Renewable Energy Archive


Celebrating 30 Years of Publishing and Planting Trees

Monday, December 1st, 2014

The internationally best-selling book The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono, with wood engravings by Michael McCurdy, appeared in Chelsea Green’s first catalog in 1985 and has remained in print ever since. This powerful ecological fable continues to remain relevant, as you can read for yourself below, and best exemplifies our core publishing mission.

The following excerpt of this award-winning book appears in the forthcoming book, The Chelsea Green Reader, which is being published in celebration of our 30th anniversary as a book publisher. Each book excerpt is preceded by a short introduction, which we have included here.

Enjoy!

Jean Giono, one of France’s most celebrated twentieth-century novelists, wrote this ecological fable in the early 1950s. It was far ahead of its time. Chelsea Green persuaded the wood engraver and fine press publisher Michael McCurdy to make twenty engravings that dramatically enhance the book’s simple but powerful narrative. For the first time—almost three decades after its publication in Paris in Vogue magazine—the story appeared in book form in 1985. In time it became an international bestseller, and in 1992 Chelsea Green created an audio edition, with Boston’s WGBH classical music host Robert J. Lurtsema reading and original music by the Paul Winter Consort. In many ways this book embodies the spirit of our company.

1ManWho

There was peace in being with this man. The next day I asked if I might rest here for a day. He found it quite natural—or, to be more exact, he gave me the impression that nothing could startle him. The rest was not absolutely necessary, but I was interested and wished to know more about him. He opened the pen and led his flock to pasture. Before leaving, he plunged his sack of carefully selected and counted acorns into a pail of water.ic by the Paul Winter Consort. In many ways this book embodies the spirit of our company.

I noticed that he carried for a stick an iron rod as thick as my thumb and about a yard and a half long. Resting myself by walking, I followed a path parallel to his. His pasture was in a valley. He left the dog in charge of the little flock and climbed toward where I stood. I was afraid that he was about to rebuke me for my indiscretion, but it was not that at all: this was the way he was going, and he invited me to go along if I had nothing better to do. He climbed to the top of the ridge, about a hundred yards away.

There he began thrusting his iron rod into the earth, making a hole in which he planted an acorn; then he refilled the hole. He was planting oak trees. I asked him if the land belonged to him. He answered no. Did he know whose it was? He did not. He supposed it was community property, or perhaps belonged to people who cared nothing about it. He was not interested in finding out whose it was. He planted his hundred acorns with the greatest care.

After the midday meal he resumed his planting. I suppose I must have been fairly insistent in my questioning, for he answered me. For three years he had been planting trees in this wilderness. He had planted one hundred thousand. Of the hundred thousand, twenty thousand had sprouted. Of the twenty thousand he still expected to lose about half, to rodents or to the unpredictable designs of Providence. There remained ten thousand oak trees to grow where nothing had grown before.

That was when I began to wonder about the age of this man. He was obviously over fifty. Fifty-five, he told me. His name was Elzéard Bouffier. He had once had a farm in the lowlands. There he had had his life. He had lost his only son, then his wife. He had withdrawn into this solitude where his pleasure was to live leisurely with his lambs and his dog. It was his opinion that this land was dying for want of trees. He added that, having no very pressing business of his own, he had resolved to remedy this state of affairs.

The oaks of 1910 were then ten years old and taller than either of us. It was an impressive spectacle. I was literally speechless and, as he did not talk, we spent the whole day walking in silence through his forest. In three sections, it measured eleven kilometers in length and three kilometers at its greatest width. When you remembered that all this had sprung from the hands and the soul of this one man, without technical resources, you understood that men could be as effectual as God in other realms than that of destruction.

He had pursued his plan, and beech trees as high as my shoulder, spreading out as far as the eye could reach, confirmed it. He showed me handsome clumps of birch planted five years before—that is, in 1915, when I had been fighting at Verdun. He had set them out in all the valleys where he had guessed—and rightly—that there was moisture almost at the surface of the ground. They were as delicate as young girls, and very well established.

Creation seemed to come about in a sort of chain reaction. He did not worry about it; he was determinedly pursuing his task in all its simplicity; but as we went back toward the village I saw water flowing in brooks that had been dry since the memory of man. This was the most impressive result of chain reaction that I had seen. These dry streams had once, long ago, run with water. Some of the dreary villages I mentioned before had been built on the sites of ancient Roman settlements, traces of which still remained; and archaeologists, exploring there, had found fishhooks where, in the twentieth century, cisterns were needed to assure a small supply of water.

