A debate that many once thought was done and settled has reared its head again recently, the Keystone XL oil pipeline.  Like many issues in America, it has become a partisan rallying point, with Democrats (for the most part) and Republicans setting up camp on different sides of the issue. Many, no doubt, recall the continuous news coverage over this very divisive issue during the previous two years, and they also may recall that news coverage then suddenly stopped.

The issue was brought back into the spotlight earlier this week by (R) Gov. Dave of Nebraska when he endorsed a revised pipeline going through his state.[1]  Before we go any further let us refresh our memory on the basic facts about the pipeline:

The full proposed pipeline, which would cross the U.S. border in Montana, is designed to bring between 500,000 to 700,000 barrels a day from the Canadian oil sands region to refineries on the Gulf Coast. It would shortcut to an existing pipe that goes through much of Canada before cutting into the United States in North Dakota on the way to Cushing.” [2]

The important thing to take away from this is that already there is a pipeline in place. The proposed additions would shorten the distance that the oil needs to travel, while allowing it to be shipped to Gulf refineries, instead of those in the Midwest that currently are used. Another major point to understand before we truly dive into this debate is that part of this proposal already is being put into effect. The part of the pipeline that would take the oil from Cushing, Oklahoma to oil refineries in Texas is going forward.  Since this portion of the pipeline does not cross an international border, it does not require federal approval.  Furthermore, the Obama administration was never in opposition to this segment of the pipeline, which is expected to be fully operational sometime later this year.[3] Now for many who read this blog, it is obvious on the environmental side why one would be in opposition to this pipeline. Unfortunately, many people find environmental and economic concerns to be mostly incompatible.  Consequently, I cannot stress the importance of showing why this pipeline does not only make sense from an environmental perspective, but also from a long-term economic one.

The debate over the Keystone pipeline, like many things, has been caught up in the current contentious disputes raging in America. As such, for many, the debate over the pipeline boiled down to one word– jobs. TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, estimates that if the entirety of the proposed pipeline were to begin construction, then it would, “would create 20,000 “direct” jobs. That includes 13,000 construction jobs and 7,000 jobs producing commodities, such as pump houses and the pipe itself.  [They] also project nearly 120,000 ‘indirect’ jobs — think restaurant workers and hotel employees to support the construction”.[4] Since the Cushing-to-Texas part of the pipeline already is moving forward, we should note that TransCanada states that this segment, in particular, would create 4,000 jobs.2  

However, we must take these numbers with a grain of salt as they come from a company that desperately wants the full project to gain approval. When we put these numbers under the microscope, it becomes obvious that they do not add up:

“But TransCanada numbers count each job on a yearly basis. If the pipeline employs 10,000 people working for two years, that’s 20,000 jobs by the company’s count. The estimates also include jobs in Canada, where about a third of the $7 billion pipeline would be constructed. The U.S. State Department, which must green light the project, forecasts just 5,000 direct U.S. jobs over a two-year construction period. Even according to TransCanada, the amount of permanent jobs created would be only in the hundreds.”4

We see now that they are not necessarily lying, but presenting the truth in a misguiding way, to put it lightly. That being said, these are the numbers we should be analyzing if we are to bring jobs into this debate. While jobs are undoubtedly appreciated, we cannot keep jumping from temporary fix to temporary fix.  In this country, we do have an employment problem interwoven within our greater economic issues. However, these greater economic problems did not arise from a temporary scenario.  Our country and our world have been resting on a structurally flawed economy that needs dramatic restructuring in order to be stable and more beneficial to all. When we pour energy and resources into these temporary beneficial programs, we blind ourselves from the true debate generally and specifically from the trued argument regarding employment. No doubt there will be temporary gains in employment, but we must begin to think in the long-term, and in regards to this perspective, “one study from Cornell University said the pipeline could actually lead to a decline in jobs in the long run. One reasons given for this phenomenon  is that the pipeline would lead to higher fuel prices in the Midwest, the study said, and that would slow consumer spending and cost jobs”.4 This brings us to the other argument advocating the construction of the pipeline, gas prices. Why would we turn away this new supply of oil when gas prices are so stubbornly high?  The answer is that the argument that this oil will decrease gas prices is a logical fallacy.

