Apples to Apples: Solar and Wind less costly than Coal and Oil

The following is a guest blog by Tom Rooney of SPGsolar. 

CoalEveryone knows solar and wind power are more expensive than oil and coal.

Everyone except the National Academy of Sciences.

So they put it to the test: They found coal and oil and natural gas are artificially cheap because they impose health and financial and environmental costs that all of us pay for — above and beyond the price. Whether we know it or not.

Whether we like it or not.

Sounds kind of like a subsidy, doesn’t it? It’s exactly like a subsidy.

Apples to apples? Solar and wind are often less expensive than coal and oil.

The Academy estimates that coal and oil drain $130 billion in hidden costs out of our economy. Coal is subsidized to the tune of 3 to 13 cents per kilowatt hour of energy – about 25 to 100 percent of what you pay for power.

The report comes just in time — right after the biggest energy disaster in this country’s history.

And right before a campaign to reduce support for alternative energy which some say requires subsidies and is more expensive than fossil fuels.

Coal and oilPeople like Republican functionary Christopher Horner, whose new book proclaims that renewable energy will “bankrupt” this country and is a “declaration of war against America’s most reliable sources of energy—coal, oil, and natural gas.”

Or the usually reliable Wall Street Journal editorial writer Stephen Moore, who says renewable energy such as wind and solar is a plot between Big Government and Big Labor.

Before I became a card carrying member of this conspiracy and the CEO of a solar energy company, I studied for an MBA at the University of Chicago. There I was lucky enough, on many occasions, to meet the inspiration for many solar skeptics – America’s greatest economist Milton Friedman.

More than just a libertarian icon, Friedman just wanted to know what things cost. Not their price, their cost.

You do not need a Nobel Prize to see the freshman mistake of those who say wind and solar are too expensive to compete with coal and oil: They confuse price with cost.

But still we hear that coal and oil and natural gas are cheaper. Which is like the guy who throws garbage over his neighbor’s fence, then brags about free trash disposal. But really, someone else is paying for it.

The Academy said it was too complicated to estimate the largest hidden cost of energy — the price we pay in sending our best and bravest into harm’s way to guarantee our supply of foreign oil.

You want to put a price tag on that? Go ahead. Just make sure the number starts with a T. And if you throw your garbage over the fence, count that too.

—- Tom Rooney is the CEO of SPG Solar (

Spa Baby makes bathing baby a pleasure

Even weeks' old infants can enjoy a safe bath in Spa Baby tubs

Even weeks' old infants can enjoy a safe bath in Spa Baby tubs

Parents of young babies know that giving them a bath is challenging, frustrating and rarely fun.

An amazingly innovative Canadian product called Spa Baby makes it pleasant a pleasant experience all around.

The Spa Baby is a European-style baby bath tub that lets you bathe your baby while it’s sitting up.

It goes back to the idea of bathing them in the kitchen sink, says Brandy Cameron, founder of Spa Baby Tubs, Inc.

After the birth of her baby six years ago, Cameron discovered how difficult it was to give newborns a bath and how much they disliked the process! Searching for a better alternative, she discovered that outside of North America, it was standard to bathe a baby upright.

An upright tub like the Spa Baby has a real advantage over traditional baby baths, Cameron says.

With traditional baby tubs, parents lay the baby flat on its back. Even though the water is warm, it cools quickly since it covers a large surface area. That leaves the baby’s chest and torso exposed to the air, while they lay in the water. No wonder they usually scream and fuss!

“We kind of forgot about the point of view of the baby,” said Cameron.

The Spa Baby – with its smaller surface area – uses less water than traditional baby baths – around 5 gallons. Fill it to the fill line, then carefully place the baby in it. The water comes up to around their chest. And the water stays warm for about 20 minutes, giving you time to give the baby a gentle warm bath.

“Babies relax so much they’re practically falling asleep,” she said.

You can check out a cute video of  this at

“Your baby stays in this really familiar position,” said Cameron. “like (how) they spend their first nine months. It’s comforting for your baby – and a nice experience for you.”

The Spa Baby contains no BPA, phthalates, and no vinyl, otherwise known as PVC. A lot of other baby tubs contain blends of plastics and foam materials in them.

Spa Baby is polypropylene plastic, said Cameron. “That’s as non-toxic as you can get!”

Spa Baby Eco is made of recycled plastic and no hamrful chemicals

Spa Baby Eco is made of recycled plastic with no hamrful chemicals

Cameron’s latest baby bath tub is the Spa Baby Eco, made of 100 percent recycled plastic. She got the idea for this after seeing all the new plastic being generated, especially for baby products.

“You’re kind of surprised at the amount of plastic that comes through your door when you’re about to have a baby,” Cameron said.

With the exception of toys, there’s very little baby gear made of recycled plastic, she said.

“I think,” Cameron said, “we have all the plastic we need already on the planet!”

The Spa Baby and Spa Baby Eco are both recyclable. But Cameron recommends instead of tossing them in recycling when you don’t need them anymore, why not give them to another mom to use?

That’s real recycling, she said – as in the second of the 3Rs, Reuse.

The Spa Baby and Spa Baby Eco are very reasonably priced . If you order from Spa Baby’s website, shipping’s included if you live in the continental US. These amazing baby bath tubs are  available at and on Amazon.

Can burning tires be a "green" industry?

Geneva Energy's Illinois factory burns tires to generate electricity

Geneva Energy's Illinois factory burns tires to generate electricity

An Illinois factory is seeking to become designated “green”. Thing is, they burn shredded old tires to generate electricity.

Geneva Energy LLC had been hoping the Illinois legislature would approve a proposed bill that would allow it to be added to the state’s list of renewable energy sources. Tires were, they reasoned, what they termed “reusable resources” – resources that were out there and although not really renewable, were plentiful enough.