The wind, too, scattered seeds. As the water reappeared, so there reappeared willows, rushes, meadows, gardens, flowers, and a certain purpose in being alive. But the transformation took place so gradually that it became part of the pattern without causing any astonishment. Hunters, climbing into the wilderness in pursuit of hares or wild boar, had of course noticed the sudden growth of little trees, but had attributed it to some natural caprice of the earth. That is why no one meddled with Elzéard Bouffier’s work. If he had been detected he would have had opposition. He was indetectable. Who in the villages or in the administration could have dreamed of such perseverance in a magnificent generosity?

To have anything like a precise idea of this exceptional character one must not forget that he worked in total solitude: so total that, toward the end of his life, he lost the habit of speech. Or perhaps it was that he saw no need for it.

Chelsea Green Publishing Turns 30!

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Explore a slideshow of cover images from some of our most iconic books over the past 30 years. Excerpts from these books and close to 100 others are all part of a new Chelsea Green anthology celebrating our 30th anniversary – The Chelsea Green Reader.

This collection offers readers a glimpse into our wide-ranging list of books and authors and to the important ideas that they express. Interesting and worth reading in their own right, the individual passages when taken as a whole trace the evolution of a highly successful small publisher—something that is almost an oxymoron in these days of corporate buyouts and multinational book groups.

Take a walk down memory lane with us and check out this selection of book covers from 1985 to the present.

Chelsea Green Celebrates 30 Years of Craft and Cutting Edge Books

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

We here at Chelsea Green have always had a nose for authors and books that are years ahead of the cultural curve. That knack is clearly on display in a new anthology that we’re making available to celebrate our first thirty years in publishing.

More than one hundred books are represented in this collection and reflect the many distinct areas in which we have published—from literature and memoirs to progressive politics, to highly practical books on green building, organic gardening and farming, food and health, and related subjects—all of which reflect our underlying philosophy: “The politics and practice of sustainable living.”

The Chelsea Green Reader offers a glimpse into our wide-ranging list of books and authors and to the important ideas that they express. Interesting and worth reading in their own right, the individual passages when taken as a whole trace the evolution of a highly successful small publisher—something that is almost an oxymoron in these days of corporate buyouts and multinational book groups.

“I like to think of these brief excerpts as individual stones in a cairn. A cairn is a landmark, a pile of rocks built by hikers high above tree line in the mountains. It grows larger and larger over the years as new hikers passing by contribute a new stone, or replace one that might have fallen. A cairn is there to confirm, even on a foggy day, that we are on the right path, and it indicates the way forward, to the summit,” writes Senior Editor Ben Watson in the book’s preface.

“Every book is a stone, or a brick in the wall, of an edifice that is always being constructed, constantly evolving, and never quite finished. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that a publishing company is colloquially referred to as a ‘house,’” Watson adds. “At Chelsea Green we continue to build, with our authors and their ideas, a great house, one that represents our deeply held values and beliefs, our hopes and our dreams.”CGP_grasshopper_olive green

From the beginning, Chelsea Green’s books were nationally recognized, garnering positive reviews, accolades, and awards. We’ve published four New York Times bestsellers, and our books have set the standard for in-depth, how-to books that remain relevant years—often decades—beyond their original publication date. Books in this volume range from ones that appeared in our very first catalog in 1985 (and remain in print today) to ones that have long since gone out of print, but not forgotten as important touchstones for us as a publisher.

“Chelsea Green was born from a single seed: the beauty of craft. Craft in writing and editing, in a story well told, or a thesis superbly expressed,” writes cofounder and publisher emeritus Ian Baldwin in the book’s Foreword.

This attention to craft has even informed our business model: In 2012, Chelsea Green became an employee-owned company as a way to “practice what we publish” and lay the groundwork to ensure that the founders’ legacy remained intact in the decades to follow.

The move made Chelsea Green unique among book publishers in an industry dominated by investor-driven, multinational corporations. Only a handful of independent book publishers can claim employee-ownership status, and of those Chelsea Green will be near the top in terms of the percentage controlled by employees.

With the rise of the Internet, new media platforms, and a constantly shifting bookselling landscape, the future of publishing is anything but predictable. But if Chelsea Green’s books prove anything, it is that, despite these challenges, there remains a hunger for new and important ideas and authors, and for the permanence and craftsmanship of the printed word. Today our ongoing mission is stronger than ever, as we launch into our next thirty years of publishing excellence.

“People are moved by what they read,” adds Baldwin in his Foreword. “That pertains whether they read an ebook or a printed one, and they want to connect with the writers who make their lives richer. Part of the publisher’s role is to help make this vitalizing connection. This nexus among author, publisher, and reader is, I believe, unlikely to wither anytime soon.”

Low-Impact DIY Solutions From Our Publishing Partners

Monday, August 19th, 2013

At Chelsea Green, our mission is to publish books designed to help people live more sustainable, self-sufficient, and ecologically conscious lives. Along with the books that we bring into print, we also partner with publishers and writers around the world and distribute their books throughout the United States.

