWh from all other sources outside of solar/home: 330 kWh

Total kWh used by EV over time frame: 1222.49

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It is important to note that my home energy mix is supported by wind power carbon offsets through Arcadia Power.  This is significant because when I charge my Leaf at home, the energy used to charge its battery, while being physically generated by the local energy mix, has its carbon pollution offset by the construction and operation of wind farms which serve to lower my EV’s carbon footprint even more!

Number of kWh from wind energy offsets used to charge my Leaf at home over the time period = 357.3 kWh

Now let’s take a look at the local energy mix.

The total kWh sourced from the grid mix over the time period = 330 kWh.

Total kWh electricity sourced from EVSE in close proximity to renewably produced energy from home range grid mix over the time period = 97.3 kWh

Number of kWh from known renewable energy augmented EVSE stations*: 51.9 kWh * Solar BrightfieldTS EVSE at UNCA/Asheville Public Works BrightfieldTS solar EVSE/EarthFare BrightfieldTS EVSE/Sierra Nevada Brewery/WCU BrightfieldTS EVSE/Cherokee Welcome Center solar/wind EVSE

Total kWh used from charging the Leaf adjacent to the dirtiest EVSE* in our local energy grid over the time period = 27.2 kWh *Note: I refer to this as the dirtiest EVSE in the area as it is less than a mile from and within sight of the largest local fossil fuel-fired electricity power plant in the area – as you can see from this image.

 

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FINAL ANALASYS 

Total energy used by EV over time period: 1,221.77 kWh 

1041.69 + 180.08 = 1221.77

Total kWh from known clean energy sources over the time period: 1,041.69 kWh 

535.19(classroom solar) + 51.9(RE EVSE) + 357.3(home wind offests) + 97.3 (near RE)  = 1041.69 kWh

Total kWh from fossil fuel generation sources:  180.8 kWh

153.6 + 27.2 (fossil fuels) = 180.8

 

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CONCLUSIONS

My calculations suggest that, over the time period in question, the LEAF received 85.3% of its energy from renewable energy sources via either local sources or via carbon offsets.  The remaining 14.7% of its energy came from local fossil fuel-fired generation sources.

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So it seems that if my maths are correct (and please do correct me if you find an error) that my data and calculations suggest that during the time period in question my Leaf was 48% solar charged and 52% grid mix charged with 37.3% of that grid mix being sourced from renewable energy sources.

During the 48% of the time my Leaf was solar charging at my classroom – it was, in fact, receiving its electrons from the sun.

The other 52% of the time, while it is reasonable to deduce that my EV received 37.3% of its energy from renewable energy sources – it is more complicated to pinpoint the exact energy sources for my vehicles electron fuel.  This is due to the nature of nature, the nature of the electric grid, the loads on the grid at any given time, the nature of electrons, and my varied locations when charging.

Nonetheless, if the numbers and my calculations are accurate then it is reasonable to say that my little EV is truly a “green” Leaf and, for its specific situation and use – it is as clean as it can possibly be when compared to vehicles powered solely by internal combustion engines that receive all of their energy from carbon-based fossil fuel sources.  These results make me very happy by giving me the knowledge that I am doing as much as I am able to do to shrink my carbon footprint and I am working to share my findings with the next generation.

I am also fully and acutely aware that everything we do has an impact on our shared earth – from the manufacturing process of the vehicle, EVSE, solar array, and all the parts that tie it all together – these all have their own unique carbon footprints.  I am also fully aware that all grid-based energy supply networks – from the dirtiest coal or diesel-fired power plant to the cleanest hydro, wind or solar sourced renewable energy installation also have their own areas of inefficiency and loss that compounds to lower their carbon footprints – so no, there is no such thing as a 100% carbon-free human-made energy source and there will always be some losses in the manufacturing processes, in the power delivery along the way to you, and in the final use of that power by you, the user.  I am not here to debate those things nor am I hear to claim that I have all the answers.  What I am here to do is share with you the ways I have discovered that you can make use of to lower your personal carbon footprint by using renewable energy and electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf in your everyday lives.  Those other, larger issues – we common folk have little control over – but those issues will improve as our technology improves.  For those improvements to happen we need to vote strong scientific minds into offices of power and we need to vote with our money in support of renewable energy projects, electric vehicles and their support infrastructure, and better efficiency in our homes, schools and workplaces and maybe then, by working together, we can work to make our collective impacts on our fragile ecosystem as low as possible for the benefit of us all and for the benefit of everything moving forward.

MORE PONDERINGS

The 149.2 kWh of RE generated/augmented electricity sources used to charge my EV varied depending upon where I plugged into the grid, was it sunny, overcast, windy, what was the ambient temperature etc.  Although I am not 100% sure on any of the following I will take a stab at hazarding an educated guess.

Looking at the below map you will see two polygons.  These represent my daily home range and the electricity generation sources located therein.  I spend around 90% of my time within the area of the yellow polygon while the green polygon represents the extended home range that I visit around 10% of the time.  Note: the Duke Energy power plant located just north of center of my primary home range is listed on the map as a Natural Gas Power Plant – however, that listing is misleading as it is, in reality, a “Conventional Steam Coal; Natural Gas Fired Combustion Turbine with Net Summer Capacity by Energy Source: Coal = 378 MW, Natural Gas = 320 MW.” – so it is currently not as “clean” as it is reported.  The Oconee Nuclear power station, the closest one to my location, is just off the southern edge of the map to the left of Liberty, SC.

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On the next map, we see all of the locations where I frequently charge my car and their locations in relation to the local power grid’s energy production sources.

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The L1 and L2 EVSE in the lower left of the yellow polygon are clustered around my home and office.  My home is located midway between the Duke energy coal/gas plant and a large clustering of hydroelectric power plants to the west.  At first glance it appears that around 50% of my home’s electricity may be provided from this renewably generated clean hydroelectricity – however, those hydroelectric generation stations are on a different circuit so I am therefore unable to take advantage of their much cleaner hydroelectricity.  Although my home circuit’s power grid is fed mostly by a mix of coal, natural gas, hydroelectric, nuclear, and solar more or less in that order – however, when we take into account the renewable energy offsets I receive from Arcadia Power my home energy mix becomes MUCH cleaner!

When I am in the northern part of my most frequented home range I usually charge at solar assisted EVSE locations located in downtown Asheville at the BrightfieldTS solar assisted EVSE stations located on College St., on the campus of UNCA, at the Sierra Nevada Brewery, or at the Earthfare Grocery store in South Asheville.  These EVSE stations receive a large portion of their power from solar energy so, if an EV is charging during the day it is solar charged.  When an EV is not charging, these EVSE then feed clean solar produced electricity back into the power grid.  I can, therefore, hypothesize that when I charge at these locations (on sunny days) I am driving on sunshine and my car’s electron fuel is potentially as clean as when I solar charge at my classroom.

