My Local Energy Journey 2

Part Two

I had a lot of specific requirements for my choice of diesel vehicle. I’m sure most people will too.

As I mentioned earlier we don’t have a bunch money right now. So I had to find a way to sell my truck and use the money for another vehicle. It was pretty hard. I didn’t expect to get much for the Chevy S10. Blue Book value was rather low. The asking price for most old Mercedes I saw where $3,000 and up. But some how I bought a car for exactly how much I sold the Chevy. I got a deal. But I think the prices people ask for old Mercedes are several thousand more than most will sell for. So the lesson is, ALWAYS HAGGLE.

Four doors
The truck had two doors and a bench seat. Any new car had to have four doors. Mainly because we need another vehicle to transport our son. You can put a child car seat in a two door… but its rough. Most safety experts suggest children ride in the back seat.

Obviously when you transport children you want a safe car. Lots of different options can fulfill this goal. But all that I’ve seen and read about Mercedes is that they’re some of the safest cars around. Older vehicles are made with much more steel and are heavier. A big plus in my book. Wish I could afford a newer car with better safety ratings but… you make due with what you have.

Easy to Work On
I’m mechanically inclined. It’s been awhile since I’ve worked on a car with passion. But I have a pile of tools. Mostly given to me by famliy members.

Recently I’ve done basic maintenance on vehicles out of necessity. So I wanted a car that would be fun to work on. This way I don’t get super frustrated right away trying to figure stuff out. From what I’ve read and heard the ’80s Mercedes are mostly easy and fun. Though some smart folks remind me how hard transmition and suspension work is. Something I may leave to the pros.

Will Run Biodiesel
This requirement was a big one. It narrowed the list down significantly. Here in the US there are only a small percentage of diesel cars with four doors. Mainly VWs and Mercedes with lots of two door trucks and a few other foreign cars. Because there are lots of these vehicles running there are tons of after market parts. I chose the Mercedes because of all the positive talk about them. We’ve owned several VWs, and love them, but just couldn’t find one we could afford.

Other Issues
We had to work a bit to get over the image of wealth and excess that the Mercedes-Benz brand exudes. But in the end I see this car as a tool. One that was built extremely well. Plus most people who want to flaunt their wealth these days don’t drive old diesels. It’ll be pretty obvious to most we’re “hippies trying to save the environment and stuff” with our biodiesel car. 🙂

(Part One of this series can be found here.)

My Local Energy Journey


I want to change not just the quantity of energy I consume but the kind. Both where it comes from and how it effects our planet.

Most of the oil we consume in the United States is imported. These assets are controlled by multi-national corporations. Their primary concern is profit. They wage wars and kill others to obtain it. By reducing my consumption of petroleum I’m one less consumer and supporter of big Corporate oil and their wars for profit.

I want to use fuel made locally.

First because the primary concern of our local producers is the well-being of our community. Second because money spent locally is better for my family and I. Michael Shuman wrote, “A growing body of evidence suggests that every dollar spent at a locally owned business generates two to four times more economic benefit—measured in income, wealth, jobs, and tax revenue—than a dollar spent at a globally owned business. ” Its called the Local Multiplier effect.

When engines burn gasoline and petro-diesel it releases carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, particulates like soot, and nitrogen into the air. Not only does this effect global climate change it creates pollution which toxins can harm us.

So what can we do? How does one consume less oil? There are many ways. You can walk more, take the bus, and ride a bike. I do all this but it wasn’t enough for me. I needed a way to go long distance too. I’ll admit convenience was a factor as well. Having your own vehicle gives you a great amount of choice.

When I discovered our local biodiesel manufacturer Piedmont Biofuels it became obvious what to do. Buy biodiesel. Fuel produced locally with natural materials.

How do you do this? Get a diesel automobile.

I’m aware that diesels can be dirty. But when biodiesel is used the pollution output is greatly reduced. Unfortunately the new “clean” VW Turbo Diesels are out of my price range. The only source of cash I had at the time was locked up in another vehicle. Because the truck is old I knew I couldn’t get a lot of money for it. I did a bunch of research and legwork to find another car I could afford. Luckily I got enough from the sale of the gas burner to get a diesel. Reusing an old vehicle is more sustainable too. It means less energy used in manufacture and fewer parts will goto a junkyard.

A wise friend told me that when contemplating great challenges to concentrate on winning the little battles instead of the entire war. Despite the gross war analogy it was apt. So I figure that changing one bad habit at a time is a good thing. I’m applying this idea of incremental change to what kind of energy I use. That means consuming less. This week I took a big step in that direction. Its going to take time. But I hope you will learn from my journey to consume local energy.

Part One

This week I sold my 1988 Chevy S10 Truck. It was really hard to part with. I choked up a bit as I took my last ride in it. Like many other Americans I equate real emotion with inanimate objects. This could help explain why Americans love to drive.