A new addition to our catalog comes from Green Man Publishing. Author Frank Tozer self-publishes books on plants and their uses. With an abundance of new information on even more crops, The New Vegetable Growers Handbook is the most comprehensive manual on vegetable gardening available. This updated version, like the original, covers the what, when and why of growing common and unique crops, firsthand from Tozer’s gardening expertise.

We are also especially proud to partner with Permanent Publications, a forward thinking publisher in the UK. Like Chelsea Green, Permanent Publications produces innovative books and DVDs, and publishes the influential Permaculture magazine.

Below are the newest additions to our catalog from Permanent Publications.

Looking to eliminate debt and maximize freedom? Compact Living offers design solutions for minimalists, downsizers and small spaces. Embrace what you have, optimize your space and free yourself of clutter with Michael Guerra’s latest book.

After finding himself dissatisfied with conventional life and traveling Europe, Michel Daniek has incorporated solar energy into his daily life. His second edition of Do It Yourself 12 Volt Solar Power will guide you through a sustainable, low-impact, low-cost approach to energy for any home – traditional or off the grid.

With unique recipes, projects and foraging tips for every season, Glennie Kindred reconnects us to the natural world. Letting in the Wild Edges encourages openness to the world around us, by incorporating simplicities of nature into our everyday lives.

The Moneyless Manifesto teaches us how to live more with less. After three years of living without money, Moneyless Man Mark Boyle breaks down his philosophy and experience of breaking free from the constraints of our modern financial system and living a truly sustainable life.

Kemp has become an expert on growing food in small spaces by feeding herself from her tiny balcony garden. With low-impact and high-subsistence standards, Permaculture in Pots provides the power and know-how to grow your own food even in the smallest of spaces.

The updated and revised edition of The Woodland Way is an alternative approach to healthy and diverse woodland management. Ben Law is creating a woodland renaissance in the UK, using permaculture woodlands for the betterment of community, environment and climate.

WATCH: Greg Pahl’s Sustainably Heated Home: A Fireplace Insert

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Greg Pahl, author of Power from the People, the latest installment in our Community Resilience Guides Series, also wrote Natural Home Heating: The Complete Guide to Renewable Energy Options, which we published in 2003.

The book is a guide to using woodstoves, passive and active solar, biomass, and other natural methods for keeping your nest as toasty as possible. It may be too late for you to prep your home for the winter that’s already here, but perhaps the cold weather and the video below can inspire you to scheme some sustainable heating upgrades for your home in the coming year.

Greg Pahl performed an energy overhaul on his 1950s tract home in northern Vermont. In the process, he transformed a house that was built with no consideration for energy efficiency or sustainability into a naturally heated home using sustainable fuel sources.

In this video, Greg explains the conversion of his decorative living room fireplace—a “smoke alarm tester,” as he puts it—into a usable and efficient home heating appliance. He’ll explain what’s involved in installing one in your own home, saving you money and energy this winter.

This video is part of a series. See also:

If you’re curious about Pahl’s new book on community-based renewable energy systems, and our partnership with the Post Carbon Institute, visit Resilience.org to find out more. For an easy intro to the concepts in Power from the People, you can watch a recent webinar that Pahl led, here.

How to End Blackouts Forever: Amory Lovins on Time.com

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

In a recent online article for Time magazine, Amory Lovins spells out what we need to do in order to make our electrical power system more resilient in the face of catastrophic disruption brought by the likes of Hurricane Sandy, wild fires, earthquakes, or solar flares.

Come hell or high water — and Hurricane Sandy brought both to many Americans — most of us can’t get the electricity we need. More than two weeks after the storm’s departure, 25,000 homes were still without power. We live high in the Rockies and were unaffected, but a couple of Februaries ago snowstorms knocked out our neighbors’ electricity on five different days. But ours stayed on — by design. Our house’s efficient lights and appliances save most of the electricity. This shrinks the solar power system that runs our meter backwards and sells back its surplus to the grid. But unlike most solar-powered buildings, ours is wired to work with or without the grid.

A resilient power system wouldn’t be linked together in a top-down trickle, getting energy from a central source. Instead it would be made of independent nodes that can power themselves, and that won’t take the whole network out if they fail. Especially if these nodes gain their power from renewable sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal, and if the buildings they support are energy efficient to begin with, we could be looking at a completely different relationship to electricity. One that wouldn’t be threatened by a monstrous, climate-change-heated superstorm like Sandy.

Lovins goes on to explain that this strategy seems rational enough for at least one major stakeholder in our country to consider seriously. The Pentagon, caring very much that their war machine offices and bases don’t lose power all at once, is looking into microgrid technology. If it’s good enough for the Pentagon, Lovins argues, it’s good enough for regular folks like us! Read the entire Time article here.

Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute explore an optimistic view of the future of energy in their latest book, Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era

Resilience is the name of the game these days, as those of us interested in “sustainability” start to develop a deep understanding of what the word really means, and develop robust tools with which to make it happen. Resilience doesn’t just mean continuing forever as-is, it takes into account the fact that disruptions will happen, and that communities must simply find ways of developing that allow them to bounce back.

Asher Miller’s recent article for the Post Carbon Institute has much the same take as Lovins, and encourages readers to put their money where their beliefs are, and invest in this new vision of efficient, distributed, community-owned electrical power.

On the day following the election, 350.org kicked of a 20-city, 20-day “Do the Math” tour to “mount an unprecedented campaign to cut off the industry’s financial and political support by divesting our schools, churches and government from fossil fuels.”

I want to set out a challenge to everyone who recognizes the need to divest from the fossil fuel industry: Moving our investments from a mutual fund that holds shares in ExxonMobil to some kind of socially responsible investment (SRI) is important, but it’s just a baby step.

What we also need is to invest our capital (both financial and sweat) in community-owned, distributed, and small-scale renewable energy. Why? Because we must fundamentally remake the energy economy as if nature, people, and the future actually mattered.

That means investing in renewable energy that is distributed, because renewable sources themselves are diffuse and distributed, and because redundancy and distribution are key to building resilience in the face of shocks like Superstorm Sandy, which are increasingly likely in a climate-changed world.

It also means investing in renewable energy that is community-owned, because we’ve seen what happens when large, multinational companies control essential human needs, whether they be food, healthcare, or energy. By their very nature, these corporations place profits and shareholders over the well-being of the communities they ostensibly serve. A new energy future must be part of a new economy future, a new economy that puts people and planet over profits.

And finally, it means investing in renewable energy that is small-scale, again because distribution increases resilience but also because even renewable energy can have profoundly negative impacts on ecosystems if not sited and scaled in ways that are appropriate to the environment in which it — and we — reside.

Sounds like a tall order, I know. But thankfully there are a number of great, replicable examples of individuals, institutions, and communities meeting the challenge. Below are just a few. (For a much more complete resource, check out Power from the People: How to Organize, Launch, and Finance Local Energy Projects by Greg Pahl, the 2nd in the Community Resilience Guide Series published by Chelsea Green Publishing and Post Carbon Institute.)

Read Miller’s entire article, including his favorite examples of resilient energy projects, here.

And check out the other books in our Community Resilience Guides Series, Local Dollars, Local Sense (on how to shift investments from Wall Street to Main Street), and the forthcoming Rebuilding the Foodshed (about ways to develop food systems that are secure, appropriately-scaled, and good for the environment).

Project: Save Energy with Insulated Shutters

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Unless you’ve taken special preventative precautions, it’s likely that on cold days much of your house’s heat pours out through your (closed) windows. Most houses—especially old houses—have drafty, uninsulated windows that do little to prevent heat from dumping out into the cold night. Even if your windows aren’t drafty, the expensive heat your furnace has been generating could be escaping.The only way to know for sure is to conduct a home energy audit—either professionally or on your own. Included in a home energy audit is a thermal image of your house on a cold day. This image will show you the hot spots on the exterior of your house—usually around the doors and windows—where (and how much) heat is escaping.

Once you’ve conducted your home energy audit, or decided that your windows are probably leaking heat anyway, you can get to work sealing up the windows to save money, fuel, and energy this winter. Stephen and Rebekah Hren, authors of The Carbon-Free Home, have offered the low-cost solution to window heat loss below.

From The Carbon-Free Home: 36 Remodeling Projects to Help Kick the Fossil-Fuel Habit, by Stephen and Rebekah Hren:

Insulated Curtains and Shutters

A variety of systems have been devised over the years to stop heat transfer through windows. The most obvious is the curtain. While curtains do address heat transfer via radiation, when improperly installed they can increase the convection over the window and potentially lead to a net heat loss. This happens primarily from top to bottom when a large gap allows warm air to be pulled downward from the ceiling between the curtain and the glass. This cools the air, causing it to drop down below the curtain level and escape back out into the room. The cool air entering the room is replaced by additional warm air near the ceiling, and a thermosiphon effect can become established, quickly sucking the heat out of the room.

This can also occur to a lesser degree when curtains have large gaps between the sides and the wall. To make the application of curtains worthwhile from an energy conservation standpoint, it’s necessary to go to some trouble to reduce as much as possible all gaps around the edges of the curtains. Historically, the thermosiphon effect has been reduced by the application of a valance (also called a pelmet) at the top of the window. Often these are applied with aesthetics as the main concern (covering the curtain hardware) instead of energy conservation. To be effective, the valance needs to hug tight to the wall above the window to prevent thermosiphoning. Cloth valances rarely achieve this end. Constructed wood valances, sometimes found in older homes, are more effective.