The cost of gasoline in this country has risen steadily over the past decade, followed closely by the calls for less oil imports and more domestic oil production. This is a natural conclusion since the price of gas determines the price of so many other products in this country, while dependence on the price restricts or opens up our travels.  In my previous posts, I have discussed the increase of domestic oil production; however, simply concluding that increasing the amount of oil brought into the country would automatically lead to lower gas prices is an all-out rejection of the facts.  If this pipeline was about getting more oil into this country for cheaper domestic gasoline prices, then the Cushing-Texas part of the pipeline would be unnecessary. Regardless of whether or not the controversial section of the line is finished, connecting to the Gulf refineries would enable up to 700,000 barrels/day of Canadian oil to now have access to global markets.  Of those 700,000 barrels/day, Valero has signed a contract for 100,000 barrels a day until 2030. Valero is operating with the full intent of converting these barrels into diesel to export. [5] Furthermore, the lack of a connection to Gulf refineries has led to a glut of gasoline in the Midwest, reducing competition and depressing prices. Cheaper gas prices directly benefit consumer spending and have a beneficial effect all the way down the supply chain. 2

For the President to approve the construction of this pipeline, it must be proven that doing so is in the best national interest. Let us then check the facts and see this truly is the case. When we really focus on the job numbers, we find that despite grand claims by TransCanada, the stark reality is different. While there would certainly would be job creation, the majority of these positions would be temporary. The actual tally of long term jobs created numbers only in the hundreds. In all likelihood, there is a chance that in the long run it could decrease in employment due to higher gas prices throughout the Midwest. When we take these two outcomes into account, it becomes clear that the benefit to the economy and the long term energy independency of this country has been highly overstated.  Furthermore, we have not even taken into account the environmental effects of tar-sand oil. On average, emissions from tar sands are 23% higher than oil from more conventional fossil fuel sources.[6]  These already higher than average emissions are compounded by the extraction of the oil, which amplifies the environmental effect. Through the process of extracting the tar-sand oil, acres upon acres of carbon absorbing peat lands would be destroyed. Recently, Scientists from the University of Alberta found that, “10 operational oil sands mining projects would destroy enough peat lands to release 11.4 million to 47.3 million metric tons of stored carbon into the atmosphere. That release is the equivalent of seven years’ worth of emissions from the oil sands mining region”. [7]  The damage continues even beyond this initial carbon release.  What were once carbon absorbing peat lands will be replaced by dry forests which will take in significantly less carbon.

When we consider all the factors, combined with and all the facts concerning the Keystone XL pipeline, it is easy to see that it is not in the public interest. Not only the controversial international section, but the Cushing-Texas portion as well. We have a company, TransCanada, which has skewed the facts and has allowed falsehoods (i.e. the jobs and cheap gas argument) to be publicly displayed as truths. It is true, as many of the columnists of my sources have noted, that stopping this pipeline is not a silver bullet for global warming. However, the point also is continuously made that if we cannot stand up to projects such as these, then what hope do we have? To end global warming and to possess more economic security, we must begin cutting our dependency on fossil fuels altogether, both imported and domestically produced. If we do not pick a point to begin pushing back, then we never will do so. If we allow one project such as this to go forward, while recognizing the overall dangers, how can we stop others? The pushback has to begin somewhere and what better way than against a pipeline dedicated to one of the most polluting fossil fuels in the world?  Let’s work hard to push this project back now so that we may live green, be green.

By Sean P. Maguire


[1] http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/keystone-pipeline-decision-tests-president-obama-jobs-climate/story?id=18292687

[2] http://money.cnn.com/2012/03/22/news/economy/keystone-pipeline/index.htm

[3] http://money.cnn.com/2012/02/27/news/companies/keystone_pipeline/index.htm?iid=EL

[4] http://money.cnn.com/2011/12/13/news/economy/keystone_pipeline_jobs/index.htm?iid=EL

[5] http://dirtyoilsands.org/files/OCIKeystoneXLExport-Fin.pdf

[6] http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/2011/february/tar-sands-creates-more-pollution-than-other-fossil-fuels-/70152.aspx

[7] http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=oil-sands-co2-emissions-higher-than-thought

For this good news Monday, we here at LGBG are happy to report on a research project by Australian scientists that has been successful in its method to modify a protein in HIV so that it protects cells against infection as opposed to replicating the diseased cells.  This process potentially signals the cure for AIDS.

It is important to note that this treatment would not cure HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.  As stated by Associate Professor David Harrich from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, “[w]hat we’ve actually done is taken a normal virus protein that the virus needs to grow, and we’ve changed this protein, so that instead of assisting the virus, it actually impedes virus replication and it does it quite strongly.”  The very presence of this protein in immune cells provides a defense for patients to fight normal infections, which often prove deadly to those with AIDS.  This cutting edge research is representative of a human gene research approach to treat diseases and disorders, as opposed to pharmaceutical therapies, which generally treat one protein or symptom.

To date, the tests on this procedure have been successful in the laboratory and now are expected to proceed to animal trials soon with early indications showing positive results.  The scientists involved in this research expect some hurdles to overcome in the process, but they are confident that the results will be positive.