In my case this vehicle was a gift from my late Grandfather. He lent it to me many times before I inherited it after he died. He loved this truck. I loved driving it because it reminded me of him. So many positive memories riding in the truck with him. I hope he understands my choices today.

Just so you, and my family reading this know, I did not cast away this gift lightly with out purpose. I found a great local friend to purchase the truck. It was almost a accident that we made the deal. But I know she will really benefit from the truck. It will assist her in so many practical ways. That is the spirit of its utility. Something my Grandfather would of appreciated.

The bottom line is I got exactly enough money from the sale of the truck to purchase another vehicle. A 1981 Mercedes 240D. in Part Two I’ll explain why I specifically chose this model of car.

Refresh the Triangle at Carrboro Creative Coworking

Thursday, Oct 23, 2008 from 6:30pm to 8pm Carrboro Creative Coworking will be hosting Refresh the Triangle. This is a great meetup that I’ve been to several times. (Not nearly as often as I’d like though.) Each time I’ve learned something valuable and met great people. We’ll have free pizza and drinks too.

Our topic is Unearthed Arcana for Web People. From the Refresh website:

Clinton Nixon, senior developer at Viget Labs, will present and facilitate this talk about how to avoid trivial, repetitive tasks and increase your productivity with your computer. We’ll cover both software you already have, and free/cheap software you might not. If you’ve got a tip of your own, bring it! We’ll have some free time to share at the end.

Check out all our events on our Google Calendar. Many more on the way!

Green Business in Orange County

I’ve just added a few posts to this blog about Green Business. I’m espcially interested in seeing it grow in Orange County, North Carolina. (That includes Chapel Hill and Carrboro.) So you’ll see on the top right of this blog a link to all the posts in the Green Business category. I hope this becomes a resource for others.

I define Green Business as socially and environmentally sustainable economic activity. Wikipedia defines Sustainable Business as:

A business is sustainable if it has adapted its practices for the use of renewable resources and holds itself accountable for the environmental and human rights impacts of its activities. This includes businesses that operate in a socially responsible manner and protect the environment.

I’m really just learning about this and trying to fit my business into this mold as much as I can.

Create Green-Collar Jobs in Orange County

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of seeing Van Jones speak. He co-founded the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and is founder and president of Green For All. He spoke convincingly of a future of increased equality and how one of the roads to this future is green jobs. Green-collar jobs are employment in the environmental or agricultural sectors of the economy. [Source: Wikipedia] But they also include any work that will help transform our society into a more environmentally sustainable one.

One way our local government leaders could participate in this national movement is to sign the Green Jobs Pledge. Its goal is to "rebuild American competitiveness and environmental leadership by growing a green economy that fights global warming, pollution and poverty at the same time." Here are the five steps this pledge asks our leaders to agree to:

  1. Commit to Action
  2. Create a Green-collar Jobs Taskforce
  3. Identify Goals and Assess Opportunities
  4. Create a Local Action Plan
  5. Evaluate, Leverage and Grow

So far the the U.S. Conference of Mayors has agreed with Green For All that this pledge is good idea. Mayor Martin Chávez of Albuquerque, New Mexico and County Executive Ron Sims of King County, Washington have put there name on it. You can download the Green Jobs Pledge Packet here. [PDF]

Let’s discuss ways we can build a green economy from the ground up, and see if we can get our elected officials to take the pledge.

This post was first published on

Local governments withhold public access TV funds

Local governments withhold public access TV funds. Get the story from this Independent Weekly blog post by Fiona Morgan called Legislature to consider future of public TV channels.

Both Chapel Hill and Orange County received money for Chapel Hill channel 8, on which The People’s Channel broadcasts.

Yet neither government has passed that money on to The People’s Channel. The law says local governments must spend the supplemental money on PEG channels, but it doesn’t specify which channels.

Chapel Hill spokesperson Catherine Lazorko says the town manager and town council have yet to decide how to distribute PEG funding. Chapel Hill operates its own government channel, 18, which broadcasts public meetings.

Orange County, which certified a total of three PEG channels, decided to spend all $29,400 of its supplemental PEG funding on its own government channel, 265, which broadcasts county commissioners meetings. The annual budget for Channel 265 is approximately $40,000.

There is also some discussion going on about it on Orange Politics. You’ll find my passionate comments there. Here is one.

I am very disappointed in the position Town of Chapel Hill Staff and Orange County Staff have taken in this situation. As Fiona’s article pointed out the law governing the funds distributed by the state is up to interpretation. But for the County Assistant Manager and Manager to hide behind a legal opinion that they support to retain funds purposely earmarked by the State for a local non-profit is disgusting!

I wish this were a case of unemotional bean counting in a disconnected bureaucracy. But it just doesn’t seem so. I look forward to more information coming to light on the attitude our public servants have had when dealing with our fellow citizens. If they treated other nonprofits with more loud public voices this way I think Council, Commissioners, and citizens would be publicly outraged.

