December 2009

Minutes from the Sunday Supper Club
December 13th, 2009

We were pleased to close out 2009 with a wonderful and informative presentation by our guest speaker, Jack Gibbons.  Thanks to all for making the time in your holiday schedules to join us!

Five Minute Flash Reports:

Treasurer’s Report- Lisa Richard thanked everyone for their incredible generosity at last month’s meeting.  We raised $589 in November which covered our rent at the Community Center for the next 10 months and still leaves us with $360 in the bank!

Marshall Community Center- Community Center manager Kim Blair dropped by to let us know that they are delighted to have us here.  We join a varied list of activities hosted by the MCC including Mary’s Family, a mariachi band, yoga, Tai Chi, knitting and bread making groups…  Kim also mentioned that the auditorium is under renovations to make it handicapped accessible.  They have just completed a major fundraising campaign and have raised the necessary dollars to finish replacing all 220 antique chairs.
Energized – Michael brought us up-to-date with a brief presentation / handout on the status and RESULTS of the Fauquier County Government Electrical Energy Conservation program that first started as a community-based project in September 2008.
Of the 32 (expanded from 24 on 7/1/09) government building complexes participating in this effort, 19 have REDUCED their electrical KW consumption during the past 6 and / or 12 months for a savings through September of around $33,500 (almost 15%) YTD. Priority is now being placed on maintaining these improvements this winter, a REAL challenge, and working with the 13 complexes which did NOT improve to find out why.
As a reminder, only standard General Services maintenance could be used to increase air-tightness of buildings and new equipment was NOT an option due to budget constraints. The RESULTS are a combination of training, visibility, awareness and dedication of (many) government employees to reducing expenses – a true team effort.
Moderator David Roos added to the FLASH report by reminding everyone present that all of the practices, knowledge and energy conservation techniques used in this project can also be used at home to lower our own personal expenses and to reduce the (future) need to burn coal obtained from Mountain Top Removal in Wise Virginia.
Note: Next Energized FLASH report is expected this coming spring. STAY Tuned! 1-page results attached for your reading pleasure.
Feel free to contact Michael if you have any questions between monthly SSC meetings (cell: 540 219 0445)

Leave nothing behind…- Patty Knight requested on behalf of the SSC clean up committee that everyone please remember to take your leftover food and plate/utensil with you when you leave.  This will greatly cut down on the work for the clean up crew.  Thank you!!

Fauquier High School Renovation- Sally Murray shared the news that the Board of Supervisors has approved the budget for the renovation of Fauquier High School.  After interviewing architects a selection has been made and they’re ready to get started.  Whether or not there is actually money available in June to begin the process depends upon how the BOS chooses to adjust the real estate tax rate.  Please contact your BOS member and let them know how you feel about this.

Community Announcements

John Anderson asked for suggestion for speakers/topics for our 2010 meetings.  Please let us know if you have any ideas as we’re always open to your thoughts on the matter.
Tim Dunn encouraged community involvement in the ongoing Marshall Comprehensive Planning process.   For information visit www.fauquiercounty.gov and click on Planning Commission and then Comprehensive Plan.

Guest Speaker

Our guest speaker, Jack Gibbons, provided a terrific presentation to close out our 2009 meeting schedule.  I highly encourage those who haven’t yet had the chance, to visit his web site, www.johnhgibbons.org.  You’ll find more details on Jack’s interesting biography, selected publications, printable light switch covers (“Don’t be fuelish”)as well as information on Jack’s books (which he was too modest to mention) : This Gifted Age and The Conservation Revolution.

Jack began with a brief bio, explaining that he began his professional life as a physicist, trying to figure out how things worked.  He then got interested in, and subsequently worried about, energy.  He worked on nuclear power- fusion and fission- and then became frustrated with the energy supply end of things and switched his focus to reducing energy demand through improvements in efficiency, conservation and new and future technologies.

He related a few memorable quotes which describe the dilemma facing all conservationists:

“The U.S. has a ‘cowboy economy’. Move west or make more.”

“America did not conserve its way to greatness; it produced its way to greatness.”