The potential impact of successful treatment of AIDS through protein modification is monumental.  If this study is successful, it would mean that HIV patients possibly could undergo one treatment for their illness, thereby freeing them from multiple drug therapies, which in addition to being expensive, are physically burdensome and often carry their own serious side effects.  This new treatment would greatly improve the quality of life for HIV patients.  It is estimated by the World Health Organization that more than 34 million people are living with AIDS, and more than 1.8 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2010.

This research project,if successful, will truly be a game changer in the health of people all over the world, signaling a greater opportunity to live green, be green.

Resources for this article:




English: The Red ribbon is a symbol for solida...

English: The Red ribbon is a symbol for solidarity with HIV-positive people and those living with AIDS. Français : Le Ruban rouge, symbole de la solidarité avec les personnes séro-positives. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For all of our readers out there who are serious fans of granola, like I am, here’s a LiveGreen article for you! This week’s spotlight comes on the heels of a trip to my local grocery store, Wegmans. While there, shopping like I would on any other Saturday morning, I came across something that was not the norm for me and my Wegmans — there was a promotional stand set up in near the grains section. Immediately sparking my interest, I rode my curiosity on over to the stand to see what was up.  I met a great guy who offered me samples of and explained the mission of Michele’s Granola, a small Maryland company who is vegan, organic, and most inspiringly, GREEN. Needless to say, between the small talk and the tastings, I fell in love and walked away with two bags myself. But now, I’d like to delve a bit deeper into who Michele’s is…

Michele's Granola

Photo Credit: www.michelesgranola.com

Born from the experimentation sessions of a granola-crazed, self-taught baker, Michele’s Granola has grown from a one-woman stand at local farmer’s markets, to an operation which now produces about 5,000 pounds of product to serve its nearly 200 community retail outlets (markets, grocers, & other food service facilities).  Michele’s is dedicated to using 100% organic whole grains in its homemade style processes of production, guaranteeing the best tasting and most healthy granola possible.  But the brand’s mission does not end there.

Its baking facility currently runs 100% on wind power!  Amazing right? Yes. But what is even more amazing is that Michele’s also uses delivery vehicles that run on re-used vegetable oil from the deep fryers of local eateries.  Outstanding!  And as if this all weren’t enough already, Michele’s estimates that not only does 40% of its waste get recycled by traditional methods, but another 40% is sent to a local composting center to be used in the production of fertile soils (that are then used in Baltimore’s urban farming projects).

It is amazing that a young company like Michele’s Granola can be so committed to making a difference in the ways of green, especially within their local ecological and business environments.  They are a testament to the notion that the triple bottom line business methodology — Profit, People, and Planet — can prove successful beyond measure.  Here at LiveGreenBeGreen, we would like to firstly acknowledge the company’s great work and great product, and secondly, we want to extend the utmost respect and gratitude to Michele’s Granola for its initiatives and actions to do greener business.  Good luck, and God speed!

To read more about Michele’s Granola, or to enquire about how to get your hands on this scrumptious and socially-evolved health snack, visit the company’s official site at: https://www.michelesgranola.com/.

Washington DC - Capitol Hill: United States Ca...

Washington DC – Capitol Hill: United States Capitol (Photo credit: wallyg)


Today’s presidential inauguration presents a wonderful and unique opportunity to celebrate and recommit to living a healthy green lifestyle.  Inauguration is defined as “the beginning of a system or period”.  As such, this period of transition to a new administrative period in Washington, DC, represents a chance to start fresh to accomplish the work of the people.  As stewards of the earth and protectors of the environment, today is the day for us to celebrate our victories, thank our many foot soldiers and heroes, identify our challenges and band together as one voice to promote our causes and pursue our agenda.  The observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday on this day, with its focus on service to our country, serves to bolster our spirit and commitment to the Earth.  I find it extremely poignant that President Obama will take his oath on Dr. King’s travel Bible facing the direction of the King Memorial,  creating a dramatic reminder of our duty to this land, as the scripture admonishes us to replenish the Earth.


As we listen to the oaths, speeches and commentaries at today’s inaugural events, let’s take our own oaths to continue to do the seemingly small, but effective things to reduce pollution and waste, such as recycling, reducing our gas and meat consumption, supporting businesses that are kind to the environment and calling out those who violate the earth.  Also, be that voice that speaks out to identify issues and brings elected officials to task when they fail to represent the constituents as they should.  Rally around organizations who lobby for green initiatives in Washington, DC, who often ask for no more than that you lend a signature to a petition to show support for that eco-friendly position on a particular issue. Additionally, let’s support our organizations who are working hard to effect change.  Please consider donations of time and/or money to their wonderful causes.  They truly are the foot soldiers of this movement.