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Charging on sunshine on the campus of UNCA

When I drive out of my most frequented home range area and into my extended home range (the area within the green polygon) not only is the majority of the electricity in that area provided by clean hydroelectric generating stations, but on top of that,  whenever possible I charge at EVSE locations that are relatively close to hydroelectric, solar/wind* augmented generating stations.  It is interesting to note that the EVSE on the campus of  Western Carolina University is also fueled by a solar canopy as seen below.

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This EVSE is also very close to the nearby Electron Garden , a small campus solar farm seen in the following photo,  as well as being located “downstream” from several hydroelectric power generating facilities that produce close to 50 MW of clean hydro-generated electricity – so these facts suggest that this is indeed a very clean EVSE!22279717_10213086155961288_6919179988762042057_n-1.jpg

Another EVSE I use frequently is located at the Cherokee, NC welcome center in Cherokee, NC.  This EVSE is powered by a mix of hydroelectric, solar, and wind generated electricity.  The building (pictured below) is attached to a hydroelectrically energized power grid and it has two solar “trees” plus a small-scale wind turbine on site that generates even more clean energy from the sun and wind.

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This clean energy is then fed directly into the building’s grid and the three EVSE located in the parking area.  If an EV is charging then its batteries will be solar, wind, and water power charged.

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My Leaf charging at the Cherokee Welcome Center.

On a few occasions, I am forced, due to my Leaf’s limited range, to charge at EVSE located very close to coal-fired generating facilities.  On these occasions, my car is fueled with clean electrons produced by dirty energy generation stations.  The good thing is that these occurrences are rare and totaled only 27.2 kWh of my total energy usage during the time period under study.

Follow Up

I have arrived at my conclusions based on data from my home range map, charging history data from the “Leaf Log,” and knowledge of the local electricity providers power generating facilities and their service areas.

Even with the gray areas in the numbers this 85.3% renewable energy provided fuel is far and above cleaner and more energy secure and has a significantly lower carbon footprint than anything out there on the roads that runs on any liquid petroleum fuel.

In fact, even if I did not have a solar generating station at my classroom/office, or use Arcadia Power for carbon offsets, or charge at renewable energy powered EVSE – my Leaf would still average around 73 mpg equivalent*.   This is due to our country’s grid mix continuing to get cleaner every day with the retirement of aging coal fired power plants and their replacement with cleaner natural gas and much cleaner renewable energy power stations! *From the Union of Concerned Scientists EV Emissions Calculator found here: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/electric-vehicles/ev-emissions-tool#z/28768/2012/Nissan/LEAF (24 kWh)

This data is based on the following chart of the US energy mix as of March 2017.

2014-map_blog_5.19-1024x749 Source: http://blog.ucsusa.org/dave-reichmuth/new-numbers-are-in-and-evs-are-cleaner-than-ever

North Carolina’s Energy Mix

Now let’s look take a deeper look at my local energy mix.  The energy mix is just that – a mix of different energy sources all working together to provide us with reliable power for our homes, businesses, schools, and for a growing number of us – our electric transportation choices.

Traditionally, North Carolina was powered mostly by mostly coal but over the last couple of decades, we have seen a slow but steady growth in renewable power –  especially since 2010.  Since then NC has gone from near the back of the parade to #2 in the country for installed solar power!  Solar now provides NC residents with ~3.57% of our energy mix coming from the sun as well as over 3000 MWh of installed capacity – enough to power over 341,000 homes – and on top of that solar provides over 7,100 North Carolinians with great jobs and in the process, our energy mix just keeps getting cleaner!

Evidence of this can be seen in the below map image of NC’s current solar  (hydroelectric and nuclear) situation! (Note: yellow stars=grid scale solar power generation facilities, Blue=hydroelectric, purple=nuclear.)

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This trend is happening all over the country as evidenced by this amazing graphic from this UCS article.

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As of May 2016, the USA had installed 1 million solar installations – including around 950,000 rooftop solar arrays! (Source: http://blog.ucsusa.org/mike-jacobs/one-million-solar-energy-systems-now-turned-on-in-us )

Many more solar and wind generating facilities are planned for the 2018 year as can be seen in the map below.

planned RE generating facilities 2018

It is wonderful to see the fall of dirty “King Coal” with no new coal-fired power stations going in and the rapid growth of renewable power generation nationwide.  What this means is cleaner air, cleaner water, and a cleaner future for all of us, for nature, for wildlife, for our children, and for the children of the future.

It also means that even when we charge our EV’s on only local grid power they will  ALWAYS be cleaner and have less of an impact on our environment than ANYTHING powered by petroleum products (source).  Furthermore, with more and more new grid scale and private renewable energy generation facilities going online, the grid just continues to get cleaner – so every time we charge our EV’s anywhere – the electrons fueling our vehicles also just continue to get cleaner.

This is a win-win situation for all of us…well, unless you are still driving around in an old fossil burner because, as we all know, their fuel source can never be made clean and on top of that as they age their efficiency drops as their multitudes of moving parts wear out with use only causing them to pollute more and more.

Below a wonderful sign of the times from the Sunday funny papers 🙂

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I almost forgot to mention that when I looked at how the numbers have changed when it comes to my fuel costs to push my Nissan Leaf EV down the road – the new solar array has lowered my costs by,  you guessed it, almost half of what I was paying in the past.  My previous costs of operation for my EV’s electric fuel were around $30/month and now, with my classroom solar array online and charging my car with sunshine, I can now drive my average 1200 miles/month for about $15 – that works out to a little more than 1 cent per mile to fuel my EV!!!

OUTRAGEOUS!!!

That my friends is the ultimate smackdown to petroleum-based fuels.

I could not be happier.

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!THANK YOU!

Thank you to everyone who worked with me to make this dream a reality!

You are all HEROES!

 

 

 

 

 

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Now I know why Max was mad.

Just before the start of this year’s international celebration of electric vehicles known as National Drive Electric Week a  leak was discovered in a major gasoline pipeline in Alabama.  This pipeline, that supplies gasoline to millions of people along the east coast of the USA, leaked over 330,000 gallons of gasoline into the environment.  This is an aerial view of the lake in Alabama that was contaminated by the fuel spill.

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Photo source

This unfortunate and ironically timed disaster is yet another oily thorn in the side of the petroleum industry and it comes amid the recent and past news of multiple oil/gas pipeline leaks, explosionsoil train disasters and other mishaps all over the world,  and let us not forget the oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico and all the petroleum related cover ups and lies by the likes ExxonMobil and Volkswagen.  It is as if nature/God/the universe or whatever deity you pray to (or not) is telling all of us – “look you naked little thinking pink apes, you need to end all this madness and leave the fossil fuels in the ground where I put them in the first place! They are highly toxic and dangerous to all life forms – that is why I buried them safely underground and I expected you to leave them there!  I gave you unlimited clean energy literally all around you – the winds, the sun, the waves – and what do you do!?!  You, dig up the toxic waste of the past and burn it anyway ignoring the bountiful clean energy sources literally flowing, bowing, and shining all around you!  Angry, yes – I am well and truly angry at you and the costs are going to be very high.  But there is still time.  You have one last chance to clean up your careless ways.  But if you ignore the punches I have been throwing you in the form of my super storms, floods, fires, if you ignore my warnings and continue with business as usual there will be hell to pay and you just may join the dinosaurs.”

