The Road to Renewable Energy

Monday, October 12, 2009

Environmental journalist Amanda Little discusses her new book, Power Trip: From Oil Wells to Solar Cells--Our Ride to the Renewable Future

Discussion, Q&A, and book signing: October 14th at the New York Public Library on Mulberry Street at 6:30PM.


Amanda Little

Comments [23]

thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

jp--it's not wrong to want to use another energy source in addition to making the changes you suggest. but we need both. it's nice to say "we use less", but when energy comes from non-renewable sources that violate the environment, it's best to right-side it and embrace others. so let's just say the answer is "all of the above".

Oct. 12 2009 12:13 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

i remember well touring a couple of solar-powered homes in the 70s, and my father telling me that this was the future, in terms of producing domestic energy. what happened? no doubt both the building trades whined about the expense, and big gas/oil helped kill it, as well. it wouldn't be expensive if we'd committed to it in a widespread way, and yes--government has a role in providing incentives to the industry and to homeowners who adapt. shall we wait another 30-40 years for it to magically become "affordable"?

Oct. 12 2009 12:10 PM
JP from The Garden State

Larry from Nyack

You’ll be happy to know that I don’t own an SUV. Yes, I agree that its ridiculous people are taking out second mortgages just to pay off their credit card. But just like how most people who own a house are not being foreclosed on right now even though the media would like you to think that, most people are not redoing their living rooms (you watch to much TLC).

You could easily spend more then $20000 on your windows and get a return in savings over time. They should last at least a good 30 years with simple routine maintenance. You wont get that longevity with a mechanical system and solar panels. Your roof takes the most abuse on any structure from mother nature. And why would you spend $20,000 on solar panels if you don’t update your windows, insulation, old roof, heating system, hot water system, exterior doors, etc, etc, etc…..

KISS = Keep it simply stupid. Look at anything commercial that has become a tremendous success and that’s what you’ll see. Your ipod might have cost a bit more when it first came out but not 200 fold! Its simple technology, its easy to use and cheap to make and maintain.

Oct. 12 2009 12:05 PM
JP from The Garden State


Oops, that’s "desert" not "dessert". please excuse my piss poor prose…

Oct. 12 2009 11:40 AM
JP from The Garden State

hjs from 11211

Absolutely you can save a truck load money and even eventually make money. But how many home owners can put up +$20,000 (just for electricity, not heat and hot water) and $10,000 for a battery storage system since Con Ed wont buy back your their surplus of electricity?

In 1976 the catalytic converter was mandated in US for all new cars sold in America and it reduced the smog rate in America by over 90% (was not mandated in Europe until the mid 90’s). It was designed cheap enough to not jack up the price of the automobile and flexible enough to work on all non diesel fueled cars and trucks. That was a across the board game changer. That’s the type of mandate and flexible affordable ideas that would make the green revolution a real revolution. Until then, it’s just a rich man’s hobby...

Oct. 12 2009 11:37 AM
Larry from Nyack

Another green thought.

When I discuss solar panels to people who could afford to put panels on their roofs, I always get a response similar to JP's that it's too costly. [Typically, their SUV's are NOT, but add disproportionately to the eventual CO2 crisis while stealing fuel from their children and grandchildren.]

I'm troubled that those same folks would not think twice about spending $15,000 for a living room makeover or $30,000 to renovate for a Home Theatre. If every rich person [those not "living on a budget"] made investments in green energy in their homes or condos it would force prices down for the rest of us, as well as doing something positive every day for the CO2 crisis that those new leather couches can't do.

Oct. 12 2009 11:24 AM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

Tom from NJ--thanks for providing the reality check!

join like-minded folk at

Oct. 12 2009 11:23 AM
Tom from NJ

The natural-gas-as-transitional-fuel line would be great if the burning of natural gas were the only environmental consideration involved. But the truth is that the newfound supply of natural gas that would allow it to be a bridge fuel is premised on shale drilling, and like other unconventional sources of fossil fuel, it is incredibly destructive to the areas where it occurs, including water, air and surface habitats.

There is a strange disconnect right now between these issues and the head-in-the-sand wish that shale gas will solve our energy and environmental problems -- i.e., that it truly is, as Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon called it, "manna from heaven." (In evaluating McClendon's credibility, it's worth noting that he and fellow shale gas booster Boone Pickens were major funders of the Swift Boat Veterans.)

Many journalists, unfortunately including Ms. Little, remain behind the curve in understanding just how destructive the shale gas process is, and simply repeat the mantra that it is clean(er)-burning. I urge her to consider the cradle-to-grave impacts of this fuel source before making such blithe pronouncements. (In this regard, she would do well to read the coverage of this issue by Abrahm Lustgarten of ProPublica:

Oct. 12 2009 11:20 AM
Larry from Nyack

The historic Nyack Public Library in Rockland County is nearly finished with a major addition. To taxpayers and those concerned with "green" buildings, the explicit choice to use geothermal energy will net a $60,000 annual savings in energy costs. See:

Oct. 12 2009 11:10 AM
Bill Oddo from Manhattan

Hey Brian,

You are 2 blocks south of the highest rated Platinum level green Commercial Interior's project on Varick St. It's the HQ for the National Audubon society.

