Archive for the ‘Energy & Fuel’ Category

Second San Francisco Green Film Festival Opens Today – On Coal River Top Pick

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

coal riverOne of the great aspects of the 2nd San Francisco Green Film Festival, March 1-7, 2012 lies in the eclectic lineup of enviro, sustinable, green based films. The varied selections come from other regions that might not be on the general green radar. On Coal River would be one of those deeply environmental films that register emotionally strong notes by way of West Virginia.

A few of us viewed On Coal River which that takes place in the bucolic mountain area of Coal River Valley which immediately brings us into a David and Goliath struggle with the town residents confronting the notorious Massey Energy (the same Massey Energy that had the coal mining disaster on April 5, 2010).

Directors Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood take a back roads approach for the footage and back-story. The films smartly keys on some of the more active residents and colorful residents who have either been coal miners or know coal miners. The film makers go out of there way to show how coal mining (or rather mountaintop removal) continues to be a vital aspect to the economy (although they point out that the percentage of miners sits significantly lower that in past years) but many people believe that this business has also become a toxic and environmental liability for local residents.

The film focuses on several local community members who like to call themselves hillbillies but also educated hillbillies. In the forefront stands former miner Ed Wiley an activist/environmentalist who fights the good fight to get people to recognize that their local elementary school where their children attend should be recognized as an environmental hazard. The filmmakers capture the passionate and emotional Wiley spearheading protest efforts, leading educational meetings as well as him walking from West Virginia to Washington DC to raise awareness and get his point across.

On Coal River does a great service by not creating an overly polished film, and by sticking to capturing real emotion. The rough footage works well to demonstrate that people will fight for an environmental cause in states other than west coast states. It offers some insight into what the other people who support Massey (mostly people concerned with the local economic concerns if they fight Massey) but the film doesn’t get any official response from the energy giant. Did Massey officials decline to be interviewed for this film? Although the focus on the school offers a solid storyline and a hot topic, the film might have added some additional conclusion and information about the polluted water supply and toxic health conditions. What good is it to have a new school when the water supply and air remain poisoned for the whole town?

Despite some loose threads, it is great to see an emotionally charged environmental film where David wears a hillbilly hat.

ON COAL RIVER
Francine Cavanaugh, 81 min, USA
Sat 3/3 – 3:30pm

New Environmental Documentary Patagonia Rising Plays at DocFest 2011

Monday, October 10th, 2011

IMG_0687We all make decisions in life. For Chile they have a whopper of a decision that centers on Patagonia. The new documentary film Patagonia Rising that plays at Doc Fest 2011 revolves around issues that will likely alter the region and have far reaching effects in the future.
Patagonia Rising investigates a plan to build five large hydroelectric dams on two of the world’s purest free flowing rivers in Patagonia, Chile.

The film highlights the various cultural communities caught in the middle of a conglomerate with their renewable energy plan, scientists with alternative energy ideas, local pro-dam business people and various local citizens who claim that their culture and livelihood will cease to exist if these dams become a reality.

Besides power and energy, the film also delves into the issue of water rights. As fresh water becomes scarcer, it will someday move ahead of oil as the resource that countries fight over.

The title refers to the climate change that has affected the glacial melt and overflow of many rivers that flow through the region. The film displays how flooding continues to dramatically disrupt communities, agriculture and lifestyle.

Like other enviro doc films, Patagonia Rising creates a well-balanced story that brings awareness to an important situation. Oakland based director Brian Lilla offers some stunning cinematography and subtly brings a human aspect to the situation. Althugh the film offers a mostly anti-dam slant, Lilla attempts to give all sides a voice and let the viewers decide for themselves. Although interesting and insightful, the film lacks emotion and raw energy that other docu films offer. Many of the locals who highlight Lilla’s focus lack dynamism which causes a certain passiveness to the film. A film like this needs more energy and outrage.

The film, produced in 2010, has a fairly short shelf life, with the hydroelectric decision to be made sometime in 2011. Depending on that outcome, the film could represent a historical archive of how things once appeared in Patagonia.

The Pipe – Little Community Versus Big Oil Documentary

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011
The Pipe

The Pipe

Screening at the San Francisco International Film Festival  - 2011

In another documentary that takes the familiar   David versus Goliath
theme, the Irish entry “The Pipe” looks at the plight of the citizens of the small Irish enclave of Rossport versus Shell E & P Ireland. Shell wishes to lay the huge Corrib Gas Pipeline through the picturesque  community but the locals fights back.

The Pipe states that Shell refused to participate in the making of this film. The fact that an energy giant refused to offer their side doesn’t come as a big surprise.  Besides the film Crude, few of the community versus energy giant (e.g. On Coal River) docupics have included participation from the Goliath.

The Pipe’s director Risteard O Domhnaill quickly sets the mood and
location by offering glorious sweeping vistas, seascapes and verdant
shots of the local region. He captures the local fisherman catching
crabs, and others walking their dogs. All things that one would expect
people in the local community to take part in.