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After the leak was discovered repair crews from the pipeline owner Colonial Pipeline began work on cleaning up the spill and repairing the leak in the pipe as seen in the above photo from this source. Notice how close to a body of water the pipeline is at this point.  The gasoline leaked into this nearby pond and trace amounts have been found an a nearby pond as well.  Luckily however, due to the location and timing of the leak it seems that a major environmental catastrophe was avoided – at least for now.  We were very lucky this time but reality shows that it is only a matter of time before another pipeline breaks and causes irreparable harm to the environment and the creatures that call it home–including us.  This spill could just as easily have been another Mayflower/Pegasus pipeline spill or much worse.

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Unfortunately for everyone in my area, the media grabbed the story and reported on it in the way they do so well…resulting in fears of an empty tank causing long lines at the gasoline stations where people wait for access to the pumps to squeeze out every last drop of the precious, toxic, and highly addictive elixir that gives them mobility and the illusion of freedom.  

Throw in a natural disaster and it gets even more interesting…  

Hurricane Katrina…remember the mess that caused?

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Photo source MIT

Then more recently Hurricane Sandy.

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Above photo from Universe Today

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Above image from this 2012 article after Hurricane Sandy hit the northeastern US causing gas shortages and similar stress that we are facing in the southeast today.

Inevitably the gas station owners were forced to raise their prices to pay for the increased emergency shipping to get fuel to the out of gas communities in a timely manner.  Many companies then took advantage of the situation and price gouging ran rampant with prices being reported as high as $5 per gallon in some areas forcing the Governors of several states to freeze gas prices until things get back to “normal.”     

Below are a few links to the media explosion resulting from this fuel leak

From my local news networks

http://wlos.com/news/local/breaking-state-of-emergency-in-nc-over-gas-shortage

http://wlos.com/news/local/several-stations-in-asheville-area-out-of-gas

http://wlos.com/news/local/2016-gas-shortage-what-are-you-seeing

http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2016/09/19/asheville-gas-shortage-leads-panic-people-freaking-out/90688134/

From the other sources

http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2016/09/alabama_pipeline_leak_georgia.html

http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2016/09/how_alabama_pipeline_leak_led.html

http://abcnews.go.com/US/states-facing-gas-shortages-colonial-pipeline-spill/story?id=42153670

http://money.cnn.com/2016/09/16/investing/gasoline-prices-shortage-pipeline-leak/

On Saturday, 9/17/16 I witnessed the fossil fired madness first hand as I drove my Nissan Leaf EV from Brevard to Hendersonville.

12:15pm The first station I passed had long lines stretching out into the road.  Unfortunately I was unable to get a photograph.

12:25pm. The second station I passed is pictured below.  Cars were pouring in as I snapped the photo!

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12:40pm. I passed another station and witnessed more insanely long lines.  At this one I overheard a woman yelling like a child to another driver “That’s my spot, I was here first!”

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I then saw this madness at an Ingles station in north Hendersonville.

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1:30pm. By far the most disturbing scene was at this Ingles in Flat Rock.

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I had to pull over at a safe distance and take some more photos of the media driven panic buying insanity.

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There was a fuel truck on site attempting to keep up with the demand…

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Like a person hooked on a prescription drug these people were desperate and will do almost anything for a fix of the deadly juice that powers their lives.

Oil Addict

Image source – the internet.

Do we really want to pass this toxic addiction on to our innocent children?

At one point scenes from Mad Max The Road Warrior started flashing through my head…

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…but could that really happen?  This guy may have part of the answer…

While many believe and trust the mass media reports that a pipeline did leak causing a measurable fuel shortage, there are others that believe this is simply a manufactured demand issue designed to drive up prices and oil company profits across the board.

It is the authors opinion that it may be a mix of both and wherever the truth lies the cold hard fact that remains is that people who choose to drive vehicles powered only by gasoline are terrified that their lives and business will be disrupted by this reduction in the flow of fuel.  The other cold hard fact is that this incident has revealed is that our addiction to petroleum products is dangerous and very precariously balanced on a very thin razors edge.  The uninterrupted flow of gasoline and oil is all dependent on a very complex, decades old in some areas, infrastructure supported by a complex international petroleum supply chain overseen and controlled by out of date warmongering old fossil fuel pushers and their very well compensated puppets in national, state and local governments that are all hell bent on filling up their bank accounts with our hard earned money at any cost.  AddictedUncleSam

It is time we accept the cold hard fact that our nation is locked in a manufactured addiction to the dangerous, toxic drug that we call petroleum and all of its byproducts.

Yet, there exists another way to get around, a better way to get around.

The electric vehicle.

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Sadly, many individuals and special interest groups refuse to accept it, many even deny its validity at every turn.  A minority of severely addicted close minded petroleum pushers and users even call this not so new idea “un-American.” Some even go as far as mocking it by modifying their petroleum burning diesel-dino-juice guzzlers to illegally to emit clouds of noxious black smoke that they call “rolling coal” in the feeble attempt to make some sort of sad, anti-environmental statement in support of their addiction…

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…it is as if they are proud of themselves and their ability to harm themselves, the people around them, and the planet that supports their very lives just to satisfy some childish belief that may or may not be based in one or all of the following observations personally made by the author of this article;

1. “This is a free country so I can do whatever the **** I want to and you can’t stop me.”

2. Everybody else is doing it and it is somehow accepted and “cool” among their circle of misguided friends.

3. I’m “sticking it to the greenies” and to “the man.” The “greenies” being anyone concerned for the future, the environment, social justice, and their children and children’s children,  and “the man” being the US government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and any other governing agencies and NGO’s that work to protect us from ourselves.

4. “The “greenies” are wrong about everything.  There is no problem with the atmosphere or with pollution or overpopulation etc…and in fact “climate change is a hoax invented by  the Chinese.”  (Yes, even though this statement is garishly incorrect on so many levels, there are many people that actually believe the nonsense spouted by Donald J. Trump.)

5. “I can do it because my beliefs say I can.”

First off – it is the authors opinion that people are free to believe whatever they choose to believe unless that belief system in some way harms or oppresses other people, animals or the environment.  Please, always remember this – just because you believe a thing does not make it true unless it is supported by measurable, observable, testable empirical evidence to prove that belief is the case with factual certainty.

