Monthly Archives:May 2005

Esso turns away from renewables

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The world’s largest publicly traded energy company is not making any bets on the environmentally friendly power sources now, and does not plan to any time soon.

Despite the growing popularity of renewable energy sources — top competitors like BP and Chevron Corp. dabble in it — Exxon Mobil Corp. has shied away from investing in solar and wind energy, arguing that the business is viable only with Uncle Sam’s help. The company says the economics of solar and wind energy don’t add up. And rather than spending on R&D to find a cost-effective solution, it plans to let others take the lead.

Exxon estimates solar and wind energy demand will grow at a 10 percent rate annually over the next 25 years, but only on the back of government subsidies and tax breaks to spur investment in cleaner, environment-friendly energy sources.

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Strip out the handouts, and investing in wind and solar energy would be nonstarters, the manager of Exxon’s energy demand and supply forecasting division told Reuters last week.

Irrigation secrets of the ancients

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Irrigation
Don’t hestitate, irrigate

The newest techniques for conserving water in the garden are actually more than a thousand years old.

American Indians survived for centuries in the desert by harvesting rainwater to grow crops. And while today’s water supply may not be as scarce, gardeners still can tap into ancient water-saving strategies to make the most of every drop.

“Trends in water conservation are becoming more accepted because people are realizing water resources are limited,” says Joel Glanzberg, a designer with an environmental planning firm in Santa Fe. Glanzberg, who has written about water-harvesting traditions in the Southwest, says these systems can offer today’s gardeners lessons in conservation.

Dryland farmers, for instance, needed to collect moisture and hold on to it for as long as possible. The two main techniques used were to sink the planting areas and to mulch with rock.

The Zuni in New Mexico used sunken beds called waffle gardens for growing high-value crops like tobacco and chiles. Modern kitchen gardens can benefit from this prehistoric technology.

“Waffle gardens work just like a waffle, with the plants placed where the syrup would go,”

Glanzberg says. Ground-level berms surround each 2-foot-square planting area. The berms are several inches high and built with unamended soil. The depressions catch and hold water close to the plant’s roots.

White light-emitting diodes

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Highly-efficient, cost-effective white light-emitting diodes (WLED) can replace inefficient, polluting kerosene lamps common in the developing world, and in off-grid situations, saving tens of billions of dollars per year worldwide, according to a scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

Evan Mills, of Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division, notes in an article in the May 27, 2005 issue of the journal Science that more than 1.6 billion people have no access to electricity, and many others have only intermittent access. As a result, those who can afford illumination when it’s dark rely on lamps that burn kerosene, diesel, propane, or biomass-based fuels.

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Tree-house Magic

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Tree house
Put a house in your tree

Winston Churchill and John Lennon had one. Mohammad Al Fayed, David Beckham and the Duchess of Northumberland have one. So do Jonathan Ross and David Attenborough. Now Chelsea footballer John Terry and TV presenter Eamonn Holmes want one.

We’re talking tree-houses, the new way of returning to your childhood. And they’re not being built just for the kids any more. Grown-ups are taking to them, too, in a bid to wind down from their increasingly stressful lives. Peter Nelson’s Seattle-based company TreeHouse Workshop has built more than 60 treehouses in the last six years, many of them for adults. The world’s largest treehouse builder, Scotland-based TreeHouse Co., fields “far more enquiries from the States than from all other countries combined,” says president John Harris, whose company will build more than 150 treehouses this year, up from 40 in 2000 and three in 1996.

In the past five years, home offices, libraries, guest rooms, even entire houses have increasingly begun migrating skyward, aided by a tightknit cadre of treehouse architects, carpenters, arborists and engineers who build treehouses full time.

May Conferences and classes

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conferences
Rush to this month’s events

Here is a selection of later this month. Please email us if you want to publicise your event: news@off-grid.net

May 22-27, 2005

World Renewable Energy Congress
Aberdeen, Scotland
This landmark event brings together top international specialists and researchers, industrialists, manufacturers, financiers, policy makers and government officials. Congress participants will share the latest ideas and innovations, establish valuable contacts and develop new collaborations in renewable energy and the environment.
+44 (0) 1224 330 428 / WREC2005aberdeen@aecc.co.uk

May 22-27, 2005

Renewable Energy In Developing Countries
ITDG-Peru Training Center (CEDECAP) in Cajamarca, Peru

The Woodland Way – Book review

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The Woodland Way is one of those rare books that bridges the gap between the theory of conservation and its practice, and does it well. It sets out author Ben Law’s thesis and original vision for sustainable woodland management in Britain. It is an inspiring book in its practicality and “do-ability”.

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(NOTE: WOODLAND WANTED – PREFERABLY IN UK – CARPENTER WANTS 2 ACRES TO TURN INTO SUSTAINABLE HIDE-OUT. WRITE TO JULIENNE@OFF-GRID.NET)

The author, writes from the heart and has a very deep commitment to practical sustainability. In fact he lives in his own woodlands, ‘Prickly Nut Wood’ in Lodsworth, UK

European Wind Energy Conference & Exhibition 2006

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EWEC
Not just hot air

Take advantage of this opportunity to share your experience and present your products and services to the international wind community. All accepted abstracts will be presented in plenary, parallel or poster sessions and be published in the proceedings. All authors will be notified by the end of September 2005 of the decision of the Selection Committee. All abstracts must be submitted online before 30th June 2005.

For further information contact Cristina Munteanu at +32 2 776 0996 or programme@ewec.info

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Conference Subjects:

Barter

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barter
Bartering food for drink in Santa Cruz

Barter is a way of surviving economically outside the system. Here are some links to sites which facilitate bartering. Barterer beware – some of the sites are more interested in their fee than your satisfaction. Bartercard, one of the bigger middlemen, has had a lot of bad publicity after some if its members ended up with thousands of barter dollars they were unable to spend.


Barter Exchange Guide

The guide explains how a business can use barter to increase material
flows and covers the benefits of barter, the different types of barter, and what
to look for in a barter exchange firm, among other topics.
 
International Barter Alliance
Claims to be the world’s largest barter marketplace.
 

Right to Roam the UK Wilderness

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The Ramblers’ Association will be leading five huge guided walks next weekend to take advantage of new rights of access in the UK. The detailed routes are at the end of this story.

The new “Freedom to Roam” over mountain, moor, heath and downland — will soon apply across England and Wales. This Saturday, several regions win their freedom, opening up long miles of Northumbria, Cumbria and North Yorkshire, plus every inch of Welsh access land, to walkers. The southeast, the Peak District, the northwest and the West Country have already gone live, while Devon, Cornwall, the Midlands and the east of England will follow later this year. That adds up to 5,000 square miles of new views you could never explore before.