Energy Facts:
We have had “cheap” energy for years because we haven’t included the real costs on our health, the environment, the planet…
While an increased energy demand of 3% a year may seem like a small number, over 100 years the increase is huge.
We are experiencing exponentially growing demands for energy within a finite system.
Technology seeks to find “magic bullets” that bail us out but there are not an infinite number of these fixes.  For example, at the beginning of the past century our primary form of energy was coal.  As the 20th century progressed, the discovery of oil and natural gas provided the magic bullet that brought us out of our dependency on coal and wood.  In the closing decades of the 20th century we realized we were stressing our own and global production of oil.
The U.S. is increasingly dependent on oil imports.  In the early 70’s we imported 40% of our oil; since then we have experienced decreasing U.S. production and increasing imports.  We now import upwards of 65% of our oil.
In the U.S. nuclear power supplies 20% of our energy; in France this number is 80%.  We are increasing our nuclear power supplies but this is on top of, rather than instead of, coal/oil.
Although we are using oil at tremendous rates, coal is still king.  The externalities of energy from coal are killing us- the health costs of coal combustion are incalculable.  Additionally, we’re losing mountain after mountain to mining.

Effects of energy consumption on the planet:
Emissions from burning coal are causing the chemistry of the atmosphere to change.
We are creating a global problem with an imbalance of incoming energy from the sun and outgoing energy back into deep space.  Human activity is the new actor that tips the balance.
CO2, Methane, and other gases absorb energy from the sun, creating the green house effect.
Scientists are working to understand and measure the processes and effects of these changes including observable decreases in Greenland’s ice sheet from 1992 to 2007 and melting permafrost in Alaska.
If we continue with “business as usual” the effects will be severe: flooding of coast lines, drought, disease…

Reducing Demand vs. increasing supply:
What if we could develop ways to save energy at a cost less than that of producing more energy?
We need to look at demand side efficiency.  In CA they have had success in flat lining energy demand.  The cost of energy efficiency is far lower than that of increasing electricity supplies.
Do we have “magic bullets” that we haven’t been using?  There are difficulties with some of the new technologies: wind resources are often far from population centers, the sun is not a steady source of energy in many places.
We can reduce energy demand in ways that are manageable and won’t kill us economically if we do it right.

Skepticism vs. Denial
In science, skepticism is a healthy and necessary ingredient; disbelief and denial are something totally different.  Denial is not driven by data or analyses but rather by a profound distrust of what is going on and a dislike of the implications.
The process of science is one of constantly questioning and doubting.  This is an honest activity and a peer reviewed process; however, this is not what is being attempted today.  Climate change deniers seek to find situations that can be popularized (e.g. the “climate gate” memos) and to try to make scientists look like cheats and frauds.
The “Karl Rove” effect- Discern the most assured facts and attack those.
Your scribe’s favorite quote of the evening:  “If you have the law on your side, pound the law.  If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts.  If you have neither, pound the table.”

Energy ideas and questions:
Can we engineer the planet to decrease effects of global warming?  This is unlikely and the things they are considering doing are unnerving.
Some are now arguing that oil is a renewable resource.   This is not true (where is the peer reviewed publication demonstrating that oil is renewable?) and even if it were this would be a horrible thing as burning oil is responsible to a large degree for the problem of climate change.
Does it make sense to rely more on nuclear power?  Nuclear waste is a problem although scientists are working on ways to sequester nuclear waste.   There are also problems with the mining and milling of uranium but these are child’s play compared to what we’re doing by tearing down mountains and processing coal.
What about pursuing geo-engineering solutions for controlling climate change?   We should be pursuing geo-engineering solutions as an accompaniment to conservation; we cannot continue to use our finite resources as we are now.

Climate Change on-line resources:

Commonwealth of Virginia- Governor Kaine’s Climate Change Commission

http://www.naturalresources.virginia.gov/GovCommClimateChange.cfm

** Jack served on the Climate Change Commission for Virginia alongside individuals from Dominion Power, the Sierra Club, universities…  Unfortunately their report got bottled up by Republicans and never made it to the Governor.  Contact your legislator and encourage them to do something about this report.

American Association for the Advancement of Science- http://www.aaas.org/

National Academies of Science and Engineering- http://www.nas.edu/

U.S. Global Change Research Program-
Old web site     http://www.usgcrp.gov/usgcrp/default.php
New web site   http://www.globalchange.gov/

World Bank- http://econ.worldbank.org/external/default/main?menuPK=469435&pagePK=64165236&piPK=64165141&theSitePK=469382

Our thanks go out to Dr. Jack Gibbons for providing us with such an entertaining and informative program.  I, for one, now feel much better equipped  to deal with the skeptics in my life J

Save the Dates
You won’t want to miss the interesting meetings we have planned!

January 10th-  Matt Benson and Tim Mize of the regional and county Extension office will join us to discuss sustainable, community-based local and regional food systems.

Feb. 21st (please note we’re meeting on the 3rd Sunday this month as the second Sunday is Valentine’s Day)- Michael Kieffer , executive director of the Bull Run Mountain Conservancy

March 14th- Trista Scheuerlein of the Rappahannock Farm to School Program

Warmly,
Andrea