Commentaries and Letters by L. David Roper in The Roanoke Times

Letters and Commentaries List:


The earliest ones' links may no longer be valid.


  1. Look at the parties' records on unemployment (29 Jan 2004 letter)
  2. Long-term ramifications of the war in Iraq (27 Nov 2004 letter)
  3. Fight global warming from home (6 Jan 2006 commentary)
  4. Dangerous to rely on new oil field finds (5 Oct 2006 letter)
  5. Roper: Peak oil means inevitably higher prices (10 Jun 2007 commentary)
  6. Neighbors help each other in battle (31 Jun 2007 letter)
  7. Roper: The physics behind global warming (21 Jan 2008 commentary)
  8. Drilling is not the answer to energy problems (17 Jun 2008 letter)
  9. Don't confuse weather and climate change (18 Feb 2009 letter)
  10. Virginia should have speed limits for trucks (9 Aug 2009 letter)
  11. Polar ice melt does cause sea to rise (29 Aug 2010 letter)
  12. Renewable energy is the only safe option (19 Jun 2011 letter)
  13. We have hit the peak in world oil production (27 Jul 2011 letter)
  14. Energy 'revolution' faces scientific hurdles (4 Oct 2011 letter)
  15. Forget CFLs; LED is a better bulb (7 Mar 2012 letter)
  16. Roper: A charge for electric cars: Crude-oil and natural-gas depletion and electric cars (13 Jun 2012 commentary)
  17. Electric cars useful in outages (20 Jul 2012 letter)
  18. Roper: Theory is more than just a hypothesis: Global Warming (26 Aug 2012 commentary)
  19. Roper: Do the math on fossil fuels: Depletion of fossil fuels (14 Oct 2012 commentary)
  20. Renewables are the future: U.S. electricity production (7 Dec 2012 Pick of the day letter)
  21. Pennies from heaven, indeed (12 February 2013 Pick of the day letter)
  22. Roper: We are, too, running low on fossil fuels (8 May 2013 commentary)
  23. U.S. needs to close a renewables gap (10 September 2013 letter)
  24. On a downward slide (18 December 2013 Pick of the day letter)
  25. Roper: Cold? That disproves nothing about warming (3 February 2014 commentary)
  26. Shrewd energy policies don't include fracking (15 March 2014 letter)
  27. Roper: Reduce coal-burning, and do it fast (26 June 2014 banner commentary)
  28. Roper: Global warming is driving migrants north (25 August 2014 commentary)
  29. Offshore drilling is a red herring for more profits (4 September 2014 letter)
  30. Roper: Fracking will not make us free (24 November 2014 commentary)
  31. Roper: U.S. falling behind on renewable energy (8 March 2015 commentary)
  32. Roper: Is Marcellus play too near its peak to justify three huge new pipelines? (20 April 2015 commentary)
  33. Roper: Solar energy is the future (14 June 2015 commentary)
  34. Roper: A shopper's guide to electric cars (30 August 2015 commentary)
  35. Roper: Nine ways to reduce gun violence (2 December 2015 commentary)
  36. Roper: Don't publish climate-deniers (6 April 2016 letter) The headline is wrong. I did not say to not publish climate-deniers; I said to put a comment at the bottom that the Theory of Global Warming is well established. For those who have not studied the theory, see from the American Institute of Physics.
  37. Roper: The science behind climate change (29 May 2016 letter)
  38. Roper: Gas is dying; back renewables (27 July 2016 letter)
  39. Roper: How deportations may work (17 Feb 2017 letter)
  40. Letter: Yes, the planet is getting hotter (11 Aug 2017 letter)
  41. Roper: Yes, electric cars are practical (12 Aug 2017 commentary)
  42. Letter: Anti-solar commentary has facts wrong (27 Feb 2018 letter)
  43. Roper: Here's the infrastructure we need (1 May 2018 commentary)
  44. Roper: The electric vehicles revolution (12 July 2018 commentary)
  45. Roper: Global warming and blood on hands (20 Dec 2018 commentary)
  46. Roper: The Senate Problem (22 Mar 2019 commentary)
  47. Letter: Electric school buses imperative (29 Sep 2019 letter)
  48. Roper: Tax cars by miles travelled, not gas (10 Jan 2020 letter)
  49. Roper: The necessity for renewable energy (24 Mar 2020 commentary)
  50. Roper: The best way to view virus data (18 April 2020 commentary)
  51. Electric cars are not what you think (8 February 2021 letter)
  52. Roper: Global warming is complicated (15 March 2021 commentary)
  53. Global warmin quotes problematic (4 November 2021 letter)
  54. Letter: Demographics driving political divide (15 January 2022 letter)
  55. Roper: Lives depend on understanding facts of global warming (24 July 2022 commentary) See Current Global Warming for numerical corrections.

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Roper is president of the Valley Interfaith Child Care Center in Blacks burg. .

I want to thank The Roanoke Times for giving front-page coverage to the story "Studies assess effects of child care" on Nov. 1. It is so important for all of us to know the consequences of the care that we are giving to the next generation.

Perhaps it is most important of all to know what is happening to the children of our area's lowest-income working families. The poorest of our children are too often left in very questionable care while their parents work. All too often, they spend the day parked in front of a television, with results we can only guess at. At worst, their very safety is at risk.

By the time they arrive at kindergarten, they might never have held a crayon, seen a book or interacted with other children. They start school, and life, at a disadvantage from which they will probably never recover. Sooner or later, all of us will feel the results.

As president of a new organization in our area, the Valley Interfaith Child Care Center, I was especially pleased to read the headline that "Kids from poor families experienced more gains" -- double the gains -- when they are enrolled in high-quality programs of care.

VICCC was born two years ago when a group of leaders from about a dozen religious congregations came together in the belief that people of faith have a role to play in helping the youngest, poorest and most vulnerable people in our home area, the New River Valley. Members of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist communities have all played a part in encouraging this innovative effort to offer the highest quality, nonsectarian child care to very low-income working families.

With enthusiastic support from many people, civic groups, congregations and businesses, with the cooperation of the Department of Social Services, and in partnership with New River Community Action Head Start, VICCC opened a high-quality, affordable center in Christiansburg in November 2004. I wish that every one of your readers could visit it.

Our toddler room is a beautiful, exciting and educational place. We offer art, music, rhythm and movement, outdoor play and tons of reading. Early next year, in partnership with the Renaissance Music Academy, we will begin a program of classical music for children. Our newly opened infant room is giving safe, reliable and developmentally encouraging care to the youngest. Blacksburg is supporting VICCC with the child-care portion of its federal entitlement funds for low- and moderate-income families, and we are working hard to open a second center, in Blacksburg, soon.

It is a tremendous financial challenge to operate a high-quality center for low-income families, especially when the children are in the youngest age groups. (The younger the child, the more teachers are required in order to be licensed, and the more expensive it is to run -- which is why it is so hard for even the most affluent families to find places for infants and toddlers.)

VICCC made the very tough decision to specialize in caring for the age group that otherwise would have little or nothing. We are showing glowing results -- our children are blossoming, and they will be as ready for kindergarten as children from much more privileged homes.

Many people have contributed generously and care deeply about this original and unique program. We need many, many more such people. I hope you will continue your prominent coverage of this vitally important issue, and encourage your readers to get to know projects such as VICCC. We are making a difference.

I am writing to respond to the Feb. 6 op-ed piece by Robert Holland headlined "A sensible alternative to universal pre-K."

I serve on Gov. Tim Kaine's Start Strong Council, commissioned last year with the work of proposing a pre-kindergarten program that would work effectively and correspond to Virginia's traditionally held values. I was invited to serve because of my work with the Valley Interfaith Child Care Center, a program of high-quality, affordable care for the infants and toddlers of lower-income working families in the New River Valley.

The Start Strong Council is devising a model that subscribes to the values that Virginians hold dear. The model emphasizes freedom of choice and, above all, families. It stresses the primary importance of parents in raising their children. It emphasizes community partnerships among the public sector, private providers, the business community and faith-based organizations like VICCC. It emphasizes equality of access across the state.

Holland is arguing against the Virginia proposal by describing it as "universal preschool," implying that big government is on the march again, seeking to replace parents with a one-size-fits-all program, while attempting to put the private sector out of business. Several things are wrong with this.

What the Start Strong Council has proposed is universally available, voluntary preschool. No one is proposing mandatory attendance.

No one is suggesting a program that will put private or faith-based providers out of business. The pilot projects now under discussion in the General Assembly are an effort to find and build on local models of successful partnerships among public, private and faith-based programs. This will result not only in a more creative and cooperative approach to pre-K programs, but could end up saving money by creating such efficiencies as a single point of entry for parents who seek information about preschools in an area.

I'm delighted that, as Holland quoted, Virginia recently was ranked No. 1 in the nation in the "Chance to Succeed" study by the statisticians at Education Week. However, we would be wrong if we concluded that every child in Virginia is off to a good start in life. There are tremendous educational disparities, and probably no more deeply so than in the provision for the youngest. One of the cornerstone values of the Start Strong proposals is equality of access to pre-K across the state.

Start Strong does not propose to be "SOLs for 4-year-olds." There is no sentiment whatever for putting young children into a rigorous classroom environment and subjecting them to high-stakes testing. The best programs all recognize that young children learn best through play and exploration, in an environment that encourages them to learn to interact successfully with their age-mates and with adults.

Children need to learn that they are important and that there are limits. They need to be encouraged to see themselves as competent, worthwhile, lovable people. Children who learn to see themselves as accepted, capable and loved are much less likely to become school dropouts, delinquents, pregnant teens and young prisoners just 10 or 15 short years from now.

Holland recommends that, rather than adopting the Start Strong model, Virginia consider the Pennsylvania model of an Educational Improvement Tax Credit, which allows corporations to earn a 100 percent tax credit on the first $10,000 they contribute to a nonprofit Pre-Kindergarten Scholarship Organization, and a 90 percent credit for additional contributions up to $100,000. This program in Pennsylvania, he notes, "has generated $12.5 million for close to 11,000 scholarships that have been distributed to needy families through the PKSOs."

This sounds wonderful, and I am certainly for anything that brings in money from anywhere to support programs for young children, especially children from lower-income working families. But this amounts to about $1,000 per child per year, and is far from being enough to do the job. Care for a 4-year-old child in a good privately run, licensed setting costs at least $6,000 per year (if you can find it). For lower-income working parents, a $1,000 scholarship is not going to help.

It explains a lot about why so many working mothers have to drop their children off with whomever is available, often to the great detriment of the child's rapidly developing young brain and sense of personhood. Virginia's young children deserve better, and it's going to take all of us, working together, to make it happen. Start Strong recognizes this, and this good initiative deserves Virginia's support.

Many young children in the New River Valley started kindergarten this fall. But would their teachers say that the children came ready to learn and to succeed in school?

The answer depends largely on what those children experienced and how they lived in the all-important years from birth to age 5, when the learning process really began.

Studies show that more than 85 percent of a child's brain network is wired in the first five years of life. Environmental and health factors, combined with early learning experiences at home and in preschool programs, determine a child's lifelong ability to learn, to relate to others and to be productive in the workplace.

The goal of the Family Support Coalition of the New River Valley and of the Valley Interfaith Child Care Center, our area's innovative program of care for the young children of local lower-income working families, is to support young children's growth and development to ensure that they can start school healthy and prepared to make the most of their years in the school system.

Investing early is the key, so that teachers can spend quality time teaching and challenging young minds, rather than engaging in remedial activities.

Do we expect children to be reading books and using a calculator on the first day of kindergarten? Absolutely not. But there are many kindergarten skills that children should have in order for the school to serve as an effective launching pad for learning.

For example, can a child follow simple instructions and speak understandably in short sentences? Can the child make connections between pictures and actions? Can the child recognize patterns of objects, and get pleasure from rhymes and songs? Does the child know to use words, and not fists, when angry?

Sad to say, one in three children are not coming to kindergarten with these basic skills, and they are forced to play a game of catch-up for years. Far too many children never win that game.

At the Governor's Summit on Early Childhood Education held in July 2007, both Gov. Tim Kaine and Jeffrey Lacker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond, cited conclusive evidence in long-term studies showing that high-quality early-childhood programs yield high returns in terms of a more productive, more motivated and more knowledgeable work force.

They noted that every dollar invested in early childhood programs may yield $7 to $9 in future savings, stemming from the savings to taxpayers and a stronger employee pool for businesses. For children from disadvantaged backgrounds, the savings are much higher, as much as $18 for every dollar invested.

With so many of our children in child care, it is important that we work together to get it right. Virginia is aligning its early childhood systems, but these efforts need continued support at the highest legislative levels if they are to be effective.

The Family Support Coalition and the Valley Interfaith Child Care Center have been encouraged by the bipartisan, collaborative efforts taking place with the support of business leaders and Virginia citizens.

Here in the New River Valley, we were fortunate to receive a generous grant and technical assistance from the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, a public-private partnership established in 2005.

We will use this grant to bring together people and agencies from throughout our valley whose concerns are focused on the needs of the youngest children, particularly those from disadvantaged homes.

Our valley is large and its people are somewhat dispersed, requiring this special effort to bring together people and programs that may not have worked closely together until now, but that share a deeply felt desire to help all young children have a smart beginning -- to be ready for school and for life.

Let's focus our attention on Virginia's youngest children and be a model for the nation in this important initiative. It's the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do, and the future of our state depends on it.

Jeanne Roper, of Blacksburg, is the past president of the Valley Interfaith Child Care Center.

The Roper Garden, 1001 Auburn Drive, Blacksburg

David and Jeanne Roper have a flair for drama that is reflected in their garden. African and Asian art add intrigue at every turn. There are a lot of late-blooming perennials and shrubs because they said they like to end the gardening season with a "bang." Right now, the hydrangeas are blooming their hearts out.

Their mostly shady and pesticide-free garden has fire, rather than water, features. Citronella torches light up the stone paths at night. Mayan Indians from Guatemala that the Ropers met through their church performed a "fire ceremony" in their yard. A circular garden now grows where ashes once were.

Ideas I'd like to copy: Zebra grass growing in a container and a rope hammock caught my attention. The Ropers created a "friendship garden" that borders and encroaches on their neighbors' yard. They gain a few extra feet of garden space, courtesy of their neighbors, and the neighbors get a lovely landscape with no maintenance worries. Everybody wins!

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Articles List:

Letters and Commentaries:

Look at the parties' records on unemployment

January 29, 2004

Long-term ramifications of the war in Iraq

November 27, 2004

It's amazing how closely Bush's Iraq war script is following the Vietnam war script. The United States is again destroying cities to "save them." I had hoped that a lesson had been learned, but apparently not.

But there's a new deadly twist to the destruction in Iraq that wasn't available during the Vietnam War: depleted uranium (radioactive) hardened weapons.

If the Iraqis don't hate us enough for destroying their cities and killing so many citizens, they'll have a longer-lasting reason to hate us for transporting our nuclear wastes to Iraq (that no U.S. state wants stored within its borders) and dispersing it all over Iraq as hardening components for the shells and bombs used to bomb Iraqi cities.

The poisoning of U.S. troops in the Gulf War and the Bush Iraq war by the radioactive dust from the use of depleted uranium weapons (see Vanity Fair, December issue) is just a hint of the much greater problem facing Iraqi citizens for many years to come.

The United States had better hope that a new dictator takes over Iraq so that this bad news will not be widely known.

Roper: Fight global warming from home

January 6, 2006

The discussion about the reality of global warming has gone on for several years. The study of climate change is a rapidly developing science, so there are uncertainties. However, the overwhelming consensus of atmospheric scientists is that global warming is real and a growing threat to humans.

Since the current administration is doing almost nothing about ameliorating climate change due to global warming, what can we, as individual citizens and organizations of citizens, do to reduce global warming?

There are many things that we can do. Some of them are discussed in the recent book, "Climate Change Begins at Home," by Dave Reay. Many cost money up front to save money over the long haul; for example, fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs.

But instant expenditure is not the main issue, unless you have little of it. The real issue regarding climate change due to global warming is emission of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide from non-hybrid vehicles, oil heating and coal power plants, and methane.

One really big thing that you can do the next time you need to buy a vehicle is to buy a hybrid vehicle, which has about 90 percent less greenhouse-gas emissions than a comparable conventional vehicle. There should be more than 15 hybrid models for sale by 2007. I will teach a course about hybrid vehicles for the Virginia Tech YMCA Open University in March.

I recently attended a biofuels forum at Averett University sponsored by Public Policy Virginia. It was attended by farmers, scientists, politicians and other interested citizens. It was encouraging to see such a diverse group come together to discuss how we can work together to reduce global warming.

With regard to biofuels, the big push needs to be to make biodiesel available for diesel vehicles and ethanol for gasoline vehicles all over our state. Fuel blends that will run in current vehicles without engine alterations are B20 (20 percent biodiesel, 80 percent diesel) and E10 (10 percent ethanol, 90 percent gasoline).

All gasoline vehicles made since the mid 1970s are warranted to burn E10; look in your vehicle's manual for a list of what fuels it can burn. There are several vehicles now sold that can burn E85. You can also burn B20 in your house furnace. Details are

When farmers grow crops for production of biodiesel and ethanol using only biodiesel and ethanol, not diesel and gasoline, greenhouse emission will be greatly reduced. The problem is how to get from now to then.

Until we start buying those E10 and B20 fuel blends, the farmers will not have incentives to move in that direction.

I hope farmers' cooperatives in our state can offer B20 and E10 pumps at their locations. It would be helpful if all counties, towns and cities in the state would start using B20 and E10 in their vehicles.

I would like to start burning E10 in my hybrid car to even further reduce its emissions, but I do not know where to find an E10 pump in my area. Some states are aggressively moving toward providing E85/E10 fuel blends, for example, Minnesota and South Carolina.

You can find stations that provide E85/E10 for different states I plan to buy E10 in Greer, S.C., the next time I drive to Atlanta.

I hope that at least one civic-minded filling station owner in every county of Virginia will start offering E10 for citizens to buy and that drivers will buy that blended fuel when it becomes available.

We cannot wait for irresponsible politicians to do something about global warming. We need to take matters into our own hands.

To keep up to date on the latest news about climate change, see

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Dangerous to rely on new oil field finds

October 5, 2006

Peter A. Brown's Oct. 1 commentary, "Human ingenuity trumps status quo," is very misleading.

The commentary touts the recent discovery of an oil field 28,175 feet below the water surface of the Gulf of Mexico, estimated to contain 3 billion to 15 billion barrels of oil, as indication that oil depletion is not happening.

The oil discovery curve for the Earth shows that the discovery is a normal one for this point in the depletion of oil.

The discovery curve peaked in 1965 at an average of 42 billion barrels per year and has fallen since then to about 10 billion barrels per year.

The recent Gulf discovery fits on the declining tail of the discovery curve.

The minimum energy it takes to pump oil up that large distance to the water surface opposing gravity can be calculated to show that 20 percent of the energy content of the oil is required.

It will take much more energy than that to actually get the oil to the surface, to refine it and to transport it to filling stations. It is not clear that any net energy will finally emerge from that Gulf discovery.

Humans need to find other sources of energy than oil.

Roper: Peak oil means inevitably higher prices

June 11, 2007

Many are complaining about the high price of gasoline. Oil companies are being blamed as price

There are several reasons why gasoline prices are rising. The underlying reason is that world oil
extraction is peaking. The oil companies know this. That is why they have not been building more
refineries; they know that there will be less oil to refine in the years ahead. To keep track of the decline
in oil extraction in the months and years ahead, view
( regularly.

The decline in oil extraction is inevitable. Oil discoveries for the world peaked in 1966 at about 56 billion
barrels per year and now we are lucky if the discoveries are 5 billion to 10 billion barrels per year. We
cannot extract oil from the Earth if it has not been discovered.

Even worse is the oil discovered per capita for the world, because of the increase in world population. In
1966 at the discovery peak it was about 17 barrels per person per year, now it is about one barrel per
person per year. Since extraction follows discovery by about 40 years later, in 40 years there will be
about 95 percent less oil available for use by each person in the world. We must start planning now for
that huge decrease.

Since oil must be discovered and then extracted to make gasoline, get used to increasingly higher prices
for gasoline forever. The faster gasoline prices rise, the quicker we will be forced to be more efficient in
our use of energy and use other sources of energy for transportation. That is why European countries
have high gasoline taxes, and therefore higher gasoline prices than the United States, and why they are
ahead of the United States in developing alternate sources of energy.

It has been known for some time what those efficiencies and alternate sources of energy are. Railways
are much more efficient than cars and trucks for mass passenger and freight transport and can be run on
electricity generated by renewable sources.

For personal transportation, electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles that use biofuels that can do without
gasoline are much more efficient than gasoline or diesel vehicles. Because of their high efficiencies and
use of biofuels, their greenhouse gas emissions are much lower than gasoline and diesel vehicles.
That is another reason that we need to quit burning gasoline and diesel, which are made from oil. We
need a crash program to greatly quicken the pace of converting transportation to railways and
electric/hybrid/biofueled vehicles.