We at LGBG feel honored to work for all things green.  We are grateful for the many friends and associations we have made, and we enter this inaugural period with a stronger sense of urgency and commitment to a green lifestyle.  We hope that this day will be a day of reflection, happiness, peace and celebration for our nation and for all things green.  This is the day that we reinforce our commitment to “be the change we want to see”.  Happy Inauguration Day!  Let’s live green, be green!


On numerous occasions, we here at LGBG have gone into detail on the burgeoning relationship between the green movement and architecture. Whether it’s sprucing up your living room or assessing the value green initiatives may have on your home, the worlds of being socially responsible and architecture are now becoming firmly intertwined.

Occurring in sporadic movements throughout the years, deconstruction is coming back with a greater vengeance than Denzel Washington’s character John Creasy in Man on Fire. In its simplest form, deconstruction is where a demolition crew, “Carefully dismantles an older property by hand instead of using bulldozers.”[1] The movement has been around for decades and allows for the reusing of materials from older homes for the construction of newer ones. The end result is hundreds of thousands of tons of potential trash is diverted away from landfills.

With that said, you might be asking yourself: Why has this beneficial movement waxed and waned through history more than Mr. Miyagi and why is it suddenly back? The first question is a bit more puzzling to decipher, but can primarily be explained by the fact that deconstruction, even in today’s generation which focuses on green building and initiatives, is nonetheless five times more expensive in comparison to a traditional obliterate-your-home-with-a-wrecking-ball demolition.[2] In addition, the process of deconstruction takes about twice as long as the more destructive alternative.


You said you needed to replace your windows right?

So why is the movement suddenly back? That question, while also complex, warrants a simple solution: A tax-credit from Uncle Sam. Yet, this same tax credit, which occurs when a homebuilder donates materials to a qualified 510(c)(3) charity, has been around for decades and arose in tandem with deconstruction itself.[3] More recently however, contractors are placing a greater emphasis on the financial benefits of deconstruction to potential home builders. For example, the Weiss family who were featured in the Wall Street Journal Article: The Demolition Discount, “Paid more than $20,000 for the disassembly, roughly double what they would have paid for a wrecking crew.” However, as a result of the tax credit through donations of materials to charities, the family will have saved more than $66,000 in taxes. As a result, despite the higher upfront cost and greater length of time to complete the project, the tax shelter and socially responsible benefits have outweighed these side effects in many homeowners’ eyes.

I believe what has really catapulted the movement forward is our nation’s greater awareness, and emphasis of green initiatives. Our society has begun to recognize that sustainability is a difficult and slow-moving process, yet can be achievable in anything and everything that we do. Whoever you want to credit for the successes of the green movement, the consequences are that as a whole, nations have a top-of-the mind awareness of green initiatives. So couple people’s awareness of sustainability, with the availability of deconstruction, and sprinkle in a nice tax incentive, and the end results are that citizens are more willing to listen to green ideas, and sustainability projects like deconstruction are experiencing greater success rates than ever before.

Obviously deconstruction is not ideal for everyone. You have to initially lay down more capital into a house that is already expensive enough as it is, while also having to wait longer to live in the home you purchased. However, there are some real social and financial benefits to deconstruction for homeowners that may outweigh the negatives. That being said, here are some more tips related to this conversation for homeowners to keep in mind:

  1. Persuade others to use deconstruction if possible.
  2. Donate used goods from your home to charities and shelters. You don’t have to be building a new house to live by the ideals of deconstruction.
  3. If building a new house, try to use eco-friendly materials and alternative energy sources like solar panels for the home’s construction.

Through these actions and the right knowledge, we can all strive to live in a world where we live green, and be green.

[1] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324407504578185762234289162.html?KEYWORDS=landfills

[2] http://portlandpreservation.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/on-old-buildings-demolition-deconstruction-and-reuse/

[3] http://www.epa.state.oh.us/portals/30/Brownfield_Conference/docs/Barry%20Franz.pdf

Photo Credit: http://www.verterra.com

While deep in my search for outstanding companies of all kinds the other day, I stumbled upon this sustainable gem — VerTerra.  I immediately decided that I must write this week’s spotlight article on it, to let all LiveGreenBeGreen readers know about this amazing company.  So, here it is:

VerTerra is a manufacturer of single-use dinnerware, an undoubtedly saturated industry.  However, unlike nearly all competitors out there, VerTerra operates with a special spark at its sole.  The company is completely focused on the environmentally and socially conscious consumer, as it sustainably produces its eco-friendly, high-quality products using fair wage labor practices.  But that does not mean its only customers are those environmentally and socially bleeding hearts — anyone can and should use their products!