Secondly – it is the authors opinion that many of these ancient beliefs are simply metaphors – some based on actual happenings, others simply myths and legends of ancient “superheroes” created by their authors and undertaking their heroes journeys  and presented to the reader as a way to help them make sense of life, the universe, and everything.  Sadly, the meaning of these centuries old lessons are often totally missed by the reader who often take them literally, out of context, out of time, and then severely misinterpret them and attempt to apply them to the situations of their modern lives that could not have even been imagined in the simple agrarian world that existed when the words were first written down. These ancient, metaphorical guidelines for life are often so distorted and misconstrued by their transcribers and followers into the erroneous understanding that they are somehow superior and separate from nature – that they have dominion over the earth and all of its inhabitants and resources and therefore they can do whatever they wish to with it.  Sadly, some of those on the lunatic fringe of these belief systems are even more disturbing when they announce that they believe that the world will be ending soon and therefore nature and their daily choices and actions do not matter at all because it will all soon be destroyed by a vengeful omnipotent deity and then, as they often say – “you will all be sorry you did not bow down and pay homage to (insert deity here).”

That kind of apathetic attitude is so scary and so unbelievably selfish.

(Note: I have personally heard all of the above statements from real people, good people, even family members and people I deeply care about, and I am just so saddened and appalled that there are people who still think and believe these things.  I am so embarrassed and saddened at the actions of my own countrymen and fellow Human beings when they say and act like they do not care about anything but themselves.  Where and when did we gone wrong…?)

UPDATE 9/02/17: Hurricane Harvey hit Texas a few days ago and the resulting rains flooded many of the gasoline refineries and chemical plants that our nation’s fossil fuel infrastructure is reliant upon. Fuel prices have been shooting up in many areas and panic buying has been reported as well and in the attempts to avoid what happened almost a year ago North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issues a state of emergency in order to help keep gasoline flowing into the state and the US government released 4.5 million barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in response to the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. The damage from the storm has forced offline around 22 percent of U.S. refining capacity and 13 percent of Gulf of Mexico oil output.

Hurricane Harvey Makes Landfall On Middle Texas Coast   Hurricane Harvey impacting the Texas coast.  Image source.

As I write this some of the remnants of now tropical storm Harvey passes over my area leaving behind some soft rains showers and I am inspired to share some facts.

Knowing what the scientifically documented, testable, and undeniable facts show –

  1. Warmer air holds more moisture.
  2. Warmer water feeds more powerful storms.
  3. Prior to hurricane Harvey gulf coast water temps were 85 degrees – 5 degrees above average.
  4. Sea levels have risen by around 6″ on the Texas coast in the last few decades.
  5. For several decades humans have been ignoring the warnings of scientists, naturalists, and common sense and have been draining, filling, paving the water/rain absorbing wetlands/grasslands in Texas/Florida (and other) low-lying coastal regions in favor of building up suburbia which have created a recipe for disastrous flooding.
  6. The Human species’ addiction to burning fossil fuels for energy/transportation and everything else have led to measurable atmospheric carbon dioxide levels higher than they have been in 800,000 years.
  7. This increased CO2 acts like an insulating blanket over the earth trapping heat leading to the greenhouse effect/global warming and the associated increased surface and ocean temperatures, melting of the earth’s ice caps/glaciers, sea level rise, and consequently – stronger, wetter, more destructive storms such as Harvey, Sandy and Katrina.

In other words – our unscientifically supported, largely unregulated actions have had catastrophic consequences.  We humans are the root cause of anthropogenic climate change and we humans have created the perfect conditions for yet another superstorm situation for the USA with the resulting consequences – the breakdown of our fossil fuel supply systems, the loss of property, life and livelihood for our people.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal torrential monsoons and the resulting flooding and landslides have claimed the lives of over 1200 people and flooded a vast portion of India’s financial capital Mumbai leaving millions homeless and countless schools damaged leaving 1.8 million children out of school.

These facts speak for themselves and cry out loudly – if we puny humans do not stop ignoring the warnings of climate (and other) scientists and stop burning things for energy thereby releasing atmosphere altering greenhouse gasses into the environment faster than the earth can balance things out, then the consequences are dire – nature will wipe us out of existence. It is that simple. Nature does not care about us so we must care for ourselves and that begins with caring for nature above all else because nature is from where all life originates and is supported*.

It seems rather interesting and ironic to me that these great climate change fueled mega-storms have repeatedly smashed into areas that are:

  1. Highly populated centers of commerce, trade, inspiration, forward thinking progress and science, with people from all walks of life, all nationalities, all ethnicites, all religions, all sexual/gender orientations and…
  2. Many are also areas known for oil and gas production/distribution.

Fascinating.

A climate scientist or observant naturalist would say that all indications, predictions, experiments, theories – in other words all the peer reviewed science suggest that these great storms may be a product of anthropogenic climate change.

On the other hand a climate change/science doubter might say they were either –

  1. Random chance and that these things just happen.
  2. All the science is not “in” yet.
  3. A product of an angry (insert omnipotent vengeful deity here**) who is upset with the way people are living in the areas hit by these massive storms.

Really?

  1. Yes, things do happen.  All the time.  But to use that excuse as a way to avoid the facts is just ignorant and cowardly.
  2. Yes, all the science is “in” and it has been for decades. Visit the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for all the details.
  3. I offer this bit of long winded observation and insight into that third bit of “reasoning.”  What is the omnipotent deity angry about? Is it angry that all the millions, no wait – billions of little people doing what little people do on a daily basis? Is it angry at individual little humans and their bathroom choices, their food/drink/clothing/housing/body modification/decoration choices, their petty little squabbles over who owns what piece of land, is it mad because he said she said whatever stupid comment on Twitter or Facebook, or she said a cuss word, is it angry over the chosen sexual/gender orientation of a portion of the area’s population or that of a random 16 year old kid in a random town in whoknowswhereville, is it angry because you told a white lie, is it angry because you smoked a plant deemed off limits by society, is it angry because you drank a beer, is it angry because you had a sexy thought, is it angry because you have dark skin, is it angry because you are fat or thin, is it angry because you (insert whatever reason here), is it so angry, upset, hateful, and so vengeful at your little so called “evil” infraction that it will toss all reason, common sense and human decency aside to punish you and only you by sending a monster storm your way thereby condemning the thousands or even millions of innocent people that live near you to hardship, pain, loss, and possibly even death because you and a few individuals near you chose to be human and do things we humans do? Are you being punished because you chose to love a member of the same sex or to worship nature, trees, money, sex, drugs and rock n roll instead of one of the thousands of different gods that are worshiped on planet earth today.   No.  These actions do not sound like the actions of a loving, caring, supportive deity.  Whatever all-powerful god or gods may exist there is no evidence to suggest that it would be a hateful, spiteful being.  Why would a creator being expend so much energy creating such a complex and wonderful living system that is you and then harm his/her/it’s cherished experiment?  These are not the actions of a loving parent/creator.  If they are then whatever god-being is doing the punishing does not deserve to be worshiped.  Parents love their children unconditionally and I would hope an all powerful creator being would have an even greater capacity to do the same.   So no.  The creator, if it does in fact exist somewhere in the universe, does not care at all about all those petty little “infractions.” All of the minuscule minutia created by the Human condition, while obviously very important to the user, none of it will matter in 100 years nor will it matter in the grand scheme of geologic or better yet cosmic time. Should such an all-powerful cosmos designing, creating, and manipulating being exist somewhere in the cosmos, it has greater things to worry about such as keeping space-time intact, how to keep the suns burning (remember, there are literally trillions of suns out there in the cosmos), what to do about black holes, dark energy, plate tectonics, evolution, the rains out in Africa, Romulans, 42, how to keep the Daleks, asteroids and comets away from earth and so on.  In other words, the super being has much more to worry about than your, or any of our lives and this is why it (if it exists) gave us the ability to reason and think for ourselves which is something that is severely lacking today.  It seems that many splinter groups, factions on the lunatic fringe, and even many in the mainstream would rather hold onto destructive, divisive, intolorent, warmongering ways rather than accept the findings of science.  Instead of accepting science as a way to understand nature and use that knowledge to better their lives, many misguided followers will instead pray to their deity when bad things happen and that is all well and good.  Prayer is very useful in many ways for our emotional health and well-being and praying to a deity may help you bond with entire groups of like minded people.  Prayer may help you feel and work better together and yes, it may have a very powerful placebo effect for the users – but it does not get things done on the ground, in the mud, on the street.  The only way we can really make a concrete and lasting difference in the outcome of our lives or the future of our shared earth is with direct action through the methods and tools of science and by working together as a team.  So yes, please pray all you like and pray hard but praying alone did not rescue the flooded out people of Houston, the Florida Keys, NOLA, – good and helpful people of all ethnicities and all backgrounds coming together using the methods, products, and tools of science and technology did.

