February 2023

Do this today: Make sure that your electricity is not  - in whole or in part- coming from woody biomass! If it does, protest it.


George Bernard Shaw once said “No man manages his affairs as well as a tree does.” Let’s think about that.

We know that one acre of trees uses about 5880 lbs. of CO2 in a year and releases about 4280 lbs. of oxygen into our air. We humans, breathers of that oxygen, exist thanks to the trees. And although we know that tropical forests like the Amazon have been called “the lungs of the planet”, we are destroying more than 30 million acres of tropical rainforest yearly.  These forests once covered about 12% of the earth’s land mass and are now reduced to only covering 5%. Additionally, research has shown that the Amazon needs 80% of its trees standing to continue its hydrological cycle, which causes rain to fall as far away as the U.S. Midwest.  However, only approximately 81% of the Amazonian forests remain intact today.  We seem to be mismanaging our oxygen and rain supply badly at least in the tropics. 

Amazonian proverb: “Those who kill the forest kill the house of life.” 

What about the great temperate forests of northern America and Asia?  The boreal forests of the northern hemisphere, about 25% of total forest cover, are being fragmented and altered by logging, development, mining, and forest fires.  Since about half of every tree is made of carbon, which is released when the tree is cut down or burned, scientists point to a dangerous feedback loop in this process:  deforestation releases more carbon into the atmosphere, which warms the globe, which dries out the forests, making them more flammable, so new, faster fires release more stored carbon.  Thus, deforestation is both a cause and a result of global warming.

Another way that trees manage life is by cooperation, or mutualism, as described by Suzanne Simard, Canadian professor of forest ecology.  Within a forest, trees are interdependent.  They nurture and protect each other via underground webs of fungi and roots so that seedlings and smaller trees are fed nutrients, alerted when there is a threat and shown how to react, and sheltered from storms and strong winds by the “mother” trees.  The practice of removing native underbrush and so-called “trash” trees actually damages the community that exists in an undisturbed forest.  In British Columbia it was demonstrated that in a Douglas fir/poplar forest the conifers feed the poplars during the winter when they are leafless, and the poplars and underlying shrubs feed the firs during the summer when they may be heat-stressed.  We humans could benefit from such cooperation.

Finally, trees certainly do outlive humans, some by thousands of years.  They grow slowly and are only properly referred to as a renewable resource over very long periods of time.  Harvesting of forests now, removing their carbon and water cycling strengths at a time of climate crisis, would seem to be a case of extreme mismanagement.

Our lessons, how we manage our affairs and our forests, must be to protect, respect and enjoy the forests, see them as out companions and symbiotic allies, rather than as a cash crop to exploit.  We desperately need them for clean air, clean water, soils, biodiversity, and long healthy life on earth.

From Rachel Carson:  “Man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.”

January 2023

Electrify Everything!

What? How? When? Why?  Aren’t there better solutions to the emerging climate crisis?  Why can’t the government resolve the situation?  Our power grid is already failing, so how can it support massive electrification?

Many questions arise around de-carbonizing our lives and our world, and the smart people from science, engineering, tech, and even legislators are seeking answers. But right now, the primary available solution we have in hand, is to electrify everything.

To prevent the planet from warming over 1.5C and reaching tipping points in places like the Arctic or Amazon rainforest, we have to take urgent challenging actions to phase out fossil fuels and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  Carbon removal, whether nature-based, as in afforestation and soil sequestration, or engineered, as in direct air capture and storage, is a long-term solution.  Similarly, hydrogen power and nuclear power will potentially take decades to reach a scale helpful in our efforts to save a livable planet – if they ever reach this point. But we have run out of decades!

So, electrify we must, and rapidly.  Our health will improve and our bills will be lower as we remove fossil fuels from our lives. 

In the U.S., numerous incentives have become available with the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to help homeowners change appliances, vehicles, even a building’s entire power source, to clean renewable electricity now. A heat pump HVAC system can result in a $2000-$8000 tax credit, an electric range or dryer in $840 credit, an electric panel upgrade in $4000 credit.  A new or used EV can result in a $4000 to $7500 tax credit, and rooftop solar or geothermal heating or battery backup installation brings a 30% rebate.  Rewiring America ( estimates households will save on average $1800 yearly by going electric.