Striking the perfect balance between smart and sexy is one of the most daunting and difficult tasks, and VerTerra makes it look effortless in their products.  What is most amazing, though, is exactly how the seed of this business idea came to be planted in the mind of its founder, Michael Dwork.  On a trip to India, Mr. Dwork stopped to buy some food from a street-vendor of sorts, not an unpopular practice.  To his amazement and delight, he found the woman serving him simply took fallen leaves, soaked them in water, and with a fairly primitive waffle-iron-like device, pressed them into serving plates!  He knew he wanted to bring this concept to full manufacturing fruition back home, so he fittingly set out on a journey to do just that.  And with one of the best ideas and founding stories in the industry, LiveGreenBeGreen agrees, he has gloriously succeeded.

To find out more about this eco-friendly entrepreneur’s brand, please visit and explore VerTerra’s Official Website at: http://www.verterra.com

And to explore and purchase the eco-friendly, disposable dinnerware solutions of VerTerra and other brands, please visit: http://www.joannehudson.com/disposable-plates-green-dinnerware.html

The typical picture of Washington currently is that democrats say yes, republicans say no, and vice versa. What then if I were to tell you of a government reform that inspired the exact opposite, an Obama administration proposed reform that had states painted both red and blue competing for federal funds, while taking the reform of an antiquated and failing system seriously? You would most likely point me to a calendar and tell me that the fifties are over, and I would merely show you the Race to the Top.

The Race to the Top program was a product of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), commonly known as the Stimulus Bill. It provided $4.35 billion dollars in federal funding for states’ education systems. However, this was not a simple funding provision, but a competitive grant program. States would compete against each other for these funds by engaging in education reform.[1]For many, the results were somewhat muddled, with different groups focusing on different aspects of education. Regardless the perceived inadequacies of the program, it did accomplish two things: it caused states to recognize and evaluate failures in their education systems, formulating ways to fix them, while also injecting much needed funds into school systems that were facing dire budget cuts and setbacks. As I previously said, the actual results of the program are still hard gauge and likely will not be quantifiable for years to come. That being said, admission of a problem is always the first step to recovery.

With that notion in mind, we can no longer ignore America’s crumbling infrastructure.  This is a subject that I have touched on in the past and which many of us notice on our commutes to and from work every day.  As I stated in my November 27th post, America needs roughly $2.2 trillion dollars in infrastructure investments.[2] The need for these investments could not come at a more opportune or inopportune time. As of December 2012, the unemployment rate stands at 7.8%.[3] Any infrastructure project would be beneficial to increasing employment, not only through the jobs required to complete the task, but also through the multiplier effect. While government infrastructure projects are typically, and sometimes rightfully so, decried as pork-barrel projects, their economic benefit greatly exceeds the majority of government spending.  A report from the fall of last year found that, “each dollar of infrastructure spending increases the GSP by at least two dollars”, and furthermore, “that the multiplier increases during a downturn. Leduc and Wilson found that the multiplier in the wake of the 2009 stimulus was ‘roughly four times’ more than average. That means infrastructure investments offer more value during busts than booms, which should encourage policymakers attempting to counteract high unemployment in the construction sector by increasing spending on highways, roads, and bridges”.[4] However, Washington is driving with its eyes not fixed on the road at the moment, but instead on the debt ceiling crashing through the skies.

The debt ceiling is typically raised by Congress every few years, but over the course of the Obama administration, it has become a partisan sticking point. A majority of America agrees that not raising the debt ceiling is liable to cause economic damage to the United States, but many people are more divided on which outcome is the best, with, “39 percent of [AP-Gfk] poll respondents support[ing] the insistence by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that deep spending cuts be attached to any measure increasing the debt ceiling. That is more than the 30 percent who back Obama’s demand that borrowing authority be raised quickly and not entwined with a bitter fight over trimming the budget. An additional 21 percent oppose boosting the debt ceiling at all”.[5] Not surprising, the survey goes  on to find that the two top issues for Americans are the economy and the federal deficit. The point to take away from this is that the great recession is still firmly locked into the minds of many Americans and that we are not likely to see any significant spending comparable to what our infrastructure actually needs. As such, if we are not going to be able to spend more to dig out of this hole, then we have to spend wiser, and there is no better way to get the best ideas then through competition.

We have in this possibility an intersection of resounding truths: America’s infrastructure is in desperate need of repair, the health of the economy is seen as still in balance, and the concern for the federal deficit will likely curtail spending increases. We’ve already shown that infrastructure investments are one of the most efficient ways that the government can spend. With our constrained ability to spend, but a desire for a healthier economy, we must choose the investment with the greatest track record for success. By making it into a competition in the spirit of the Race to The Top, we are increasing the economic benefit of the spending even more. By cutting out the pork, we are targeting the projects and the plans that would be the most beneficial, the best of the best, one could say. Furthermore, it has been noted that in downturns that the multiplier effect is even more resounding. While the recession may be officially over, unemployment remains high. When we break unemployment down by state, we see states like Mississippi (8.5%), New Jersey (9.6%), and California (9.8%) with unemployment levels well above the national average.[6] What you will also find in these states are infrastructures with extremely low ratings that are in need of drastic improvements. [7] The recession may have ended but for many of these states the wounds have yet to heal. An increase in infrastructure spending would provide a much needed injection of cash into their economies and likely a multiplier effect above the average.