For windows without curtains or with poorly functioning curtains, there are two options: insulated curtains or shutters. Typically, insulated curtains are held tight to the wall by embedded magnets (or Velcro) in the curtain and window trim. Insulated shutters are typically hinged on one side, although they can be hinged on the top and opened via a pulley and held against the ceiling. They typically consist of a simple 2 × 2 frame with metal on both sides and insulation sandwiched in between, typically high-R-value foamboard. (See image.)

stormwindow.jpg

Insulated curtains are either homemade or purchased affairs. Beware—many big-box retailers sell what they call insulated curtains, but these are thin and don’t seal around the edges. Solar Components (www .solar-components.com/quilts) sells insulated material for making your own sealing insulated curtains. Cozy Curtains (www.cozycurtains.com) will custommake sealing insulated curtains for around $10–12/ square foot. Generally, windows with sealing insulated curtains achieve an R-value of around 7 or 8. The curtains also have excellent sound-deadening and light-blocking qualities.

Project: Sealing Drafts.
Renter friendly.
Project Time: One weekend.
Cost: $5–50.
Energy Saved: High. Drafts can suck much of the heat out a home very quickly.
Ease of Use: N/A.
Maintenance Level: None.
Skill Levels: Carpentry: Basic.
Materials: Caulk, silicone.
Tools: Caulking gun, pry bar, screwdriver, incense or smoke stick.

Blow-in insulation. For older homes, the best way to seal up a drafty house is often by blowing insulation, either

cellulose or fiberglass, into the walls and attic. Loose-fill insulation can reduce airflow to the point where air infiltration is essentially eliminated. If your home is poorly insulated, blowing in insulation in the attic and walls should be your top priority. It’s probably best to hire someone for at least the wall insulation. The reason to hire out is because blowing in sufficient insulation to get up to R-13 or so requires pressure created by a high-powered compressor that is not easy to rent. Walls and attic can be done in an afternoon by a professional. However, the attic doesn’t require high pressure and can be a DIY job if you’re so inclined. Many rental places or big-box stores have the equipment needed to blow in attic insulation.

Checking for air leaks. If your walls are already insulated, you’ll want to check all protrusions into the interior wall

space for potential air leaks. This is easy to do with a stick of incense, when the interior temperature is substantially different than the exterior temperature. Hold a smoking stick close to things such as outlets, tops and bottoms of baseboards, chair rails, picture rails, window trim, plumbing intrusions, and vents, and watch the smoke. If it’s not floating straight up, you found one.

Outlets and switch seals are made of rubber and match the profile of the outlet (receptacle or switch). These can be purchased at most hardware stores. Remove the outlet cover with a screwdriver and stick the seal in between the cover and the wall. Be cautious of live wires; to play it safe turn off the breaker for the circuits you will be working on whenever removing outlet covers.

Drafts from gaps in trim or plumbing and HVAC intrusions can be sealed with either pure silicone (which is preferred as it stays flexible, but it is not paintable) or painter’s caulk with some silicone added. Expandable foam is an option for large cracks (more than a ¼ inch), although it often contains potential toxins like benzene and often uses HCFCs for blowing agents, known to be potent greenhouse gases.

Stopping vertical airflow. If your home is old and your interior walls are extremely drafty, you have two options. The first is to seal either the basement or the attic. This will close either the entrance (basement) or the exit (attic) for the cold air. Again, blowing in insulation in the attic does a great job of essentially eliminating potential basement-to-attic airflow through interior walls. The cheapest (but most difficult) choice is to go into the basement or crawl space and clog any holes made in the floor and walls for systems such as electrical and plumbing. There are often a surprising number of these. This can be done with expanded foam or by stuffing bits of fiberglass insulation into the holes. While fiberglass insulation does let through some air, it reduces airflow by over 90 percent.

If your house is on piers and not enclosed, you’ll need to insulate your floor. This is an unpleasant and difficult task but will go a long way in sealing up your home. Flexible rods are sold to hold floor insulation in place, but we’ve seen these fail on a number of occasions. The best method for holding floor insulation in place is to start with a few of these flexible rods and then staple chicken wire to keep it in place.

Recessed lights and electrical boxes in the ceiling are a common escape route for air. Again, blowing some insulation in the attic will do wonders. Fiberglass batts in the attic also benefit from this treatment, as the gaps between the edges and the joists can let out a fair amount of heat.

Check all ductwork. If you have a conventional furnace or heat pump with forced-air heating, you’ll need to check your ductwork annually. This is because some piece or other has quite likely become detached over the course of time and is lying on the crawl space floor, keeping the crickets warm. To detect a detached duct, check each heating vent in your house, while the heating system is running, by placing your hand over the vent to feel for airflow. What you can’t check from above are slightly detached or leaky connections, which occur with great regularity. Grab the incense stick and check all the lines for leaks, using real duct tape (black, not gray, and quite expensive) to seal any problem areas. Also check for crimped ductwork or holes from squirrels or rodents. Repair any problem areas.