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However, when the tiny, pink naked apes we call humans start messing with the balance of nature – that my friend just might be the ultimate sin of all sins. Maybe, just maybe, all these recent massive and powerful storms are the omnipotent one’s way of punching the puny humans right in the face, right in the areas where we are processing the very fuel that is driving the engines of climate change.  How ironic that the creator deity(s) seems to be giving us repeated series of massive black eyes for the horribly irresponsible way we have treated this (it’s) grand experiment we call life the universe and everything.

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Maybe it is time we all stopped fighting over whether or not climate change is real and accept the fact that it is and that we are seeing the natural consequences of our mistreatment and mismanagement of our shared home planet,  Now is the time we need to start listening to the signs, signals, and punches being thrown at us before it is too late and the experiment is deemed a failure and is ended by nature (aka the master scientist in charge) and it goes back to the drawing board and starts over like any good scientist*** would do.

It is also very interesting to note that while everyone trusted and believed the climate scientists who predicted that Harvey, Sandy and Katrina (and now as I write this superstorm Hurricane Irma just destroyed Florida) would hit the areas they did bringing the rains, winds, flooding, disruption, and catastrophic damage they brought with them but bizarrely, many of those same people do not trust or believe those very same climate scientists when they say we humans are causing climate change by our continued addiction to and burning of fossil fuels.

Wake up and grow up people. Climate scientists are here to help us save us from ourselves.

To do this we must end our dangerous and destructive addiction to fossil fuels before we are unable to recover from the disasters nature will continue to keep throwing at us.

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Sadly it often takes a punch or three in the face to make us change and like the true American heroes in the below rescue video from hurricane Harvey – we need to coexist and work together if we want to save ourselves.

After watching brave Americans of all persuasions, ethnicities, economic backgrounds, and religions come together to help each other out after Harvey left Texas under trillions of gallons of water, and after working with the brilliant youth of today, I believe that the age of the science deniers, haters, doubters, and sadly misdirected individuals are a dying breed and that a new wave of reason is sweeping the globe.

Sunrise over Earth, artwork

Sunrise over Earth, artwork.

Due to the connectivity and great resource of knowledge provided by the internet, coupled with the findings of science, better education opportunities, the many whistle-blowers exposing the truths that uncaring corporations such as Big TobaccoExxonMobil and Volkswagen have hidden from us for so long…there is great reason to have hope. There is hope from the passionate educators and scientists teaching the scientific truth to their classes in all grade levels.  There are the bold producers, stars, and authors of must watch/much read independent documentaries and literature shining a bright light on these most important subjects such as these I highly recommend; Who Killed the Electric Car, Revenge of the Electric CarThe Cove, Sharkwater, Blackfish, Gasland, Gasland 2,  The 11th Hour, An Inconvenient TruthRacing Extinction, Before the Flood, Chasing Ice, Oil + Water, Oil and WaterFood Inc.Merchants of Doubt, Unstoppable,  The Road Not Taken, The War on Science, The Madhouse Effect Censoring Science,   , An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, Time to Choose, and many more. There is even more hope coming from the majority of US Christians and high profile religious leaders and individuals such as the Dalai Lama,  and many other religious leaders, including Muslim leaders, climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe with her sound promotion of climate science and action and her Global Weirding Youtube Series and Pope Francis, through his recent Encyclical, Summit on Climate Change and other works in support of sustainability, coexistence and peace.  There are forward thinking faith based groups such as Interfaith Power and Light, the Good Steward Campaign, that are urging people of all faiths to denounce the ancient and problematic biblical (King James and others) interpretation of dominion that the Christian God gave humanity the right to do whatever it wants to with and to the environment. Luckily today, these enlightened individuals and groups believe that (insert your deity here) calls on all people to be good stewards and protectors of the earth, not the careless greedy dictators that we have been for so long.

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 Earthrise 2015 source NASA

 Yet even greater hope comes from the many churches, monasteries, and convents are installing and blessing solar arrays.  Scout groupsschools and universities are  divesting from all fossil fuel investments and going renewable in order to be better stewards of this earth and to educate the children on a better way to use our natural resources. Now is the time we all must wake up and listen to the science and accept the fact that science and religion can work together in protection and stewardship of our shared earth, its natural resources and all its creatures.

Indigenous peoples such as the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes are speaking out and protesting  against the injustices being heaped upon their peoples and cultures by the actions of the past and sadly, the actions of today.  Personally, I fully support the Sioux and other indigenous tribes and their supporters that are fighting fossil fuel projects all over the world in order to protect their lands, waters and future generations from harm due to our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels.

As I write this thousands of people from all walks of life, members of other tribes, and even President Obama have assisted the Sioux in their fight against the pipeline they call the Black Snake but at the time of this writing the future of the pipeline and the Sioux is uncertain.  The overwhelming sentiment among indigenous people everywhere, with many even signing treaties among themselves against oil  and even meeting with the United Nations, is to stop the bulldozers and the pipelines and keep fossil fuels in the ground where they belong!

standing-rock-confrontationPhoto source and another good read on the Standing Rock Dakota Access situation.

Yet even more hope comes from youth from all over the planet.  The younger generation is waking up to the truth that has been hidden from us all for so long.  They are working to raise awareness of the environmental and human problems our addiction to fossil fuels are causing.  Youth groups all around the planet and other youth led organizations such as the Earth Guardians and Our Children’s Trust are working hard and even bringing lawsuits against governments to create positive change working toward a  clean, renewable powered future for us all.