Inspirations for new investments are appearing in the news every day, most recently out of the Netherlands.  While we are attempting to get our infrastructure to meet the standards of the modern day, this nation already is planning and getting set to build the needed infrastructure of the future. Construction is set to begin soon on glow in the dark highways, “treated with a special ‘foto-luminising powder’ that is charged up during the day and illuminates the contours of the road and lane markers at night for up to 10 hours… [And] dynamic paint [that] responds to changes in temperature. A pattern of snowflakes, for example, appears when it is cold and slippery… [While] other innovations to debut in the coming years include an induction priority lane that will charge electric cars as they drive, presumably via induction coils that are powered by wind”.[8] State and national leaders would also be wise to take note of the success of the Dutch bike system, with, “ 27 percent of all daily trips [being] made by bicycle”.[9] In all likelihood America faces a tough road ahead, torn by somewhat contradictory desires and opinions.  Nonetheless, we still possess the capability to determine the difficulty of that road ahead. We can determine this by being smart, spending smart, and letting the spirit of competition drive us down the best road.  Creating a competitive program to improve the nation’s infrastructure indeed is a way to live green and be green.

By Sean P. Maguire


[1] http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/executive-summary.pdf

[2] http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/


[4] http://www.businessinsider.com/infrastructure-economic-multiplier-2012-11

[5] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/17/debt-limit-poll_n_2498441.html

[6] http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm

[7] http://www.asce.org/Infrastructure/Report-Card/State-and-Local-Report-Cards/

[8] http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/futureoftech/futuristic-highway-glows-dark-reports-weather-1C6670949


In response to the outcry following the Sandy Hook Elementary School killings on the heels of several other incidences of gun violence in schools and public arenas, the Obama administration unveiled a substantial proposal to address the issue of gun violence in America, triggering objections from guns-rights supporters, but gaining the support of millions of American citizens.  The President’s proposal has four principal components:

  • Law enforcement.
  • The availability of dangerous firearms and ammunition.
  • School safety.
  • Mental health.

To effectively impact all four of the principal elements of the sweeping proposal, President Obama made the following recommendations:

  • Requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales.
  • Reinstating the assault weapons ban.
  • Restoring a 10-round ammunition limit in magazines.
  • Eliminating armor-piercing bullets.
  • Providing mental health services in schools.
  • Allocating funds to hire more police officers.
  • Instituting a federal gun trafficking statute.

Many political observers and gun lobbyists are voicing complaints about the massive effort to address the gun violence problem, which is leaving a huge black mark on our society today.  Complaints range from disagreement with the attempt at such a massive overhaul of the current ineffective gun regulations to outcries of political overreach by the current administration and violation of citizens’ second Amendment rights to bear arms.

It appears that some key points are being overlooked here.  The level of gun violence should send a distress signal to each and every one of us in this nation, particularly when we peel back the layers of each past instance and see the consistent pattern of mental illness, social maladjustment, bullying, etc., all toxic ingredients woven into the fabric of this ridiculous mayhem.  This is an awful testament to any society, let alone one such as ours, which consistently touts our civility, intelligence, Christian values, and sense of humanity.  We consistently show pride for our liberty and rights, as we should; however, we need to stop and consider the rights of others to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Surely any parent who sends their children to school or to a public place, such as a shopping center or a movie, should have the reasonable expectation that their children will return to them.  Acknowledging this right and working to enforce it will not take away from the rights of law-abiding citizens who want to own weapons, not by any means, and that is not the intent of any gun legislation.  If done the right way, gun owners will still have their guns, if they are legally entitled to do so.

In the height of the emotion and standoff over the proposed gun regulations, we need to stop and think.  The families of Sandy Hook Elementary School, as well as the Giffords and other families who were affected by mass killings have taken this opportunity to stand together for a safer world from gun violence at a time that is anything but convenient for them as their wounds and hurt are so raw and real.  It is awful, an abomination, that we declare our rights to take up arms so loudly because of potential possibilities of aggression that may or may not happen when these wonderful people are speaking up trying to convey the message of the reality of gun violence, a stark and dismal reality for them that will haunt them for the remainder of their lives and a reality that they are trying to prevent the rest of us from every experiencing.  Why can’t we listen–  “Be still and know.” (Psalm 46:10).

