Tag Archives: Environment

Ohio Utilities Seek to Discourage Efficiency

Two Ohio utility companies, DP&L (Dayton Power and Light) and AEP (American Electric Power), have petitioned the Ohio Public Utilities Commission to increase their fixed rate charges. These are the charges on your utility bill that do not vary when you use more or less energy. In the case of DP&L, the charges will increase up to 223%.  Utility companies across the country have made similar proposals in the past few years. It’s easy to guess why. Threats to usage-based revenue loom large on the horizon. Homes have become much more energy efficient in recent years, and the popularity of programs such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), Passivhaus, and the Living Building Challenge  suggest that they could be drastically more efficient in just a few years.

In February, Consumers Union enumerated the problems with fixed-charge increases thusly:

Low-usage and low-income customers are hit hardest by mandatory fixed fee hikes.

Utilities keep pushing for increases in fixed charges, even as utilities commissions often steer away from them.

Fixed charges reduce customer control.

Reduced incentives for energy efficiency and distributed generation can raise costs for all consumers.

The article and link to the full report are available here, and well worth a read. Other strategies, such as inclining block rates, can provide utilities with the necessary operating revenue without burdening the poor or discouraging the forward-thinking.

If you feel the same please write the PUC and voice your opposition to fixed charges:

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio

180 East Broad Street

Columbus, Ohio 43215

Read more about this issue at:

The Rocky Mountain Institute

Ohio Citizen Action

Consumer Reports


“Pen and Ink to Say What You Think” Sierra Club Meeting – January 18, 2016

Look for us at the Boston Stoker in Centerville Ohio on January 18, 2016 for our third letter writing meeting and social networking event! We begin at 7:00 p.m. and we’ll meet until at least 9 p.m.

We cover a variety of talk topics and I furnish paper and envelopes for a letter writing campaign on adding more recycle containers in Dayton and ending plastic pollution in Ohio by taxing plastic bags in grocery stores to name a couple initiatives.

The address is 6071 Far Hills Avenue Washington Township OH 45459. The Washington Square Shopping Center is just South of Whipp Rd. and S.R. 48.

If you insist, I can even buy your cup of java! After all, what better to bring out the chatter and to beat the Winter Blah’s, eh?

Scott Bushbaum – Sierra Club Miami Group Executive Committee


Understanding the World’s Forests

Collaborators from across the globe have conducted the most massive survey of trees ever. Their findings were published September 2 in their Nature article Mapping tree density at a global scale. Over 429,000 ground-level measurements were collected and correlated with maps of forest cover in each of the world’s major ecosystems. Interestingly, trees are found almost everywhere- billions of trees live in tundra, grasslands, and desert regions.

There is some very good news in this article; there are actually many more trees than previously thought- over 3 trillion! Linking these density maps with remotely acquired data describing climate, land use, topography and vegetation characteristics yielded more than just a census for trees. The model will lead scientists to a better understanding of how forests interact with the planet; sequestering carbon, filtering water, producing oxygen-and how different types of forests fill these roles differently.

The authors examined the correlation between tree density and several variables. They found that factors that are good for forests in one biome, might be deleterious in another. For example; while increased annual precipitation correlates with increased tree density in a tropical coniferous zone, it has the opposite effect in tundra. Only one factor consistently suppresses tree density in all of the 14 biomes studied: human development.

Using their model, along with a previously-estimated 192,000 square kilometers of forest loss (determined by observations of ground cover over time), researchers estimate that a staggering 15 billion trees are cut down each year, and that populations have declined by 46% since human civilization began. ‘The Billion Tree Campaign” may need to get even more ambitious.

For us, the beginning of human civilization is part of the distant past, but 10,000 years is nothing to trees, who evolved in the late Devonian period, at LEAST 385 million years ago. I was able to find a website with lovely maps from different periods of history. The world looked like this back then. No America, no mammals, no dinosaurs, not much of anything. But there were trees. Ten thousand years is a heartbeat on this scale. Is it any wonder then, that so many who are dependent on trees are struggling to cope with the sudden collapse in their numbers?