We need oil for the useful chemicals we get out of it. It is a shame that we are burning it, instead of
saving it for those needed chemicals. Our descendants will blame us for wasting it.

Getting liquid fuels from coal is not the answer. The efficiency is low and the greenhouse gases are high.
Hopefully we will learn how to sequester the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide when burning coal to
produce electricity, since we have enough coal to last about 200 years.

Using safer nuclear reactors for electricity production will probably increase, but the uranium will run
out in about 200 years. The energy efficiency of using uranium, when all aspects are considered, is not
very high.

So, for long-term energy use, greater than about 100 years or four generations, our only sources are
solar through photosynthesis, photoelectric and thermal energy (including wind and water movement).

Neighbors help each other in battle

June 31, 2007

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Roper: The physics behind global warming

January 21, 2008

There have been several recent articles and letters concerning global warming. Some of what has been written is incorrect.

The science of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere serving as a greenhouse gas was well established by Svante Arrhenius in 1896, so there is no valid argument that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not cause global warming. It has become well established that other gases, such as methane, in the atmosphere also are greenhouse gases.

Particulates in the atmosphere cause what is called global dimming. The earth-temperature record since 1850 clearly shows two periods (1880-1910 and 1940-1980) of global dimming due to particulate pollution by burning coal and oil until it was reduced because of health problems it was causing. For the first period global dimming was greater than global warming, causing the earth temperature to decrease for about three decades, and for the second period global warming and global dimming were about equal, such that the temperature remained almost constant for about three decades. After 1980 the rapid rise in temperature due to global warming became dominant, leading to the extreme melting of Arctic and Antarctic ice and rising ocean level that is happening today. (Some are proposing putting pollutants into the atmosphere in the future to counter global warming with global dimming!)

What will be the future of global warming? Some have predicted that global warming will continue to increase indefinitely. That is not correct because of the finite supplies of oil, natural gas and coal.

Oil extraction is at or very near peaking. Natural gas extraction will peak at about year 2010 and coal extraction will peak between 2050 and 2100. These three fossil fuels are the major sources of carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere.

Other sources of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, such as deforestation, are related to how fast population is growing. Fortunately, world population growth is slowing down and probably will stop growing within the next century. So, carbon dioxide insertion into the atmosphere due to population change will peak and then decline.

The result of fossil-fuels and population growth peaking is that the amount of carbon dioxide being put into the atmosphere will peak. I have done a calculation taking those four peaks into account and have concluded that the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere will go from its present value of about 385 parts per million (ppm) to a peak of about 450 parts per million at about year 2100 and then will decline to about the same value as now for several centuries. Climatologists estimate that atmospheric concentration over 400 ppm will cause many disasters for humans on the earth.

So, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will not increase indefinitely, which is good news. But there is no reason for celebration because already, at 385 ppm, disastrous things are happening. Also, on the way to 450 ppm it is difficult to predict with assurance what other disasters will occur, but we can be sure that some will. One possibility that may greatly increase global warming, that seems to be already under way, is the release of massive amounts of carbon that is frozen in the Arctic tundra. I have done a calculation that assumes that a large amount is released into the atmosphere (200 gigatonnes) over a 200-year period with a peak at year 2100. The result is that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would peak at about 535 ppm at about year 2135, a truly disastrous value! And then it falls to about 420 ppm for several centuries, still in the disaster zone.

All of the discussion above assumes that humans will continue to extract oil, natural gas and coal as fast as possible and burn about 75% of it as fuel and that population will continue to grow to about 8.5 billion.
Is it possible for human society to realize the dangers of burning fossil fuels so quickly and not saving more of it for making useful materials and for future generations? I and many others are working hard to make that happen.

Many are touting uranium as a carbon-free source of energy, albeit a finite source. It is not carbon free and a recent study has shown that uranium will never be able to come close to filling the energy gap after fossil-fuels extraction peaks and then declines. Will humans devote massive amounts of fossil fuels to developing nuclear reactors instead of developing renewable sources of energy?

See for more details.

Drilling is not the answer to energy problems

June 17, 2008

The Roanoke Times has been publishing letters and articles allocating political blame for high gasoline prices. Politicians of both parties have put off doing what was necessary to develop sustainable energy sources and usage for years, and we have elected them anyway.

We have failed to recognize that oil cannot be extracted if it has not been discovered. It was predicted decades ago that oil extraction would peak about now because discoveries of oil peaked about 1965. It was predicted that fast-rising oil prices would begin when oil extraction peaked at about half extraction -- not later, when it is almost all extracted.

Most oil fields are being pumped at nearly full capacity. Drilling will not solve the price problem and will make the pollution problem much worse. To mitigate high fuel prices, we must reduce our consumption of oil and develop sustainable sources of energy.

We must move to hybrid and electric vehicles and institute an electric interstate railways project as fast as possible, since electricity can be generated from many sources of energy. The price of gasoline will continue to rise, with fluctuations. Public policies and personal choices must be cognizant of that fact.

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Don't confuse weather and climate change

February 18, 2009

Global warming is a long-term average temperature increase over the entire Earth. There are occasional cold winters, even cold years and series of cold years, but that does not change the fact that the Earth is warming up on the average over the long term. Also, some geographical areas can be colder than average while others are not.

There are non-anthropogenic events, some of which are cyclical, that can cause a few years to be colder than average years, even though the long-term trend is warming. One such cyclical event is the sunspot cycle of about 11 years; when the number of sunspots is low, as they are now; the weather tends to be colder than for years when sunspot numbers are high.

One of the consequences of global warming is the prevalence of unusual storms. Recent snow storms in places that are usually warmer than other places certainly fit into that scenario.

Humans are prone to form their hypotheses about long-term climate by observing short-term weather. That is a very dangerous tendency that may keep us from cutting back on dumping carbon into the atmosphere until it is too late.

Virginia should have speed limits for trucks

August 9, 2009

I just returned from a driving trip out west. I was pleased to find in Illinois on I64 that the speed limit is 65 mph for cars and 55 mph for trucks over 4 tons. As a result I never got caught behind a truck or trapped between trucks all the way across Illinois. I felt very much safer driving there than I do here on I81.

Virginia should institute those speed limits on I81. I am sure that it would cut back on the number of accidents and it would save energy, also. Perhaps it would encourage businesses to use the railroad more for freight instead of trucks.

Polar ice melt does cause sea to rise

August 29 2010

Recent letters indicate misunderstanding of the relationship between polar ice melting and sea level rise.

Melting of floating ice does not raise sea level very much, only a little due to thermal expansion.

Melting of ice sheets and glaciers on land does raise sea level. If the Greenland ice sheet were to all melt, sea level would rise by about 23 feet. If the Antarctica ice sheet were to all melt, sea level would rise by about 200 feet. Glaciers contain about 1% of the water in ice sheets; if they were all to melt they would contribute about 3 feet to sea-level rise.

I have two web pages that might be of interest to those who enjoy the mathematics of this matter:

Renewable energy is the only safe option

June19 2011

The oil industry assured us that it was safe to drill for oil in the deep ocean. We should have known better because of the many oil spills that have occurred during the last few decades. Search the words ‘oil spills’ and ‘history’ on the Internet to learn about them.

Some are proposing that we increase energy production from nuclear reactors because the new reactor designs are safe. Again, we should know better because of the many radioactive spills that have occurred during the last few decades. Search the words ‘nuclear accidents’ and ‘history’ on the Internet.

If we become highly dependent on nuclear energy we will be in a very dangerous situation when the next big nuclear accident occurs that contaminates large areas of our country. That contamination will last much longer than any oil-spill contamination.

Also, nuclear energy is not renewable. After we mine the easy uranium ore, nuclear energy will be more costly than solar energy.

We have no choice but to relay on solar energy, direct and indirect (e.g. wind), in the future. We should quickly institute a large national project to expand our use of solar energy.

We have hit the peak in world oil production

July 27 2011

Remember the 1960s when we were told that Alaskan oil was going to be the energy savior for the United States. Well, we extracted it so fast that the extraction rate peaked in 1988 and is now almost three times smaller than the peak.

Similarly offshore oil for the U.S. peaked in 2002 and will decline such that very little will be extractable by the end of the century. Reasonable calculations for possible future extraction of crude oil from the ANWAR area of Alaska show it peaking around 2030 and then declining rapidly.

Now natural-gas companies are telling us that we have enough natural gas to last 100 years. However, with essentially no environmental regulations for extracting natural gas from shale, the extraction rate is so high that it will peak around 2020 and then decline rapidly. (See
Nuclear power has many insurmountable problems. (See And coal is the most dangerous source of energy.

So, all we have left without major problems is renewable energy, mainly solar and wind and a few other minor sources. Fortunately, the costs of solar and wind are declining rapidly and their installation is increasing rapidly, especially in Europe and Asia.

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Energy 'revolution' faces scientific hurdles

October 4, 2011

The article “Energy revolution at hand” in the 25 September issue needs some clarification. The proponents of the system described in the article call it a “Low Energy Nuclear Reaction”, not “Cold Fusion”. (Check out Energy Catalyzer on Wikipedia.) If indeed the reaction really works, which is not clear because of the claim of the necessity for secrecy (contrary to the way science is supposed to work), it appears from reading what has been written that the amount of energy available may not be huge or even helpful. A major problem with the reaction is that it involves nickel reacting with heated hydrogen. Hydrogen must be made by expending energy and heating it requires energy; nickel is near its depletion peak. So the energy would be non-renewable.

If some really huge energy source becomes available to humans, the usual human greed for energy will eventually cause another kind of global warming due to useful energy being converted into heat energy; that is, pure heat pollution not caused by changing the composition of the atmosphere as is the case for current global warming. I have a web page that deals with the physics of heat pollution: .

Forget CFLs, LED is a better bulb

March 7, 2012

A letter in your paper this morning castigated CFL light bulbs. Well, technology is moving very fast and CFLs are not the bulb of choice any more. Since a 1500-lumens LED bulb, equivalent to a 100-watts incandescent bulb, is about 5 times as energy efficient and has about 50 times the life span as an incandescent bulb, it could cost 250 times more than an incandescent bulb to make it have the same energy and longevity value.

The Philips LED bulb that won the U.S. Department of Energy L prize ( is an excellent light bulb and is available at Home Depot for a very good price, about 30 times more than a similar incandescent bulb. Compare that to the 250 times more energy and longevity value. See my web page about this excellent light bulb: .

Roper: A charge for electric cars: Crude-oil and natural-gas depletion and electric cars

June 13, 2012

Crude-oil extraction peaked in the United States in 1970. Discoveries of crude-oil fields worldwide peaked in 1965. Crude-oil extraction has been level for the last six years and is projected by the discoveries data to fall by a factor larger than five by the year 2100.

Extracting crude oil from oil sands is very destructive to the environment and is projected to peak before 2020 and supply only one-third of the world's oil consumption during the extraction slide. There is a large rise in natural-gas extraction in the United States due to the environmentally dangerous hydraulic fracturing extraction process.

Because of the lack of environmental controls on "fracking" the large rise has occurred so fast that the extraction will peak in about a decade and then fall very rapidly. So, it is folly to convert gasoline and diesel vehicles to natural gas unless the expectation is that it will be viable for many decades. It will be cheap fuel for about a decade, and then its cost will rapidly grow.

Using biofuels to replace crude oil for transportation would require a large fraction of the world's croplands, and much fuel is required to grow and process biofuels. It will have a role in future transportation, but it will not be enough.

Thus, the major long-term "fuel" to replace gasoline and diesel for transportation is electricity obtained from wind energy, solar energy and other renewable energy systems.

The large car companies know this and will have about 10 electric vehicles for sale in 2013 and many more in future years. (I have a slideshow about electric cars

Fortunately, wind energy and solar energy infrastructure is growing very fast all over the world. Unfortunately, the infrastructure for using electricity in transportation in the United States is not growing as fast as the renewable energy infrastructure. However, progress is being made. A big part of that progress is the development of electric cars for personal travel. I have been following this development for many years; I even owned a rudimentary one from 2007-10.

In 2011, Nissan introduced a highly advanced electric car to the United States. After much study of the Nissan LEAF and driving a demo car belonging to New River Nissan in Christiansburg for about 600miles, I decided in May to lease the Nissan LEAF for three years. (The main reason to lease instead of purchase is that, despite the excellent technology of the LEAF, I expect the technology to be much advanced by 2015.)

There are at least four LEAFs in the New River Valley. Many pundits who have not driven a high-technology electric car for more than a few miles have denigrated them. Having driven one for about 1,500 miles, my main feelings are exquisite freedom from dependence on fossil fuels and exhilaration from the high performance; e.g., instant quiet acceleration.

My Nissan LEAF will go about 100 miles at 50 mph, which is sufficient to travel to all destinations and back in the New River Valley. To widen the travel to other regions, level-2/240-volts and level-3/480-volts public charging stations need to be installed at strategic locations. The New River Valley has three level-2/240-volts public charging stations in Blacksburg, two in Christiansburg and three at the entrance to the Volvo plant in Dublin. The only ones I know of in Roanoke are at the Virginia Museum of Transportation, which I have used four times, and at First Team Nissan on Peters Creek Road.

I am urging the Roanoke Airport to install many level-1/120-volts standard outlets for charging electric cars while their drivers are on their flights. Roanoke needs to install level-2/240-volts charging stations in the Center in the Square garage, at the Civic Center, at the Jefferson Center, at Grandin Village and at the large shopping centers. Virginia is far behind most of its surrounding states in installing charging stations. For example, Tennessee is installing almost 12,000 level-2/240-volts charging stations and 260 level-3/480-volts charging stations; Interstate40 will have charging stations all along its length across Tennessee.

I have written our governor about this, but have not received a response from him.

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Roper: Electric cars useful in outages

July 20 2012

People who have been out of electric power for several days due to the recent extreme weather might
be interested in the fact that electric cars soon will be able to be used as backup power for houses
during power outages.

A large refrigerator requires about 500 watts of power and a powerful fan requires about 100 watts.
Other appliances require power at about 100 watts or less. A small window air conditioner uses about 2
kilowatts (kW=1000 watts) (about 6,800 BTU/hour) of power.

A medium-sized electric car, such as the Nissan LEAF that I drive, more than meets the power
requirements of essential appliances and some lighting in a modest house. (CFL and LED lights require
much less power than do standard incandescent lights for the same amount of light.)

Multiplying power in kW by the hours of use gives the energy used in kilowatt-hours (kWh). (Look at a
monthly electric bill to see how many kWh of energy your house used that month.) A refrigerator cycles
on and off during the day; if it is on 10 hours during a day and its power requirement is 500 watts, it uses
5 kWh of energy a day. If one uses 10 appliances and/or light bulbs that require 100 watts power each
and they are on 5 hours per day, their energy used is 5 kWh per day. So, one needs about 10 kWh
electric energy to keep a refrigerator and 10 appliances and/or light bulbs running for a day.

If a window air conditioner that requires 2 kW power (~6,800 BTU/hour) is run 5 hours a day, one needs
10 kWh of electric energy each day. Adding this to the energy needed for a refrigerator and 10
appliances, the energy used is 20 kWh.

All of the appliances and lighting to be used during grid-power outages need to be on a single circuit
wired for easy switching of incoming power from the grid to from the electric car.

The 2012 Nissan LEAF has about 21 kWh of usable energy when the battery is fully charged. (The battery
holds 24 kWh, but not all of it is usable.) If the LEAF had the capability of providing backup power and a
Quick-Charging station (level-3/240-volts charging station which can charge the LEAF to 80% of battery
capacity in 30 minutes) were nearby at a location that had grid power, the LEAF could provide backup
power for a house by charging the LEAF briefly every day at the nearby charging station. (Don’t open the
refrigerator door while the car is away being charged.)

A Nissan backup-power option for the LEAF (
nissan-wants-leaf-to-power-your-house/) is planned to be available in Japan very soon; I
expect that it will be available here in a year or so. Other car companies that have or are developing
electric cars will surely come out with backup-power systems for their electric cars.

Quick-Charging stations are rapidly being installed all over Tennessee and many other states. (Why not
in Virginia?)

As more extreme weather is generated by global warming and backup-power systems become available
for electric cars, demand for electric cars will climb.

In addition to providing backup power for houses, millions of electric cars eventually will provide storage
for renewable-energy power on the grid to level out the load (Vehicle-to-Grid = V2G). See . The cars’ batteries will be charged in early morning hours during
minimal grid load and discharged into the grid in mid-afternoon hours during peak load. The difference
in electricity rates for those time periods will reduce the cost of driving an electric car that participates
in the V2G program. (Already, both fuel and maintenance costs for electric cars are about one-fourth the
costs for gasoline cars.)

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Roper: Theory is more than just a hypothesis: Global Warming

26 August, 2012

The highest form of science is measuring data to the highest accuracy possible. The lowest form of
science is hypothesizing a model to explain the data. In between is “theory”. (“Laws” are subsets of
theories.) A theory is a hypothesis that has been shown to agree with the measured data to a high
degree of accuracy. No theory is perfect, in that it may only agree with most of the relevant data, but
not all relevant data. Often there are two competing theories over some period of time to explain a data
set; later data then can show that one theory is better than the other. Then the lesser one loses its
status as the theory for that particular set of data, but it still can be an adequate theory for a reduced
set of data. For example, Newton’s theory of motion works very well for human-scale motion, but has
been supplanted by Einstein’s theory of relativity for high speeds which has been supplanted by
relativistic quantum theory for very small objects such as atoms.

One often sees the phrase “It is just a theory.”, which is meant to denigrate a theory. Contrary to the
intention, that is high praise! If one wants to denigrate what is claimed to be a theory, one should state
“It is just a hypothesis.”.

The hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming began in 1896. (For a history of the discovery of global
warming see .) As with any scientific theory, one cannot give a
specific date when anthropogenic global warming became a theory; it was many years ago.

It is a well-established law of the theory of global warming that carbon dioxide is a major cause of global
warming. It is true that other gases contribute to anthropogenic global warming, but carbon dioxide is
the main cause. Some other gases cause more short-term global warming than does carbon dioxide, but
the longevity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere gives it the prize. For example, water vapor is a huge
cause of global warming, but rapid precipitation removes it from the atmosphere. And it gets there in
the first place because of the global warming caused by carbon dioxide. Methane is a powerful cause of
global warming, but its concentration is much smaller than carbon dioxide and it reacts to become
carbon dioxide and water vapor with a half-life of about a decade. (So, not putting methane into the
atmosphere would help reduce global warming, both because of it being there and because it becomes
short-lived water vapor and long-lived carbon dioxide.)

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is small, but it is very powerful. For example, the
Earth would be frozen if there were no carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. So, the current nearly 400
parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does an astonishing job of keeping us warm.

Given that the current amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere keeps the Earth from freezing, it is
easy to realize that increasing its concentration makes the Earth warmer; it is increasing at about two
parts per million per year mostly due to humans burning fossil fuels and cutting down trees; hence,
anthropogenic global warming.

The theory of global warming is quite complex. To determine how global warming affects humans
requires complicated models incorporating the physics, chemistry and biology of the Earth. There are
many such competing models seeking to become theories. Over the last decade the many models have
converged into wide agreement on many phenomena of interest to human civilization. For example,
much sea-level rise in the future is already certain even if no more carbon dioxide were put into the
atmosphere. Also, severe storms will become the norm and increase if the amount of carbon dioxide in
the atmosphere keeps rising. Higher temperatures will put more water into the atmosphere, causing
floods in areas prone to precipitation and droughts in areas not prone to precipitation. Rapid release of
carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere will occur if certain triggers happen in the arctic
region, such as melting the permafrost.

All of the competing models predict that civilization is headed into a dire global-warming emergency
mainly due to burning fossil fuels and deforesting the land. The best way to mitigate the coming
emergency is to quit burning fossil fuels. Since the amount of fossil-fuels burning is directly related to
the Earth’s population, birth control becomes a moral action that humans could take.

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Roper: Do the math on fossil fuels: Depletion of fossil fuels

October 14, 2012

People who have been out of electric power for several days due to the recent extreme weather might
be interested in the fact that electric cars soon will be able to be used as backup power for houses
during power outages.

A large refrigerator requires about 500 watts of power and a powerful fan requires about 100 watts.
Other appliances require power at about 100 watts or less. A small window air conditioner uses about 2
kilowatts (kW=1000 watts) (about 6,800 BTU/hour) of power.

A medium-sized electric car, such as the Nissan LEAF that I drive, more than meets the power
requirements of essential appliances and some lighting in a modest house. (CFL and LED lights require
much less power than do standard incandescent lights for the same amount of light.)

