Posted in banking, clean renewable energy, divest, no fossil fuels, pipelines, solar, transition

Marcellus Shale – A Blessing or a Curse?

Our state has been blessed, some say. Possibly cursed, say some others. I’m talking about the abundant gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale. Cursed because of issues during Extraction, Transportation & Consumption.

Extraction is also known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking. When chemicals are forced into the ground, they contaminate the water table, affecting the well water of rural townships. As the gas is forced out & captured, there are leaks. Leaks that affect the local air quality and detrimental to the health & property values. The same methane leaks are an important contributor to climate change, worse even than carbon dioxide. 

Transportation of fracked gas is typically by pipelines. Pipelines that are known to leak or explode, with cleanup expenses left to the taxpayers. Rights for these pipelines, going thru wetlands, woodlands and private property, are gained via eminent domain in the name of public utility.  but are really for private gain by fossil fuel companies. Permit applications are shoddy, and fragmented construction begins in communities with the least resistance. Communities are not compensated for the devastation, nor the liability.

There are several pipeline developments, all headed to or through the greater Philadelphia area – the Mariner East 2 pipeline slated to carry fracked gas liquids from west to east, ending up in nearby Delaware County, and destined for export, to be made into plastic bags in Europe. How does this qualify the pipeline builders to claim in the courts that they’re a public utility? 

Then there’s the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline destined to travel north to south, going through farmland in Lancaster County. And the PennEast pipeline thru Bucks County into New Jersey. And smaller segments across the Delaware River (which supplies the drinking water for 15M people), and into the Pinelands in South Jersey.

gas burning from a kitchen gas stove

Which leads us to …Consumption. The pipeline going thru the Pinelands is headed to a gas power plant, where the fracked gas will be burned to generate electricity. Much like the SEPTA gas plant locally in Nicetown that 350 Philly and others are fighting. Advertised as clean burning at point of ignition, the industry ignores the devastation left in its wake. 

Once you realize that natural gas is the same as methane, and that methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than even carbon dioxide (86 times), you’ll agree, it’s no longer clean burning.

Who’s doing this extraction, transportation & building up the large scale demand for fracked gas? The same companies behind the Dakota Access Pipeline:  

Sunoco Logistics, Williams Company, Energy Transfer Partners

Who’s funding these companies?

Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank, Citizens Bank, HBSC Bank, TD Bank

And many of us thru our personal accounts, our investments and our retirement plans.

It’s time to #divest and #reinvest all of our funds into clean energy from #solar and #wind, and leave the Marcellus Shale reserves resting safely underground.

Initially presented at Indivisible NW Philly meeting on March 12 2017.

Posted in energy efficiency, transit, transition, transport

Many ways to leave your car

There are many ways to leave your car. It’s a damaging relationship and it’s time we thought about it differently.

This article about a friend’s car-sharing experience, about how She’s saving Money and the Environment by car-sharing, got to me thinking teutschhow freeing it is to realize you don’t need to have a car waiting to serve you 24×7.

That many of us have partners, neighbors, a car-sharing system with a car parked in walking distance, bus and trains also with stops in walking distance, and yes, a walkable neighborhood – privileges enough to only occasionally warrant needing your own car.

A privileged perspective? Yes. But also paradigm shifting.

Posted in no fossil fuels, transition

Declaring independence from the gas pump

Since 2006, when I first took a group of over 20 friends to see Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth on opening night, I’ve been tracking my household’s carbon footprint.

Try as I might, I couldn’t get rid of the carbon dioxide emissions from our gasoline-fueled car. We switched from a minivan to a subcompact (a much smaller more efficient car), we tried driving less (this was hard), we even started an e-bike shop, but our personal car-based emissions remained around 6,000 pounds.

Last month, my partner mentioned leasing an electric car for $39 a month. Initially laughing this off, I agreed to consider a few electric cars. For a entertaining synopsis of the electric car market in the US, see the documentaries Who Killed the Electric Car? and the more recent Revenge of the Electric Car.

We first visited a Smart Car dealership. Then a Nissan Leaf dealership. Then a Kia Soul dealership. Each car was larger, more luxurious and more expensive than the last. The $39 a month deal evaporated.

I asked my friends, and friends of friends about their electric car experience. Here are a few…

  • Johanna, another Philadelphian with a smart fortwo electric drive for about a year and a half says: “I love it. No garage, and no driveway so we installed a charging station curbside. Our usual electrician did the work after getting a permit from L&I (Licensing & Inspection). We also applied to PPA (Phila Parking Authority) for a designated EV parking spot. Our EV gets about 75 miles to a charge, so it’s more than adequate for commuting to work, running errands, etc. The smart only takes 110 or 240 – aka level 1 and level 2 chargers.  it can’t take the level 3, so we can’t use this for long trips. Also, the range drops in winter, due to the cold weather sapping the battery, when I get about 45 miles to a charge. Our electricity at home is wind power from the energy co-op, so that sure beats using gasoline!”
  • Marion, a friend with a Nissan Leaf documented her experience in It’s a Leaf!
  • Kathy shared a story about a price conscious shopper chasing down his Nissan Leaf: Why I bought a new Nissan Leaf electric car 2 hours from home, 8500 net cost.
  • Mom’s Organic Market, I learned from Alison, offers their employees access to charge plug-in electric vehicles plus a 15% subsidy towards the purchase of a hybrid vehicle (up to $3,000) or electric car (up to $5,000). What a place to work, huh?
  • Dennis loves, loves, loves his Chevrolet Spark EV.
  • And John M, when he visits our bike shop, speaks well of his wife’s American made Chevrolet Volt (electric with gas backup) with curb-side charging station. And dreams of ordering a Chevy Bolt (all electric) for himself.
  • Robert, an electrician, has been busy installing charging ports through-out the city. It seems  plenty of other people are switching to fossil fuel free transportation.