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The students and children shall lead the clean energy revolution.

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I took the above photo recently after presenting a wildlife education show to a local school.  After my presentation I introduced the students to my car.  After I explained to them how it works, how much money I save, and how by driving electric you can help preserve nature, wildlife and our future environment, they were unanimously in favor of going EV.  Yes, after meeting wonderful young adults such as these I have great hope for the future and I have no doubt that we will be able to end our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels.  But it will take hard work and dedication from all of us to break the bonds of this addiction and to make it happen for us all, for the earth and for the future.

The power of the younger generation to insight change is supported by celebrities such as Lelani MunterBill Nye the Science Guy,  Leonardo DiCaprioMorgan Freeman, Harrison Ford, Matt Damon,  James Cameron, Julia Roberts, Joan ChenLiam Neeson and Robert Redford to name a few.

Musicians are making a difference as well with artists such as Xavier Rudd, Nahko and Medicine for the People, The Earth Guardians and many more speaking out in their songs in the fight to end our reliance on the toxic grip that fossil fuels and certain big corporations have on us all.

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Photo credit Jambase

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Photo credit Nahko and Medicine for the People

You can be part of the clean energy revolution!

You can end, or at least lower, your reliance on fossil fuels.

 You do not have to be wealthy or a celebrity to truly make a difference and lower your carbon footprint.

You too can drive electric.

As an example let’s take the case of my Nissan Leaf.

This is what I found this morning when I walked out of my door about to make the 13 mile journey to work.

20160918_075557  My little 2012 Nissan Leaf EV was fully charged and ready to roll.

I unplugged the charger, got inside, turned the car on to find…

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A wonderful 82 miles of all electric range!   I pulled out of the driveway and headed through the unusually sparse traffic for 8:30 am.  As I made my way to work I noticed a local gas station that was empty…quite a change from a few days before…so I pulled in to investigate. This is what I found.

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I was so happy to have my little EV at that moment!   Even with it’s limited range I can always fill it up with electrons anywhere there is an electrical outlet.

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As I prepared to pull out of the station I suddenly became aware of three gas powered vehicles quickly converging on my location!  I quickly realized that they must have seen my car in front of the pumps and assumed the station had product so they all dove in hoping to get some gas.  I quickly and silently eased out of the station, between the converging cars, and on down the road.  I had a small bit of anxiety at the thought of what some folks would do if they ran out of gas and could not do the things they need and want to do…and saw my EV silently driving down the road…now I know at least one of the reasons Max was mad.

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Those few of us early adopters who made the switch to electric vehicles over the last few years look on as we pass by the conflagrations with amazement, wonder, and a bit of fear and much more than range anxiety…and then we pull up to our EV fueling stations with little to no competition…and grin that EV grin 🙂

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We then calmly (and often freely or for a nominal fee) plug in and let the electrons flow into our sweet, silent, futuristic electric vehicles and we can’t help but grin that EV grin…again…because we know that driving electric is just a better way to drive.

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We all know that longer range EV’s are coming very soon including the Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model 3, 2018 Nissan Leaf, Nissan eNV200 and more…here’s a great test of a Bolt from a few days ago!

I am fully aware that fueling these all electric vehicles requires some fossil fuels such as coal but with gas out of the picture we are on our way to a much cleaner, safer, healthier, quieter society. I believe Arnold Schwarzenegger said it well here  when he came up with an excellent reason why we need to all go green.

There are two doors. Behind Door Number One is a completely sealed room, with a regular, gasoline-fueled car. Behind Door Number Two is an identical, completely sealed room, with an electric car. Both engines are running full blast.

I want you to pick a door to open, and enter the room and shut the door behind you. You have to stay in the room you choose for one hour. You cannot turn off the engine. You do not get a gas mask.

I’m guessing you chose the Door Number Two, with the electric car, right? Door number one is a fatal choice — who would ever want to breathe those fumes?

Clean, reliable, solar, wind and EV technologies are available NOW off the shelf and off the lot. In fact, you can now even find a good used EV for the same price as a good used gas guzzler in fact, many collage students are snatching up used Leafs as their daily drivers because they just make so much sense.  Check out Carvana.com for some really great deals on used Leafs!

On top of that the cost of solar has dropped exponentially in the last few years. Just stop and think for a moment…is your roof soaked in sunshine all or most of the day? Why not cover it in solar panels and put it to work for you?

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Photo credit A.J. Rowell

Just think about it. If you had an electric vehicle right now how happy would you be that you did not have to go to the gas station? Maybe you could be like this guy who swapped his dirty, toxic VW “clean” diesel for an EV.  Just stop and think for a moment how nice it would feel to be able to be truly free from the subscription to dependency and resulting high costs (to your bank account and the environment) and headaches of paying for gas and electricity. Imagine if your electric bill was only a few dollars a month? Most of us who are able to read these words honestly have no real excuse to not make the switch to cleaner technologies. If these options sound good to you, if they sound possible, then make it a goal to at least do some more research into the topic. Imagine.

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Photo credit A.J. Rowell

This gasoline madness is just that, madness.

Six years ago my wife and I started making the switch from gas to electric with the purchase of a rechargeable string trimmer (weed eater). Then in 2013 we ditched our ageing Honda CRV for our 2012 Nissan Leaf 100% electric vehicle. Since then we have fallen in love with both of them because they save us loads of money, they are quiet and fun to use/drive and they are so much better for the earth and for our health. While they still require some fossil fuels to charge (until we can one day go solar), the gas and oil have been taken out of the equation and that is a huge thing in so many ways.

A few days ago the little string trimmer finally died so I replaced it with an upgraded 80 volt heavy duty model and an electric leaf blower (they have interchangeable batteries)! Now we are even closer to one day becoming an all electric family and kissing gas goodbye forever!

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Going electric is not only for the well to do, I should know because I am anything but rich. Anyone can go electric and end your addiction to dirty, polluting, harmful, dangerous and outdated fossil fuels. All it takes is a little research, a test drive, a small amount of adaptation and compromise and soon, like me, you can be passing gas every day and loving every minute of it 🙂

On September 20 the gasoline tanker trucks started arriving in my area and select stations were able to dispense their product to the public.

On September 21st, as I again traveled that familiar road to work, I stopped at the local gasoline filling station…to squeegee my windshield 🙂 

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And I noticed that the pumps were all still out of service…all except for diesel.

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On September 22nd drivers of gas powered vehicles breathed a sigh of relief when the pipeline began operations again after a bypass was put in place around the damaged pipe. Hopefully soon the fuel supply will be back to some form of “normal” and those that drive only gas powered vehicles**** will be able to get around as in the past.  I only hope that this little incident has left many of them questioning fossil fuels and thinking seriously about making the switch to EV’s.