The Pipe quickly slides into a series of conflicts that that locals initiate
against the energy giant. The film captures the protests that have a
grass roots feel with sit ins, vocal demonstrations, and town
meetings. Much of the initial conflict pits the locals versus the town police, and then later shifts to infighting as the village residents argue about the best way to attack the energy giant.

The protests include the notable 2005 arrest of “The Rossport Five”
who made international news and served as the spark for the base of
the continuing flight against Shell.  Domhnaill follows one of the
Rossport Five, fisherman Willie Corduff who remains firm in the fight
against the pipeline construction.

Although the film creates a compelling story, it suffers somewhat from
repetition and fails to fully address certain local issues. The film skims over the involvement of local and governments and only focus on the battles
between the police and the residents.  Other “oil documentaries” such
as “Crude” create more complexity by delving into the various layers
in a big oil versus local community story.

Despite some of the shortcomings the film offers high production
values and colorful locals, and enough conflict to fill the a pipeline.  The
film’s energy picks up some of the slack but not enough to raise it to
the standards of other docufilms of this genre.

“The Pipe” screens Apr 30 and May 2

New MiEV in San Francisco Driveway

Monday, March 14th, 2011
New MiEV in driveway in SF

New MiEV in driveway in SF

It’s becoming a regular occurrence. One of us comes down early in the morning and we spy a new electric vehicle in the driveway of Plug In America and solar guru Marc Gellar. This time, we got to check out the new MiEV from Mitsubishi. This international version (slightly smaller than the US version) looks to be the perfect size for San Francisco or any city commute.

The MiEV looks somewhat larger than the Smart car but seems to be a better size in terms of size and comfort. It contains four seats, and even if four tall people can’t squeeze in, it sure can fit a few bags of groceries. Marc mentioned that it offers a surprising amount of giddyap, and also told us that it can go about 80 miles between charges which is enough to visit to the East Bay and back.

Of course, price gets everyones’ attention and the MiEV. We heard that  Mitsubishi dealer in San Rafael will have these electric puppies available in November and should come in less than $20K mark with the federal credits.

The one thing that that gets us is on the back of the car it states “40 years of EV development”. So, what have they been doing for the last 39 years? Waiting for gas that’s $5 a gallon.

Solar Powered Laundromat

Monday, February 21st, 2011

solar laundromatWe’ve passed this tucked away laundromat in Duboce Triangle a few times and we’ve seen the soar panels up top (not sure how big a system it is) but we finally decided to give this place a post. Doing laundry remains one of those necessities in life and the best way to do it (with a low carbon footprint) remains the old fashioned way by hand and then line dry. That’s real solar!

However in this modern age and big city life, using eco-star washers and dryers and powering the dryers with solar (the carbon footprint is much higher for drying than washing) can be considered a good option. We’ve even seen one laundromat in Bernal Heights who installed a tankless hot water heater which not only cut the wasted hot water but boy did the laundromat owner’s energy bill drop.

Inside we spied four new eco star commercial washers.  Although the other washers and dryers were the standard (non eco-star) machines, we and most people would say use the machines that exists until they can’t be repaired. We don’t need more washers and dryers filling up the landfills. Either way, it would be a good idea if all laundromat owners took the initiative to make their business more sustainable (and more profitable to boot).

Solar Pump in Hayes Valley

Friday, January 14th, 2011

solar pump

There wasn’t much sun we we took shots of this SolarPump located in the corner of the at the Hayes Valley Farm.

The 1950’s gas station style pump sits right where the old freeway exit used to be and according to some historical maps, back in the 50’s, prior to the freeway being installed, a gas station existed at that same corner on Laguna and Fell.

For even more info about the SolarPump, check out Sol Design Lab.

On Coal River Screens At SF Docfest 2010

Monday, October 11th, 2010

coal riverOne of the great aspects of the upcoming 9th San Francisco Documentary  Festival is not only the number of environmental based docu films but the fact that the eclectic selection comes from other regions that might not be on the general green radar. On Coal River would be one of those deeply environmental films that register emotionally strong notes by way of West Virginia.

A few of us viewed On Coal River which that takes place in the bucolic mountain area of Coal River Valley which immediately brings us into a David and Goliath struggle with the town residents confronting the notorious Massey Energy (the same Massey Energy that had the coal mining disaster on April 5, 2010).

Directors Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood take a back roads approach for the footage and back-story. The films smartly keys on some of the more active residents and colorful residents who have either been coal miners or know coal miners. The film makers go out of there way to show how coal mining (or rather mountaintop removal) continues to be a vital aspect to the economy (although they point out that the percentage of miners sits significantly lower that in past years) but many people believe that this business has also become a toxic and environmental liability for local residents.

The film focuses on several local community members who like to call themselves hillbillies but also educated hillbillies. In the forefront stands former miner Ed Wiley an activist/environmentalist who fights the good fight to get people to recognize that their local elementary school where their children attend should be recognized as an environmental hazard. The filmmakers capture the passionate and emotional Wiley spearheading protest efforts, leading educational meetings as well as him walking from West Virginia to Washington DC to raise awareness and get his point across.