Multiplying power in kW by the hours of use gives the energy used in kilowatt-hours (kWh). (Look at a
monthly electric bill to see how many kWh of energy your house used that month.) A refrigerator cycles
on and off during the day; if it is on 10 hours during a day and its power requirement is 500 watts, it uses
5 kWh of energy a day. If one uses 10 appliances and/or light bulbs that require 100 watts power each
and they are on 5 hours per day, their energy used is 5 kWh per day. So, one needs about 10 kWh
electric energy to keep a refrigerator and 10 appliances and/or light bulbs running for a day.

If a window air conditioner that requires 2 kW power (~6,800 BTU/hour) is run 5 hours a day, one needs
10 kWh of electric energy each day. Adding this to the energy needed for a refrigerator and 10
appliances, the energy used is 20 kWh.

All of the appliances and lighting to be used during grid-power outages need to be on a single circuit
wired for easy switching of incoming power from the grid to from the electric car.

The 2012 Nissan LEAF has about 21 kWh of usable energy when the battery is fully charged. (The battery
holds 24 kWh, but not all of it is usable.) If the LEAF had the capability of providing backup power and a
Quick-Charging station (level-3/240-volts charging station which can charge the LEAF to 80% of battery
capacity in 30 minutes) were nearby at a location that had grid power, the LEAF could provide backup
power for a house by charging the LEAF briefly every day at the nearby charging station. (Don’t open the
refrigerator door while the car is away being charged.)

A Nissan backup-power option for the LEAF (
nissan-wants-leaf-to-power-your-house/) is planned to be available in Japan very soon; I
expect that it will be available here in a year or so. Other car companies that have or are developing
electric cars will surely come out with backup-power systems for their electric cars.

Quick-Charging stations are rapidly being installed all over Tennessee and many other states. (Why not
in Virginia?)

As more extreme weather is generated by global warming and backup-power systems become available
for electric cars, demand for electric cars will climb.

In addition to providing backup power for houses, millions of electric cars eventually will provide storage
for renewable-energy power on the grid to level out the load (Vehicle-to-Grid = V2G). See . The cars’ batteries will be charged in early morning hours during
minimal grid load and discharged into the grid in mid-afternoon hours during peak load. The difference
in electricity rates for those time periods will reduce the cost of driving an electric car that participates
in the V2G program. (Already, both fuel and maintenance costs for electric cars are about one-fourth the
costs for gasoline cars.)

One often reads and hears statements similar to “The United States has 250 years supply of coal.” and
“United States oil independence is no longer a joke.” and “Shale gas could supply 100 years of
consumption for the United States.”

I have done detailed depletion analyses of coal, crude-oil and natural-gas extraction for the United
States and the world, which clearly show that those optimistic statements are false. The results of the
analyses can be seen at .

To be accurate about extraction of a fossil fuel from the Earth in the future, one must use a
mathematical function that rises quickly, usually exponentially, then levels off to a peak and then falls,
usually exponentially, either slower or faster than it rose. This is called a depletion curve. Until one does
such a math analysis, one cannot make reasonable and valid statements about the future of extraction
of a fossil-fuel.

To obtain a depletion curve for a particular fossil fuel one needs two kinds of data: the yearly extraction
rates and an estimate of the reserves, the amount available for extraction in the future. The federal
Energy Information Agency (EIA) provides those data on its web site. A mathematical procedure is used
to fit the depletion curve to the yearly extraction data with the constraint that the area under the curve
must be equal to the amount already extracted plus the reserves. Nowadays EIA estimates of reserves
for fossil fuels are fairly accurate.

Coal is the most dangerous fossil fuel to burn for energy because that inserts health-harming pollutants
and global-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Fortunately, the depletion curve shows that
coal extraction in the United States is peaking about now at about 80% extracted and will fall off rapidly
to a negligible amount within the next 100 years. Our nation needs a major program to institute other
industries in coal-mining areas to provide work for its citizens. World coal extraction is rising so rapidly
that it will probably peak soon at about 26% extracted and then fall rapidly for a few decades and then
less rapidly than for the United States. Burning this much coal will be very dangerous for the future of
human civilization. It would be best to use coal for making things instead of burning it. Then that
material could be recycled several times long into the future.

My analysis shows that crude-oil is about 78% extracted in the United States; that is, it is about half way
down the declining side of the depletion curve. It also shows that crude-oil is about 43% extracted for
the world; it appears to be at the peak and will fall off slower than it rose. Extracting crude oil from tar
sands may add a sizeable amount to the declining curve unless humans decide it is too dangerous for
human survival, which it is.

Natural-gas extraction in the United States is rising rapidly due to fracturing shale formations. It appears
that natural-gas is about 71% extracted in the United States. The EIA reserves value for shale gas
indicates that shale-gas extraction will peak within the next decade because of the high extraction rate.
The depletion curve shows that natural-gas extraction in the United States will fall very fast to a
negligible amount by year 2050. It would be very foolish to convert vehicles to burn natural gas thinking
that it would be a long-term solution to scarce gasoline and diesel; that is one reason I am promoting
electric vehicles. It appears that natural-gas is about 33% extracted for the world and will peak in about
a decade and then fall off to a negligible amount by year 2100. There may be a sizeable decade-long
shale-gas peak similar to the case for the United States.

Any who disagree with these analyses need to present their depletion curves and give rational
explanations why the areas under the curves correspond to larger values for the reserves compared to
the reserves' values estimated by the Energy Information Agency.

Our descendants will reprimand us for burning valuable fossil fuels instead of using them to make useful
objects and then recycling the material many times over to make more useful objects; especially since
burning all available fossil fuels will cause disastrous global warming.

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Pick of the day: Renewables are the future: U.S. electricity production

December 7, 2012

I have studied Energy-Information-Agency data for years 1999-2011 for electricity-energy production from coal, natural-gas, nuclear and renewable sources (renewables: wind, solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, wood, geothermal and other biomass). See

Coal electricity production is declining faster than linearly, natural-gas electricity production is rising approximately linearly (but not for more than another decade) and nuclear electricity production is essentially level. However, renewables electricity production has been rising at an exponential rate, which is very good news because it does not pollute nearly as much as the other sources and does not contribute to global warming.

Although electricity production from renewables is small now, when I project optimistic linear rates of change for coal, natural-gas and nuclear electricity production and the exponential rate of change for renewables electricity production, the latter exceeds the former three by year 2020!

So, we need to keep the exponential growth of electricity production from renewables going. A major reason for that growth has been governmental subsidies. There are even larger governmental subsidies for fossil-fuels extraction and nuclear power plants.

The federal tax credit for wind energy expires on 1 January 2013. We need to keep it in place for at least another decade in order that our descendants have adequate electrical energy and that global warming is minimized.

Pick of the day: Pennies from heaven, indeed

February 12, 2013

A recent editorial “Restore metal value to currency” advocated a return to a metal standard (gold and silver) for U.S. currency, which was abandoned in 1971. There are many problems with a gold/silver standard, an important one being that at some point in the near future gold and silver extraction for the U.S. and the world will peak and then fall to negligible amounts as the energy required to mine gold/silver per ounce greatly increases. The gold/silver that is already mined, especially the amount used in manufacturing, will eventually be scattered as dust across the face of the Earth as mandated by the second law of thermodynamics. Such a declining availability of gold/silver is not a good basis for a currency.

A better basis for currency is energy consumed. Currently the main component of an energy-consumed standard would be energy generated from burning fossil and nuclear fuels, but eventually consumed-energy will be generated only from the Sun via radiation, wind and water flow and from geothermal sources. Since those eventual sources will be nearly constant for millions of years, their energy production will be steady providing a steady basis for currency. Until then the energy consumed by the U.S. and the world will increase, which will provide an increasing basis for currency.

A system would have be in place that assures that politicians do not exercise priority over scientists in determining how much energy is consumed.

For details about a currency system based on energy consumed see .

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Roper: We are, too, running low on fossil fuels

May 8, 2013

In the 4 May issue of The Roanoke Times an energy editorial claimed “Technology has found so much oil and natural gas that worries about running out are no more.” Some simple mathematics shows that that statement is patently and dangerously wrong. The mathematical analyses use only the well-established principle of conservation of energy/matter.

The article stated that there are crude-oil reserves of perhaps up to a-few-billion barrels in the United States, implying that means that there is nothing to worry about. The maximum yearly discoveries of crude oil for the world were nearly 60-billion barrels around 1960 (; the amount of expected discoveries for the declining discoveries curve at the present time is below 10-billion barrels per year. So, a few billion barrels still available in the United States is compatible with what is mathematically expected at this time in the discovery curve. There is much to worry about in terms of oil supply.

For many years I have done depletion analyses for extraction of fossil fuels for many countries and the world ( Humans have extracted crude oil so fast that even huge new discoveries would not change the date for the peaking of extraction by more than a few years. It appears that the world extraction rate for crude oil is peaking at about now. The price of crude oil has averaged about $90/barrel for many months and will continue to be high due to declining world extraction.

A mathematical analysis for crude-oil extraction in the United States can be studied at It is often stated that the United States will extract more crude oil than Saudi Arabia in the near future. My study, using an optimistic estimate of reserves, shows that that may occur for a short time between the years 2016 and 2033, but then the U.S. extraction will fall much more rapidly than extraction in Saudi Arabia.

It is often stated that the United States extraction of natural gas can provide demand for 100 years. That is not correct. A mathematical analysis, using a very optimistic estimate of reserves,, indicates that natural-gas extraction in the U.S. will peak before 2025 and then decline very rapidly. If power plants are being built or converted to use natural gas, that would not be a good thing for more than two decades. The price of natural gas in the U.S. has doubled in the last year, partly because of demand for it for electricity generation and partly because fracked natural-gas wells deplete very rapidly.

The article stated “the outlook for wind, batteries and biofuels is as dim as it’s been for a decade.” I disagree. A study,, shows that electricity production in the U.S. from renewable sources has been growing exponentially for the last decade while coal electric power has been declining, nuclear electric power has been level and natural-gas electric power has been growing linearly. The exponential growth of renewable sources can overtake the fossil-fuel sources by 2020.

Electric cars on roads have been growing about twice as fast as the growth of hybrid cars during their first years of introduction; millions of hybrid cars are on the roads now. I drive a Nissan LEAF, one of the best cars I have ever driven, and plan to never drive a strict gasoline car again. I just converted our 2006 Toyota Highlander AWD Hybrid to a plug-in and I have an electric-assisted bicycle which I use as often as possible. My plan is to eventually have an electric car and a biodiesel plug-in hybrid AWD car. My great-granddaughter will be driving a plug-in car when she is my age because there will be no other choice.

I stated above that the article is dangerously wrong. It is dangerous because it might implant the idea that we can continue to use fossil fuels for energy far into the future, thereby causing citizens to not support rapidly moving to renewable energy, which we must do for our civilization to survive. Even worse, the article is dangerous because it mentions nothing about the dire future humans face because of the carbon dioxide burning fossil fuels puts into the atmosphere. Our descendants will curse us for burning fossil fuels instead of using them to make useful objects and recycling them many times into the future.

The already dire climate events caused or exacerbated by global warming will eventually cause governments to mandate not burning fossil fuels. Already some advanced governments are beginning to do that.

U.S. needs to close a renewables gap

September 10, 2013

It is often stated that replacing global-warming fossil fuels energy by renewable energy will cause unemployment. Those statements are false.

Fossil-fuel jobs are short-term jobs, as within one or two decades those jobs will disappear as fossil-fuel extraction declines. This includes jobs extracting shale oil, shale gas and oil from sands. Sure, jobs for cleaning up the environmental mess from burning fossil fuels and from the devastation caused by extreme storms due to global warming will be around for hundreds of years. But, are those the jobs we want our descendants to have?

The jobs creating the infrastructure for renewable energy and for maintaining it are permanent jobs.
The United States is far behind many other countries in replacing fossil-fuel energy by renewable energy. For example, Germany collects 6000% more solar energy than does the U.S., although we have 3900% more solar radiation than does Germany. The German government subsidizes the solar-energy and wind-energy industry while we subsidize the oil and gas industry.

Our country needs a massive project larger than the Manhattan Project to quickly replace fossil-fuels energy by renewable energy. As a by-product, such an increase in jobs would help move us out of the continuing recession.

Pick of the day: On a downward slide

December 18, 2013

The U.S. is about 20th in installed solar power and about 15th in installed offshore wind power compared to other countries of the world.

Dumping of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is well known to cause severe climate change.

Many countries have installed or are installing high-speed rail; the U.S. has none yet. We do not even have adequate low-speed and medium-speed rail, which other developed countries have had for many decades.

Governments of other countries have been encouraging development of electric vehicles; the U.S. government lags far behind.

Depletion studies of crude oil and natural gas indicate that we better have many electric vehicles on the road within a decade or two.

The decaying state of infrastructure in the U.S. is well known and getting worse daily.

Congress is doing almost nothing to bring the U.S. to a better place for these critical issues.

It will take large funds to bring the U.S. to a better place for these issues. The wealthy elite of this country should be begging that they be taxed to fix this country, unless they plan for their families to spend future years in other countries.

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Roper: Cold? That disproves nothing about warming

February 3, 2014

It is interesting that, when winter comes in full force at a location, claims abound that severe winter weather disproves the well-established theory of global warming, aka climate change.

Not only is winter misunderstood, but local weather often is mistakenly equated to climate, and local climate often is equated to global climate.

The word "global" in global warming refers to the entire Earth, not a specific location. There may be certain locations that will have lower yearly average temperatures during global warming than before.

One of the effects of global warming is that the Arctic warms more than temperate and tropic zones; this is caused by melting sea ice increasing the dark water area to absorb more energy from the sun. This reduced temperature differential between the Arctic and the temperate zone can greatly affect weather in the temperate zone.

The polar vortex that usually stays in the Arctic is weakened, and the jet stream, which usually keeps the polar vortex in the Arctic, develops large meanderings because of the reduced temperature differential. The large jet stream meanderings move warm air masses into the Arctic and cold air masses into the temperate zone, which can persist for many days. (

Within a few decades or less, the North Atlantic Ocean current may be greatly slowed, diverted or stopped by global warming, causing colder temperatures in Western Europe and the Eastern U.S. That current has been reduced by about 30 percent since 1957.

The latest graph through 2013 ( shows that the global land-ocean temperature index has been rising, with fluctuations, since 1910.

The lows for a decade around 1910 were due to aerosol pollution in the atmosphere due to burning coal for industry, electricity and travel; aerosols reduce the amount of sun energy that strikes the Earth.

Then burning petroleum replaced coal for industry and travel, reducing the aerosol pollution, and global temperatures started a steep climb.

A low double-decadal period around 1960 was due to aerosol pollution caused by massive burning of petroleum and coal. The U.S. Clean Air Acts in the 1960s and 1970s caused a reduction in the aerosol pollution, and global temperatures resumed the rapid climb that had started in 1910.

Global warming deniers often claim that the leveling off of global temperatures over the last decade disproves global warming. Brief declines occurred several times since 1970. Such fluctuations are expected. The current leveling is longer than the previous ones since 1970. Much of it is due to the huge increase in burning fossil fuels in China and India without aerosol emissions control, smoke from large forest fires and dust from areas with lessened rainfall. The leveling of global temperature may continue for a few years until humans run out of cheap coal and petroleum to burn and/or reduce spewing aerosols into the atmosphere. Then the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere will be so high that global warming will start rising again, probably faster than any rise so far.

Burning fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide and aerosols. The former causes global warming over long times. The latter causes smog and respiratory diseases and lessens global warming over short times. We know how to control the aerosol emissions, not the carbon emissions.

Global warming deniers often say that the small amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not cause global warming. It has been well established since the late 1800s that the Earth would be covered with ice if there was no carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; the Earth would have been too cold for living beings to evolve. Putting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere causes global temperatures to rise unless some other effects counter the warming.

Studies are under way about how to counter global warming due to the dumping of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. One of the ways is to put aerosols into the upper atmosphere to prevent some of the sun's energy from reaching the Earth. A book that discusses the pros and cons of such climate modification is "Hack the Planet" by Eli Kintisch.

Weather events made more extreme by global warming appear not to be enough incentive for humans to change quickly their sources of energy from carbon-spewing fuels to renewable sources. Many think that global catastrophes will have to occur before such drastic changes will be made. A book that has a somewhat optimistic view of that happening is "The Great Disruption: How the Climate Crisis Will Change Everything (For the Better)" by Paul Gilding.

Letters: Shrewd energy policies don't include fracking

March 15, 2014

Statements such as "fracking for shale gas and oil will make the U.S. energy independent" and "fracking will provide shale gas for the U.S. for the next 100 years" and "the U.S. will soon produce more crude oil than Saudi Arabia" are prevalent.

Those statements are not correct.

According to my math, oil is being extracted by fracking so fast in the U.S. that, even for large estimates of reserves, extraction will peak within the next decade and then fall very rapidly. At no time will yearly extraction exceed extraction in Saudi Arabia.

My math shows that gas is being extracted by fracking so fast in the U.S. that, even for large estimates of reserves, extraction will peak within the next two decades and then fall very rapidly.

It is not wise to convert vehicles from gasoline/diesel to natural gas. It is wiser to move to electric cars and trains and to biodiesel trucks and planes as soon as possible, while we still have national petroleum fuels to make the transition. To power those vehicles, we need to move away from coal to wind and solar for generating electricity and to biodiesel made from algae instead of from food plants.

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Roper: Reduce coal-burning, and do it fast

26 June 2014

Many words have been written about the leveling of global land and ocean-surface temperature over the last decade. A graph is available that shows that such decadal leveling has occurred several times in the last 50 years as the decadal-average global temperature inexorably continued to rise.

Recent research has shown that there is a major Pacific-Ocean-currents decadal climate event called La Niña that cools the surface by storing heat deep in the ocean, thus providing a major explanation of the occasional decadal leveling of global surface temperature.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has had no decadal leveling and recently reached 400 parts per million, the highest it has been since about 50 million years ago. It has been known for more than 100 years that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet causes it to get warmer.

There has been no rational scientific debate about whether dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere causes global warming; it has only been a financial and political debate.

The financial debate hinges on discounting the future, a short-sighted view that neglects current and future human suffering greatly in favor of current money. The political debate largely puts the interests of the rich over the middle class and the poor. Jobs in the fossil-fuels industry are used as ploys to increase the fortunes of the rich.

A fee should be charged for dumping carbon into the atmosphere similar to a fee charged for dumping trash in a landfill. Neither of these qualify as a “tax”; they are fees. Using the generated funds to provide renewable-energy jobs for workers whose jobs are harmed and rebates to homeowners whose fuel bills are increased has been proposed as a way to make the transition to a carbon-free future fairer for them.

Droughts, floods and other extreme weather events are increased due to global warming; in general, dry areas will get dryer and wet areas will get wetter. People to the south of North America will continue to flee north as the current large declines in food production get worse, causing starvation and violence. Probably within 50 years, Canada will be trying to keep U.S. people from migrating into their country.

The largest contribution to dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is by burning coal. It is scary that projected world coal extraction will not peak until about 2030. We must reduce burning coal quickly.

Burning natural gas is often proposed as a replacement for burning coal to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. It is a very short-term solution. A graph of gas extraction data shows that fracking for natural gas in the U.S. will peak before 2025 and then fall very rapidly. We should be using this temporary fuel for developing the infrastructure for renewable energy.

Data show that exponential growth in the U.S. of generating electricity from renewable sources can overtake fossil-fuel sources by 2025. Increasing the exponential rate can make it happen sooner.

Fracking for tight crude oil in the U.S. will peak before 2020 and then fall very rapidly, and extracting crude oil for the world is nearing a peak. This imminent decline in available crude oil is a major reason that many drivers are leasing electric cars.

This author has driven one for 25,000 miles and plans never again to drive a fossil-fuel car for regional travel. Consumer Reports recommends leasing electric cars because of the rapidly changing technology and the slowly declining capacity of batteries; let the car companies pass used batteries on to power companies for renewable-energy storage.

Studies of the past four 110,000-years ice ages indicate that the Earth would be headed into the next one if humans had not caused global warming. After fossil fuels are depleted, there will be a faster fall into the next ice age. An intelligent global society would burn fossil fuels at a much slower rate to make that fall more comfortable.

The book “The Great Disruption” posits that humans will not adequately control global warming until worldwide disasters make it obviously necessary to act, and then it will be far too late. After much suffering and many deaths, a new steady-state economy will emerge and it will get better.

Offshore drilling is a red herring for more profits

August 8, 2014 updated (originally 8 August 2008)

Some deceiving politicians are saying that the U.S. needs only to drill for more oil to solve the energy crisis. It is well known that the U.S. peaked in oil extraction in 1970 and -- except for a brief, small increase due to Alaskan oil in 1985 -- has been declining such that it is now more than one-third less than in 1970.

Drilling for oil in the U.S. now is drilling for the dregs. There are many oil wells now being drilled in old fields using high technology to wring out the last of the oil.

There is a push by deceptive politicians to allow drilling in dangerous locations offshore. There are already many thousands of acres available for offshore drilling. If oil companies want to do more, all they have to do is build expensive rigs to do it.

