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.