On Coal River does a great service by not creating an overly polished film, and by sticking to capturing real emotion. The rough footage works well to demonstrate that people will fight for an environmental cause in states other than west coast states. It offers some insight into what the other people who support Massey (mostly people concerned with the local economic concerns if they fight Massey) but the film doesn’t get any official response from the energy giant. Did Massey officials decline to be interviewed for this film? Although the focus on the school offers a solid storyline and a hot topic, the film might have added some additional conclusion and information about the polluted water supply and toxic health conditions. What good is it to have a new school when the water supply and air remain poisoned for the whole town?

Despite some loose threads, it is great to see an emotionally charged environmental film where David wears a hillbilly hat.

ON COAL RIVER
Francine Cavanaugh, 81 min, USA
Fri 10/22 9:30p; Mon 10/25 7:15p

Better Place CEO Shai Agassi Creates Buzz at Churchill Club

Monday, July 19th, 2010
Shai Agassi and Mark Johnson

Shai Agassi and Mark Johnson

Sometimes when walking into a room you can just feel the buzz and in this case the buzz came from the talk of electric cars and batteries by Better Place CEO Shai Agassi. We actually heard about this guy sometime ago with his vision to make zero emission vehicles a worldwide standard. Seeing Agassi in person at the Churchill Club event on July 15, moderated by Mark Johnson of Innosight, offered insight into Agassi’s thinking and business model of his company and infrastructure that will allow the electric car to move from back of the bus status into a major transportation option.

Americans simply don’t want to give up their $20,000 pollution emitting cars due to convenience. Americans don’t consider the $40 of black gold that they fork out each week to fill their tanks. Add that amount up versus the price of a rechargeable electric battery and the car expense seems less prohibitive. In terms of car expense, Agassi mentions that when the electric car is priced like a 3-year old gas car, then we will hit a tipping point. The cost to recharge batteries is based on “cheap electricity” like charging a battery in the middle of the night, so the costs are less. Even before the BP disaster, the cost to extract oil keeps rising and costs 20 times more to get than any other energy source.

Agassi made an interesting technology analogy where in the past we used snail mail, then moved to faxes, then to email and similarly we went from gas cars to hybrids and now we won’t move back to gas cars but forward to more technology driven electric cars. Agassi claims that each year batteries have improved eight percent so eventually we wont need (battery) switch stations.

Of course, the US and the moribund US automakers will take a wait and see attitude. Renault has put forth 15 percent of its R&D budget to work on the electric cars. The last company chief who put 15% of the R &D to a non-existing product was Steve Jobs (Ipod, Ipad). Agassi whose switch stations now dot Israel and Denmark said that the electric car versus the end of using oil would be a huge factor that determines the survival of the US dollar and US economy. If we can get crawl out form the oil wells and at least offer the same oil type incentives (subsidies) to people like Agassi and the electric car industry, then America and other counties will definitely find themselves in a Better Place.

BP Oil Spill Poster Art

Monday, June 28th, 2010
BP Oil Spill Poster Art

BP Oil Spill Poster Art

During this past weekend, while practically everyone in San Francisco roamed the streets, we spotted some timely art. No it didn’t have anything to do with Pride Week or the upcoming 4th of July festivities. Instead, these posters cleverly highlighted the disastrous BP oil spill while taking a shots and the often-ridiculous alcohol advertising.

These posters plastered in the Castro district not only make people think about the continuing devastation in the Gulf of Mexico but to what vodka you might be drinking.

Choose your oil and vodka responsibly.

99th Bay to Breakers: The Sustainable Side

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
BP oil runners

BP oil runners

In the 99th installment of Bay to Breakers, the usual things occurred: the Kenyans as a whole flat out rocketed to the finish line (one female breaking a world record), the fog covered the course for most of the day and a lot of participants (not the runners) got totally trashed and created of lot of people in the local recycling business. But we’re not here to check out the usual, we’re here to check out any signs of Green going on of and off the course.

To be sure, the organizers and the City have a tough time creating sustainability for the thousands of runners but they seems to have gotten control of the recycle and compost aspects.  90,000 equals the number of recyclable water cups used per race (almost 6 miles of cups if placed end to end). And with all of  the beer and booze bottles, the recycling people had a bountiful day. In the media tent, they had the presence of mind to use compostable cutlery as well as cups but it would be nice to see more organic and locally produced offerings.

We might request the same thing from the Footstock area (which moved from the Polo Grounds much to the dismay and confusion of many participants where the vendors could offer more locally and natural offerings. We did spy some booths that did toss out all natural dog food (based in Novato) as well as West Coast companies serving up free samples of granola, nutrition bars and electrolyte beverages sans the artificial crap. We tried everything but the dog food.

As for the costumes (at least the ones that we saw), the BP workers dressed in oil splotched jumpsuits made the best environmental statement.

Next year the race turns 100, and with that mark, hopefully the race can incorporate some added greenness  that will keep the event going for another 100 years.