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How long will it be until the next pipeline ruptures?  Will it be in your neighborhood? Only time will tell.

UPDATE: November 01, 2016 – the very same Colonial Pipeline that caused this fuel shortage just over a month ago exploded yesterday killing one person and severely burning several more.  

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It seems that we did not have to wait very long for the next major pipeline incident.  More on this development to follow. Now do you now see why it is of utmost importance that we break our dangerous addiction to almighty oil and focus on renewable energy!  

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If the actions of the gasoline addicted public are any indications, I now know that one of the reasons Max was mad was because he was addicted to gasoline.

We have choices. Be the change.

* I am sure I will get some flak for this statement from folks who believe nature was put here for us to use up, dominate, consume, and destroy, in whatever manner we may dream up and that belief is total bull crap.  But, whatever. Say what you will – I have stopped feeding the trolls. Feeding trolls only makes them stronger so do not expect a reply unless you put down your emotional ammunition and be reasonable.

**I did not name a specific deity/religion out of respect for the over 4000 religions on planet Earth.  To say that one religion is the one true way to salvation/enlightenment/ultimate knowledge/nirvana/valhalla/heaven/Sto-vo-kor /the afterlife/ whatever…is unbelievably selfish and unsupportive of the billions of fellow human beings with which we share our planet.

***It is my opinion that if there is an all powerful supreme omnipotent consciousnesses in charge of the universe, there is no evidence to suggest that it is a grumpy, vengeful, bearded old white human man on a golden throne.  I refuse to accept that out of date old racist and sexist image. Whatever it is or whatever it is not, if it exists it must above all else be a great scientist with a flair for the arts.  Only a truly great scientist could design and implement the amazing and complex interconnected self balancing and self governing system that is the cosmos and only an artist could make it so beautiful.  Or it is a dog because dog spelled backwards is god 😉

****Yes, I do have another vehicle and sadly is is powered by nasty gasoline.  I only use it for hauling, towing a trailer, occasional long distance excursions, and drive it very sparingly.  During this gas outage I left it parked and was so very glad I had an EV.  One day soon, when a car company produces an EV truck, I will rid myself of the old dinosaur and go 100% EV – maybe it will be a Bollinger B1!

 

 

 

The cost of driving an Electric Vehicle

Many critics of electric vehicles will tell you that owning an Electric Vehicle (EV) is very expensive.

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The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV w/200+ mile driving range.

The way I see the relationship of debt to owning a car – petroleum or electric powered – is, simply put:

Either one is a subscription to dependency

No matter the car, just the act of buying the thing means you will have to pay weekly, monthly and yearly “subscriptions” for the fuel, repairs, tax, insurance etc…just for the privilege of owning and driving the thing.

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To me the logical choice is to buy the one that fits your needs and is more, well…logical.

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When buying a vehicle I take a scientific approach and try to leave emotion out of the decision so as not to be swayed by peer pressure (from friends, coworkers and the myriad of flashy automotive ads that saturate the mass media) or manufactured conformity (buy this car to be cool, look good, or “fit in” to some imaginary status caste) or manufactured demand (you need this-you need that–because without it you will be nothing so buy,buy,buy!).

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Nor do I listen to annoying, obnoxious, car salespersons like this guy.  I listen more to owners who post their stories and experiences on automotive blogs such as this one 🙂 and then I do all of my own extensive research and crunch my own numbers before making a final decision based on my findings.

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So, in my rationale I could either;

Buy a gas powered car and pay the (higher) subscription fee for the gas, oil and tune-ups and resulting environmental damage cost caused by the cradle to grave environmental and human cost of the mining, shipment, refining, and distribution of those petroleum products that the vehicle requires to operate.

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A blast from the past a 1970 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser 

Also, when I drive a petroleum powered vehicle I am willingly but not happily forced to accept the sad but true fact that the actual end use of all petroleum based fuels requires much less time to actually burn the fuel to propel the vehicle down the road from point A to point B…than the entire complicated and precarious supply chain that has been constructed to bring that fuel to my car’s fuel tank.

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Source

In other words depending on the country of origin of the crude oil it can take weeks to months to explore, deal, mine, protect, trade, ship, refine, store, and transport the fuel to the station where I finally pump it into my tank and then burn it up in only a few days or even a few hours.  Then there is the sad facts that it takes 44 gallons of water and around 15 kilowatts of energy to mine, ship and refine just one gallon of gasoline–ONE GALLON!  That is about half of the amount of water I use in a day and that 15kw of electricity would push my Nissan Leaf EV about 50 miles down the road!  Now if you really want a shocker multiply the above numbers times how many gallons of gas your car holds and if that does not make you furious with the oil companies I do not know what will?  I did the math for my 1999 Toyota 4Runner and the results are shocking: the amount of water required to produce just one tank of gas is: 814 gallons!!!  The electricity needed: 277.5 kW!!!  WOW!  By my calculations that amount of water and electricity would supply my wife and I, our house and EV for over 2 weeks (with my car going an average of 200 miles/week)!! Now, figure that for a month…a year…or a decade…of petroleum powered vehicle ownership…it just makes me want to cry.

bpdeepwater The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon incident 

My rather long-winded but valid point here is that the amount of energy and waste required just to get us down the road in gasoline powered vehicles is just incredible!

There is also the huge cost in human damage, suffering, pain and death caused by the fact that the acquisition of a portion of those petroleum products come from powers and factions that may support terrorism with some of that money.  These powers and factions often become involved in wars that drag us into the melee because we are addicted to their product for which many of us cannot live without due to our societal dictated and manufactured purchasing choices so we are forced to fight in their wars in order to keep the oil flowing to feed our sickening dependency.

AddictedUncleSam

We are shamefully and totally hooked on oil.

Last but not least there is the environmental damage and degradation caused by the mining, shipping, refining and burning of petroleum (and all) fossil fuels.  We have been burning petroleum as our primary liquid fuel and coal as our primary solid fuel for a little over a century and in that very short time we have polluted our planet’s oh so very fragile atmosphere, oceans and wildlife with toxic compounds from oil spills and copious amounts of carbon dioxide–a naturally occurring and harmless gas when in “normal levels” but when in excessive levels it becomes a potent “greenhouse gas” with disastrous effects on life on earth.   It is true that CO2 has positive properties when in “normal levels.”   If you think back you learned of this in your high school biology class.  You will remember that it’s positive properties are;   1. It allows plants to grow and via photosynthesis create oxygen as a byproduct so animals like puppies and kittens, bunnies and whales, and you and me get to live.     2. Another one of its positive properties is that when it is in the form of atmospheric CO2 it traps heat like a blanket on a bed.  This heat trapping ability allows the atmosphere of the earth to stay warm enough for life to exist and that my dear reader is a good thing in every way.