Illinois senators,  however, didn’t agree, defeating the measure last night in a 26-17 vote.

The bill’s sponsor in the Illinois House, Rep. Will Davis (D-Homewood), said passing this measure would help keep jobs in the town of Ford Heights and allow Geneva Energy LLC to apply for tax credits and grants afforded to wind farms and solar energy producers. The town currently has an unemployment rate of 29 percent.

Old tires have definitely become a resource for enterprising companies to transform into something useful. And job creation is definitely critical, especially in an area with such high unemployment.

How do you readers weigh-in on this issue?

Will Mexico's new planned wastewater plant harm lush farmland?

the lush Mezquital Valley, Mexico

the lush Mezquital Valley, Mexico

Sewers of Mexico city  have been spewing “black water” 60 miles downhill to irrigate what is now lush farmland in the Mezquital Valley, in the Mexican state of Hidalgo. Though the stench belies the bucolic view of corn and alfalfa fields, the water is filled with toxins, including chemicals dumped by factories.

Mexico City has flushed its wastewater for the past 100 years to help irrigate this farmland through a series of canals that then trickle out onto the fields. The government recently announced plans to build a giant wastewater treatment plant, the first proactive measure it’s taken to manage flooding wastewater in almost 40 years.

Budgeted to cost $1 billion, the plant will begin operating in 2012 and will clean 60 percent of the city’s wastewater.

Farmers fear the new treatment plant will take away not only the harmful chemicals but also the natural fertilizers thy count on for their crops. Currently, the black water irrigates 350 square miles of the Valley. Because of the toxic brew, government officials direct farmers not to grow crops where the edible part comes into contact with the irrigation water and is eaten raw. This covers vegetables like lettuce, carrots or beets. Spotty enforcement and a flexible interpretation of the regulations often has farmers circumventing these rules.

This leads me to wonder. Having grown up near the southern border of Texas, we were always warned not to eat food from street vendors or risk severe stomach problems – “Pancho Villa’s Revenge”. In light of these farming practices,  the pieces of the puzzle finally fall into place. It’s easy to understand how food there can become contaminated.

Yet long-held beliefs are hard to shake.

A  75-year-old, fifth-generation farmer, Jesús Aldana Ángeles, says “Bad water would never make anything green,” he said. “But here the black waters turn everything green.”

Innovative mattress system gives back dignity to the bedridden

CaregiverThis isn’t the “green” column you’d expect. This focuses on something difficult to discuss – it presents an amazing product that gives dignity back to patients in home healthcare, hospitals and hospice.

Any caregiver that’s cared for an elderly loved one at home has experienced the stress and upset of seeing them suffer dealing with incontinence. The only products available to deal with this have been bedpans, disposable absorbent pads and adult diapers, which add humiliation to both patient and caregiver.

Lynn Stephens, an experienced RN and caregiver, has seen patients that were laying in their own waste but, because they were covered up, no one knew.

“It’s mind-blowing (the) primitive way we take care of them,” she says.

She realized a new type of mattress was needed.

The challenge, said her husband Greg, an entrepreneurial engineer, was threefold:

  1. You need a mattress hard enough it doesn’t collapse
  2. It has to be comfortable
  3. It has to be pressure reducing

Capstone mattress

After forming their company, Capstone, they brought their idea to Tempur-Pedic Medical Division.

Tempur-Pedic worked with the Stephens’ to create the Capstone Incontinence Relief System – a mattress system that keeps moisture away from the skin.

Tempur’s material and the Stephens’ design was the combination that created a medical supply breakthrough.

The Capstone mattress system can be placed on any hospital bed. Its specially designed, absorbent disposable pad is placed on the mattress. The attached plastic waste collection bag is then placed inside the mattress cavity. The patient’s fecal and urine waste are collected in the bottom of the plastic bag while the patient lies comfortably dry on top.

This is an important advancement for caregivers, especially in home healthcare.

Approximately 20% of home healthcare patients are incontinent or bed-ridden, Greg said. “That’s around 300,000 patients per year!”

The second top reason patients are taken from their homes and put into nursing homes is because of incontinence.

This system will protect their skin, make them comfortable and reduce their pressure ulcers.

“But the big factor here is that it helps the caregivers (too),” said Greg.

With the disposable pad and the pouch attached, the caregiver gently rolls the patient over, changes the pad, and they’re done, he said. “It can be done in 45 seconds or less,” Greg said.

Capstone's disposable pad keeps patients dry and comfortable

Capstone's disposable pad keeps patients dry and comfortable

What they’ve done with this mattress, said Rick Fontaine, Tempur–Pedic Medical Division’s Vice President of Business Development, is create a layer on the top that conforms to the person’s body so that they don’t get high pressure around the mattress opening.

The biggest challenge Tempur-Pedic had was designing a cover that could be welded and installed in a way that didn’t allow moisture to leak through the opening, Fontaine said.

“We’ve tried to eliminate those forces that cause skin break down due to pressure and incontinence,” he said.

This system will be beneficial in easing pressure wounds, especially in the area of the buttocks, which is very susceptible from fecal waste, he said.

“(This) product is simple and it works,” Greg said.

The Stephens have just crossed a critical hurdle with this product – getting a Medicare code approval.

The Stephens believe this product will help Medicare.

“Just the fact it can reduce the number of patients admitted to nursing homes will save Medicare money,” said Greg.

They don’t know how much of the cost Medicare will cover, but hope it will pay 80 percent of the almost $4,000 price, which includes the mattress, the bag and pouch and a package of 105 disposable mattress pads.

Those wanting to buy this breakthrough mattress system have 2 options. To purchase the product from a Medicare-approved vendor and get reimbursement, contact the Stephens directly to locate a vendor. Or simply purchase it from the website.