They know that it will not pay big profits to increase offshore drilling; the profits are bigger by just letting the price of oil rise due to its worldwide scarcity. They want more drilling rights so they can continue their profits into the far distant future at very high prices.

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Roper: Global warming is driving migrants north

August 25, 2014

Media reports about the migration of children from Central America into the U.S. have blamed it on extreme violence in those countries due to drug gangs. The high use of illegal drugs in our country places most of the blame for the drug trade on some of us. However, there is a more insidious and basic blame that rests on all U.S. citizens that the main U.S. media almost never mention.

For many years, countries of Central America have been experiencing extreme droughts and floods and consequent large declines in food production. Such extreme weather events are enhanced, and probably caused, by global warming.

Honduras is ranked with Bangladesh as the two countries most susceptible to disasters caused by global warming; this year the Honduran rice crop was decimated by massive floods.

The top three countries in the world that suffered the most from extreme weather over the last 20 years are Honduras, Myanmar and Nicaragua. El Salvador and Guatemala crop yields have been reduced by floods from violent storms. Guatemala and Nicaragua have had prolonged droughts.

For the last few decades, the U.S. has been a major cause of global warming by burning fossil fuels, especially coal and oil. So, the root cause of the migration from south to north is global warming caused by burning fossil fuels in the U.S.

When areas experience continuing disasters of extreme weather events that cause food shortages, humans there do drastic things to survive. The high violence in Central American countries is not because of inherent defects in the humans that live there; it is because of natural human reactions to terrible living conditions, much of it due to global warming.

So, our profligate burning of fossil fuels is to blame for the migration from the south to the north.

Since global warming is set to get much worse in the decades ahead, the U.S. can expect increased migration from the south. Any policies to deal with migration into the U.S. from the south must take into account that the migration will steadily increase over the next decades. It will be a sizable fraction of the estimated 1 billion environmental refugees by year 2050.

I agree with the recent article by Gen, John F. Kelly (“What really drives the children north,” July 26 commentary): “going forward we have to start with something akin to a new approach to Central America that balances prosperity, governance and security, and funding that has to involve every agency of the U.S. government.”

The U.S. has long needed a massive Marshall Plan for Central America. It could be paid for by the massive funds used to subsidize fossil fuels, the burning of which caused their problems in the first place.

Why have U.S. media not mentioned the root cause of south-to-north migration being global warming caused by burning fossil fuels in the U.S.?

Probably within a few decades extreme weather events in the U.S. and consequent decay in living conditions here, especially in the South, will cause our citizens to migrate into northern states and into Canada.

Roper: Fracking will not make us free

November 24, 2014

One often reads that fracking for tight oil and shale natural gas will make the U.S. energy independent. That is false. I have done a study of energy independence for the U.S.; the results are available at

Tight-oil extraction in the U.S. will peak at about year 2020 and natural-gas extraction in the U.S. will peak at about year 2025, and both will then fall very rapidly. So, neither of them will supply energy for the U.S. for very long after that. U.S. importation of petroleum is high; about 3 billion barrels per year. We have to move very rapidly to other energy sources to achieve energy independence.

Uranium imports for producing nuclear energy have exceeded domestic extraction since about 1981. U.S. extraction of uranium oxide is less than 5 million pounds/year and its imports are about 55 million pounds/year. So, the U.S. is not energy independent with nuclear energy and never will be.

U.S. coal extraction has been falling rapidly for the last five years. It needs to continue that decline since burning coal for producing electricity is a main cause of global warming. The decline could be increased by charging a fee for dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere similar to the way we charge a dumping fee at trash dumps. (That would be a dumping fee, not a tax.)

The only way energy independence for the U.S. can occur is through renewable sources, mainly solar energy and wind energy.

U.S. electricity generated by renewable energy in the U.S. has been growing exponentially with an increasing exponential time constant since the early years of the 21st century. At that growth rate renewable energy will exceed the electrical energy gotten from each of natural gas, coal and nuclear before year 2025 and will exceed the sum of all three before year 2030. The growth time-constant could be increased by government action to speed up renewable energy growth; Germany has set the example for that and China is beginning to do that.

We need to quickly move from electricity produced from fossil-fuels and nuclear energy to renewable electric energy to achieve energy independence. Government incentives need to cause transportation to go electric quickly, as China is now doing. We need a massive project for crossing the country with electric trains for fast long-distance travel, instead of by airplanes. We need a massive project for installing many fast charging stations, similar to what Tesla is doing, for electric cars and more incentives for replacing fossil-fueled cars by electric cars.

We need a massive project to install solar photovoltaic panels on roof tops, similar to Solarize Blacksburg and Solarize Roanoke, and over parking lots across the U.S and a massive project to install large wind turbines in all areas where wind speeds are sufficient. An excellent place for wind turbines and solar farms is on sites where mountain tops have been removed to mine coal; such could provide much-needed income and low-cost energy for local residents.

Rapidly moving from burning fossil fuels for energy to renewable energy has many positive features:

• In addition to not emitting global-warming gases into the atmosphere, renewable-energy sources do not emit other air pollution that harms human health.

• Renewable-energy sources do not pollute soil, water tables and waterways.

• Renewable-energy sources are more visually attractive.

• Renewable-energy sources are not centralized, which makes them more secure and democracy enhancing. U.S. soldiers do not have to excite terrorism against the U.S. by occupying other countries to secure sources of energy.

• Renewable-energy sources enhance citizens’ morale because people are happier when they know that the way they live does not degrade the future for their descendants; instead it enhances it!

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Roper: U.S. falling behind on renewable energy

March 8, 2015

An Eaton EV Quick Charger on Market Street near the intersection with Salem Avenue in downtown Roanoke. The charging station is one of the fastest in the area, which has at least seven, and was provided to the city by Virginia Clean Cities.

A third-rate country can be recognized as one whose infrastructure, such as its transportation system, is not regularly maintained and has not been regularly updated.

Much has been written about crumbling U.S. infrastructure. Here I concentrate on replacing antiquated transportation infrastructure with the latest systems, for which the U.S. is falling far behind many other countries.

The U.S. needs to move quickly to electric transportation because the boom in extracting tight oil and shale gas in the U.S. will peak within a decade and become a bust as extraction rates fall very fast. Electrical energy must mostly be generated from the sun (and wind), since generating it from dirty coal will make the disasters of global warming worse.

Fortunately, solar and wind energy facilities are increasing at an exponential rate in the U.S., but we are lagging far behind China and European countries. China’s wind power is about one-third larger and increasing much faster than the U.S., and European Union’s wind power is about twice that of the U.S. China’s solar photovoltaic power is more than 20 times that of the U.S.

We need to increase quickly the exponential rate of renewable energy growth. All commercial buildings should be covered with solar panels. In Virginia, solar farms on the outskirts of towns should be allowed to compete with electric-power monopolies. You can do your share by joining a Solarize program in your area to install a photovoltaic system on your property.

The U.S. ranks 10th in car market-share of pure electric cars: Norway is first at 5.75 percent and we are tenth at 0.28 percent. China is moving up very fast because of government mandate. There are many excellent electric cars available for lease now (lease instead of buy).

The best car ever made, according to auto experts, is the Tesla. Japan’s Nissan LEAF is the highest leasing/selling pure electric car. About 95 percent of the time electric cars are charged in garages or driveways, usually overnight, a convenience that one may not appreciate until one experiences it.

There need to be many fast charging stations strategically located on major highways. Tesla has more than 154 very fast (120 kilowatts) Supercharging stations on major travel routes in North America and is planning many more in the near future. Other electric-car companies may make a deal with Tesla to allow their cars to use the Superchargers. Norway leads the world in density of charging stations. Locally, there is a fast-charging station in Roanoke, the only one within a few hundred miles.

We need to quit subsidizing fossil fuels for cars and switch to subsidies for electric cars and charging stations. After you drive an electric car a short while, you will never want to drive a dirty, noisy, hot, smelly and slow fossil-fuel car again. With regard to electric cars the U.S. is about midway among the leading nations with good prospects for the future with proper state and federal support.

The U.S. is very far behind China and European countries in train systems. We have local trains only in large cities, compared to many other countries that have train lines between almost every town. We need to fix that to reduce crowded highways and energy use. We are far behind for high-speed rail service between major cities.

The only fast train line under construction is between San Diego/Los Angeles and San Francisco/Sacramento, planned to have 800 miles of track by 2033. Three states with Republican governors rejected federal funds to build high-speed railroads. China has about 10,500 miles of high-speed rail and plans to construct 8,000 more miles. The line from Beijing to Hong Kong is 1,400 miles long for trains that travel more than 200 mph

I lived in Japan for 10 months in 1980 and greatly enjoyed riding the high-speed Bullet Train. I thought that surely we would have fast trains soon. Thirty-five years later, we still do not have fast rail. We need to install a nationwide high-speed rail system for passenger and freight, partly to replace airplanes and trucks.

Using electricity to power trucks and airplanes is more difficult. We need to move personal and train transportation to electricity quickly so that the remaining hydrocarbon fuels can fuel smaller truck and airplane fleets. Eventually, when all fossil fuels have been burned, fuel for trucks and airplanes will have to be made from plants, probably biodiesel from algae.

China, Japan and Europe are capturing the renewable-energy and high-speed train world markets, leaving the U.S. in the dust.

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Roper: Is Marcellus play too near its peak to justify three huge new pipelines?

April 20, 2015

Many articles about the three proposed natural-gas pipelines to cross the mountains of Virginia have been published in The Roanoke Times. Most have not mentioned that the Marcellus shale play is near a peak in extraction of gas and extraction will decline steadily thereafter.

It is important to have reliable estimates of the amount of Marcellus natural gas that will be available in the future to be transported through the three huge pipelines being proposed, to see if it is sufficient to justify the expense of and environmental damage done by constructing the pipelines.

The best analysis of Marcellus gas extraction and projected future extraction has been done by petroleum scientist J. David Hughes, published as a book ( and online at The Marcellus well-by-well and geological analysis starts on Page 259. Figure 3-99 on Page 280 shows the extraction peak at about 2018, the time projected for the completion of the Mountain Valley pipeline.

Hughes’ analysis shows that, after the peak at about 2018, the extraction will fall to about half the peak amount by 2045. So, the amount of fracked natural gas that will be available to transport through the pipelines after any of the three proposed pipelines are built, about 2018, will be starting on a steady decline.

The gas companies surely know this, but are desperate to sell their fracked gas at much higher prices overseas than the very low prices that have been the case in the U.S. The price has been varying around $2.75 per thousand cubic feet for several months (, much lower than the cost of extracting the gas, about $4.85 (

Many gas-extracting companies have over-borrowed to pay for the leases and wells and several have already filed for bankruptcy (

It may be the case that shale-gas extraction from the Marcellus play will be lower than Hughes’ curve if many of the gas companies extracting there go bankrupt.

Hughes’ analyses show that shale-gas and tight-oil extraction for the major U.S. plays have already peaked or are near peaking (, contrary to what many politicians have claimed.

Roper: Solar energy is the future

14 June 2015

My 23-year-old grandson recently asked me, “How can you be so optimistic about the future?” I gave him what probably was a lame answer.

Since then an excellent book has been published, “The Great Transition: Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy” (, that answers my grandson’s question in great detail. I sent him a copy and he is enthralled with it. This book lays out how renewable energies are on a fast exponential rise to replace fossil fuels as energy sources for the world. There is a link on the web page for two online slide shows about “The Great Transition.” I recommend that all readers read “The Great Transition” and show one of the slide shows at their social organizations and/or church to give their friends reasons to be optimistic about the future. A recent massive study of solar energy by an interdisciplinary group at MIT ( concurs with “The Great Transition.”

Recent letters and commentaries in The Roanoke Times have stated that renewable energy is not coming in fast enough to replace energy from burning fossil fuels. Those authors are not informed about the fast-moving increase in developing renewable energy infrastructure. They need to read The Great Transition to get up to date.

In the May 10 issue of The Roanoke Times, Thomas Pyle of the American Energy Alliance, an organization funded by the Koch brothers and other fossil fuels companies, criticized federal subsidies for wind energy (“When the taxman cometh, the wind industry rejoices”). There were so many falsehoods in that article that it would take a full newspaper page to describe them. In particular, it stated, “In 2013, wind received almost $6 billion in federal electricity-related subsidies (including the PTC), almost twice as much as coal, natural gas and nuclear received combined.”

Whereas, “The Great Transition” references an International Energy Agency publication and states that “The oil industry is much more dependent on government handouts than is generally realized. In 2013, governments worldwide subsidized the fossil fuel industry with over $600 billion, giving this aging industry over five times the $120 billion that went to renewables. About half of the fossil fuel subsidies went to boost oil consumption. In effect, taxpayers’ money is being used to subsidize climate change.” The U.S. leads the world in this regard.

“The Great Transition” book states that “Nuclear power, whose cost is also distorted by enormous subsidies, can be ruled out by economics alone. Indeed, nuclear’s flawed economics are largely responsible for the decline in global nuclear electricity generation that began nearly a decade ago.” The federal Price-Anderson Act ( provides free accident insurance to the nuclear industry, a huge subsidy not mentioned in Pyle’s article.

In criticizing the uneven availability of wind energy, Pyle does not recognize that all renewable energies together with a smart grid will provide very even energy availability for the U.S.

The fast increase in solar energy in the U.S. has caused electric power companies to try to stop it. Instead, they should be embracing it by building solar farms and financing solar panels on homes and parking lots. They need to modernize their business plans to include solar and wind energy.

In the May 11 issue of The Roanoke Times, Jane Van Ryan describes a visit she made to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as an employee of a fossil fuel organization (“Why we should drill in the Arctic”). The article stated “the energy potential is enormous — up to 16 billion barrels of oil, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.” That number is not “enormous” compared to U.S. oil consumption and is much overstated; the recoverable crude oil would be less than 10 billion barrels. The U.S. consumes about 7 billion barrels per year; so, the ANWR oil would provide much less than 2 years of consumption. Is messing up ANWR worth that little amount of oil when renewable energy can come on faster than getting the oil out of ANWR can?

So, not only should my grandson be cheered up, but we all should be. We are well on our way to replacing burning fossil fuels for energy by renewable energy, as we desperately need to do to reduce the current and worse future disasters due to global warming.

Roper: A shopper's guide to electric cars

30 August 2015

Most car companies state that electric cars are the future: Tesla, Audi, Volkswagen, Nissan/Infiniti, Honda/Acura, Chevrolet, Ford. They realize that unconventional fossil liquid/gas fuels (shale gas, tight oil, oil sands, offshore oil and gas, coal-bed gas, etc.) are the last gasps of the fossil fuel industry, whose extraction will peak before 2020 and then rapidly decline. So, electric cars must replace the fossil-fueled fleet soon. Also, electric power must quickly be generated by renewable energy, chiefly solar and wind, not coal or natural gas, because of global warming.

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) get all their fuel from the grid and have one or more electric motors for power; e.g., Tesla Model-S and Nissan LEAF. Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) get a large fraction of their fuel from the grid; a small highly-efficient liquid-fuel engine works with one or more electric motors for power; e.g., Chevrolet Volt and Ford C-Max Energi.

My first BEV was a small pickup in 2007. I had my 2005 Prius converted into a PHEV in 2009. In 2012 I was elated to be able to lease an excellent Nissan LEAF BEV for three years, the most-fun car I have had. Then in 2015 I leased another Nissan LEAF for two years. In 2017 I expect to lease a BEV that will have a range of over 200 miles for about the same cost as my present LEAF.

Consumer Reports recommends leasing new BEVs, not buying them, because traction batteries lose capacity with usage and BEV technology is changing rapidly.

The quick large acceleration of a BEV is an exhilarating experience. The high-performance 691-hp Tesla Model-S P85D+ does 0-60 mph in an incredible 2.8 seconds at initial 1.1-g acceleration! BEV quietness, cleanness and coolness are wonderful to experience daily! Driving emitting no carbon is a great feeling!

I charge the LEAF in our garage at 6.6-kW about 99% of the time, mostly during nighttime when power plants are not busy; I charge it elsewhere mostly in Roanoke using the downtown fast charging station up to 50-kW for about 20 minutes while dining.

About 25% of our electrical usage is provided by 5.4-kW solar panels on our roof. My LEAF uses about 25% of the collected solar energy. The current fuel cost for a LEAF is about $0.03 per mile! BEV standard maintenance costs are about 75% less than for an equivalent gasoline car.

Leased 2011-2012 Nissan LEAFs returned to Nissan are selling for $10,000-$15,000. Buying a used LEAF is an inexpensive way to experience the elation of driving a BEV. These used LEAFs may have lost up to 15% of their battery capacity. When the battery capacity gets down to some undesirable value, a new better battery can be installed for about $6,000. I have a web page that contains advice for prospective buyers of a used Nissan LEAF:

The currently available BEVs that are not compliance cars ( are: Nissan LEAF, BMW i3 and Tesla S70D/S85D. The first two are great for regional travel. The Teslas are able to travel all over the U.S. because of their large range (240-270 miles) and about 225 Tesla Supercharger locations nation-wide ( with an average of six stations, increasing at about 50 locations/month, that charge at about 300 miles/hour (120-kW) providing free fuel for Teslas; the cost of Tesla road fuel is $0/mile! The Tesla Model-X first SUV BEV will become available later this year. Tesla and Nissan are planning autonomous BEVs within a few years.

Many other fast charging stations (up to 50-kW) are being installed across the U.S.; one in Blacksburg.

In 2017-18 there will be several 200-miles BEVs available for about the same price as the current Nissan LEAF: a new Nissan LEAF, Chevrolet Bolt, Tesla Model-3, Ford, and possibly other brands.

Our second car may eventually be a SUV PHEV, preferably with a biodiesel engine. Some SUV PHEVs that soon will be available in the U.S. are Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Volvo XC90 PHEV, Audi Q7 PHEV, Mercedes GLE550 e PHEV, Volkswagen CrossBlue PHEV and Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid PHEV.

If you want to be part of the future check out BEVs or PHEVs. For those who want detailed information about BEVs see

Roper: Nine ways to reduce gun violence

2 December 2015

Commentaries abound about gun control using emotional and legal approaches. One approach to the topic I have not read is a rational approach. This is an attempt at such an approach.

Of course, any approach has to account for the existence of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

To change an amendment is an arduous task, so I assume that the Second Amendment will remain in force as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, and gun-control laws must abide by it. The current Supreme Court has interpreted that the final phrase of the amendment is independent of the first phrase; a future Supreme Court may change that if carnage due to guns in the U.S. continues to grow.

A rational approach to gun control in designing gun laws might reduce the high death rate due to guns in the U.S. I am creating a web page containing my attempt at a rational approach to gun control:

Here I include some of the items in that document.

Data fluctuate with time, but the death rate due to guns in the U.S. is at least three times higher than for any other developed nation; it is about 17 times more than for the United Kingdom and over 7 times more than for Australia, a nation that developed with a “wild west” history similar to ours. It is about 177 times more than for Japan!

There is a very high correlation between percent gun ownership and gun deaths by U.S. states: about +0.76 and high anti-correlation between states’ gun deaths and a rating of states’ gun laws ( is about -0.53.

Dangerous scenario: You carry a gun so you can stop a person who is shooting at others. You are walking along and you hear gun shots coming from around the corner of a building. You run around the corner and see two people shooting at each other. At which one should you shoot? Would it depend on the color of the skin or the mode of dress or the sex of the shooters?

Logical statements:

• A machine gun is not needed to protect a family.

• The more guns people have the more people will be killed by guns.

• The major way to reduce the availability of guns to mentally-ill or criminal people is to have federal universal background checks for ALL gun purchases and transfers.

• It is more dangerous to carry a gun in most social situations than it is to depend on police.

• In most neighborhoods it is more dangerous to have a gun unsecured in your house than it is to depend on police.

Suggested federal gun laws:

1. All future gun purchases can only occur after an extensive background check for the buyer. The purchased gun will be registered in the name of the purchaser with the gun’s serial number recorded.

2. There is a federally mandated waiting period after a background check has been made before a purchase can be completed, unless a court order specifies otherwise.

3. A gun can legally be transferred to another person only after the transferee has undergone the same background check of a gun purchaser.

4. Certain rifles will be designated as hunting guns when registered and special conditions are placed on the use of hunting guns.

5. No gun will be sold that can handle clips of more than five bullets.

6. Expanding bullets can be sold only to buyers with special federal permits.

7. Since the Second Amendment states that gun ownership is for the purpose of a well-regulated Militia and the well-regulated Militia of the U.S. is the National Guard, all gun owners are subject to be called upon by the National Guard for service during national emergencies.

8. Permits to carry a gun on a person or in a vehicle will be granted only if federally stated rational reasons for doing so are met.

9. All guns in houses with children in them are required to be locked in cabinets or have automatic locks (smart guns).

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Roper: Don't publish climate-deniers

6 April 2016

(The headline is wrong. I did not say to not publish climate-deniers; I said to put a comment at the bottom that the Theory of Global Warming is well established. For those who have not studied the theory, see from the American Institute of Physics.)