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Source NASA

However, due to the continued and rapid burning of fossil fuels (petroleum, coal, and natural gas) what we are doing to the planet is so far above anything that could be ever considered “normal levels” that the planet’s ecosystems are unable to cope with the influx of high levels of carbon pollution and in turn it the climate has begun to heat up.  It is as if we are adding more blankets to our bed without thinking about how hot it is going to get and how hard it will be to remove the blankets.  This process has often been called “global warming” but a more accurate term that better describes the problem would be anthropogenic climate change.  This is climate change caused by things we humans do to the planet such as burning fossil fuels.  If you would like a good visual of how this works consider the following video by one of my heroes – Bill Nye “The Science Guy.”

It is time for a big change. 

Enter the Electric Vehicle

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A Tesla Model S

Or, on the other hand I could drive an EV and pay the much lower cost for the electricity subscription, support the hard working Americans that build the cars (in the case of Nissan, Chevy, Ford, Tesla, Apple, Faraday Future and more) mine the coal, install and maintain the solar arrays, wind turbines, hydro-electric and nuclear power plants that provide my car with power to move down the road. The simple fact is that the electricity supply chain is much shorter and more efficient than the petroleum supply chain. In the area where I live, the mountains of western North Carolina, the power used to fuel an EV (and a house) is produced locally by a combination of coal, gas, solar, wind and hydro power plants so is therefore MUCH cleaner than any petroleum product will ever be.  (Read the true facts about EV’s here: https://bluewaterleaf.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/just-the-facts/ )

KUWAIT. US soldiers and helicopters in front of burning oil fields. 1991.

KUWAIT. US soldiers and helicopters in front of burning oil fields. 1991.

The human cost of driving EV is also MUCH more positive in that foreign wars do not need to be fought over their fuel source–electricity–since it is produced domestically, locally and in some cases on your own property!  If you have the means to install solar panels or some other form of renewable energy on your property you could easily power your home and EV(s) with clean, unlimited, renewable energy for free (after the cost of the system).

That my friend is brilliant!

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Charging up my Leaf at a local solar-electric EV charging station on the campus of UNCA in Asheville, NC. 

The sad fact is that now, in many states such as Florida and in my home state of North Carolina, our state government is hell bent on destroying renewable energy development despite the fact that NC is near the top in the nation for new solar installations which, if allowed to continue to grow, our energy grid would continue to get cleaner with each renewable energy installation and in turn the carbon footprint of our homes and our EV’s would just get smaller.  There is absolutely no logical reason this kind of backward action should ever be allowed to happen yet our lawmakers and politicians seem to be simply backward thinking Luddites who fear anything new and fear positive change especially when it means good paying jobs, a cleaner environment, and equal rights for all people.  If we ever want to progress and if we ever want to break our addiction to fossil fuels we MUST get the fossil fuel fired old fossils out of office and replace them with science minded, educated, caring people who think toward the future and want to make good and lasting change happen for everyone.  That change will only happen if we do our research,  speak out, vote, and get active.

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The BMW i3 EV

Either way and whatever car I choose to drive I will always have to pay the subscription to dependency to drive and power the thing…however, I choose the EV because it has a much lower subscription cost* and a much smaller environmental, human and future impact cost and that is as important to me as is the money. *I drive an average of 200 miles/week and my Nissan Leaf EV costs me only about $7-10/week in electricity!!

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However, something else to consider is that the EV may initially cost a bit more than the gas car so therefore I may need to finance the EV and go into debt. Yuck…yet another subscription to dependency. However, by buying the EV I would, from day one, have more money in my pocket since I have no gas, oil or maintenance costs typically associated with gas powered vehicles (especially used cars) so…all that money that I would have pumped into the gas tank and crankcase and then burned up and spewed into our shared atmosphere (to the determent of my loved ones, wildlife, the earth and future generations) can now be used to pay off the car loan 🙂

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In conclusion; my sleuthing, science and number crunching all allow me to come to the conclusion that I would rather pay for the financing on the EV than drive a lower initial cost yet high operational, high environmental cost, petroleum powered car…but that is my logic, and everyone’s logic is colored and molded by their knowledge, research and experiences so you can take it with a grain of salt if you wish.

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The Nissan eNV200 100% electric small van.

The Roadblocks

Do not believe the fossil fuel fed naysayers who have spent millions on manufactured lies, false advertising through mainstream media outlets and propaganda campaigns (online and on TV) that try to say electric vehicles are dirtier to operate than their petroleum powered counterparts–none of these stories are true.

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The oil soaked Koch brothers are some of the worst EV bashers who are spending millions in the attempt to make EV’s and renewable energy look bad.  We must do all in our power to end their assault of outright lies against science.  

Even in the dirtiest states with the blackest, coal fired grids, an EV powered by 100% coal produced electricity (which is rare now with all the new wind and solar farms going online all the time) is still much cleaner than any gasoline powered vehicle ever will be (especially Volkswagen’s “clean diesels” or any diesel for that matter) and, because the electricity it uses to push it down the road is generated domestically by Americans – it supports American jobs and does not support foreign wars and terrorism…and that is a really good thing.  Furthermore, there are those who will say “what happens to the battery when it reaches the end of its life? It must be toxic waste and more dangerous than the emissions generated over the life of a gas powered car?!?!  Answer,  this is simply more lies and fabrications designed by those who want to keep you addicted to petroleum fuels.  The truth is that the lithium-ion batteries that drive an EV are 100% recyclable.  Before they are recycled they are often used as back up power supplies for computer data centers and soon even houses just like a back up generator.   (Learn more true facts about EV’s here: https://bluewaterleaf.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/just-the-facts/ )

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The 215 mile range Tesla Model 3 will be hitting the roads very soon!

The future

With Chevrolet and Tesla soon to be releasing new EV’s with a 200+ mile driving range, and Nissan releasing their plans to release a redesigned Leaf with 200+ mile range but they have not revealed the release date, (and hopefully they will also release a 200 mile range small van that would be a game-changer!  Check out the story I wrote about it here on this blog: https://bluewaterleaf.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/the-env200-nissan-electric-van-where-and-when-is-it-for-the-usa-market/ ) all with prices in the $30-35k range (before the $7500 government tax incentive) Soon, the issue of “range anxiety” is going to be a thing of the past and we will all have no logical excuse to keep driving our dirty old gas guzzlers.  16volt

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt

I truly believe the day is coming very soon when kids will look to their parents and say “Mom, dad – why are you driving that dirty old gas guzzler when you could save so much money, have a great car, and protect my health and future by driving an EV?”  and ” I want my first car to be all electric!” ( I already hear that from students in my middle and high school science classes all the time 🙂  Then there’s this very encouraging article from England:  http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/most-british-teenagers-expect-their-first-car-be-electric-1524811

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The Nissan IDS concept…is this the new Leaf or something more!?

Soon, I believe within 3-5 years, the choice will be ours to go electric and support a clean, healthy war-free future for us all or…digress and remain in the past while denying the science and refusing to accept the inevitable truth that driving EV is just a better and more economical way to drive for everyone, for the planet and for the future.

What path will you choose?

Be the change you wish to see in the world.