Blogs from Carl McDaniel Mon, 02 Jan 2017 14:47:32 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb List of suggested uses for REC dollars presented at the City Council March 21 Work Session Click below to download a copy of the REC project ideas from the March 21 City Council Work Session.  They have been compiled into a single document. Print copies are available at the Oberlin Public Library as well.

all rec dollar use suggestions for city council may 2016.pdf

]]> (Carl McDaniel) Energy Matters Thu, 05 May 2016 19:00:53 +0000
Grow Your Way to Less Carbon Why have a vegetable garden?

Oberlin Community Service’s June networking lunch was crowded—perhaps 50 people were there. A panel of nine represented the diversity of local food and gardening projects in Oberlin from school to neighborhood gardens.

None of these existed two decades ago;  most are just a few years old. Oberlin’s farmers market was a handful of booths when we arrived in 2008. And it was only during the growing season. Today it’s a year-round Saturday morning social event and fills a good portion of the City Hall parking lot.

A recent survey found that over 40% of Oberlin residents grow food in a portion of their yards, some in the front yard. Oberlin reflects the recent national movement back to garden fresh food. My father had a victory garden in the 1940s, but it was for the war effort. The present movement has different motivations.

A vegetable garden provides delicious healthy food. Eating just-picked green beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and even zucchini is a sensual delight. When planting, weeding, and harvesting, you are out-of-doors getting exercise. The garden connects you to your food and the natural world. You save money, too. Equally important you have the satisfaction of growing a portion of your food.

Most of these positive attributes of vegetable gardening were considered or implied by the OCS panel. Unintentionally, they let slip by one very important benefit; growing your own food reduces the use of fossil fuels.

Industrially produced food requires substantial energy inputs. Experts estimate that the average number of Calories of fossil fuel used in the United States to put ONE Calorie of food on your table is 10 Calories. That’s right—each Calorie of conventionally-raised food you eat took 10 times the amount of energy to produce and deliver it to your table. Is this a sensible or sustainable food system?  

We’ve had a garden for many years because we love freshly harvested vegetables as well as root crops and squash that provide “garden-fresh” produce through the winter. More recently we’ve realized our garden reduces our contribution to climate change.

Very little energy is used in raising garden produce, perhaps one Calorie to put a Calorie of food on the table, thereby off-setting nine Calories of fossil fuel. Because Calories are only used as a food energy unit, the offset would be 36 British Thermal Units (BTUs) where one Calorie equals four BTUs. Based on the mix of crops grown in our garden last year—potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, broccoli, lettuce, okra, carrots, tomatoes, beets, egg plant, peppers, green beans, soybeans, onions, Swiss chard, yellow and zucchini squash—each pound harvested off-set about 750 BTU of fossil fuel.

Based on this estimate and the size of our garden, you can offset about 1.5 million BTUs of fossil fuel with a modest size garden (30 feet by 20 feet). For comparison, the average U.S. house runs annually on about 100 million BTUs of purchased energy. Alternatively 1.5 million BTUs is the energy in 12 gallons of gasoline—a lot of energy.

Enjoy the delicious vegetables from your or a local garden! As you savor the taste and texture, know too that you are reducing your carbon footprint.

]]> (Carl McDaniel) Energy Matters Mon, 29 Jul 2013 17:44:26 +0000
Do Electric Vehicles Make Sense in Oberlin? Several months ago my wife and I, along with a friend, drove our new Prius plug-in hybrid 40 miles on state roads to an evening picnic. The battery was fully charged and on arrival the dash board display showed 100 miles per gallon (mpg) for the trip. Being the first local trip out of Oberlin on which I noted the mileage, I was surprised and said to our friend, “That seems high.”

On the way back we were in hybrid mode, which means the car is powered by a gasoline engine as well as an electric motor using electricity generated by the engine and when the car coasts or breaks. Each of us made a guess for the return trip mpg: my wife, 65; our friend, 70; and I guessed what I thought would certainly be too high, 75. Back in Oberlin, the dashboard display showed 73 mpg. We were impressed!

We purchased a Prius plug-in hybrid because we wanted our local travel to be powered by our solar generated electricity. Toyota reports that the Prius can go 13 miles on a fully charged battery before using any gasoline. For local travel we’ve calculated an average of 15 miles per full charge or 4.6 miles/kilowatt hour (kWh). At 10 cents/kWh, the cost would be about 2 cents/mile. In a car that averaged 30 mpg and with gasoline at $3.50/gallon, it would cost 6 times more!

Most of our local travel is less than 10 miles, so on these trips our car is powered by solar electricity. In the last four months (mostly short trips) we filled the gas tank twice, 8.5 gallons each time. In these four months we averaged 106 mpg. On long trips that are in hybrid mode, we’ve averaged 56.2 mpg.

In the Prius, electricity is 3 times more efficient than gasoline. That is, a gallon of gasoline contains the equivalent of 35 kWh of electricity but only moves the car about 56 miles. However, 35 kWh stored in battery form moves the car about 160 miles.

Since purchasing the Prius, we have traveled 7,398 miles using 101 gallons of gasoline which means that 78% of our mileage was powered by gasoline and 22% of it was powered by sunlight. We’re averaging 73 mpg.

Examined from a cost perspective, we’ve spent $321 at an average price of $3.18/gallon. Had we purchased a standard vehicle getting an average 30 mpg, we’d have used 246 gallons or 145 gallons more, saving about $460. And we released no carbon dioxide for about 1,628 of those miles.

Current plug-in hybrids are transition vehicles to fully electric cars that in the future will reduce even further the cost for transportation fuel and carbon dioxide emissions, if the source of the electricity is carbon neutral. Because OMLPS has aggressively pursued carbon neutral sources of electricity, 90% of Oberlin’s electricity will be carbon neutral in 2015. That means electric cars plugged into Oberlin’s grid will cause almost no carbon emissions.

Do electric vehicles have downsides? Yes, of course. Batteries are heavy, expensive, and have to be replaced and recycled. Charging currently takes much more time than pumping gas. Present ranges are limited to just over 100 miles in fully electric cars.

Are electric cars for Oberlin? Yes, plug-in hybrids are perfect for driving around Oberlin and the surrounding area. And fully electric cars are currently an excellent choice except for trips beyond their mileage range. A few fully electric cars are already on the roads. As the Oberlin community addresses the challenge of becoming a climate positive community, electric transportation will certainly play an important role.

]]> (Carl McDaniel) Energy Matters Mon, 11 Mar 2013 15:42:24 +0000