Knowing our driving pattern, which was typically one person, sometimes two in a car; knowing we’re in a city with tight parking spaces – we decided on the smallest, most affordable car. The one with the most cute factor. The smart fortwo electric drive was it! Large Image (optional)_253

We’ve always purchased our cars and were ready to trade in our subcompact with only 42,000 miles for the smart fortwo electric drive. However, we learned that the Federal government offers a $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles. Looking at our prior year tax return, we realized we probably wouldn’t qualify for this credit, and opted to lease the car instead. With the lease capping our usage at 10,000 miles per year, this seemed perfect since we’d only driven about 9,000 miles last year. With just a $150 per month lease, this felt so affordable that we’ve put down a deposit and await a call from the salesperson to come ’n get it!

By shifting from gasoline to electric, our fuel costs are expected to half. The Federal Government’s Fuel Economy page has a great comparison of various models.

What will this do to our household’s carbon footprint? Well, since our electricity is the EcoChoice100 from The Energy Co-op (100% renewable from PA wind), we’ve just shed those 6,000 pounds. Swoosh!


Posted in clean renewable energy, no fossil fuels, solutions, transition

Solar in the Northwest

I’ve been hearing about solar panels since I was in high school, over 3 decades ago. But yesterday, as a member of the Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op, I interviewed a Mt Airy couple who have had solar panels on their roof for a year and a half now. Both were eager to talk about their experience.

They raved about their installers. Showed me their 2 electric meters; one for electricity coming from PECO and the second one added to track the electricity that their rooftop was pushing back onto the grid. bud-n-mollie-1

I asked where all their other equipment was that I’d read about: the inverters and batteries and such. And realized that when a solar installation is grid-tied (meaning not off-the-grid), it’s a lot less involved. All they had were the 13 panels on the roof, and the second meter. No other equipment on the porch or basement.

For 7 months of the year, I learned, this system produces in excess of the household’s consumption. During this time (April thru October), their bill is about $7 per month. The other 5 months, it triples to about $20 per month.

They have monitored their production and consumption via an online application, and once noticed a spike in their usage. Concerned that someone was tapping into their system, they drilled into the data and discovered usage during one month, in the wee hours of the night.  A month that coincided with a visit from their teenage granddaughter with all her electrical devices!

When asked why they invested in this solar installation, it was simply… Why, for the common good! Sitting on their serene back porch, I realized the beauty of this. There was no need to explain the horrifying effects of climate, nor of the immediacy of action required.

Weavers Way Co-op and The Shalom Center have teamed up to get solar-coop2more solar installed in Northwest Philadelphia, by forming the Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op, explained on the flyer here. We all benefit from increased reliance on renewable energy and it is important to develop community-based initiatives that increase its use.

Know that a solar photo-voltaic (PV) system generates clean electricity using a free energy source that will never run out and never go up in price. The fuel requires no mining, no drilling, no mountain-top removing and no transporting, doesn’t require burning or processing, and is never in danger of spilling, emitting, or polluting. In fact, the clean energy produced by your solar energy system emits no greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and helps reduce global climate change and our dependence on fossil fuels and the volatile fossil fuel market. As with all manufacturing, there is some waste in that process.

When will solar become the norm, so that every Philly structure with the solar potential achieves this potential? To get to this tipping point, we’re sharing stories from people who already have solar installed at their home or workplace. Each installation will be summarized on a Solar Facts sticker, shown below, for easier comparison.

As you’ll see, the 30% Federal tax credit really made this investment affordable and economical. I remember when we got an estimate 11 years ago, a 2kW system was priced at $18,000. And there was no Federal or State incentive that we could apply for. That’s going from $9 per watt to $2.8 per watt!  With the industry scaling up, and government policies to support & encourage us all, this one example looks to be a third cheaper than what we were quoted.

solar facts

Want to join NPSC? Or simply share your story? Please contact NPSC via Barbara Bloomfield at (215) 247-9204 or barbbloomfield2 [at]

What is it that’s keeping people from installing solar on their rooftop? Some of the responses we’re heard are:

  • We’re tenants.  Have your landlord contact NPSC.
  • We’re in a condo. Have your condo association contact NPSC.
  • We have plenty of sun, but are short on cash. The Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op is looking at financing, perhaps thru the Free Loan Association of Germantown (FLAG). Please contact NPSC.
  • We have too many trees and not enough sun. No solar potential. I hear you. Keep the trees. Maybe you’d like to lend through the Free Loan Association of Germantown for other solar installations.

The Earth needs YOU!