Helga’s Golden

I have talked about how my life long passion for outdoor activities has been my inspiration for a philosophy for life that treats our planet with respect, but you can only get so far into the backcountry on your own, at some point you need some help.  A big strong girl can help out; one that will carry your gear, and has the heart to kick it into four wheel drive and climb anything in front of her.  The need for this kind of loving has brought out a dark side in me, because at some point I fell in love with an evil woman who took me places no other woman had ever taken me, and I just can’t let go.

I met Helga about 15 years ago when I moved to Reno. I knew I wanted to have a big hefty girl that could take me on exotic adventures that no skinny little fuel sipper could possibly go. So I started looking in the classified ads to find my perfect match, that’s when I met Helga, she was for sale by owner, she looked a bit beat up and probably hadn’t been treated with the respect she deserved, but I knew with a little TLC she would be a fine woman, more than capable of satisfying my needs, and the price was right.

Helga has taken me on adventures that I could only have imagined before she came into my life. We regularly go places that most girls wouldn’t even try to go, and she not only gets me there, she carries my gear, and provides ample protection from the elements too. I know that Helga is not popular by some of today’s standards, and people sometimes look at me funny, maybe even with a bit of disgust as I feed her, but those who appreciate a strong woman often compliment me on her beauty and some will even reminisce about how they once had such a woman, and how much they miss her now. The memories I have built with Helga will last forever, and even though she’s a bit tired now, I feel I owe it to her to make sure she is well taken of in her golden years.

Helga is now and always has been a recreation vehicle, she averages about 1,400 miles per year.

Gotta Love’s CNG

The opportunity to manage a CNG facility several years ago made me a fan of the product, but unfortunately there has never been the necessary infrastructure in place to make it a viable alternative to oil based fuels for our transportation needs. That’s why I was happy to see that Loves Truck Stops was putting in some real infrastructure.

Love’s recently made a commitment to build 10 new CNG facilities at their existing locations along major highway corridors throughout Oklahoma; this will put Oklahoma more than half way to its goal of having 100 facilities state wide. That’s pretty impressive number considering that Nevada recently shut down its only public facility located on interstate 80, this was the only facility located between Salt Lake City and Sacramento. This limited infrastructure is what has always held back CNG as a viable alternative fuel.

Back in 2008 it seemed that there was some real momentum building for CNG as an alternative fuel. With the over a 100 year supply of natural gas being available domestically it seems to be a good way to hedge our fuel needs. Natural Gas also burns cleaner, emitting between 20% and 25% less carbon dioxide than oil-based fuels and less nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. Additionally the natural gas is a domestic product that currently employs about 622,000 people directly and helps to create about 2.2 million additional jobs. It is estimated that if the U.S. pursued natural gas as a true alternative to gasoline another 1 million jobs could be added to our domestic economy.

Natural gas makes sense, it’s a domestic product that creates jobs in the United States and helps keep American dollars working for America. It also burns substantially cleaner. The problem has always been that the infrastructure is too limited to make it a real alternative to oil based fuels. That’s why it’s good to see a national truck stop chain add CNG to their fueling facilities; I just hope they don’t stop in Oklahoma.

Falling for Nature

Fall is a great reminder of why caring for nature is so important. As I was out for my bicycle ride this weekend it really hit me just how important spending time in nature is for fueling our passion to protect her. As I was riding along the Truckee River it struck me that if more people could experience nature at her best, more people would be inspired to protect her.

It was a perfect day to be outside and enjoying the outdoors this weekend in Reno; the day started out cool but warmed to a beautiful 72 degree, just perfect for changing the colors of the local foliage. Once I got down along the river I immediately began to notice how spectacular the fall foliage was. To add to the experience the river is still flowing strong thanks to above average snowpack in the Sierras. As I rode along the river and enjoyed the warm day, the amazing foliage, and the flowing river I felt so lucky to be able to enjoy the beauty that nature has to offer.

When we are trapped in our day to day existence of going to work and scrambling to meet the demands of our daily life it is easy to put our passions for protecting nature on the backburner, but a short trip to our local park for a walk along the river or around your local lake can do amazing things to re-invigorate us. I urge you all to get out and enjoy fall while you can; I know the experience will recharge your passions to protect and preserve nature.

Fix Or Repair Daily

There is little tolerance in our current economic environment for clean energy technologies that waste consumer money. Consumers might be willing to pay a premium to promote a cleaner environment, but the product had better deliver on their promises and there better not be a bunch of hidden charges coming down the road. In my opinion this is where the problem lies with the Ford 6.4 liter diesel motor. Nobody in the trucking industry was thrilled when the government came out with new regulation for diesel emissions, we were in an environment where money was tight, but if it was going to be good for the planet, well, we’ll bite the bullet and make it work. But unfortunately it appears Ford sold a product that doesn’t work, and now all of the clean technology nay sayers are saying, see, clean technology is a waste of money.