In a really well-sealed home, there’s the potential to have an inadequate amount of fresh air coming in from the outside. If you’ve done a great job sealing your home, and especially if you heat with wood (which uses up a lot of oxygen), you’ll want to install an air exchanger. This brings in fresh air and exhausts interior air through a highly conductive metal passageway that exchanges much of the heat of the outgoing air with the incoming air.

Power from the People – A Webinar with Greg Pahl

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Renewable power is always better than fossil fuel power, but even solar and wind can stir up environmental concerns. Here in Vermont, where ridgeline construction is limited and restricted, residents are increasingly seeing their beloved landscapes interrupted by wind turbines. Meanwhile, activists in the southwest are seeing huge solar installations disrupt the delicate desert ecology.

But these sorts of massive-scale projects are not the only way to do renewables. Small-scale projects that are funded, planned, and supported by local communities are much more sustainable, and, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy may be more resilient to get back online in the event of knockout storms.

This Friday, November 16th, join Greg Pahl, author of Power From the People, for a webinar on the subject. The talk starts at 10 AM PT, 1 PM ET, 18 GMT.

Communities across the United States are taking power into their own hands by organizing, financing, and launching their own local renewable energy projects! In this webinar, energy expert Greg Pahl will describe the best practices and lessons learned from the community-owned wind, solar, and biofuel projects featured in his latest book, Power From the People (Chelsea Green, 2012). Pahl’s book is part of our Community Resilience Guide series we’re co-publishing with the folks at Post Carbon Institute.

In fact, check out the recent Grist article written by PCI’s Asher Miller about just how we can take the lead from Bill McKibben and divest from Big Oil by investing in our own backyards. Miller cites some of the many examples in Pahl’s books where communities are already doing this – to much success.

This event will comprise a 30 minute presentation followed by a live Q&A. Join by going here at the time of the presentation where you will be able to login and participate.

Playing Nuclear Roulette in Vermont

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Vermont’s lone nuclear reactor — Entergy-owned Vermont Yankee — has been named one of the five worst reactors in the United States, according to the new book Nuclear Roulette: The Truth about the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth, published by Chelsea Green Publishing.

For much of the past Vermont Yankee has been the focus of ongoing state and federal regulatory investigations, legislative battles, and ongoing courtroom drama. It started running in 1972, and was recently given a 20-year operating extension by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

This coming weekend, and into next week, activists will renew their attention to the aging reactor in hopes they can finish the work of the Vermont Senate a few years ago — close down Vermont Yankee permanently.

In this new work — which we’re offering on sale this week — investigative journalist Gar Smith lists five nuclear facilities as the “worst reactors” in the United States. They were chosen because they are representative of the poor regulatory oversight that has endangered the public, and poisoned the environment. Many other nuclear power sites around the country have equally disturbing records of poor performance, emergency shutdowns, and close calls, which Smith details in ample supply in Nuclear Roulette.

“The consequences of poor regulatory oversight can be seen in the operating histories of the country’s nuclear reactors,” writes Smith in  Nuclear Roulette.

The other four reactors are: Entergy-owned Indian Point in New York; Davis-Besse in Ohio, and Diablo Canyon and San Onofre in California.

Here is the section devoted to Vermont Yankee, which also exemplifies what happens when the industry and its lapdog regulators team up against the wishes of a state’s citizens and elected officials:

Vermont Yankee: The Green Mountain State vs. the NRC

On March 10, 2011, the NRC unanimously approved a 20-year license extension for the troubled Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Within hours of the decision, three similar General Electric Mark 1 reactors were knocked off-line by an earthquake in Japan—and all three overheated and exploded. Despite the devastation in Fukushima Prefecture, the NRC stood by its decision to allow the 40-year-old Vermont Yankee plant to continue operating through 2031. Given Vermont Yankee’s history of breakdowns and cover-ups—and the fact that a reactor accident here could put more than a million Americans at risk—the watchdog group Beyond Nuclear excoriated the NRC’s decision as both “audacious” and “reckless.”

Vermonters received another jolt when it was revealed that the NRC had voted to extend Vermont Yankee’s license even though its inspectors had discovered that critical electric cables powering the plant’s safety systems had been “submerged under water for extended periods of time.”