It's a full floor of former factory space not unlike your own, but as green as it gets.

I know because I was the construction Project Manager in charge of it and very proud.

Oct. 12 2009 11:09 AM
JP from The Garden State

Bobby G from East Village

Its very theoretically possible to generate all our electricity in the Nevada dessert all on government land by heating up water with the sun to make steam to generate electricity. The heated up water can even be stored underground to generate electricity at night. So why are we not doing this? No transmission lines to get the power out of the dessert. Same goes for any large scale renewable energy source that does not conveniently have transmission wires near by. So all this green talk is crap until our electric grid is completely overhauled and drastically expanded. Good luck with all the “not in my backyard” factor that exists for better or worse...

Oct. 12 2009 11:07 AM
hjs from 11211

and the city make office towers turn off their lights at night?

Oct. 12 2009 11:06 AM
plp from bkn

Sounds great but don't forget that these building's systems are intensive machines locked into a technology that might not be easily updated. Also as was mentioned the incredible front end cost, lets not forget the maintenance of that gear as it ages, wears out and needs to be replaced.

I'm all for this kind of construction, it's a great idea, I just think it's important to stress the longevity and not just the flash in the pan.

Oct. 12 2009 11:02 AM
hjs from 11211

but if "you can save a lot of money in the long run." than it's an investment not a hobby!

Oct. 12 2009 11:02 AM


The cost premium on building green has all but disappeared, the Urban Green Council says in a new report. “We must prioritize greening our cities and cost is not the barrier some have made it out to be,” says Russell Unger, executive director of the UGC, the New York City chapter of the US Green Building Council, in a release.

Prepared for the UGC by Davis Langdon, the study looked at construction costs for 38 high-rise multifamily buildings and 25 commercial interiors here. It found that LEED-certified high-rises came in at an average of $440 per square foot, compared to $436 pr square foot for non-LEED projects. The differential was less than 1%, according to the report. On commercial interiors, the cost of $191 per square foot for LEED construction was actually 6% lower than the $204 per square foot cost of non-LEED.

“This study should lay to rest the claims of skeptics who have questioned whether green building and value can co-exist,” Unger says in a release. “It shows that once you set a project budget, you can build green or non-green within those parameters.”

Oct. 12 2009 11:01 AM
JP from The Garden State

Green revolution is anything but a revolution. Yes you can save a lot of money in the long run. But you need to put a lot more money up front. Once again, hobby for the rich. This is as much of a revolution as the slow food movement and they should start to call it the slow green revolution if they keep up this pace. They’ve been subsidizing solar since the 70’s and the cost is still to much for the average homeowner to add to their house without taking out a huge loan, even with government subsidizing….
When you get solar power you can paint on your house like paint and costs the same as paint, then you’ll have a true green revolution. Until then, rich man’s hobby….

Oct. 12 2009 10:58 AM

The Cost of Green in NYC:

Oct. 12 2009 10:58 AM
Alexis Kraft from Brooklyn

Please be sure to not conflate cement with concrete. Cement is a component of concrete, and while an important one, not the majority component. And the research into using fly ash as an additive to reduce the quantity of cement (Portland Cement) has reduced the carbon footprint of concrete without significantly reducing the stability of it.

Oct. 12 2009 10:57 AM
Crusty the Clown

ConEd consistently refuses to buy surplus power from private generators. Unlike power companies in California, ConEd will NOT let you run the meter backwards to supply power to the grid. ConEd claims that they will not be able to control the quality of the electricity that is produced by third parties. This is a well known stumbling block to green power proponents.

Oct. 12 2009 10:53 AM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

"transition" energy?? way to whitewash the question about drilling upstate and "natural" gas' viability. the COST of drilling for this gas is our water safety--i guess the guest didn't pay attention to the question.

natural gas is anything but natural.

go to to know why

Oct. 12 2009 10:51 AM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

wasn't this a building that dropped glass on unsuspecting pedestrians during its construction?

did TARP funds help build this? if so, do we own it??

Oct. 12 2009 10:48 AM
hjs from 11211

we americans,in the 21st century, like to think small

Oct. 12 2009 10:44 AM
Bobby G from East Village

Isn't it time for a whole new paradigm? Why is it that we are not investing in, for example, a giant electricity generating solar panel array in the Mohave Desert -- so big that it can be seen from outer space and large enough to power all of Los Angeles?

Oct. 12 2009 09:57 AM

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