It was poignant to see the nation rally and support the communities that have suffered horrible attacks of gun violence.  Now let’s really help by working to save America’s children.  We can put an end to the senseless acts of violence going on in America today.  As the victims of these tragedies reach out to our legislators and communities to solve the issue of gun violence and its impact on the American family, let’s listen and accept the message that this has to stop.  To do so is to protect our family and definitely is a great way to live green, be green.

Sources for this article:


America (Photo credit: acb)

What is an Ecological Survey?


An ecological survey, commonly dubbed an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), is an evaluation of the possible outcome (both positive and negative) that any proposed project is likely to impose to the environment. These impacts are not only viewed in relation to the environment, but also in regard to their social and economic outlook. These reports are very essential especially when establishing new structures or projects, and must be presented to the local authorities for approval. They, the local authorities, with regard to the report presented to them, can either decide to abort or approve projects on the basis of their impacts. If your projects do more harm than good to the environment, then they are more likely to be rejected by the local authorities.


What are the common types of Ecological Surveys Available?


Ecological surveys are carried out by well-established Arboricultural and Ecology Consultancies, and mainly provide information on both the botanical and zoological aspects. For example, they provide information regarding the welfare of animals living in certain habitats. Is your project endangering or threatening their lives (animals)? Is it going to benefit them in anyway? Or is it going to deplete the natural resources available hence making them migrate? Some of the common ecological surveys conducted include:


Protected Species Surveys-Protected species surveys are studies aimed at ensuring the wellbeing of certain protected animal species. Therefore, reports released (after conducting protected species surveys) mainly provide information regarding to whether certain species of animals are present in those particular habitats or not. For example, the report will highlight whether bats, lizards, owls, Newts or badgers are present or not. And if not, what mainly caused their absence?


Protected Tree Surveys-These are surveys conducted to establish the impacts of designing new projects especially to trees. Such surveys mostly put into consideration the welfare of trees as well as other animals depending on these trees as their natural habitat. Are the new projects going to permanently deplete tree cover? If they are, how will it affect the wellbeing of other animals living in such habitats? Are there any socio-economic related outcomes?


Marine Surveys-These types of surveys are in most cases related to marine life. They aim at investigating and if possible alleviating the probable effects of establishing projects with regard to marine life. For example, the study will assess the pros and cons of establishing a project maybe to fish or sea whales, the risks involved and maybe the strategies that are likely to be used to avert such risks.


For more information on how to conduct Tree, Bat and Habitat surveys check http://www.arbtech.co.uk/ for more and detailed information.

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students...

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students from the Kansas University School of Business (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is noteworthy that Warren Buffett, one of the principal investors of our era, has turned his investment attention to solar energy.  Even if you do not follow the markets you, likely know are familiar with Warren Buffett. Whether it is from the fact that he was the world’s richest man for an impressive period of time or from frequent discussion regarding his famous frugal lifestyle or his witty comments on our nation’s politics, you know two things about him, namely, he is very rich and incredibly successful. As one could imagine, these two things go hand in hand. Mr. Buffett accomplished this by becoming, “arguably the greatest value investor the world has ever seen. His investment holding company, Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A), has averaged a compounded annual gain of 19.8% since 1964”.[1] When Mr. Buffet speaks, the world listens, and when he takes action, we take heed. Mr. Buffet is known, in particular, for his style of investment, the long haul. He will take large positions in companies and hold them for a long time. When Mr. Buffet decides to purchase stock in a company, he is not looking to make a few quick dollars. He is looking for something with inherent value that he feels is undervalued and can produce long term success. That is why many ears perked when it was announced that, “Mr. Buffet’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company has acquired two SunPower solar photovoltaic power  plant projects in California for between $2 billion and $2.5 billion. The adjacent Antelope Valley Solar Projects will be built in Los Angeles and Kern counties and will generate 579 megawatts of electricity for utility Southern California Edison. At peak output that’s the equivalent of a big fossil fuel power plant”.[2]