My company uses the Ford F550 as one of its work horses in our fleet, in the past these were pretty bullet proof trucks; durable and tough. But my opinion has clearly changed; the 6.4’s that we put in our fleet have been anything but tough or reliable. We are spending substantial resources to keep these units on the road. They were not only more expensive to purchase because of the EGR cleaners, but once these units get about 50k miles on them they become almost completely unusable, and of course they are out of warranty at this point. Companies who bought these units are being forced to absorb the losses, or pass the costs on to consumers, and I’m not sure how many companies can absorb these kinds of losses.

It’s a shame that Ford has made such a mess out of what was once a quality product. Even worse, somebody has to pay for it, and it doesn’t appear that it will be Ford. But the worst part is that this failure gives the whole clean tech industry a black eye. We all make mistakes, most of us can forgive that, but what we can’t forgive is when organizations refuse to take responsibility for their mistakes.  Clean technologies can work; it just takes responsible organizations to implement these technologies.

The Bridge to Ubergreen

What reason do we have to be conservative about our energy usage and carbon footprint? Maybe we can look to Freidrich Nietzsche for some of the answers. Freidrich believed that the worst thing we could do was nothing, that it was our duty to build a bridge to the Uberhuman, and the worst thing we could be was part of the herd that just followed along.

Today so many people choose to be part of the herd, they all get together and laugh at the people who believe that humans are contributing to global warming; its natural why worry about it? We should worry about it because each of us has the potential to make a difference, and reducing our carbon footprint can be accomplished with minimal effort.  Separating trash from recyclables, using transportation that reduces the impact to our environment, using goods made from recycled products, and supporting businesses that are environmentally conscientious are all simple ways to reduce our carbon footprint and require little effort.

The problems that we have created over the past 200 years won’t be solved in a generation, it will take time. Humans have the potential to find solutions, but we need a bridge to get there. If we break away from the herd today we can allow humans to evolve into a species that lives in harmony with the environment. If we start today there is the potential for an Ubergreen human to look back at us as we are today, much as we now look back on the lowly ape and say “look at the way they lived in their own feces, the animals”.  Don’t be a member of the herd, build the bridge!

Recap and Save

Budget cuts have recently forced our Fleet to shift it’s preferences for tires toward recapped tires. This was a hard hit to take; our environment is a tough one. Most of our vehicles do a substantial amount of their work off-road through some of the toughest most mountainous terrain that the United States has to offer. When the crews see the recaps they are clearly unhappy, they doubt that they are as reliable as a new tire, and that’s important when your 100’s of miles from a repair facility.

The saying goes that every cloud has a silver lining and the green guy in me was hoping that the environmental benefits to a recap program would make me feel better, and indeed it has. I found that recapped tires save resources by requiring 70% less oil, contains 75% post-consumer material, save landfill space, and my company will be happy to know they cost 30% to 70% less than making a new tire. I have seen the mountains of tires piled up along side of highways as I have traveled, and have seen the news headlines as one of these mountains catches on fire and burns out of control, but I didn’t realize that tire piles are also breeding grounds for mosquitoes, rodents and disease.

Saving money is our goal, but decreasing the amount of tires that make it to landfills is a great benefit. The EPA says that recapped tires “provide quality, comfort, and safety comparable to that of new tires” and I sincerely hope this is true, because if it’s not you might want to look for me at the bottom of one of the many abandoned mine shafts scattered throughout our territory.

Idling Costs More Than You Think

With winter quickly approaching and cool mornings already upon us, we are due to see an increase in vehicle idling. Many people will routinely start their vehicles while drinking their morning coffee and many others will routinely leave their cars idling to keep their cabs warm. But this type of behavior costs consumers money, wastes fuel, contributes to poor air quality, and increases the chances of auto theft; in addition many states have laws against excessive idling.

While most states have anti-idling laws in place for diesel truck engines, Nevada is a liberal 15 minutes while California is 5 minutes and New York is 3 minutes, light vehicles with gasoline engines also contribute substantially towards poor air quality and unnecessary fuel usage through idling also. Many corporations are now equipping their vehicles with GPS systems and using idling alerts to in an effort to save money by reducing idling time. Studies have found that turning off your engine can save up to 19% on your fuel costs.

We hear every year as the weather cools down that authorities warn us of cars being stolen as they sit idling in the morning while the owner finishes their coffee and gets ready for work, leaving your car idling is an invitation to car theft. But operators who use this practice are also robbing themselves of up to 20% on their fuel bill. In addition, they are contributing to poor air quality when it is unnecessary to do so. By being conscientious about idling our vehicles we can save money, contribute to a cleaner environment, and substantially reduce the chance of being the victim of auto theft.