Possibly a century or so ago your paper published letters/commentaries stating or implying that the theory that the earth is round is false. Probably at some point your editors decided that they should not publish items that were contrary to the established science of a round earth.

Possibly a century or so ago your paper published letters/commentaries stating or implying that the theory that the earth revolves around the sun was false. Probably at some point your editors decided that they should not publish items that were contrary to the established science of a heliocentric solar system.

I used to read items in your paper stating that the well-established theory of evolution is false. Apparently your editors have decided to not publish items that are contrary to the established theory of evolution that is so important in biological science.

So, I have been surprised that you occasionally publish items that state the well-established theory of global warming is false. If you continue to publish such items, I urge you to put a comment at the bottom such as: “The theory of global warming is well established.”

Similarly, when you publish items extolling fossil fuels, I recommend that you put a comment at the bottom such as: “Extracting, reforming, transporting, and burning coal, crude oil, and natural gas put air pollution and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, causing health problems and global warming.”

Roper: The science behind climate change

29 May 2016

People have difficulty understanding the strong science underlying global warming. So, a concise outline of the science is needed.

The main cause of global warming is the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. The Earth would be covered with ice if there were not carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reflecting infrared radiation back to the Earth instead of letting it radiate on out into space. A small change in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has a large effect on the temperature of the Earth’s surface. (The atmosphere of planet Venus is mostly carbon dioxide, thus it has an extremely high temperature.)

In March 2016, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was over 403 parts-per-million (ppm) and is increasing at about 3 ppm per year. This is about 50 percent more than it was before the industrial revolution. The last time the concentration was this high was several million years ago.

Most of the extra heat energy due to global warming is deposited in the oceans to be released much later into the atmosphere. Thus, the full climatic effects of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide take hundreds of years to happen. So, the recent high temperatures, extreme droughts and extreme storms are just a small hint on how bad those events will be for our descendants; the costs will be horrendously high. This heating of the oceans will cause sea-level rise and the melting of polar ice will cause even more rise, inundating many coastal cities. The ice is melting faster than the science calculates it should.

The science shows that the Earth is headed for about 4-degrees Celsius (7.2-degrees Fahrenheit). However, the science has been consistently under calculating the climatic effects of global warming. And it is well known that faster global warming has been triggered in the past on specific occasions. If some of those triggers occur, the temperature may go as high at 6-degrees Celsius (10.8-degrees Fahrenheit).

The only way to stop global warming is to quit burning fossil fuels and get our energy from renewable sources.

Roper: Gas is dying; back renewables

In "Marching on Richmond," your July 19 editorial, you asked two questions for environmentalist to answer:

1. How do the environmental groups opposed to the pipelines propose to create jobs if we don’t have natural gas?

2. Just how long is this natural gas boom going to last?

Here are my answers:

1. Virginia needs to remove the many restrictions to solar-PV panels being installed on roofs and on creating community solar farms; solar energy creates many jobs. Solar co-ops in Virginia, started in Blacksburg, quickly spread to many other communities, showing the great interest in Virginia for solar energy. Offshore Virginia is a prime area for large wind farms to be constructed much more than in the mountains; wind energy creates many jobs. Virginia is far behind many other states in solar and wind energy.

2. Probably the best analysis of fracking for shale gas and tight oil in the U.S. has been done by geoscientist J. David Hughes. Natural-gas extraction in the Marcellus play will peak at about 15-billion cubic feet per day in year 2018 and then decline to about 9-billion cubic feet per day in year 2040. The peak at 2018 is about the projected completion date for the large pipelines in Virginia. I have analyzed natural-gas extraction in the U.S. using data from Drilling Deeper and the Energy Information Agency and conclude that it will peak at about 32-trillion cubic feet per year in year 2017 and decline to about 20-trillion cubic feet per year in 2040.

Roper: How deportations may work

Likely features of Trump Deportation Plan:

All illegal immigrants will be deported to their country of birth.

Descendants of living illegal immigrants will deported with the illegal ancestor.

First deportees will be illegal immigrants with crime records, along with all persons related to them.

Youth gangs will be examined to see if any of their members are illegal immigrants.

Spouses with American citizenship will be deported with their spouses who are illegal immigrants, unless they file for divorce.

Likely implications of Trump Deportation Plan:

Families whose living ancestor is an illegal immigrant will be designated as such in local records and will be scheduled for deportation.

U.S. citizens will be encouraged to report individuals who they think might be illegal immigrants.

Aerial drones will be used to monitor the movement of family members designated to be deported.

Family camps will be set up as needed throughout the U.S. to house families of illegal immigrants until they can be deported.

Police and military personnel will be used to take families of illegal immigrants from their homes to the family camps, using force if necessary.

Buses, trains and airplanes will be used to take families of illegal immigrants to the country of birth of the illegal ancestor.

Companies that employ illegal immigrants will be given permits for a few months to allow the immigrants’ families to stay until they can be replaced by U.S. citizens as employees. Then those families will be deported

Letters: Yes, the planet is getting hotter

In the August 4 commentary “Climate catastrophe? Why are they making it hard (to believe)?” it was stated “after a 18-year flat line in temperatures, yes, we had a small spike, largely due to El-Nino and other ocean oscillations being in a warm cycle” That is not correct, as were several other statements in that commentary.

At one can view the global surface temperature anomaly from 1880 to 2016. Note that the large rise since 1970, after the U.K. and U.S. Clean Air Acts stopped air pollution from counteracting global warming, is not a “small spike.” In fact 2005, 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2016 are the hottest years ever recorded. Although 2017 may not be a temperature record setter due to a La Niña, it will be much hotter than most. It is forecasted to have about the same temperature as 2015.

Note the word global in global warming, not “Texas warming” or any other specific place. Cherry picking any specific place or event does not disprove global warming.

I will be giving a comprehensive talk on global warming at a Sierra Club meeting in the Unitarian Church on Grandin Avenue at 7 p.m. on 11 August. The slides for the talk can be viewed at

Roper: Yes, electric cars are practical

In 2007 I decided it was time to begin driving an electric car because of global warming due to burning fossil fuels and oil-extraction depletion.

I bought a Chinese ZAP-Xero-PK 3-wheel small pickup truck with lead-acid batteries. It was poorly made and only went about 30 miles on a charge. It was featured in an article in your newspaper. I learned much about electric cars, but finally gave it away after much frustration trying to convert it to lithium-ion batteries.

In 2009, I had our 2005 Prius converted to a plug-in and drove it for several years. In 2013, I tried to convert our 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid to a plug-in hybrid and failed.

I was elated when the Nissan LEAF all-electric car (BEV for Battery-Electric Vehicle) became available in the U.S. in 2011. I leased one for three years in 2012 and was very happy with its quietness, high acceleration, comfort and low operating cost. Its EPA range rating was 73 miles, which was sufficient for traveling around the NRV, but required a partial charge in Roanoke when I drove it there. I leased a 2015 LEAF for two years, which I could drive to Roanoke and back without charging there if I took back roads and did not drive much in Roanoke. I could have leased a 2017 LEAF with an EPA range of 107 miles to easily make Roanoke trips without charging there.

I test drove a Tesla Model S after it became available in 2012 and liked it very much, except for its high price. The Tesla Model X SUV became available in 2015 at an even higher price. When it became possible I put my name on the list for the much-lower-cost Tesla Model 3 in 2016; I do not expect to get one for about two years, partly because I want the AWD model. The expected EPA range for the Model 3 is >215-miles.

My elation was greater when I learned about the Chevrolet Bolt EV (CBEV), a long-range moderately-priced BEV. Do not confuse it with the Chevrolet Volt PHEV (Plug-in-Hybrid-Electric Vehicle), which has an EPA electric range of 53-miles. The CBEV has an EPA range of 238-miles! It became available on the west coast in December 2016. Ordering one became possible in Virginia in December 2016 for deliveries in 2017. I ordered one from a local dealer, but gave up on getting it after three months of waiting, since I had learned that northern and eastern Virginia dealers were delivering them.

I drove my beautiful and fast CBEV in Cajun-Red-Tintcoat home from Northern Virginia on 11 April 2017. The distance home was 283 miles, so I needed to charge its battery for about 45-minutes at a fast-charging station on the way home. There are four such stations on the route, so I stopped at all of them to learn about them. Virginia Clean Cities, through a grant, has installed fast-charging stations at strategic locations around Virginia so that BEVs, especially >200-miles cars, can travel all around the state. Many other states are doing the same.

When I become eligible to get the Tesla Model 3 I may sell my CBEV.

Some impressive parameters of the CBEV are 119 MPG-electric efficiency, 200-hp electric motor, 60-kWh battery under the body, 93-mph top speed, 0-30 mph in 2.9 seconds and 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds. Range: 238-miles at 55-mph, 190-miles at 75-mph and 160-miles at 93-mph. The low heavy battery and fast acceleration make the CBEV handle excellently. The main regular maintenance is rotating tires every 7500 miles.

About 95 percent of charging my CBEV occurs overnight in our garage when the battery gets down to about half charge, about once a week. Thus, a >200-miles BEV is feasible for apartment dwellers. The approximate 5 percent charging time is on long trips. To get the quickest travel time it is recommended to drive a >200-miles BEV at the speed limit and charge for 30 minutes every 75-125 miles.

Within a few years it appears likely that moderately-priced BEVs will exceed 300-miles range and that fast-charging stations will be about four times faster than current ones and will be available as densely as gasoline stations.

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Letter: Anti-solar commentary has facts wrong

There were many major factual errors in the commentary by Ken Cuccinelli and George Mears in the 21 February issue of your paper ("Solar requirement will drive up electricty costs.") Two of them were: “temperature hiatus since 1998” and “predicted a significant acceleration of global warming due to manmade effects of 0.3 degrees Celcius per decade. That has not happened.”

Both of those statements are easily seen as not correct by studying the global land-ocean surface temperature graph at, which was created by NASA. A mere glance at that graph shows that there has been no hiatus since 1998. The red 5-year smoothed temperature curve in that graph is what should be studied. That graph shows that the land-ocean surface temperature has risen almost 0.4 degrees Celsius since 1998. However, 1998 is a cherry-picked year of exceptionally high temperature because of an El Niño then. If instead 1999, a La Niña year, is picked the temperature rise is almost 0.6 degrees Celsius, which is about 0.3 degrees Celsius per decade.

From 2010 to 2017 that curve shows a temperature rise of about 0.33 degrees Celsius in less than a decade. It appears that global warming is accelerating.

Since the prediction of 0.3 degrees Celsius temperature rise per decade has worked so well and since the rise during the last decade has been more than that and since carbon-dioxide and methane emissions are continuing to rise unabated, we probably should expect more than 0.3 degrees per decade temperature rise in the future. Some climate models are predicting a global temperature rise of 4 to 5 degrees Celsius by 2100.

More details about global warming can be seen at

Roper: Here's the infrastructure we need

Some of Japan’s so-called “bullet trains” lined up at the station.

The American Society of Civil Engineers rated infrastructure in the United States as a D+ in 2017, the same as its rating was in 2013.

The biggest surprise to this author is the B rating for railways, as the U.S. is far behind several other developed countries and China in having high-speed long-distance trains between large cities. Also, low-speed and medium-speed railways need to exist between medium-sized cities. The U.S. needs an extensive electric Interstate Railway System, perhaps alongside the Interstate Highway System, using renewable energy, solar and wind, for propulsion.

The U.S. should set a goal of increasing the ASCE infrastructure grade to at least a B by 2025. Because of the large inequalities in income and wealth in the U.S. the only way this can be done is to increase taxes on high incomes, including capital gains.

Wealthy citizens should want high-quality infrastructure where they and their descendants live. Instead of decreasing taxes on the wealthy, their taxes should be raised to sufficiently improve the infrastructure in the U.S. Three important examples are:

1. Subsidize local solar PV, both building scale and community scale, with battery backup and microgrids, especially in low-income areas, to minimize the need for long-distance power lines and for resilience.

2. Plan and build an interstate high-speed train system similar to the Interstate Highway System, perhaps mostly beside the IHS. If the U.S. is going to compete with other countries of the world it needs to have comparable inexpensive fast transportation across its land. Here is a comparison of the length in miles of high-speed rail per million people and per 1,000-square-miles of area for five major countries: Spain=43.8/10.33 France=25.3/6.66 Japan=15.0/13.02 China=10.1/3.78 U.S.=1.4/0.12. The U.S. is far behind the other four major nations and needs immediate remediation.

3. Plan and build a national charging system for electric vehicles(EVs) that will charge 200-kWh batteries in about 30 minutes. (Most of the time EVs are charged at a home base, so the number of these very-fast charging stations does not need to be as numerous as gasoline stations are currently.) This would require charging power of 350-kW, which is being installed in a few places now. A 200-kWh battery would give a range of 650 miles for a vehicle that has a 3.25 miles/kWh efficiency, which is lower than for most current EVs. This plan might be best to expand the Tesla Supercharger system that is already quite large in the U.S. and is growing very fast. (The current three fast-charging-stations protocols need to be reduced to one; the Tesla Supercharger protocol appears to be a good choice.) The completion of such a plan would be sufficient incentive for EVs to replace gasoline/diesel vehicles quickly, which needs to be done quickly to reduce global warming. (Most U.S. and other car companies are starting on a large increase in the number of EV models to replace the gasoline/diesel vehicles they now sell and many countries are planning to restrict sales of cars to be only EVs from 2025 on.)

All three of the above proposed national infrastructure projects for the U.S. will provide a massive improvement in the U.S. economy, including many jobs at many human skill levels. These jobs are certainties, not hypothetical jobs claimed for tax reductions for the wealthy.

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Roper: The electric vehicles revolution

Some of the first automobiles were propelled by lead-acid batteries and electric motors. However, with the development of the ability to extract crude oil from the Earth that could be refined into gasoline, gasoline cars were more practical for about a century. That century is over!
With the finiteness of crude oil, the facts that burning gasoline pollutes the air and causes global warming, and the development of high-energy inexpensive lithium-ion batteries, electric vehicles have become superior to and more practical than gasoline vehicles. Here are some reasons why electric vehicles are superior and more practical than gasoline vehicles:

  • They are about three times more efficient than gasoline vehicles.
  • Their maintenance cost is about three times less than gasoline vehicles.
  • They emit no carbon dioxide, a main cause of global warming.
  • They do not create noise pollution.
  • They are more powerful at low speed than gasoline vehicles.
  • They are easier to be made autonomous than gasoline vehicles.
  • They are largely charged at home and workplaces.
  • Building fast-charging stations for long-distance travel cost much less than building gasoline stations.
  • Fast-charging stations are being built at an exponential rate.

Because of these reasons electric cars on roads are growing faster per year after introduction than did gasoline and hybrid-gasoline-electric cars.
Tesla ( in California is by far the leader in battery-electric cars (BEVs) that can travel long distances (currently full-battery range between 200-350 miles) for the following reasons:

  • Developed better high-energy lithium-ion battery systems.
  • Sells their cars in their stores rather than through outside dealers.
  • Over-air software updates.
  • Mobile-service vans, which eventually will be for 80% of service needs.
  • Nationwide super-fast charging locations (“Superchargers”), with 6-40 charging stations, that are conveniently located on all major highways and they are rapidly expanding at about one supercharger a day.  Lower I-81 locations: Hagerstown, MD; Martinsburg, WV; Strasburg, VA, Mt. Jackson, VA;  Lexington, VA; Wytheville, VA; Bristol, TN; Knoxville, TN; in 2019: Staunton, VA and Roanoke, VA  (
  • Provides overnight charging stations (“Destination Chargers”) free to hotels, parks and other locations; about 4,000 are currently in the U.S. Local: Courtyard Blacksburg, Holiday Inn Christiansburg, Comfort Inn Troutville, Country Inn & Suites by Carlson Roanoke, Holiday Inn Express Roanoke and Hotel Roanoke. (
  • Started with a luxury sedan BEV (Model S), then a luxury SUV BEV (Model X) and currently a mid-size sedan BEV (Model 3). Promises a future mid-size BEV SUV (Model Y) and a compact BEV.

Other car companies are desperately trying to catch up with Tesla in the BEV category:

  • Volkswagen has promised four BEVs with over 250-miles range.
  • Audi has promised one long-range BEV.
  • Ford has promised 16 BEVs.
  • General Motors has the Chevrolet Bolt EV (238-miles range) and has promised 20 BEVs by 2023.
  • Volvo has promised some BEVs.
  • Nissan has promised a new LEAF with over 250-miles range in 2019.
  • Subaru has promised BEV versions of existing models.
  • Kia has promised a 236-miles BEV.
  • Hyundai has promised a 250-miles BEV.
  • BMW has promised a BEV competitor of the Tesla Model 3.
  • Mercedes-Benz has promised BEV versions of existing models by 2022.

But having cars that compete with Tesla model is far from enough. They also need a nationwide network of fast-charging stations. Some years ago Tesla offered that other car companies join Tesla in building the Supercharger network and designing their cars to use it, but none did. Now, belatedly, some car companies, notably Volkswagen, are working hard to increase the network of CHAdeMO charging stations for Asian cars and the CCS charging stations for U.S. and European cars. I doubt if they will match the Tesla Supercharger network within the next decade.
There is more pressure than Tesla that is causing the other car companies to move so rapidly to BEVs. Many countries are planning to ban the sale of gasoline/diesel cars in the future:

  • Britain plans to ban their sales in 2040 and all cars must be electric in 2050.
  • France plans to ban their sales in 2040.
  • Germany plans to ban their sales in some future year.
  • India plans to ban their sales in 2030.
  • China plans to ban their sales in some future year.
  • Norway plans to ban their sales in 2025.
  • Several other nations plan to ban their sales in some future year.
  • Eight U.S. states plan to ban their sales in some future year.

All of this is very good news for reducing carbon-dioxide emissions that cause global warming, for preparing for the disappearance of fossil fuels as their extraction peaks and declines and for those who love to drive high-performance cars.

This week (Sept 8-16) is National Drive Electric Week.

Roper: Global warming and blood on hands

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season cost at least $282-billion in the U.S., but even more important was the cost in lives lost, more than 3,300 deaths (

The 2018 wildfires in the U.S. have killed more than 100 people (

Years 2015-2017 average flash-flood deaths (139) in the U.S. were greatly increased over the previous ten-years’ average (69) (

These types of weather events occurred in the past, but not as disastrous as in recent years because of global warming. They will get much worse with many more deaths in the future as global warming increases.

Global warming because of human causes is responsible for increases in Atlantic-Ocean surface temperature, which makes its hurricanes stronger; is responsible for increasing droughts in western U.S. and increases downpours causing flash floods in wet regions of the U.S.

The world is in a dire emergency because of global warming ( It is a much longer emergency than World War I, World War II and the Great Depression, which makes it much harder to manage. It threatens the extinction of human civilization.

Politicians who have declined to enact government policies to reduce global warming for many years after learning from climatologists and all scientific organizations that global warming is occurring are responsible for many of the hurricanes’, wildfires’ and floods’ deaths. They have the blood of those victims on their hands because they were forewarned for many years and did not act on the warnings!

It is not too late for those politicians to get some redemption. Here are actions they need to take:

  • Sponsor regular seminars in communities and on television of climatologists explaining global warming to the public (
  • Do yearly inventories of carbon emissions in their jurisdictions.
  • Set yearly quotas for reducing carbon emissions in their jurisdictions setting regulations as needed, including greatly reducing methane emissions from crude-oil/natural-gas wells and pipelines.
  • Not invest government funds/subsidies in fossil-fuels companies.
  • Set rational fees on carbon emissions based on the damages they do and distribute those funds fairly to citizens. (
  • Set near dates for all new energy to be renewable with battery backup as needed and slightly longer dates for all energy to be renewable.
  • Encourage businesses that are large users of electricity to locate in areas where solar and wind energy are highest.
  • Encourage development of offshore wind farms on all three coasts and the Great Lakes.
  • Encourage covering capable parking-lots/roofs with solar panels.
  • Quickly convert government motor pools to electric cars.
  • Quickly convert local bus systems to electric propulsion.
  • Set near dates for requiring all new vehicles to be electric, or fuel-celled for large vehicles, with solar/wind-generated electricity and hydrogen fuel for fuel-celled vehicles.
  • Require new housing and company locationss to have sufficient level-2 charging stations for charging electric cars.
  • Subsidize building public fast charging stations for electric cars and trucks on major highways and in cities/towns.
  • Require that all public fast charging stations on major highways and in cities/towns be available for all electric cars to use.
  • Build fast electric-train lines between all major cities, intercity electric rail between cities/towns and electric light-rail connecting communities within cities/towns.

These policies will not be enough to stop global warming, but they will reduce the increase. Therefore, some adaptation will be necessary:

Steadily increase FEMA funds/infrastructure for disaster relief.