The Bengal tiger, western lowland gorilla, mountain gorilla, South China tiger,Javan rhino, saola, Amur leopard, and Sumatra’s tiger, rhino, elephant and orangutan; are all among the critically endangered list published by the IUCN. Many others have gone extinct already. The effects are less obvious on non-forest or ex-forest creatures such as ourselves. But even if we’re not living in them or eating them, I have a feeling we might find life quite difficult without them.

What might the world look like without trees? We might look to the world before trees for clues. Back to the Devonian, then. Amphibians were pretty much the latest and greatest that the world had managed to muster at that point. Amphibians are in much more serious peril than trees, so I think we can count them out. Reptiles, dinosaurs, birds, and mammals had not even thought about evolving yet. Would they be able to survive in the low-oxygen environment? I probably sound a bit alarmist, after all we have 3 trillion trees left! However, at 15 billion felled per year, it is well within our grasp to wipe them out.

Trees are cut down, in many cases, to clear land for expanding agriculture. This only makes sense if you believe that we are not growing plenty of food already, and ignore the piles of food that are tossed out or left to rot. Another tree-hungry industry is paper production. However, our government still subsidizes the delivery of some 100 billion pieces of junk mail every year.

Our power to do harm to the planet is racing against our ability to make prudent decisions. Let’s all consider this when we choose leaders and select products.
Today’s blog post is centered around a thought provoking article in Nature, it can be found here: 

T. W. Crowther, H. B. Glick, K.R.Covey et al. “Mapping tree density at a global scale”  Nature September 10, 2015 pp 201-205. Macmillan Publishers.

1913 to 2013 in 13 Miles: Brian Lenihan’s look at Hamilton’s Great Flood

 Cover Page
Imagine your town, at the tail end of a gloomy, rainy winter. The ground at your feet has thawed, but absorbs very little of the  excess water when it suddenly begins to rain again. Very hard. The river swells at an alarming rate. But there’s no siren, no flood warning on the news, and your Twitter feed is silent. It’s 1913, in Hamilton, OH.


In late March of that year over 9.5 inches of rain fell on Hamilton in less than 5 days. The recent rainfall in Greater Cincinnati that many have found so shocking (10.5 inches in thirty days) pales in comparison. All four bridges over the Great Miami were destroyed in just two hours. On March 26th the river reached 34 ft, and 80% of the city was submerged. If you were lucky enough to escape simply drowning you would have threat of disease and supply shortages to contend with. Railroads were impassable, roads turned to mud. Over 200 people lost their lives and thousands more their homes.


And yet Hamilton survived, its people endured. A new book by Miami Group Member Brian Lenihan examines this perseverance, in a very unique way. Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with the author. His interest in the 1913 flood started early on with the stories and photos shared by his grandmother, one of these dauntless survivors of the days of the flood. Recently, as the centennial of the flood approached, he began building a collection of photographs – and recreating them! Each photo in 1913-2013 in 13 Miles is one of a pair; one taken in 1913 and the other in 2013, at the same location.


The book is a treasure trove of 360 such photographs in all, assembled over the past two years. Each of its six chapters examines one of the Hamilton neighborhoods affected by the flood along a 13 mile route. On some streets Downtown and in the North End, water levels rose as high as ten feet. It was the most destructive disaster in Ohio History. Seeing the photos is a startling reminder that surroundings we take for granted can change drastically in just a few hours.


I couldn’t help asking if we might see another deluge sometime in the future. Brian tells me that in the decades after the flood, there was a lot of construction work along the riverbanks; a new dam was built, as well as new levees, and the river itself was widened to increase its capacity for runoff. Fortunately, these changes mean we’re unlikely to see a flood on the scale of the 1913 flood anytime soon. The banks could now withstand several times the amount of rain that fell back then. If there was a flood, many lives might be saved simply by the advances that have been made in disaster warning and communications equipment. Still, after seeing all the bizarre weather so far here in 2015, for once I’m glad I live on a hill. Just in case.


Lovers of history, photography, and/or Hamilton can pick up a copy of the new book at Micropressbooks.
Brian Lenihan, Author, Historian, Photographer
Brian Lenihan, Author: 1913 to 2013 in 13 Miles