Please consider donating to The Peoples’ Channel, taking a course to learn how to shoot and edit your own video at TPC, and asking your local representatives WHY our Staff members act this way.

To get a bit more background on the situation here is a PDF that describes PEG (Public Access Television) Funding.

myncCamp – TV Station does a BarCamp

Before BarCamp RDU gets here there is another event with a serious Bay Area guest. Its called myncCamp and its sponsored by NBC17. (Get more info on the myncCamp wiki.) They have a new portal website called The station is soliciting input and is going about it in a very cool way. By holding a barcamp style meeting. Plus the very smart and inspirational Tara Hunt is coming to NC!

The point of myncCamp is to get the members of the local RDU area (and beyond…everyone is welcome) to discuss what they are working on and what NBC-17 could do better for the community at large. We will discuss anything you think is pertinent to helping the experience of living in NC even more awesome.

Some helpful areas may be to look at how other hubs of community around the US are gelling. Could NBC-17 help out with that? Perhaps you are working on something cool like Coworking or a startup that may be able to partner up? Whatever it is, we’d love to have you come out and share. If nothing else, it will be an awesome day to just get to know one another better.

I’m impressed for a few reasons. One is inviting Tara Hunt to help. She’s been very inspirational to me. It was the work of her and others that got me interested in coworking. Their office Citizen Space has really influenced me. They are a big reason I started Carrboro Coworking. I am so very grateful to her. Plus she has a interesting new book called The Whuffie Factor that’s about to come out. I’m really looking forward to reading it.

Another reason is because Wayne Stutton is involved. He works for NBC17 and has done great things with local new media journalism at the Local Conversations blog. The station really took a step in the right direction when they hired Wayne and other community content managers. Its built major community trust I think.

update: I honestly don’t know how this event will be conducted. Barcamp style? unconference style? traditional event style?

Changes in the Local Political Blogosphere

There has been a flurry of activity in the Orange County political blogosphere this month. Changes that interest me as much as who is wining the presidential primaries. (Go Obama!)

First, the big news is the disappearance of the Squeeze the Pulp forum. In its place appears to be a site that could have a community, but it isn’y very clear how. The new site is based on software called DokuWiki. It looks like a bunch of semi-static pages can be created and edited by a group of people. So people will write rants and others will edit them. For what, grammar? The two-way communication of a forum has been lost.

Part of me is sad that all the STP writing is gone. Mainly because it would help people remember the slander and hateful crap. Why would we want to remember that? To inform the context of our local political history. For example, the dirty tactics some supported there. It could also encourage more long-term responsibility. Politicos won’t forget, trust me. But the new resident to Carrboro may like to know how that candidate got elected or defeated. I think the blog of record will be Orange Politics.

Last year sometime I reminded the folks at STP that all that content would be remembered. If not by Google then by us. A great example of the fear mongering some STP posters facilitated is here in my post Political attack from the Squeeze the Pulp forum. In the end, most of me is happy the STP slander against people is off the web. But I’m sure there will be more.

Second, there is a new community site set up by George Entenman called Orange Citizens or Orange County, NC. (depending on how you look at it.) It’s on the Ning software platform, a quality bit of social networking software. My first impressions are of the software mainly. I enjoy the look and feel of the theme but am not crazy about the threaded comments. It’s easy to have several off-topic threads, but it’s growing on me. It’ll be interesting to see how this site evolves. Especially from a usability standpoint. Already there are several local politicos there like Terri and MarkM, plus Chapel Hill Council Member Mark Kleinschmidt. Hopefully we’ll see lots of local elected officials participate in this new community.

Finally, we have a major upgrade to Orange Politics. At just over four years old Orange Politics has become the most-read local politics site in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. It started off using MovableType and then moved to the open source WordPress blogging software in 2004. Now it’s powered by Drupal, a complex and very powerful open source, PHP-based content management system. I was a bit concerned about the move at first, but now that its full speed ahead I’m way impressed. One reason is there are more ways for people to get involved. There is real power in letting people publish their own blogs a la community sites such as Daily Kos. We should have more viewpoints now. Plus there are new OP community guidelines. I think Ruby has done a great job of balancing lots of factors. I would still like to see all commenters have a real identity (ie: no anonymous posters). But I see where in some cases anonymity is valuable on OP.

Social Carolina: Tech Events Calendar

Wayne Sutton is on top of local tech events in our area. So a couple of us asked him to create something to keep track of these events. He set up a blog at and I created a google calendar. Plus we have the Twitter user RDCH to follow and stay up-to-date.

Know about a cool event that involves technology of some kind? Is it happening in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area? Then contact us with the blog form. We’ll put it up on the calendar and promote it. We already have a few cool events up there. Check it out.