    • Work toward upgrading the national electric grid to include community micro-grids with battery backup easily and quickly isolated from regional grids for continuity and security.
    • Restrict new building within estimated flood plains because of expected global warming.
    • Pay national flood insurance only for rebuilding out of estimated flood plains because of expected global warming.
    • Plant trees in areas which are expected to have good rainfall because of expected global warming.
    • Provide free birth control for women to reduce increase in population.
    • Institute a “Marshall Plan” for Central America to improve living conditions there to reduce the urge to move north.
    • Encourage citizens living in areas expected to be severely impacted by global warming to move farther inland, north or into higher elevations, perhaps into Canada with its cooperation.

Financing to reduce global warming will stimulate the economy causing the GDP to be dominated by useful spending instead of spending to recover from disasters.

If the U.S. instituted most of the items listed above it could become the leader of the world again.

Note the use of the term “global warming” rather than “climate change” above in order to indicate the direction and area of climate change. The term “global climate warming” would be better than “climate change.”

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Roper: The Senate Problem

The ratio of highest to lowest U.S. states’ populations has changed from about 19 to 71 from 1770 to 2018; a factor of about 3.7. However, the number of U.S. senators has remained at 2 for each state. This is called the “Senate Problem” ( If that rate of population-ratio increase continues, by year 2100 the ratio will be about 88. According to the 29 December editorial (“Demographic trends put stress on our constitutional system”) in this newspaper this Senate Problem will increasingly put stress on the U.S. constitutional system.

The states’ population distribution can be reasonably represented by a declining exponential. If the number of senators followed the population exponential curve as closely as possible the distribution of 100 senators would be as follows: California=7, Texas=6, Florida and New York =5, Pennsylvania=4, Illinois and Ohio and Georgia=3, 22 states from North Carolina to Iowa=2 and 20 states from Utah and Wyoming=1. The ratio of highest to lowest number of senators would be 7, about a factor of 10 less than the ratio of highest to lowest population! So, citizens of low-population states would still have much greater representation in the U.S. Senate than those do in higher-population states.

If every state had at least two senators each and the distribution followed the population curve as closely as possible the distribution of 120 senators would be as follows: California=7, Texas=6, Florida and New York =5, Pennyslvania=4, Illinois and Ohio and Georgia=3 and all remaining states would have 2 senators each. The ratio of highest to lowest number of senators would be 3.5, about a factor of 20 less than the ratio of highest to lowest population!

Currently the ratio of highest to lowest number of senators is 1, a factor of 71 less than the ratio of highest to lowest population!

Of course, it would take a constitutional amendment to change the number of senators per state. Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution requires that two-thirds of both houses of Congress or two-thirds of the states must vote to call a constitutional convention to make a change. The probability of that happening seems miniscule at present. However, if the stress continues to increase that probability may increase.

Ideally the constitutional change would include a procedure for allotting the number of senators for each state according to the population distribution every ten years.

What about the Electoral College? Currently the ratio of largest to smallest is about 18, far below the 71 ratio of population. The proposed change described above for 100 senators would make the Electoral-College ratio be about 30, much closer to the population ratio, and the change proposed above for 120 senators would make the Electoral College ratio be about 20, not much different than the population ratio

Roper: Electric School Buses Imperative

For the health of children riding in them and for reducing global warming, we need to quickly replace diesel school buses with electric buses, as some school systems have done across the U.S. Since school buses are only used a small fraction of the time, they can be charged at night when electric rates should be low because of reduced demand and then sell electric energy to the grid during mid-day when electric rates should be high.

The web page shows that the number of school buses in Virginia (about 16,000) as electric buses would save about $167 million per year compared to diesel buses. Of course, as all electric vehicles do, they will regenerate electric energy into their batteries when slowing down, which is part of what makes electric vehicles so much more efficient than fossil-fuel vehicles.

Roper: Tax cars by miles travelled, not gas

It is necessary that all cars become electric, using renewable electric energy, as soon as possible to reduce global warming. Thankfully, electric vehicles (EVs) are on an exponential rise in the world. Most people do not realize how fast exponentials grow; it is a curve that continually becomes steeper. It appears that by 2040 more than half of the cars in the world will be electric (full battery electric or plug-in hybrids = EVs). The world EV-growth time constant is about 1 year and the world gasoline-car-growth time constant is about 40 years, so EVs will become dominant over the next few decades. Road planners worry about this with regard to gasoline taxes since full-electric cars (BEVs) use no gasoline and plug-in hybrids and hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius, use less gasoline than standard gasoline cars. Some states have added extra property taxes for hybrid and electric cars to help build roads they use.

Another possible fairness problem is that heavy vehicles do much greater damage to roads than do light vehicles. For example, “where an 80,000-pound 18-wheeler full of cargo is compared to a 4,000-pound passenger car, the truck is 20 times heavier than the car . . . the semi would cause 160,000 times more road damage than the car” and “overweight trucks are a major cause of highway deterioration.” The question is: do diesel taxes compared to gasoline taxes account for that damage difference; I doubt it.

Many states have a yearly inspection requirement for road vehicles. Those inspections could record the miles traveled since the previous inspection and report that number to taxing authorities. A states’ vehicle registration data set contains vehicle-weights. Using those two numbers for a vehicle a yearly, possibly prorated monthly, road tax could be calculated for each vehicle. The road-tax formula would be the miles traveled times a function of the weight. The document mentioned above claims that the function of the weight should be the fourth power of the ratio of the vehicle’s weight divided by a reference weight. The reference weight could be selected such that the yearly tax for an average sedan is about the same as the yearly gasoline tax when the regulation was put into effect and could be updated as needed in the future.

This formula may greatly increase the road tax for heavy trucks, which could cause more freight to be hauled by trains which more efficiently use energy, which is needed to reduce global warming.

I urge Virginia state officials to study this approach to fund road building.

Roper: Necessity for renewable energy

Recent articles in The Roanoke Times have deprecated wind and solar energy. Apparently the authors of those articles have not given much thought about how humans will get energy for electricity and transportation after fossil and nuclear fuels are depleted. We should have learned lessons from history that it is not wise to wait until a need is very obvious before planning how to fill that need.

Coal extraction in the U.S. ( is almost halfway down from its peak, which rapid decline needs to continue to reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere and the oceans from burning coal to produce electricity.

World extraction of uranium for producing nuclear energy may not peak until the mid-2000s (, but likely nuclear accidents and the danger of storing spent nuclear fuel will make the public vacillate in acceptance of nuclear-energy as a reliable source of electric energy. Building nuclear reactors is much more expensive and takes much longer than building renewable-energy infrastructure, and scraping old reactors and spent nuclear fuel is expensive and dangerous. The same is true for possible thorium reactors for producing nuclear energy.

Using optimistic oil-industry estimates of how much crude oil is left to be extracted from the earth, one can show ( that U.S. and world crude-oil extraction will peak around 2030 and then decline rapidly. Thus we need to move quickly to electric transportation with electricity produced by wind and solar energy. Fortunately, world movement toward electric vehicles is on a fast exponential curve ( Thank you, Tesla! Of course, wind and solar energy have some undesirable environmental effects, but not nearly as much or severe effects as fossil-fuel and nuclear energy.

Using high estimates of how much natural gas is left to be extracted from the earth one can show ( that U.S. and world natural-gas extraction will peak around 2030 and then decline rapidly.

Thus we need to move electricity generation quickly to wind and solar sources with battery backup. Fortunately excellent high capacity and high power batteries are available at rapidly declining prices.

One can show ( that in the U.S. wind energy where wind speeds are high, especially offshore, and solar energy where sunlight is high can meet demand across the nation with smart transmission infrastructure, including local networks for resiliency.

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Roper: The best way to view virus data

The human cases and deaths due to a viral pandemic in a stable social and physical environment are accurately modeled by a function called “hyperbolic-tangent” (tanh), or the “S curve”. This model is based on the reasonable assumption that a pandemic virus population is proportional to the product of the population and the maximum population minus the population [N(Nmax-N)]. The slope of the tanh function increases the population per day exponentially into a peak and with the same exponential behavior asymptotically down to zero. Human infection cases and deaths due to the virus are proportional to the population of the virus.

The USA’s COVID-19 cases and deaths have been reasonably well modeled by the tanh so far. If current social mitigation efforts are continued until well after deaths per day decline to near zero, the projection of the tanh model is that the USA cases will level off at about 800,000, this is reasonably accurate because the cases per day are past the peak. The deaths per day are more uncertain because they are about at the peak; in a few days they should be beyond the peak and the projection will be more accurate. At the time of this writing the projection for total deaths is between 35,000 and 45,000 deaths. If USA social mitigations are kept fixed until deaths due to the virus have declined to near zero, those deaths will not reach 100,000 or greater as some have predicted.

If social mitigations are relaxed too soon, a later second death-per-day peak is likely. This happened for many large USA cities during the 1918 influenza pandemic. The start of a second rise to a peak would require that social mitigations be reinstituted.

Italy and Spain are similarly well modeled by the tanh function. Many other countries have not done so well with social mitigation.

Our political leaders and media should be displaying the cases and deaths per day data and the tanh model’s curves fitted to the data to encourage citizens to keep the social mitigations in effect until well after the deaths per day have peaked and then declined.

The newspaper version showed the following graphs:

Roper: Electric Cars Prices, Range and Charging

Electric cars not what you think

Much misinformation exists in media reports and auto ads about electric cars.

Some car manufacturers use the misleading term “electrification” to include hybrid (HEV; for example, Prius), plug-in-hybrid (PHEV; for example, Prius Prime) and battery-electric (BEV; for example, Tesla) cars.

I have seen misleading statements that electric cars cost about $60,000 or more.

Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus with a 263-miles range costs $37,990.

Chevrolet Bolt EV with a 259-miles range costs $36.620.

Hyundai Kona Electric with a 258-miles range cost $37,390.

Kia Niro EV with a 239-miles range costs $39,090.

Ford Mustang Mach-e with a 300-miles range costs $42,895.

Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD with a 353-miles range costs $46,990.

Tesla Model Y Long Range AWD with a 326-miles range costs $45,690.

Within the next few years lower cost BEVs with shorter range will become available.

I have seen misleading statements that it takes 20-minutes or longer to charge a BEV.

Since 1 January 2020 my Tesla Model 3 Long Range RWD has charged 135 times in our garage. I have it set to start charging at night when power plants are not busy in order to finish at about 80% charge at 6 AM. It takes me less than 1 minute to plug it into a 240-volts charging station. It has been charged small amounts on trips about 20 times.

The only time one should charge a BEV to near 100% is the night before a long trip at home or at a hotel where Tesla has installed charging stations similar to the one in my garage (about 10-kW power).

For charging during long trips Tesla has installed Superchargers (150-250-kW power) at about 100-miles intervals on major highways. Tesla BEVs can plug in with automatic credit-card payment. At 85-years age I find that I need to stop more than my Tesla does! Other BEV brands have access to fast charging stations along major highways installed by Electrify America, EVG0 and other companies. Charging stations along major highways are at shopping centers, hotels and other commercial locations, including many gasoline stations.

I find it very pleasant that I do not have to smell gasoline at a gasoline station, often in bad weather.

I send electrons from our solar array into the electric network during sunny days and get some back in return when I charge my BEV at night.

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Roper: Global warming is complicated

Global warming has some complicated feedbacks that mostly increase the average global warming. (Note that I use “global warming” rather than “climate change” to denote the direction of the current climate change for the world. Also, note that it is global, not necessarily local, warming.)

Here is a discussion of a few of the complicated feedbacks of global warming that increase the warming.

• Geophysics predicted that global warming would be greater in the Arctic and the Antarctic than the global average; indeed, it is about twice the global average. The larger temperature increase in the Arctic relative to lower latitudes causes the cold winter polar vortex bounded on the south by the jet stream to weaken the jet stream; that weakness enables the jet stream to meander. In the United States that meandering typically is northward in the west and southward in the center and the east, thereby pulling extremely cold air southward in the center and the east. (See The result can be extreme winter weather in the center and the east. Thus, more energy is required to maintain comfortable temperatures in buildings and repairing the damage done by the storms. When that energy is supplied by burning fossil fuels then global warming is increased; this is called a positive feedback. When that energy is provided by solar energy and wind energy, those energy sources can be diminished by the extreme weather; that diminishment can be reduced by having those energy sources distributed nationwide in local connected networks and by having massive distributed battery energy storage, which is beginning to happen.

• Geophysics tells that hurricanes get their high winds from high-temperature ocean surface water; such high water temperatures are caused by global warming. The damage done by such high-wind hurricanes coming on land requires the use of much energy to repair the damage; getting that energy by burning fossil fuels increases global warming.

• Global warming causes moisture on land to evaporate and enter the atmosphere. Chemistry tells that water vapor in the atmosphere is a greater cause of global warming than carbon in the atmosphere. (There is a complication that some of the atmospheric moisture creates clouds and some cloud types increase global warming and some types decrease global warming.) Dry land areas become dryer and wet land areas become wetter, with many damaging floods. Managing these extreme changes requires more energy use which causes more global warming.

It is well known that we must quit burning fossil fuels to decrease global warming. Also, fossil fuels are finite; so, sometime in the future fossil fuels will require more energy to extract them from the earth than they can provide when burned. We need fossil fuels to make useful materials; so, we need to quit burning them and recycle them as much as possible. Humans have no eventual choice other than using renewable energy rather than burning finite fossil fuels. The sooner burning fossil fuels is stopped the more humans will be able to make useful items from them and the sooner global warming will be reduced.

Global warming quotes problematic

In a recent letter ("Disagreeing doesn’t make me a criminal," Oct. 15) in opposition to a previous comment about “extreme climate changes from hurricanes” a quote was given that “There is no strong evidence of increasing trends in U.S. landfalling hurricanes …”

There are two problems with this opposing quote: (1) Global warming (climate change) has to do with the entire world, not just the U.S. (2) Data for yearly accumulated-cyclone-energy (ACE) of global cyclones have a definite increasing trend upward.

Cyclones are called “hurricanes” in the Atlantic Ocean and “typhoons” in the Pacific Ocean. The data show that hurricanes’ yearly accumulated energy in the Atlantic Ocean is increasing about 10 times faster than typhoons’ yearly accumulated energy in the Pacific Ocean. Of course, not all Atlantic hurricanes make landfall in the U.S.

The energy of cyclones comes from warm surface water; the number of cyclones per year is not as important as the accumulated energy per year, since high energy is what causes infrastructure damage and deaths. Global warming increases heat in ocean water and, thus, increases yearly accumulated energy of cyclones.

Letter: Demographics driving political divide

There are several recent articles about the large political divide that exists in the USA; some describe it as an incipient civil war. Some of the authors lament that the author cannot decide what are the problems.
Having closely followed events in our nation for the last several years, it appears clear to this white male that the main problem is white supremacy with a sub-item of white male supremacy.
Searching Wikipedia gives the following yearly data and a year 2050 projection for non-Hispanic white U.S. citizens' fraction of the population:
1960: 85%
2005: 67%
2015: 62%
2020: 58%
2050: 47%
It has been obvious to the average white male from daily experience and news that his fraction has been declining. I think this decline is largely the fear factor that fuels white supremacy through many attendant effects.
I am not sure that the 2050 projection has adequately taken into consideration future massive increased Hispanic migration from Central and South America and other migration from warm-climate countries as world average temperature climbs rapidly from the current 1.2 degrees Celsius above the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to 2 degrees or higher.
Also, at the higher temperatures there will be massive migration from warmer U.S. states into the Appalachian Mountains for about the eastern two-thirds of the country and into the western mountain ranges; eventually the migration will be on into Canada, if Canada allows such.
The point of this letter is that the best ways to deal with the large political divide are dependent on understanding what causes it. This author leaves it up to political scientists to find those ways.

Roper: Lives depend on understanding facts of global warming


Churches join forces to open child care center

By Jill Hoffman, November 3, 2004

CHRISTIANSBURG - The building was quiet Tuesday, but next month toddlers from low-income homes may be playing and learning at a new child care center.

The Valley Interfaith Child Care Center is appropriately stationed on Church Street, because its launch is being supported by 13 religious centers in Blacksburg and Christiansburg. "People from different faiths may be different in their outlooks, but they all come together in their love of children," said Jeanne Roper, president of the new center in New River Community Action's Head Start Building.

Churches of various Christian denominations are behind the center as well as St. Mary's Catholic Church and the Blacksburg Jewish Community Center. Several people of Islamic faith are also interested in helping.

Each month in Montgomery County, eight to 12 low-income residents are put on a waiting list for financial assistance at social services because of the department's limited budget or are turned away because they make too much money to qualify. The new center will help some of those people.

"The more options folks have, the better," said Larry Lindsey, child care services supervisor of Montgomery County Social Services.

The idea for the center began in October 2003, when a group of friends, including Roper, met for lunch. They talked about what services were missing in the area. The issue of affordable day care came up.

Melanie Collins, emergency assistance specialist for Montgomery County Emergency Assistance Program, a nonprofit agency providing emergency financial assistance to families, talked about clients who are forced to leave their 11-year-old children in charge of younger siblings because they can't afford child care and earn too much to qualify for government assistance. Thirteen years ago, Collins, a single parent, struggled to find child care for her four young children, then ages 1, 2, 3 and 10, after her divorce. She put herself through college and started working but said it was "awful" trying to find caretakers for her children. Elizabeth Foster, director of Christian education for Christ Episcopal Church in Blacksburg, was also at the luncheon and suggested making a beeline to the local faith community.

When 35 people showed up during a snowstorm at a December 2003 informational meeting about a proposal for a new child care center, founders knew they had hit a nerve.

The new child care center, which may open in mid-November, will accommodate 14 toddlers - ages 16 months to 3 years - from families who can't afford traditional child care. Social services is referring some candidates; other individuals may get applications from New River Community Action, Montgomery County Emergency Assistance Program, Head Start, the New River Free Clinic, the health department and online.

Those who qualify for social services assistance will have a co-pay of 10 percent of their gross monthly household income. Others who earn too much for that program might be eligible for scholarships.

Teachers at the center will be compensated according to their experience and qualifications, and aides will be paid a living wage of $8.50 an hour.

"We want this to be as good as the best child care centers - nurturing, loving and educational," Roper said. "We want them [the children] to be as ready for kindergarten and school as children from the most privileged families."

Although religious groups are involved in the center, the business is incorporated as a non-profit organization and children will receive a secular education.

"Our origins are with a broad spectrum of interfaith communities, and we welcome people whose faith isn't connected to any particular congregation," Roper said.

The center is using a 690-square-foot room in the Head Start building but may grow to three rooms if a maximum of 30 children are enrolled and more staff is hired. Center officials hope to open a site next year in Blacksburg, possibly at the old middle school, and to open sites in all five communities of the New River Valley.

Hours of operation will be from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and may expand in the future.

Lindsey, the social services official, commends the center for its vision.

"They made an effort to get some numbers from us," Lindsey said. "Who was served? Who was underserved? How could they work with us to have the greatest impact on low-income families? They wanted to know what would be the ideal day care center."

A 16-member board of directors that oversees the center includes a diverse group of parish members from local congregations, along with representatives from Montgomery County Emergency Assistance Program and Head Start.

A Virginia Tech class is providing free public relations advice to the center, and Jane Aronson, head of communications for the center, is distributing fliers and brochure.

Operational costs will run about $130,000 to $140,000 for the first year. Roper said the center should have enough funding for the first year, with $70,000 already raised in donations and grants and anticipated revenue from social services subsidies. In addition, Roper is seeking a state award that would provide up to $500,000 with a local match. Several local churches and businesses have also donated books and toys. However, furniture and equipment is still needed, and center officials want to start putting money toward a Blacksburg site.

They are asking businesses to consider contributing to scholarship funds for clients, because employees - some of whom may work for them - will be better workers if they don't have to worry about child care.

Individuals who would like to donate to the new child care center can send a check to: Valley Interfaith Child Care Center Inc., P.O. Box 926, Blacksburg, VA 24063. The center is also in need of a stackable washer and dryer, small refrigerator and freezer, vacuum and cleaning supplies. Anyone with questions should call Jeanne Roper at (540)951-7047 or e-mail her The center's Web site is

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30 years later, local volunteer still going strong

By Jared Turner, February 25, 2006

BLACKSBURG -- When Jeanne Roper helped start the Montgomery County Emergency Assistance Program in 1975 to provide aid to those who had lost a job or home, her intent was to make community service a long-term endeavor.

Having since been instrumental in the construction of a local family shelter, the newly formed two-branch Valley Interfaith Childcare Center and a stronger local Habitat for Humanity chapter, it's safe to say the 66-year-old has succeeded.

That fact was recognized this past week when Roper was named Citizen of the Year by the Blacksburg Rotary Club.

The distinction, formally named the Pat Cupp/Ward Teel Citizen of the Year Award, has been given each year since 1990 to a non-Rotarian, Montgomery County resident who best exemplifies Rotary's motto of "Service Above Self" and passes Rotary International's four-way test.

"I'm very proud of her," said Roper's husband, Dave Roper, who is the former head of the physics department at Virginia Tech. "I think she deserves it. She's worked hard for many years in the community."