What about electricity suppliers that only purchases about 6-7% of its power from clean renewable sources?  A homeowner can request a source change from that power supplier and a list of options for clean, carbon-free energy.  The key is to understand the prices, terms and conditions of any contract you sign.  Your original power company will still be responsible for repairs, power outages, and billing.  So, you can still rely on these for any problems with your service, while supporting renewable energy developers elsewhere.

Can the grid withstand the added volume?  In the U.S., we actually have seven separate grids built after World War II and 70% of the transmission lines and transformers are over 25 years old.  While the grid is aging, electricity demand has risen about 10% in recent years (and may triple as we electrify everything), partially due to massive growth of digital devices and greater demand for air conditioning as the climate warms.  Additionally, severe weather events are increasing, and expected to worsen with the changing climate, so that 68% to 73% of all power outages are due to weather.

Fortunately the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), provides $15.5 billion in funds to upgrade our grids to a “smart grid” which would work similarly to the Internet. (For example: Instead of Texans only relying on the Texas grid, and Marylanders only relying on the PJM grid, power would be distributed as needed anywhere in the country.)  Also, in January of 2022 the Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Better Grid Initiative to support the buildout of needed transmission facilities, while expediting financing and permitting for grid improvements.

Does this sound like a lot of government, to you? It is absolutely necessary that the government put in place a working infrastructure for the entire country. Power outages already cost us about $150 billion a year (DOE) from our taxes. Meanwhile, a smarter national grid may cost as much as $476 billion – but this investment would pay itself off in about three years considering the cost of outages.  Upgrading the grid, according to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), would in turn provide $1.2 to $2 trillion in social and economic benefits.  We can pay a for a new grid now or pay more dearly later as more violent storms and power outages cause hardships and losses, destruction of livelihoods, and deaths.  Our governments need to lead our massive electrification project.

What can we do? Each of us can ‘vote with our wallet’ and our voice. Let’s make the wish for a grid upgrade heard in the community.  We must do it to allow for a livable climate for our children, to breathe better in our homes and cities, to get our life expectancy back up to par with other developed countries, and to keep more of our hard-earned dollars in our own pockets – now and in the future.


December, 2022

The Energy Sector                  

I once heard a climate speaker suggesting that we need to start getting our energy from heaven instead of hell.  Whatever your beliefs about the higher and lower realms, you know that we now obtain most of our energy from fossil fuels (deep underground, mostly in the U.S. and Asia) and uranium (also underground, mostly in Australia and Kazakhstan), whereas solar and wind energy come from above our heads.  “From darkness, lead us to light”, a Hindu chant, comes to mind.

According to the latest International Energy Agency report, “the energy sector is the source of around three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions today and holds the key to averting the worst effects of climate change.”  If we are to avoid a climate catastrophe we must radically and rapidly change the energy sector.  Solar and wind capacity must increase 400% by 2030, and electric car sales must increase 1800%.  Yikes!

What does this mean for you and me?  We have to change our transportation methods, our heating and cooling and cooking methods, and our consumption patterns.  Global emissions total about 51 billion tons yearly, and about 55% of the needed reduction in emissions is related to consumer choices.  That’s us!  So, our choosing to purchase an EV for our next vehicle, or our conversion of our gas-heated home to a heat pump system can be part of the solution.

We can start by subscribing to one of the renewable energy suppliers, billed through our current electricity provider.  ( Go to and search for one of the providers with 100% renewable energy.)  Also, we could participate in one of the community solar projects or a solar co-op.  (The Capital Area Solar Co-op can be reached via ).  In Montgomery County a community choice solar pilot has been approved so that whole communities can choose to buy only clean energy in the future.

When we make the change to clean renewable energy, we encourage more rapid build-out of solar and wind power.  We also discourage more extraction and transporting of fossil fuels.  Power is in the people and the people want clean energy!

So, instead of reaching a mile down for fracked gas and oil, let’s reach for the skies.  The sun and wind technologies we already have can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, while we research more and better ways to capture carbon, reach zero by 2050, and stop heating our future world.