If you were to have to pin down one use of energy you use as an Alaskan resident, and only use energy for that, which would it be? Power, Space Heat, Transportation, Mechanical Operations? With relatively cheap plug-in power ($.12/kw in Anchorage, $.22 in Fairbanks, $1+/kw in other areas off the road system) and being able to get diesel in any community for heat or transportation we often take for granted flicking on switches, letting thermostats kick on and hitting the gas. Yet there have been instances on the road system where there has been a outage or inability to transfer fuels due to a sudden or unexpected storm/earthquake event for several days. Considering that Alaska is ‘islanded’ from the lower 48, and most of the time from Yukon, it is helpful to think about having your own back up generation and with that a consolidation of fuels. While it may not be possible to get down to one fuel source, there are devices that can take dual fuels (multi-use fuel stoves that burn kerosene or gasoline) as well as various shapes of fuels (such as wood stoves that can take cordwood, chipwood or pellets). Check out the various renewable energy shops in town to see what it available for generation and/or energy storage. A year and a half ago the people of Galena didn’t see a flood coming, yet many after spoke of wishing they had home energy devices. It is something to think about, even if you’re not a prepper or doomsdayer!
For those baby boomers who grew up during the cold war and remember vividly WWII, a story came out this weekend that is sure to have people scratching their heads as they think back to the past and think to the future of possible geopolitical solutions involving the still vast oil and gas resources in the Middle East. Haaretz newspaper published an article outlining how Germany initially retracted a $382 million discount for Israel in the purchase of three missile boats built to sell to Israel to protect its gas rigs. Highly political, the reneging came about over breakdown in Palestinian/Israeli peace talks and EU sensibilities. With diplomatic loops being played all the way up to the head of state on the German side, the discount was re-credited.
Those knowing basic history might remember that the mid 1940’s saw the official end of ownership not only to German oil fields of North Africa, but also of her occupied colonies. (Fossil fuels were lean up to this point- during the latter part of the war Germany was using wood biomass to keep some residential vehicles moving!). At the same time, the Soviets came rushing into Germany/Eastern Europe as an occupier. And many Jewish immigrants coming from Germany went through a war of their own to settle into what has turned out to be a very fossil fuel rich region.
With almost three-quarters of a century of nationalistic developments since, and as diplomacy politics often go, the motives of Germany’s move this year to retract and then reassign the discount for Israel run the gamut in the comments section of the Haaretz article. Probably one of the more solid tidbits to go along with ideological EU ‘decolonization’ pressures being put on Israel is the idea that a recently aggressive Russia (i.e. Georgia and Ukraine) close to home may be prompting desires by EU/Germany to help keep Israel safe due to its natural gas reserves. While Germany itself has dropped nuclear and gorged on solar and now offshore wind, it is the underpinning of the EU’s cohesion and may see Russia’s strong market position on gas pricing (at least in the short run) as a danger to Europe- especially going into abnormally cold winters for the continent. And Israel’s generous gas position is in the context of an unpredictable Iran as a neighbor in the Gulf.
Read the article, and comments, and see what you think! Feel free to make comments after the article or on this blog to promote discussion. Along with the twists and turns of national relations having been astounding the last century, one of the more fun things of this speeding age, I think, is the ability for anyone (with a username and password) to put their brain noodling – regardless of understanding and background -up on comments after articles (and in blogs…)
For those of us who are Baby Boomers who grew up with Elton John music, this is a perfect line to apply to our next workshop- Rocket Stoves. (Actually, according to amiright.com, Elton sang ‘burning your fuse up here alone…’).
Anyway, on October 31 after supper, from 5:30-9:00 p.m. you can get out of taking the kids trick-or-treating by coming on over to the Harper Building of UAF’s Aleutian Interior Campus on Geist Ave. and building two rocket stoves to take home (as well as get a manufactured one to take as well). We will look at some commercial models and a slide show from Jim Scott of Alaska Sustainable Agriculture of how one was made to heat a shop/home. Rocket stoves are favorite devises for campers or shops where a person is present to reload small amounts of biomass which burn very efficiently by 1) burning just the tip of the fuel, 2) insulating the burn pot for a hotter burn 3) burn up the flue gasses before they exit the stove. If you have any any questions on this workshop, call Carmen at 474-5854. Registration is available online.
Oh – and if you have to take the kids out for Halloween, you can still catch the Saturday 9:30-1:00pm
I was forwarded a nifty 8 minute YouTube from our Associate Director demonstrating ways in which repurposed building materials have been utilized in Britain. They have taken materials from deconstruction, as opposed to demolition, projects and found unique ways of using their composite properties in providing insulation and load bearing strength to a new building. Even using outdated materials that had a different purpose (such as VHS and Cassette plastic/tape), the demonstration gives hope that 1) seemingly obsolete materials may have a second purpose and extend their useful life and 2) less energy can be spent from landfill operations in burying old items. Here in Fairbanks the transfer stations have set aside areas for recycling, and old doors, hot water heaters, toilets, etc….. are often set aside specifically for a second user as people update and remodel their homes. And if you look online, there are even retail stores that have now begun with selling old style bricks with the mortar clipped off, old drywall already painted, insulation, and specialty door knobs/cabinet handles. The downside to collecting these materials in good shape is that much more time is used, and municipalities might incur more liability with a job site that remains open longer. So, often it is the cost of labor on tearing apart, sorting and delivering formerly used materials which makes deconstruction vs. demolition cost effective. Watch the video and see what you think of repurposing!