Roper, who has served her church and community longer than some adults have been alive, was well-deserving of the honor, according to a member of the rotary club's nominating committee.

"She's the kind of person who sees that something needs to be done and doesn't sit around and talk about it forever," said Tommy Loflin. "She takes action."

No question, complacency isn't in Roper's blood.

Helping start the New River Family Shelter in 1988 in Blacksburg for homeless families wasn't enough. Years later, after marrying Dave Roper, the two became heavily involved in the New River Valley Habitat for Humanity.

Dave Roper was president of the local Habitat chapter for a while as his wife served as president of the family shelter, which is still in Blacksburg.

Jeanne Roper, who taught in the department of Urban Affairs and Planning at Virginia Tech for 23 years, still felt there was a big need in the community not being met.

"I didn't feel like any child should be born into the world and hear from day one they can't have good things in life," she said.

"Why should a child start off life at a disadvantage no matter who that is?"

The opening of Valley Interfaith Childcare Center in Christiansburg in November 2004 has been Roper's proudest act of community service.

The center, which works with social services to charge qualifying families only 10 percent of their income, is designed to provide good child care for infants of working parents who couldn't otherwise afford it.

Roper and her staff appear to be doing just that.

"That's a pretty tough thing for a mom or dad," Loflin said. "She's kind of leveled the playing field for child care with rich and poor alike."

About 12 teachers worked at the center last year with 24 infants and toddlers. Activities include puppet shows, art, music and reading.

On Thursday, the center opened a new branch at Luther Memorial Lutheran Church in Blacksburg.

The growth is just another step in Roper's long-term vision for the program.

"It's brought so many people in the valley together," Roper said. "I just want to see one of these on every street corner in the valley. It's so needed out there."

Roper, who attends Christ Episcopal Church in Blacksburg, caught the vision for the child care center after hearing a sermon by her priest, Scott Russell, in 2003 about unconventional approaches to community service.

Roper used some extra money left over from a church yard sale to get the project started.

The values she learned from her parents wouldn't allow her to do otherwise.

"My dad was a guy who really cared about community service and he really drilled it into his kids," Roper said. "My mom loved babies. It was sort of like, 'Thanks mom, thanks dad.' "

It's likely that many will long be gracious to Roper for her commitment to serving others.

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Our world faces a triple threat; now is time to plan

By Michael Abraham, May 6, 2006

David Roper is one of those really smart people with which our university town is blessed.

Retired head of the physics department at Virginia Tech, he's an MIT Ph.D. and has proficiencies most of us can barely imagine. We met when he attended one of my lectures on peak oil.

"I like to stay busy," he said modestly when I asked him about his current work.

Truth be told, he's on a mission. On the local level, he's taught courses about hybrid vehicles at the Tech YMCA Open University. He's embodying the admirable goal of helping the well-intentioned to become more efficient users of finite, nonrenewable resources.

"My motivation is a result of what I see as the terrible situation we find ourselves in this world," he explained to me at a downtown coffee shop recently. "I see a convergence of three major threats to the human future that will dramatically impact the lives of millions of people in many different ways; every one of us, rich or poor.

"... The most immediate threat is peak oil, the inexorable decline in petroleum availability. Once we have used about half of our oil endowment, the amount available diminishes each year forever. We've arranged our lifestyles around the notion that we'll have all the oil that we need forever, and we simply won't," Roper explained.

Many valuable minerals are increasingly depleted, "but oil," he said, "presents unique problems. We use it in many ways and have too limited substitutes. I can't see its impending scarcity as being anything other than a major disruption to our lives."

Roper sees the second threat as global climate change and the third as the coming major ice age. The two may be related.

"Many people, including Virginia's official climatologist, claim that global warming is no big deal, but I fear we'll find the ramifications to be dreadfully serious," Roper said.

The link between global warming and ice age is a bit counterintuitive, but it's a concern for some climate watchers.

"The fast temperature rise may cause an ushering in of the next major ice age, the third of the triple threats, sooner than it would otherwise occur," Roper said. "Changes in the ocean's chemical composition and circulation patterns may plunge Northern Europe and North America into the next deep freeze, which would overwhelm global warming."

Roper is now writing a book called "Triple Threats for the Human Future." He suggests we make personal preparations because, "The current administration in Washington is almost criminally negligent in not helping our society prepare for this."

His advice? Buy only energy-efficient houses, appliances and vehicles, especially plug-in hybrid vehicles as soon as they become available. Use public transportation as much as possible. Urge that railways be built instead of more freeways and that speed limits be reduced, especially for large gas-guzzling vehicles. Get out of debt and stay out. Learn to be as self-sufficient as possible. See what you can live without and make the most of what you can't live without.

"Everyone should learn as much as they can and help others understand that these threats are not make-believe," Roper told me. "They're real, they're coming and those that understand the potential challenges for the future will be in a better position to live with them."

Michael Abraham is a businessman and environmentalist with a hyperactive keyboard. He lives in Blacksburg.

'Cool' couple hopes town will follow their lead

By Tonia Moxley, November 20, 2006

Sound slide

BLACKSBURG -- From the SUV in the garage to the heat pump humming outside the sitting room window, the home of Jeanne and Dave Roper looks very similar to any medium-sized Blacksburg house.

But it's different in one important way -- the family in it produces significantly less carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases than many other households across the country.

And the retired Virginia Tech professors hope their efforts to reduce pollution will inspire others, especially the town government, to do more to cut emissions.

Human-initiated global warming is widely accepted among scientists as a major threat. Some postulate that climate change brought on by greenhouse gases will cause increasing drought, crop failures and extinctions of species.

Significant warming in the Arctic is already threatening polar bear populations and the native hunting cultures of the far North.

To help counteract these problems, the national Sierra Club has started a Cool Cities Across America program to encourage localities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

More than 300 cities and towns have signed the agreement, including a handful in Virginia.

Locally, the Ropers have used the program's pollution reduction guidelines to change their own lifestyle, becoming what they call a "cool family."

Many of the light bulbs in their house have been changed from conventional to more efficient compact fluorescent. Their heat pump is the most efficient they could find.

They walk and bicycle as much as possible. And when they can't avoid driving, they combine errands for efficiency.

The couple also traded their conventional cars for two hybrid vehicles, a Toyota Highlander sport utility vehicle and a Toyota Prius.

The Ropers haven't calculated their total greenhouse gas savings.

But buying the Prius alone cut by about 12,000 pounds per year the family's carbon dioxide production, according to Tech professor John Randolph.

And every 100 kilowatt hours the Ropers can shave off their electricity bill keeps 200 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, Randolph said.

Randolph teaches classes in environmental sustainability and serves on Blacksburg's utilities advisory committee.

To offset the electricity they must use, the Ropers donate money to a West Virginia company that produces electricity using windmills.

But Dave Roper calls all these changes "baby steps" and said the family plans to do more, including one day buying an electric car.

As part of their environmental mission, the Ropers are also lobbying Blacksburg Town Council to join the Sierra Club's Cool Cities coalition.

To join, localities must sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which is a resolution calling on local, state and national governments to significantly reduce the pollution created in their borders.

"When you look at the cities on the list, these are places Blacksburg would want to model itself on," Jeanne Roper said.

They and other environmental advocates have called on Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam to join the mayors of Seattle, Boulder, Colo., and Charlottesville in signing.

In fact, Blacksburg already has in place an extensive pollution control program and was earlier this year commended by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for its initiatives.

But Rordam has been reluctant to join the Cool Cities coalition because signing the agreement could be construed as a criticism of the federal government.

"I think the town should stay away from taking positions on national issues," Rordam said last week. "We should always focus on local issues and what we can do."

He has instead suggested that the town write its own resolution that would commit council to most of the pollution reduction actions spelled out in the U.S. mayors agreement.

Council will discuss the resolution at its work session today at 11 a.m. at the Blacksburg Police Department.

On the Web: and

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Blacksburg ramps up climate protection initiatives

By Tonia Moxley, February 27 2007

BLACKSBURG -- As governors of five Western states announced the creation of a regional partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Blacksburg also this week seated a new task force that will guide a rollback of the town's emissions.

The Mayor's Task Force on Climate Protection and Sustainability met for the first time Tuesday at the Blacksburg Police Department to discuss how the town will honor a pledge Mayor Ron Rordam signed in November to reduce emissions to pre-1990 levels.

Rordam recruited the 15-member task force from Virginia Tech, business and community groups. Members include Joe Meredith, president of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, and Larry Hincker, Tech's associate vice president of university relations, as well as developer Joyce Graham and environmental activist Dave Roper.

Others are Aaron Barr, Bill Claus, Blacksburg Environmental Manager Susan Garrison, Blacksburg Public Works Director Kelly Mattingly, Jim Keaney, Larry Ball, Todd Holt, Sean McGinnis, John Randolph, Thomas King and Fran DeBellis.

On its first day, the group created a subcommittee to gather data on current and past emissions. The subcommittee will report its findings at the next meeting of the task force, scheduled for March 27.

A new steering committee for Sustainable Blacksburg, the group that will guide the town's pollution control initiatives, was also seated this week.

The 13-member committee was elected by residents and will oversee a $95,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Resource Conservation Challenge Grant awarded to Blacksburg in August.

But the committee's most pressing duty will be "to establish Sustainable Blacksburg as an independent nonprofit community organization," Mattingly said.

Steering committee members are: Mattingly, Randolph, Barr, Roper, Robert Schubert, Ann Stitch, Jim Flowers, Glenn Skutt, Blacksburg Councilman Don Langrehr, Tim Colley, Leslie Hager-Smith, Marquita Hill and Miles Gentry.

On the Web:

Zapcar Xebra, a truck of a different kind

By Tim Thornton, April 4, 2007

The electric blue pickup rolled noiselessly away. As it picked up speed, the truck began to hum. Was that the sound of motor or the whir of new tires rolling over pavement?

If your pulse quickens when you hear the rumble and roar of a big V8 engine or if you get a rush from seeing scenery rush by in a blur, the three-wheeled Zapcar Xebra may not be the pickup for you.

"I was going 45 on the way to town the other day," said David Roper of Blacksburg. "I was going down hill."

The Xebra isn't just electric blue. It's electric -- the first pickup of its kind in Virginia. A bank of batteries stowed beneath the truck's dump bed provide the power -- 6.7 horses worth -- that pushes it along. It has a top speed of 40 mph, according to the spec sheet on the Zapcar Web site. The truck can travel 25 miles on a single charge. If you can find a place to plug it in during the trip, you might stretch that to 40 miles. Roper thinks that might apply in Kansas. He expects he won't do quite that well here among hills and mountains,

"I wouldn't take it to Radford," Roper said, "because I probably wouldn't be able to get back."

Roper paid extra to get better batteries, which extends the truck's range a bit. He's going to install a solar panel over the bed. That will add a little more.

The Xebra's payload is rated at just 500 pounds, but Roper said he's seen a photograph of a Xebra with firewood packed as high as the cab, so he's sure it can haul more than a quarter ton.

But Roper didn't get his Xebra for speed. Or range. Or payload. He got the battery-powered pickup because he's concerned about global climate change.

Xebra spec sheet

"It cuts down the carbon dioxide emissions enormously," he said.

Even when the electricity powering his truck is generated by a coal-burning power plant, Roper said, the Xebra puts half as much carbon dioxide into the air as a conventional gasoline-powered truck. The company claims it can cut emissions as much as 98 percent. Of course, Roper said, if the electricity came from windmills or solar panels, there wouldn't be any emissions at all.

Roper, a retired Virginia Tech physics professor, and his wife Jeanne Roper, a retired Tech associate professor of urban affairs and planning, already own two gas-electric hybrids, a Prius and a Highlander.

"I don't need this car," Roper said. "I bought it because I think we need to start thinking in that direction."

Roper has already spread the gospel of gas/electric hybrids. He's taught classes about them at the YMCA's Open University. Now he wants to spread the word about all-electric vehicles.

Roper got his from a dealer in Kansas, though there are dealers as close as South Carolina and Pennsylvania. The basic truck is built in China, then shipped to California, where it's outfitted with seat belts and other things that make it ready for the American market. The truck has a heater but no air conditioner, so Roper installed a solar powered fan in his. He also had most of the lights changed to LEDs. They use less electricity, and the less electricity used on things like lights, the more electricity is left to power the drive train.

Roper held an online contest to name his truck. "Sun Roper" was the winning name, so the tiny tag just below the tailgate reads SUNRPR. It's a motorcycle tag, because Virginia's Department of Motor Vehicles considers the Sun Roper a motorcycle.

"It's a motorsickle," Roper said. "It's rated a motorsickle."

That means Roper has to get a motorcycle license. And, technically, he's supposed to wear a helmet when he drives his Sun Roper. Once a few more Xebras roll into the state, Roper said, he's going to lobby to have that rule changed.

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Solar project could grow local foods year-round

By Tonia Moxley, November 28, 2008

Solar project could grow local foods year-round

From left: Justin Boyle of Green Valley Builders; YMCA volunteers Jason Pall and Craig McNally; and retired Virginia Tech physics professor David Roper work on a solar greenhouse in Blacksburg.

A pilot project sponsored by the YMCA at Virginia Tech may turn the concept of seasonal eating on its head by making it possible to grow local food 12 months a year.

Traditional greenhouses shelter plants from frosts and trap heat from the sun to extend the vegetable growing season in cool climates.

But a "solar greenhouse" under construction off Maywood Street could make year-round local food production possible, Blacksburg environmentalist Dave Roper said.

Roper, who has been a leader in Blacksburg's Cool Cities and other sustainability projects, began researching solar greenhouses in 2006 as part of his family's quest to reduce their household greenhouse gas emissions.

"We're transporting food an average of 1,500 miles. In the wintertime, it has to be farther. That takes a lot of energy and fuel," Roper said. "Locally grown food is better. But how do you do that in the wintertime?"

One answer may be constructing greenhouses that use stones or water to store heat from the sun underground and then circulate it through the greenhouse as temperatures drop during the winter months.

The retired Virginia Tech physics professor -- who drives an electric-powered truck with its own solar panel to reduce consumption of coal-fired electricity -- sketched out a plan for building a year-round greenhouse based on more primitive designs used in China and Colorado.

In 2007, Roper went to YMCA at Virginia Tech director Gail Billingsley with the idea of building such a greenhouse as a model to encourage homeowners, neighborhoods and local farmers to boost production of fresh, local food.

The Y was at the time working with Arlean Lambert of New Jersey on a plan to relocate its community gardens to 15 acres off Maywood Street that Lambert inherited from her parents. Lambert has since pledged to donate her land to the Y, Billingsley said.

Plans are to double the size of the community garden and add an orchard, the solar greenhouse and a trail to the property. All will be done organically and with an eye toward environmental sustainability.

An anonymous donor then put up seed money to begin work on the solar greenhouse. Builders and other businesses chipped in with materials and expertise, and others have stepped forward to help with construction. Billingsley said the number of volunteers could top 150.

It works like this: The 18-by-32-foot greenhouse is built atop what's called a "heat sink." Some such structures use black barrels filled with water to absorb solar energy.

But the Blacksburg greenhouse will instead use a system of underground pipes sandwiched between layers of stone to store heat. A temperature-controlled fan system will then circulate the heat to keep the greenhouse at a constant temperature, Roper said.

The Y is already fielding inquiries from researchers, growers and homeowners interested in the concept, Billingsley said.

At an estimated cost of $35,000, the greenhouse project could seem out of reach to the average homeowner. But Roper said the design can be adapted to smaller spaces and recycled materials, which could bring costs down significantly.

Organizers hope to begin planting test gardens in January.

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Solar greenhouse opens for community

By Sharla Bardin, October 15, 2009

Solar greenhouse opens for community

Dave Roper surveys the landscape outside the solar greenhouse he designed as part of the YMCA of Virginia Tech's community garden space at the end of Maywood Street in Blacksburg.

BLACKSBURG -- Dave Roper's nervousness is understandable.

His vision and name is attached to a new community solar greenhouse that aims to make year-round local food production possible.

"Right now, I'm a little concerned. I wonder if it's going to work properly" said Roper, a retired Virginia Tech physics professor.

"Whenever you do something this big, you're always anxious if it's going to work properly."

He need not fret too much, based on the support and excitement expressed by residents, builders and town officials Thursday during a reception to mark the opening of the greenhouse.

"It's a wonderful sense of accomplishment," said Gail Billingsley, executive director of the YMCA at Virginia Tech.

Officials said the energy-efficient solar greenhouse, at the Hale-YMCA Community Gardens at the end of Maywood Street, is the first of its kind in Virginia.

The greenhouse is named after Roper and his wife, Jeanne, and will be called the Roper Solar Greenhouse.

Roper researched solar greenhouses in 2006 as part of his family's quest to reduce their household greenhouse gas emissions. He also had sketched out a plan for building a solar greenhouse based on designs used in China, Colorado, Canada and in "The Solar Greenhouse Book."

In 2007, Roper went to Billingsley with the idea of building such a greenhouse as a model to encourage residents to boost production of fresh food.

Billingsley said the greenhouse has been a community effort with more than 200 volunteers working on the project. Construction started in July 2008 and the 18-by-32-foot greenhouse was completed a month ago.

The $55,00 project was funded by donations, she said.

Standard greenhouses tend to get too hot when the sun is shining and too cold during winter nights, officials said. The solar greenhouse is a way to store energy collected from the sun in a subterranean sink of soil, rocks and water under the planting beds, according to information about the project.

Billingsley said the greenhouse is already being put to use this winter to test the facility. Some students from Blacksburg New School, community members and some master gardeners have planted items in the greenhouse.

Plots in the greenhouse will be leased out next winter, but lease costs have not been established yet, Billingsley said.

Blacksburg New School representatives said they are excited to be using the greenhouse, which is close to the school at 2500 N. Main St.

"It's an opportunity for the kids to get involved in the early stages of something that will become an integral part of the Blacksburg community," said T.J. Stone, lead teacher at the school.

"The greenhouse sounds incredibly innovative."

Darby Currie, middle school instructor, said seven middle school students are involved in the project. The group is growing lettuce, radishes, spinach, sugar snap peas, beets, tomatoes and squash in the solar greenhouse. Plans are to share the bounty with other students.

Currie said students are excited when they see the progress of the crops.

"They think that the greenhouse is really nice. They seem excited about it," Currie said.

She said the experience is also a way to teach students about organic gardening.

Roper said his hope with the greenhouse is that others may want to build a similar project and that local food production can be enhanced through the efforts.

"I think it's going to be wider than this community," he said.

Roper and Billingsley say they have enjoyed the partnership to make the project a reality.

"We both believe that anything can be accomplished if you think it can," Billingsley said.

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Tips: Keep energy from going to waste

By Mary Hardbarger, February 1, 2011

Tips: Keep energy from going to waste

Dave Roper demonstrates the use of an In'flector, a new window radiant-barrier screen, he had installed in his home. The screen is reversible, allowing it to absorb sunlight in the winter or reflect it in the summer.

BLACKSBURG -- About 50 people packed into Blacksburg library's community room last week eager to learn about ways to cut back on energy expenses.

The library held a Simple Energy Saving Techniques open house with guest speakers addressing the negatives of drafty houses and old household appliances and the positives of new, innovative energy-saving technologies.

Gearing up for one of the coldest months of the year, many asked questions and sought solutions to ever-increasing electric bills.

Nathan and Lori Francis of Blacksburg browsed the speakers' exhibits with their young daughters in tow.

The couple, like many in attendance, was looking for ways to save on household appliances and decrease their environmental footprint.

The Francis family was interested in finding out more about solar panels, a technology becoming more common in the New River Valley and considered a smart investment, according to Dave Roper, who gave a presentation on house energy renovations.

Roper, a retired Virginia Tech physics professor, recently sat down to discuss energy solutions for renters and homeowners alike.

He also addressed the latest energy-saving technologies such as solar energy and energy audits people can invest in, and why they should it soon.

"This is the best place to invest right now," Roper said. "It may cost a little money, but it's worth it for the future."

Q What can renters do to cut energy costs in their apartments, homes or townhomes?

a The main use of energy is heating in wintertime in this area. More energy -- about twice the amount -- is used in the wintertime than in the summertime.

There's not much renters can do about insulation, but one thing they can do is have heavy curtain on the windows. They should be closed when they're not in the room. The more insulation you can put on your windows, the better.

Renters can also change lighting. It's small, but it has an effect. You should take out the incandescent bulbs and replace them with LEDs (light-emitting diode). When you move out, you can put the incandescent light back in and take the LEDs where ever you move ... I'm not pushing CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulb) because I think LEDs is where we are going. And be sure to buy a good brand, not something you've never heard of before ...

The main loss of heat in an apartment is the windows. In the summertime, people put their air conditioners in their windows and leave them there all year long. That's a big deal. They're probably losing more energy from that one window than all the windows in the apartment. So, take your air conditioner unit out in the winter. Also, if you have a washing machine, use cold water instead of hot water. Most of the energy used is just heating the hot water. And do the same with a dishwater.