It was not the only maintenance failure of Entergy Corp., which had acquired the plant in 2002. The company has a reputation for “buying reactors cheap and running them into the ground.” In 2004, a poorly maintained electrical system set off a large fire in the plant’s turbine building that forced an emergency shutdown. In 2007, Vermont Yankee experienced a series of maintenance problems that included the dramatic collapse of a cooling tower. A waterfall of high-pressure water burst from a ruptured cooling pipe and tore a gaping hole in the plant’s wall. Entergy was able to hide the damage—but only until a concerned employee leaked a photo of the wreckage to the press. The huge gap in the side of the building was reminiscent of the hole in the side of the Pentagon following the 9/11 attacks.

Tritium + Entergy = Perjury

During state hearings in 2009, Entergy executives were asked if radioactive tritium detected in the soil and groundwater near the reactor could have leaked from the plant. Company officials repeatedly swore under oath that this was impossible since there were no underground pipes at the plant. It was not until January 2010, after a leak of radioactive tritium was traced to a series of subsurface pipes, that Entergy changed its story. While the plant didn’t have “underground pipes,” Entergy now explained, it did have “buried pipes.”

Attorney general William Sorrell began a 17-month investigation during which Entergy’s former executive vice president Curtis Hebert admitted that the company’s statements about the pipes “could have been more accurate.” The state ordered Entergy to remove more than 300,000 gallons of radioactive water fron the soil and ground water at the reactor site, and Vermont governor Peter Shumlin demanded the plant’s closure.

There’s another waste problem at the plant: a large and potentially lethal stockpile of used fuel rods. While Fukushima’s six reactors had between 360 and 500 tons of slowly dying fuel rods on-site, the nuclear graveyard at Vermont Yankee is filled with 690 tons of dangerously radioactive waste. And the storage pools for this spent fuel lack both backup cooling systems and backup generators.

Beyond Nuclear’s “Freeze Our Fukushimas” campaign, which aims to close all 23 Mark 1 reactors in the United States, hoped to score its first victory when Vermont Yankee’s 40-year operating license expired on March 21, 2012. The odds were improved by the fact that Vermont is the only state that gives lawmakers the authority to veto a nuclear power plant. In February 2010, a month after Entergy’s tritium scandal was exposed, the Vermont Senate voted 26–4 against issuing a new “certificate of public good” that would allow Vermont Yankee to continue operating.

Entergy Sues Vermont

In April 2011, Entergy’s lawyers responded by suing the governor and the state, claiming, “We have a right to continue operation.” On January 19, 2012, federal judge Garvan Murtha ruled that only the NRC could close a nuclear plant, and therefore Entergy was entitled to its new 20-year operating license. Murtha also made it clear that the Green Mountain State was not entitled to raise any questions regarding plant safety or the prices charged for nuclear power—under federal law, only the NRC could raise such matters.

The decision alarmed Beyond Nuclear and other critics who feared the nuclear industry and the federal government were working in concert “to pre-empt a state’s right to self determination for an energy future in the public good.” Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) quickly weighed in. “If Vermont wants to move to energy efficiency and sustainable energy,” Sanders told the Burlington Free Press, “no corporation should have the right to force our state to stay tethered to an aging, problem-ridden nuclear plant.”

Eight days after the judge’s decision, Entergy refused the state’s second request to investigate the source of a tritium leak that had poisoned a drinking well on the plant’s property. On July 25, 2011, Entergy further demonstrated its disregard for due process by announcing a $60 million refueling project—an investment that would pay off only if the power plant won its extension.

Entergy’s lawyers publicly confirmed their understanding that the company still needs the permission of Vermont’s Public Service Board (a quasi-official board that oversees Vermont’s utilities) if it is to continue operating its reactors. In a responding press release, however, the state’s Department of Public Service (which represents the interests of utility customers in cases brought before the Public Service Board) cautioned, “Past experience shows Entergy cannot be taken at its word.”

In a daunting struggle that pits 600,000 Vermonters against the US government, the nuclear industry, and the NRC, the state attorney general vowed to appeal Judge Murtha’s decision—all the way to the US Supreme Court, if necessary.

“People don’t trust the NRC,” Bob Audette, a reporter for the Brattleboro Reformer told a film crew from the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR). “They think it’s the lapdog of the industry. They think it’s there basically to affirm everything the industry does. It’s too cozy with the industry.”

In another interview with the CIR, Anthony Roisman, a legal consultant for New York and Vermont, expressed his concerns with the NRC: “This regulatory agency does not regulate effectively. And until it does, there is no way that the public can have any confidence that plants, whether they are licensed or re-licensed, won’t have some catastrophic event. No one will benefit from a post-catastrophic-event hand-wringing that says, ‘Oh we should have done this and we’ll do better next time.’ The consequences are unimaginable.”

Seize the Power — It’s Energy Awareness Month!

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

If you’re a Chelsea Green fan (read: you’re concerned about the planet) and you suffered through the first Presidential debate last week, your ears probably perked up when the President and Governor Romney faced off about energy. Since they are politicians, we can assume most of what they said was either completely untrue, or so massaged to fit a platform that it would probably be less confusing if it were completely untrue…

But regardless of these gentlemen and their prevarications, energy is one of the most important issues of our time.

