27 February 2013

A Bit on Bioenergy Use in America

Bioenergy is a composite word combining the terms “biomass” and “energy.” Biomass is plant matter or material derived from plant matter. Bioenergy then is the production of heat, power and liquid fuels (also called biofuels) from biomass and is a form of renewable energy. The term bioenergy generally does not encompass energy derived from other renewable resources such as wind, solar, tidal, or geothermal power.

Biomass is often classified along a simple division of either woody or non-woody material. These bio-materials are also often referred to as “feedstocks” but should not be confused with animal feed used for domestic livestock. Researchers have offered a more nuanced view of sources for biomass, using eight specific categories: natural forests/woodlands, forest plantations, agro-industrial plantations, trees outside forests and woodlands, agricultural crops, crop residues, processed residues, and animal wastes.

In its raw forms, biomass is highly variable in terms of chemical and physical properties, dependent on plant physiology, environmental growing conditions, and how it is harvested, stored, and processed prior to conversion into useable energy forms. Availability and cost-efficiency of renewable energy feedstocks differs by region in the United States with regional boundaries often divided into the American North, South, and West. Harvesting efficiencies associated with various feedstocks, and production of energy from those raw materials, also varies by region (see: Department of the Interior, 2011).

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, renewable energy consumption in the United States grew by 6 percent, from 7.60 quadrillion Btu to 8.09 quadrillion Btu, between 2009 and 2010. The relative share of renewable energy to total energy consumption grew to 8 percent in 2010.

In 2011, renewable energy production accounted for about 13 percent of all energy in the United States and, according to the EIA “Annual Energy Outlook 2013 Early Release Overview,” is projected to top 16 percent by 2040. Concerns about peak oil, climate change, domestic economic development, and dependence on petroleum fuels from politically volatile regions have, in part, driven expansion in the bioenergy sector.
Of the dominant renewable energy categories, which also include wind, solar, hydroelectric, and geothermal; biomass made up over half (53%) of total American renewable energy consumption in 2010, followed by hydroelectric power accounting for nearly one-third (31%). Growth in biomass consumption has been spurred by increased ethanol production as a result of government policies such as the Renewable Fuel Standard for biofuels production and the Renewable Portfolio Standard for bio-power production (see: US Department of Energy, 2010 - pdf), contributing to a two-fold increase in renewable energy consumption in the American transportation sector between 2006 and 2010.

25 February 2013

A Case of Beer: Branding Brews and Sense of Place

Will sing for beer.
Now here's a sense of place study I can really get behind!

Published in the Journal of Marketing Management (paywalled) just this month, Leveraging the side of the brand using a sense of place: Case studies in craft breweries, authors Hede and Watne investigate craft brew branding strategies that attempt to connect consumers to place through the bridge of beer.

Academic articles like this are often only available to paying costumers or to students whose institutions pay for such access. It's a huge money-making market that doesn't actually pay the authors and keeps most scientific research out of the hands of everyday people. But that's a different debate.

A short description of the beer branding study, the abstract, is provided by the journal:  

In order for consumers to connect emotionally with brands, brands must be transformed from inanimate entities into the realm of acquiring human characteristics. Following a review of more than 1000 breweries from online sources and beer companion books, we explore how a sense of place, derived from myths, folklores, and heroes, enables marketers and consumers to co-create narratives that humanise brands. We add to the theory on brand humanisation as we conclude that a sense of place offers a novel, and different, approach to humanisation strategies based on anthropomorphisation, personification, and user imagery, but can also operate in tandem with them. Further research is recommended to understand how and why consumers respond to branding strategies that use a sense of place to humanise brands.

18 February 2013

TTBOOK goes Back to the Land, Again.

Over the weekend I heard a great segment from To The Best Of Our Knowledge (TTBOOK). To say there's been a great segment on TTBOOK is redundant, of course, but this one caught my ear because of its focus on connection to land as a mechanism for personal change.

Here, TTBOOK goes Back to the Land.

From growing up as a child of the Back to the Land movement of the 1960s, connected directly to Helen and Scott Nearing (the somewhat stern grandparents of that particular movement), to the growing recognition of the immensity of food waste in America, this four-segment broadcast covers a lot of ground. Literally.

Imagine living in a 12' x 12' shack in back-country North Carolina or taking on with grand naivete a transcendent, blister-inducing journey along the Pacific Crest Trail. The folks at TTBOOK go from subsistence living to an immense journey of pure determination.

New York City resident William Powers found himself with the chance to live in a cabin for a few months (and then wrote a book about it) while Cheryl Strayed is featured in the final segment, talking about her book Wild and the story behind the story which has now become the story after the story behind the story. Don't think about it. Just listen.

15 February 2013

Voices of Green Fire: Connecting City and Country

The Aldo Leopold Foundation's YouTube channel is a great resource for information on Leopold and his incredible legacy.

This new video, Voices of Green Fire: Connecting City and Country, builds off of the inspiring dialogue heard in the Green Fire documentary. Take a ten minute break and enjoy!

11 February 2013

The push-pull of Environmental Communication

Tema Milstein wrote the chapter on environmental communication theories in The Encyclopedia of Communication Theory (Littlejohn & Foss, eds., 2009).

In is, she writes that scholars studying environmental communication do so because they are "particularly concerned with the ways people communicate about the natural world." Such communication, Milstein writes, "has far-reaching effects at a time of largely human-caused environmental crises."

In a similar chapter for a more recent compendium, 2012's Greening The Academy, Milstein writes about "greening" communication. In it she writes that environmental communication is based on two primary assumptions: (1) the ways in which we communicate powerfully influence our understanding of nature and (2) these understandings inform how we relate with and within the natural world.

Communication allows us to both express and understand our experiences, our being-in-the-world. Within this ever-changing sphere of influence and understanding are implicit (though often not consciously recognized) patterns of power, symbolism, materiality, memory, and persuasion, among other existential elements.

We filter all of this through our conscious mind yet the true filter, one we often give short shrift because it is so very subtle, is the pre-conscious or sub-conscious mind. The metaphor I like to use here evokes the winds powering the waves on the surface (consciousness) while the silent moon and mysterious stars push and pull the deep, heavy (subconscious) currents below.