Q What are simple, day-to-day, inexpensive practices anyone can do to save energy?

If you're living in a home, composting is something everybody should do. There are many different ways to do it ... I think it's amazing how much garbage you accumulate in your kitchen, and most people just throw it in the trash.

As you know, Virginia Tech just started composting. They're not composting what's left over when eaten, they're composting what's over when they're preparing food, which is still a lot of stuff...

In the home, you can also turn your thermostat down when you're not in the house. Or, you can set your thermostat to automatically kick-on or off throughout the day.

Q What are some trends you've seen in homes that are more energy efficient?

A I think you're seeing a lot of people doing energy audits.

Q What is an energy audit?

A First of all, energy auditors want to find out how leaky your house is. They do this with a blower. They open a door and put up a big fan and close up the rest of the door. They have some electronics that measure how much air is being pulled out of your house.

You close all the other windows and doors in your house, and they start sucking air out. Then, they calculate air exchanges per hour, and there's a certain criteria they're looking for. They say a good home would have, I think, 35 percent of air sucked out in an hour. Our house had 100 and some percent of air being sucked out in an hour. That meant we had a lot of leaks.

While they're doing that, they also use an infrared camera. They take a picture of a certain area in the house with a regular camera then one with the infrared camera. For example, on our kitchen ceiling, one whole area was cold, which meant it looked dark on the infrared camera.

There was a vent above our range, and the vent was leaking. It was sucking out the air. I knew I needed to put a special vent there and found a cheap one. I also put a new vent on the dryer vent outside.

Those things keep air from coming back in, if put on properly. Another example was in our den, where we have a sloping ceiling. The little triangle at the top was cold, but the rest of the wall was OK.

When the house was built, someone didn't bother to put any insulation in that place, and the camera found that. So, I had someone come in and blow some insulation up there. These are two basic instruments used in an energy audit, and I think more and more people are beginning to do this ...

When somebody asks me, particularly homeowners, "What should I do?" I say an energy audit. If you do this, you're going to find out things about your home you had no idea about ...

Q Why is it so important to invest in these type of energy-saving practices now?

A Because the price of electricity has gone up rapidly. It's doubled in the last three or four years, and it's going to continue to do that ...

In about 10 years from now, prices of all energy is going to go up. The only thing we're going to be able to do is to go solar.

When you invest in the stock market, they say you want to leave the money in long term, because then you'll make money. But you won't if you take it out, because you never know what's going to happen. With energy investment, you'll always know you're going to gain ... It's a no-brainer.

If you have the money, or even if you don't have the money and you can borrow it, that's the best place to invest. Invest in energy efficiency first, and then invest in renewable energy.

For more information on energy-saving tips, visit

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Campus Automotive's new location creates buzz

By Mike Shaw, October 4, 2012

Campus Automotive's new location creates buzz

Campus Automotive Owner Matt McMurray (left) poses for a photo with Nissan Leaf owners David Roper and Burman Spangler during Wednesday's electric vehicle charging station unveil. Photo by Mike Shaw | The Burgs.

BLACKSBURG – The three Nissan Leaf electric vehicles parked outside Campus Automotive’s new location in Blacksburg Wednesday afternoon were buzzing for a bit of attention.

Located at 1208 N. Main St., Campus Automotive Owner Matt McMurray said he was excited to unveil two charging stations at the shop for electric vehicle owners around the New River Valley.

“These two chargers were thought up during the conceptual phase,” McMurray said. “I sat down with the architect two years ago and the architect said, ‘Give me a vision.’”

McMurray said he was trying to think five years down the road in terms of what the vehicle landscape would look like. In his opinion, electric vehicles were a very big part of that landscape, he added.

“I think that if we’re going to be in repair, eventually we’re going to have to figure out how to service these cars,” McMurray said. “If we tow one in, we’re going to have to charge it and bring it in for service.”

Since the shop services AAA customers, McMurray said, he can see the charging stations being used to tow in stranded drivers for a quick charge and send them on their way.

McMurray said the shop already had equipment in the shop that uses that level of power and adding the charging stations just seemed like a good idea. Each unit cost about $1,500, he added.

For Blacksburg resident and Nissan Leaf owner David Roper, the charging station at Campus Automotive is just another step in the right direction for the New River Valley.

“I want to cut back on the amount of carbon dioxide I put into the atmosphere and I want to cut back on the amount of fossil fuels I use,” Roper said. “We’re running out of fossil fuels and we’re ruining the environment for our grandchildren.”

Roper said the charging station at Campus Automotive is the fifth public station in Blacksburg. Of those five stations, Roper added, only one costs for use. It’s $2 for two hours of charging, he added.

In addition to charging stations in Blacksburg, there are three charging stations at the Volvo Trucks plant in Pulaski County, one in Floyd and more planned for Floyd, Roper said.

Each Nissan Leaf has 12 “bars” of energy displayed on its dashboard. It takes about seven-and-a-half hours of charging time to go from empty to full, Roper said. Energy use depends on the speed-of-travel and at 50 mph, the Leaf will travel roughly 100 miles on single charge, he added.

David Brown has owned his Leaf since Nov. 2011 and said he’s also happy to see the new charging station, but hopes there will be more coming to the area and beyond in the near future.

“From where I live, I cannot go to Roanoke and back on one tank,” Brown said. “So, it’s important to me that the infrastructure starts growing out that direction and into major areas so I can use the car more.”

Brown said the Leaf is sold around $40,000 but there’s a $7,500 tax credit associated with the purchase of the car. Additionally, Brown said there’s very little maintenance that needs to be done on the vehicle.

There aren’t any oil changes or transmission flushes for the Leaf, Brown said. In fact, the first service mileage milestone for Brown’s Leaf is approaching at 7,500 miles – a tire rotation.

“It’s wonderful to pass the gas stations and laugh at the gas prices,” Brown said. “It literally costs us nothing to charge at home at night.”

Roper said he drives his Leaf about 1,000 miles a month and believes his monthly charging bill costs are between $20-25.

Shawsville resident and Leaf owner Burman Spangler said his leaf surprises new passengers with the amount of power it actually has.

“It’s got immediate torque and power right off the line that a gasoline engine doesn’t have,” Spangler said. “I was passing people on Christiansburg Mountain this morning and when I got to the other side, I put it in ‘Eco Mode’ to regain all the power I lost coming up the mountain.”

The three Leaf owners agreed their car could be the best one they’ve owned.

“After driving one for 1,000 miles, I never want to drive another gasoline car,” Roper said. “They’re so fun to drive, acceleration is so much better than gasoline cars, it’s so quiet and a pleasure to drive.”

They also believe electric cars are catching on. In fact, Roper thinks it’s catching on much faster than Toyota’s popular hybrid, the Prius, did in the late ‘90’s.

“When the Toyota Prius first came out in the late ‘90’s, they were still catching on,” Roper said. “In fact, they were slower catching on than electric cars are catching on right now.’

Roper said he gave two talks to high school students Tuesday and told them they’d be driving electric cars when they were his age.

He genuinely believes in a future full of electric cars.

“Look at hybrids now, they’re everywhere and that’s what’s going to happen.”

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Video: See the newest spot to recharge at Virginia Tech

BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 14, 2013 – Students from Virginia Tech's Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team, business leaders, and local electric car aficionados were on hand as The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center opened the newest charging station in Blacksburg. Located in the front row of the Inn's parking lot, the station is free and available to the public.

Get the full story from this brief video news report.

With downtown charging station, Roanoke empowers electric vehicle owners

By Jeff Sturgeon, December 2, 2014

EV chargers

An Eaton EV Quick Charger on Market Street near the intersection with Salem Avenue in downtown Roanoke. The charging station is one of the fastest in the area, which has at least seven, and was provided to the city by Virginia Clean Cities.

It’s easier to stay charged-up these days.

Last month, a crew installed an advanced electric vehicle charging station in a tall gray box near the Roanoke City Market Building. It’s at least the seventh station in the Roanoke Valley for placing current in vehicles powered by electricity.

Read More: Electric-vehicle charger already creating a buzz (2011)

It’s the only one that can put a Nissan Leaf or a Tesla Model S back on the road within an hour or less.

Blacksburg’s electric vehicle infrastructure has grown to nine charging stations, most of them free, according to David Roper, a Virginia Tech professor emeritus of physics and an electric vehicle advocate.

While analysts have said sales of electric vehicles aren’t living up to some forecasts, many new charging stations are online.

Most electric vehicle charging occurs at home, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic, and many of the trips are short. But owners of electric vehicles who take longer trips require access to public charging stations. The U.S. Department of Energy said the average vehicle range falls between 100 and 200 miles.

Car and truck dealerships set up several of the earliest public charging stations in the Roanoke region, but the station universe has grown since then.

The Virginia Museum of Transportation installed one just over three years ago and it gets some use, though it isn’t busy, executive director Bev Fitzpatrick said. A block of about four hours is required for a charge, and it’s billed at ordinary electric rates.

The River House, a two-and-a-half-year-old complex in Wasena with apartments, offices, a climbing gym and restaurant, offers free charging to the public at its station, which is similar in charging time to the museum’s. The Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salem built a charging station in May, but it’s reserved for federal agency vehicles used by hospital staff.

Virginia Western Community College offers free use of an electrical outlet outside its college services building near Overland Road, equipment that can fill up a battery overnight. Use is free.

In the New River Valley, some of the charger-equipped locations are the Inn at Virginia Tech, the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center and Warm Hearth Village, according to the DOE.

In Roanoke, the newest charging option is $3 municipal service powered by an Eaton Quick Charger on Market Street near Salem Avenue. It is the fastest charging equipment available today and helps chain together the charging station network along the East Coast, according to electric vehicle advocates.

“It clearly puts us on the map,” said Ken Cronin, director of general services and sustainability for the city.

Virginia Clean Cities, an environmental organization focused on alternative fuels and vehicles, gave the Eaton Quick Charger to the city, a $30,000 value. The city installed it.

This arrangement “represents the type of partnership that we would like to see throughout Virginia,” according to executive director Alleyn Harned, who added that Clean Cities will partner with the private sector — not just government agencies — to deploy chargers and the technology. It helped arrange for the unit at the transportation museum, Fitzpatrick said.

The new unit in downtown Roanoke is the only high-speed charging station near Interstate 81 in Virginia, Roper said, and the only such facility between Fredericksburg and Knoxville, Tennessee, Harned said.

More are coming soon. Additional planned grants of Quick Chargers in such places as Charlottesville are expected to expand EV-travel options in the state in 2015, Harned said.

Since testing began Nov. 13, the city’s new charging station has dispensed six charges, Cronin said. It recharged a Nissan Leaf, a top-seller in the EV arena, in half an hour and a performance-oriented Tesla Model S in about an hour, according to Cronin, who describes those time frames as estimates. “As we get more information, we’ll put it out there,” he said.

That said, not every electric vehicle type can accept the Quick Charger plug, according to Cronin. For instance, the city’s own electric vehicles do not hook up to the new charging station. Nor does the Chevy Volt, he said.

But there is time to sort out the bugs because the industry is a long way from achieving deep market penetration. According to, about 600,000 electric vehicles have sold worldwide, and about 260,000 in the United States. The website said it was quoting data from a Brazil-based alternative energy and plug-in car analyst, Mario Duran.

In addition, every major automaker offers an electric vehicle, according to Harned, who is based at James Madison University and whose organization receives guidance and funding from the Department of Energy. The federal government is offering a tax credit of $7,500 on new electric vehicle purchases. There is also a growing supply of used vehicles in some areas, Harned said.

“I would suggest people give this stuff a shot, that people try a vehicle,” he said.

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To electric car owners: fast-charging station now exists in Blacksburg

By Yann Ranaive, 13 October 2015

Blacksburg's electric car charger

Whether they’re passing through Southwest Virginia or returning to Roanoke after a game day at Virginia Tech, electric car owners can now further ease their fears of running out of a charge on Interstate 81.

Located just behind the Blacksburg Municipal Building on Draper Road is a fixture that, from plain view, looks like a refrigerator. Upon a closer look, what resembles a gas pump rests on the side of the large box.

That pump delivers free-of-cost voltage into electric cars and can fully charge a ride within 30 minutes depending on how much battery life remains in the vehicle itself.

Launched Friday and officially unveiled this week, the box is Blacksburg’s first publicly available direct current fast-charging station.

Many electric car charging stations already exist throughout the Blacksburg and Christiansburg area, but those who were involved in the project that brought the fast-charging device said the existing units are second-level fixtures that can take at least three hours to fully charge a battery.

Carol Davis, the town’s sustainability manager, said the second-level units are indeed faster than the home-based and first-level ones many electric car owners also use.

“It’s quite a bit faster, about three, four or maybe five hours, depending on how empty it is. But still, that’s not a very quick situation,” she said. “It works well if you’re going to work, or you’re going somewhere and you’re going to be in a meeting or at work for a long time. It’s not great for moving across the state. It’s not like getting gas.

“This [new station] is the closest approximation we have today of the gas and go, the thing we’re familiar with. Unless it’s totally empty, this will charge up a car in 30 minutes or less.”

In contrast to some of the stations that already exist in New River and Roanoke valleys, Davis said the town’s fast-charging unit is free to use, for now. But the station does come with a card payment option.

“We have an option to add a charge, but right now we just kind of want to see how it goes,” she said. “We might kind of test it out for six months. If it starts to cost the town a ton of money, we’re likely to ask town council to consider instituting a charge just to cover costs, not to gouge people.”

Depending on usage, the station will probably cost the town about $2.50 to $3 to charge a car, Davis said.

Still, Davis said the fast-charging station is a good bargain when compared with its gas counterpart.

“Compared to what it costs to fill up a tank, you can see as an electric driver how appealing that is,” she said. “The cost to run it is so much lower.”

Davis said electric cars, despite being more expensive than many of their gas-reliant and even hybrid opposites, can also save owners money down the road because they don’t require as much maintenance.

David Roper, a retired Virginia Tech physics professor who drives a 2015 Nissan Leaf, said electric cars’ battery-based motors don’t require routine oil, transmission fluid or timing belt changes.

“All you do is rotate the tires every now and then,” he said.

The fast-charging station arrived as a result of work done by Virginia Clean Cities, a James Madison University-based nonprofit that has for years worked to decrease dependence on fossil fuels.

The station, which Davis said cost about $45,000, was purchased with a donation from a car company.

Virginia Clean Cities has already installed two dozen fast-charging stations across the state, with Blacksburg and Charlottesville among the latest recipients.

Two fast-charging stations also exist in the Roanoke Valley, according to, a website that shows on a map where charging stations exist in the United States.

Matthew Wade, Virginia Clean Cities’ deputy director, said he hopes the fast-charging stations speed up the adoption of electric cars.

“Without these, it will be like there were no gas stations. You wouldn’t have anybody driving gasoline-powered vehicles,” he said. “So the more, DC fast-charging stations and more level-two charging stations we can get out for the public to use, the more electric vehicles will be adopted.

“This is a major game changer.”

Davis likens the appearance of fast-charging stations to the gas stations during the early years of widespread automobile use.

Davis said it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that in 10 years traditional gas stations will also provide a whole bank of fast chargers.

And because charging stations don’t have to put in as many environmental safeguards as their gasoline opposites, their cost of installation is lower, she said.

Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam said he also sees greater economic benefits for the town because the charging station could help draw out-of-town travelers who happen to own an electric car.

If “a vehicle needs charging, you park here, you charge it, and you’re on your way,” Rordam said.

Blacksburg tackles climate change

By Mike Gangloff, 22 May 2016

BLACKSBURG – The bicycle and electric car parked outside the Blacksburg Motor Co. town offices Wednesday hinted at what was going on inside.

Reducing the town's carbon footprint is the goal of the new Blacksburg Climate Action Plan, a document that brings together about a decade of work by town officials and residents. Wednesday's session was the first of three planned meetings where people can read through the plan, make comments or suggest changes.

The next information meeting is Monday, and town council is expected to vote on the plan in July.

"Climate change will the defining challenge of the 21st century," the Blacksburg plan says. "Evidence continues to mount that continued inaction on greenhouse gas emissions could lead to catastrophic changes … Blacksburg is proud to join the majority of U.S. cities that have made a formal commitment to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions."

In 2007, Blacksburg council members approved a goal of cutting back the community's emissions, and since then have worked toward it with projects like the Solarize Blacksburg initiative that tripled the number of solar panel-equipped homes in town. The plan provides a more organized framework for future efforts, town Sustainability Manager Carol Davis said.

On Wednesday, about a half dozen people talked with Davis, read through key sections of the plan featured in large print on poster boards, and wrote comments on sticky notes they could attach to the displays.

Dave Roper's installation of a solar hot water system at an apartment building he owns was one of several efforts highlighted in the plan. He drove to the meeting in the electric car parked outside the building, and carefully scrutinized the poster boards inside.

"It's exciting," he said, recalling the years of work to create the climate plan.

But Roper still had suggestions for changes. One of his post-it note comments questioned an assumption that switching to electricity generated by natural gas-fueled plants would improve the climate outlook.

"Recent analyses show that natural gas is as large a contributor to global warming as coal mainly because of fugitive methane emissions," Roper wrote.

Davis said that the plan is expected to shift, especially as town council starts to come to grips with the plan's wide-ranging goals.
"If we want to do it, we have to figure out what it's going to take," Davis said.

Divided into six sections – residential; transportation; commercial/industrial; food, waste and recycling; land use and renewable energy – the plan is based around goals for 2020 and 2050, such as: "Increase the percentage of trips taken by bicycle and walking by 33 percent by 2020 and 100 percent by 2050."

Other goals include meeting 5 percent of residential energy demand with on-site solar generation by 2020 and 25 percent by 2050, and boosting annual per capita expenditures at local farmers markets by 24 percent by 2020 and 45 percent by 2050.

"It all makes sense to me," said Liz Tuchler, who lives in Montgomery County near the town. She said that she saw many energy-saving suggestions in the Blacksburg plan that were things her family already did.

"There's something there for everybody," commented Paul Angermeier, who'd stopped by Wednesday's session to catch up on a plan he said he'd followed for years.

Also present Wednesday was Emily Schosid, a sustainability planner at Virginia Tech and a member of the town's Climate Action Working Group that met from 2013 through 2015 to develop the town plan. Schosid said that Blacksburg's plan is similar to one that the university has had for about seven years, and guessed that just as Tech has, the town would find some goals easier to attain than others.

For example, Tech had a goal of recycling or composting 50 percent of its garbage by 2025, Schosid said. But such rapid progress was made – with Tech's annual recycling/compost rate now around 45 percent or so – that the university moved the target date up to 2020, she said. Similarly, progress has been quicker than expected in reducing single-occupancy vehicle use on campus as bicycling, walking and use of buses has increased.
But Tech has made less headway on reducing its carbon emissions to 80 percent of 1990 levels, Schosid said. It's a goal that the university gave itself until 2050 to attain, but Tech is not on pace to achieve it. The university is now in the first year of a five-year effort that may help bring it back toward the overall emissions goal, Schosid said. A team is identifying which campus buildings use the most energy and looking for ways to reduce it.
Blacksburg's plan also is based on the goal of cutting carbon emissions to 80 percent of 1990 levels, a target used by many governments and organizations around the world as a critical threshold for limiting global warming and its resulting changes in sea level and weather.

Davis said that she sees hope for Blacksburg reaching its emissions goal. According to the calculations that are the underpinning of the Blacksburg plan, the town's overall carbon emissions actually have fallen by 1 percent since 1990, even as the town's population has grown by 23 percent, she said.

Davis attributed the decline to improvements in vehicles generally – with better mileage and lower emissions – and to less use of cars as the town's bus system and walking and biking trail network expanded.

But even as emissions from transportation declined, those from the town's industrial sector grew, Davis said.
"It's always tricky," Davis said, "to reduce emissions when your population's growing."

Green machines

By Matt Gentry 24 August 2022

The parking lot of the Blacksburg branch of the Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library was electric — with vehicles — Wednesday. Sustainable Blacksburg presented its Lunch and Learn lecture series, recently featuring Blacksburg EV enthusiast Dave Roper.

He shared his knowledge of electric cars, driving distance, maintenance, charging, and stories from the road. After the presentation attendees were able to get close-up looks at some vehicles and talk with owners about their EV experiences.

The future of the automobile industry continues to be a major topic with climate change and the proliferation of greener car options. However, the cost of those options remains a sticking point with some sectors of the public.

In the first quarter of 2022, electric vehicles took more than 5% of the overall auto market, more than doubling its share in 2021, according to industry reports. And the EV purchase percentages worldwide continue to increase by the month, according to the reports.

Meanwhile, California — long with a reputation of being a leader in environmental issues nationally — decided just last week that it will ban the sale of new, gas-powered cars by 2035.

And, still to be determined is whether American car buyers will find new federal tax breaks for EV purchases to be a big enough incentive to do so.

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