Monthly Archives:April 2005

Oil at $100 a barrel – forecast

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Last year we predicted oil prices would reach $50 a barrel. Now $50 is the new floor for prices, rather than the ceiling. This year, forecasts of $100 a barrel oil are threatening meltdown for Western economies. At the projected $100 level for oil, living off-grid moves from a quaint hobby for a minority to something the majority must consider.

Here is the latest news update

Consumers Must Plan Now for Potential Oil Shock – IEA FRANCE: April 29, 2005

PARIS – Car-pools and driving restrictions could help shave at least a million barrels a day (bpd) from industrialised nations’ oil demand in the event of a supply crisis, the International Energy Agency said on Thursday.

They are among measures an IEA study ‘Saving Oil in a Hurry’ says consuming nations must plan to ease potential shortages and price rises which could result from a large disruption to international supplies.
Oil prices have already risen to record highs above $58 this year as surging demand in Asia’s emerging economies pushes world supplies close to current capacity. Goldman Sachs bank has warned of a potential ‘super-spike’ to $100 a barrel.

Actor Ed Norton’s solar campaign

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Actor Edward Norton is currently on PBS, narrating Strange Days on Planet Earth, a documentary series about scary environmental phenomena occurring around the planet. The final episode was last night on PBS. He told Grist magazine: “I was impressed with the theme that the globe is a truly integrated biological and ecological system. There’s that old adage that when a butterfly beats its wings in China, it can cause a hurricane in Africa. The film shows how science is demonstrating more and more specifically just how intimately connected to each other we are. ”
Norton was involved in promoting BP Solar panels to low-income families, because “the subsidies available through the state and the city were substantial enough that it made good financial sense and was a way of saving money over time.”

Norton works with Enterprise Foundation, the largest nonprofit developer of affordable housing in the country, which his grandfather founded in the late ’70s.

“We had our first-year celebration back in November. My colleagues and friends who had participated in the program — Danny DeVito, Rhea Pearlman, Brad Pitt, Salma Hayek, Daryl Hannah, Alicia Silverstone

12 off-grid holiday locations

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kick back and relax
Relax in an eco-resort

Do some good and have a holiday at the same time — in this selection of a dozen off-grid resorts and vacation lodges. If the ones in this list don’t happen to suit your needs, check with the eco-experts: In 1993, a nonprofit called Green Globe ( was launched by the World Travel & Tourism Council, and it’s becoming the main certification program for ecotourism.

The resorts are listed on the next page. Here are a couple of green guide books as well:

Exotic Retreats: Eco Resort Design From Barefoot Sophistication To Luxury Pad. Buy UK edition here

The Share Guide presents … Mindful journeys: a guide to health and spiritual destinations, yoga vacations, Eco-resorts, vision quests, retreat cente … re.(Directory) : An article from: Share Guide

Eating off the grid – book review

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Eating Off the Grid: storing and cooking foods without electricityBuy the book from Amazon in the US. Or get the UK Edition

This is the cookbook for life without a cooker — or a fridge. and it comes in handy during power cuts or camping trips as well.

It deals with food storage and outdoor cooking. It has a wide range of recipes, however reviewers find this type of cooking is tricky and say it is best learned before it is a necessity.

It is a crash course in using basic foods that require no refrigeration or freezing. There is a complete ingredient and utensil lists. There is a sample four-week meal plan and accompanying grocery list for a family of four.

Hockerton Housing Project Master Class

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Hockerton Housing Project Master Class/Tour is a one day a practical case study of sustainable off-grid living, on July 14th 2005.

The Hockerton Housing Project (HHP) is an innovative residential sustainable development in the village of Hockerton near Southwell, Nottinghamshire. The architects were Professor Brenda Vale and Dr Robert Vale, whose own ground-breaking home in Southwell provided much of the inspiration and know-how for this project. HHP was completed in September 1998 after three years of planning and 18 months of construction. They have been designed as one of the first zero energy residential systems in the UK reducing life cycle energy to a minimum and are amongst the most energy efficient, purpose built dwellings in Europe. Maximum use of benign, organic and recycled materials has been made in the construction and the development is designed to be, to a large extent, self-sufficient.

The world’s best motorbike

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Until now, electric scooters have been the poor relations of the two-wheeled world. They look bad, they go slow, and they have to be charged up every few miles. But the US-made Vectrix is a leap forward. It is the world’s first truly high-performance electric scooter, with GTi acceleration and full-size comfort. A Daily Telegraph reviewer has ridden one; it works and he says you can put your deposit down now.


Compare a typical 400cc petrol bike with the new Vectrix electric bike

Retail Price: Petrol £4,800 Vectrix £5,500
Fuel Cost: Petrol £1422 Vectrix £120
Road Tax: Petrol £240 Vectrix Exempt
Maintenance Petrol £1120 Vectrix £380
4 Year cost @ 5000 miles pa: Petrol£7582 Vectrix £5500

Less Clean Vehicle Grant: Petrol n/a Vectrix £300
4 Year cost @ 5000 miles pa: Petrol£7582 Vectrix £5200

The Telegraph Review

Free fitness and a cleaner UK

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Hundreds of ‘green volunteering’ activities are being organised in May to combat the stress and strains of modern living. In an attempt to improve the nation’s health and happiness you can volunteer outdoors at ‘taster sessions’ of the Green Gym. The sessions are listed at the end of this story.

May is Environment Month in the Year of the Volunteer. Events taking place this month include a day of mass volunteering across the Midlands and the South West, the crowning of the 500th volunteer pond warden and a big push (and pull) to save the bluebell, Britain’s favourite wildflower, from invasive weeds in Kew Gardens.

“Better Off” – a writer’s switched off year

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John Locke, whose philosophy influenced the US Constitution, introduced the notion of individual rights and individual property to its pre-eminent place in Western political thought.

According to Eric Brende in his book “Better Off—Flipping the switch on Technology”, Locke’s approach had the unintended consequence of raising property, and hence technology, to the same legal status as people, with rights and responsibilities of their own. As a result we have become enslaved by the technology we created.

Better Off : Flipping the Switch on TechnologyBuy the book from Amazon. Buy the UK edition here.

Logically this argument is flawed, but that does not matter since it is Brende’s intellectual journey we are interested in, rather than Locke’s. Whatever the reason, we have become enslaved by some aspects of our technological existence. Brende’s course in the sociology of technology at MIT leads him on an experiment, to go live in a back-to-the–earth religious movement in Maine and see how little technology he really needs to enjoy life to the full.

London building claims zero fossil energy

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A property developer has launched an energy self sufficient block of flats in London. Yorklake Homes said the four flats generate all their own energy from non fossil fuels within the site boundaries.

Designed by Bill Dunster’s architecture firm, the main source of energy is a Swift silent wind turbine, one of the first domestically available near-silent wind turbines, it generates power at mains voltage. It was commissioned by Renewable Devices and supplied by Scottish and Southern Energy plc. When combined with solar panels it enables the development to generate as much electricity as it consumes.