October is Energy Awareness Month, and we would like to encourage you to learn a bit more about the problems of fossil fuels, and the promise of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, tidal power, biomass, geothermal, and our favorite “source” of energy: increased efficiency.

Chelsea Green has published important books on renewable energy for almost thirty years. This week, we’ve put a handful on sale for 25% off.

Read on, learn, and enjoy!

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Power cover image
Reg. Price: $19.95
Sale Price: $12.97

Power from the People: How to Organize, Finance, and Launch Local Energy Projects

More than ninety percent of the electricity we use to light our communities, and nearly all the energy we use to run our cars, heat our homes, and power our factories comes from large, centralized, highly polluting, nonrenewable sources of energy.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In Power from the People, energy expert Greg Pahl explains how American communities can plan, finance, and produce their own local, renewable energy that is reliable, safe, and clean.

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Reinventing Fire cover image
Reg. Price: $34.95
Sale Price: $26.21

Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era

Oil and coal have built our civilization, created our wealth, and enriched the lives of billions. Yet their rising costs to our security, economy, health, and environment now outweigh their benefits. Moreover, that long-awaited energy tipping point—where alternatives work better than oil and coal and compete purely on cost—is no longer decades in the future. It is here and now. And it is the fulcrum of economic transformation.

In Reinventing Fire, Amory Lovins and Rocky Mountain Institute offer a new vision to revitalize business models, end-run Washington gridlock, and win the clean energy race—not forced by public policy but led by business for enduring profit. Grounded in 30 years’ practical experience, this ground-breaking, peer-reviewed analysis integrates market-based solutions across transportation, buildings, industry, and electricity.

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Glorious Glut cover image
Reg. Price: $14.95
Sale Price: $11.21

A Solar Buyer’s Guide for the Home and Office: Navigating the Maze of Solar Options, Incentives, and Installers

Solar power, once a fringe effort limited to DIY enthusiasts, is now fast becoming mainstream. Many home and business owners are curious about solar electric and solar thermal systems, and wonder how to go about getting a clean energy generation system of their own.

A Solar Buyer’s Guide for the Home and Office explains the options so that property owners can make the right choices both for their energy needs and their financial security. Understanding how solar power systems work will enable readers to be informed customers when dealing with professional installers—the book also provides advice on how to select a qualified installer and understand the expanding variety of tax credits and other incentives that are popping up around the country.

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Reg. Price: $39.95
Sale Price: $26.96

Masonry Heaters: Designing, Building, and Living with a Piece of the Sun

Masonry Heaters is a complete guide to designing and living with one of the oldest, and yet one of the newest, heating devices. A masonry heater’s design, placement in the home, and luxurious radiant heat redefine the hearth for the modern era, turning it into a piece of the sun right inside the home.

Like the feeling one gets from the sun on a spring day, the environment around a masonry heater feels fresh. The radiant heat feels better on the skin. It warms the home both gently and efficiently. In fact, the value of a masonry heater lies in its durability, quality, serviceability, dependability, and health-supporting features. And it is an investment in self-sufficiency and freedom from fossil fuels.

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Reg. Price: $29.95
Sale Price: $26.46

Wind Energy Basics, Second Edition:A Guide to Home- and Community-Scale Wind Energy Systems

Wind Energy Basics offers a how-to for home-based wind applications, with advice on which wind turbines to choose and which to avoid. He guides wind-energy installers through considerations such as renewable investment strategies and gives cautionary tales of wind applications gone wrong. And for the activist, he suggests methods of prodding federal, state, and provincial governments to promote energy independence.

Wind power can realistically not only replace the lion’s share of oil-, coal-, and naturalgas– fired electrical plants in the U.S., but also can add enough extra power capacity to allow for most of the cars in the nation to run on electricity. Gipe explains why such a startlingly straightforward solution is eminently doable and can be accomplished much sooner than previously thought—and will have the capacity to resuscitate small and regional economies.

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Reg. Price: $19.95
Sale Price: $12.97

COMING SOON – AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER!

Nuclear Roulette: The Truth about the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth

Nuclear Roulette dismantles the core arguments behind the nuclear-industrial complex’s “Nuclear Renaissance.” While some critiques are familiar—nuclear power is too costly, too dangerous, and too unstable—others are surprisin.

Nuclear Roulette exposes historic links to nuclear weapons, impacts on Indigenous lands and lives, and the ways in which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission too often takes its lead from industry, rewriting rules to keep failing plants in compliance. Nuclear Roulette cites NRC records showing how corporations routinely defer maintenance and lists resulting “near-misses” in the US, which average more than one per month.

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