To understand why Mr. Buffet made this purchase, we only need to look at one of his recent purchases and to abroad to understand the future he sees. Let us first look at Mr. Buffet’s purchase of Burlington North Santa Fe Railway in February 2010. When they looked at the railroad industry they saw that, “fuel prices were up 120% since the March 2009 lows[,] unemployment stubbornly hovered around 9% in most areas[,] [and] shipping rates, as measured by the Baltic Dry Index, were 1/10th of their 2008 highs”.1 Many people enjoy quoting FDR’s line, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”, but do not grasp the context of the words. We recognize the meaning behind the words but tend to fail to see the world to which they were spoken. They were words spoken in the thralls of the Great Depression, reaching out to a world in the grip of compounding fear. Fear, like many traumatizing forces, tends to have a multiplier effect and a perceivable impact on outcomes. People were living in a world where there did not seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, but what they failed to recognize is that they were the ones who had to dig to the light. Mr. Buffet not only recognized that the light was there, but also comprehended what was necessary to reach that light.  Now he is reaping the rewards: “the freight railway industry is enjoying its biggest building boom in nearly a century…Profit in the industry has doubled since 2003, and stock prices have soared…Fortune has even dropped a “green” gift in the industry’s lap. A train can haul a ton of freight 423 miles on a gallon of diesel fuel, about a 3-to-1 fuel-efficiency advantage over 18-wheelers, and the railroad industry is increasingly promoting itself as an eco-friendly alternative”.[3] What we have found buried in this purchase is a sound decision that showed vision and an in-depth understanding of the intersection of both environmental concerns and the drive for profit. How successful was this purchase for Mr. Buffet? In the first nine months of 2012, BNSF accounted for roughly a quarter of Berkshire’s profits. To put that in context, Berkshire owns roughly eighty companies.[4] When Mr. Buffet undertook this purchase, he followed the wisdom of his own words: “‘In business I look for economic castles protected by unbreakable ‘moats.’’”1 Now he turns his gaze to the solar industry, and to understand why, we must turn our gaze abroad.

We turn to Germany which has been making waves lately with its energy reports. Their numbers from this past summer show us why Mr. Buffet was attracted towards solar:

Renewables now account for 25 percent of energy production, up from 21 percent last year, the country’s energy industry association (BDEW) said in a statement that reinforced Germany’s position as a leader in green technology…Solar energy saw the biggest increase, up 47 percent from the previous year”.[5]

Germany is no small fish; it is a member of the G8 and has a GDP of $3.479 trillion, with a GDP per capita of $42, 625.[6] As such, Germany is quite comparable and offers a viable alternative for America. As of 2011, renewables only accounted for 9% of US energy consumption, with solar only accounting for 2% of that.[7] Unfortunately for the renewables sector, there are many barriers to entry into the energy market in America. Most notable are the huge subsidies given to fossil fuel companies that artificially lower prices. Despite these obstacles, renewables are making inroads. Science has for the most part always been on their side but now the economics are beginning to adjust as well with, “the cost of PV modules, currently the single largest part of system cost, and [falling] 74% in the last twenty years”.7

Still, however, one must question Mr. Buffet’s wisdom. Why would he invest in solar, which makes up such a small percentage of an already small percentage, when he could invest in oil? Oil, already, accounts for 36% of total US energy consumption 7 and the US is set become a net energy exporter in the next few years.[8] Mr. Buffet recognizes that despite the fact oil production is on the rise, we are no longer simply paying prices based on our demand, but on world demand. As such, we no longer solely determine the price.

So then what do we make of Mr. Buffet’s decision? Mr. Buffet, in my opinion, merely did what he has always done. He saw an undervalued industry that has room for growth and decreasing costs. With his purchase he bought a company which not only, “will build and operate the projects for MidAmerican Renewables, and the energy will be sold to Southern California Edison in accordance with two long-term agreements that have received approval from the California Public Utilities Commission[9],  but will print the blueprint of a way forward in America. Germany has already shown us that despite the common argument, it is possible to put yourself on a renewable energy track, while maintaining a high standard of living.  We have a castle for a model, but we still need the moats. The moats, of course, are the inherent failures of the fossil fuels, both economically and environmentally. People enjoy stability and control in their lives, and a country whose energy consumption is reliant on fossil fuels can expect neither. In the end, we are left with an industry with growing demand and shrinking costs. Furthermore, we have an administration that has made its support for renewables crystal clear. Mr. Buffet is in this for the long haul and in the long haul, the sun is always going to be there.  Warren Buffett clearly recognizes the economic value of investing in alternative energy that helps us live green, be green.

By Sean Patrick Maguire


[1] http://www.investmentu.com/warren-buffetts-railroad.html

[2] http://www.forbes.com/sites/toddwoody/2013/01/02/warren-buffett-in-2-billion-solar-deal/

[3] http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2008/04/30/railroads.ART_ART_04-30-08_C8_5RA29I0.html

[4] http://blogs.star-telegram.com/dfwjobs/2012/11/bnsf-continues-to-be-a-profit-leader-for-berkshire-hathaway.html

[5] http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/26/germany-renewables-idUSL6E8IQIA720120726

[6] http://www.gfmag.com/gdp-data-country-reports/268-germany-gdp-country-report.html#axzz2Hh9Mj2kK

[7] http://css.snre.umich.edu/css_doc/CSS03-12.pdf

[8] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/01/20131514160576297.html

[9] http://inhabitat.com/warren-buffet-buys-worlds-largest-solar-plant-for-just-over-2-billion/

SunPower Corporation

SunPower Corporation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)