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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Farewell Johnny, till we meet again.

You were taken too soon. You barely began to live, but you left an impact on those of us left behind. We will keep you in our memories until we see you again in heaven. We have heavy hearts, but you are in the presence of our Lord. You are the lucky one.

Johnny Martin, 1991-2007

Hit and killed by a drunk driver (repeat offender), 7pm March 30th, 2007

Calling hours (Parishville Fireman's Hall, Parishville NY):

6pm - 9pm, Tuesday, April 3rd.
8am - 10am, Wednesday, April 4th.

Funeral (Parishville Fireman's Hall, Parishville NY):

10am, Wednesday, April 4th.

Burial to follow at Daniel Martin's Farm.

Everyone Welcome!


WWNY Report: The man who allegedly drove drunk and killed a teen Friday night reportedly had a previous conviction for driving while intoxicated.

Richard Hayes, 39, of Potsdam, was charged Friday night with vehicular manslaughter, aggravated driving while intoxicated and felony driving while intoxicated.

Police said the vehicle Hayes was driving struck and killed Jonathan Martin, 15, of Parishville, on county route 47 just before 8 pm Friday.

Hayes had a blood alcohol level in excess of .18, officials told 7 News.

Hayes was convicted of DWI in Massena in 2001, the Watertown Times reported Sunday.

Hayes was ordered held on $50,000 bail.

Martin was driving a golf cart, police said, and was struck by a van operated by Hayes.

The Boy's Bugle, by the Martin Family

Saturday, March 24, 2007

North Country Peak Oil Study/Action Group

North Country Peak Oil Study/Action Group

The North Country Peak Oil Study/Action Group informs and educates on the impacts of dwindling oil resources and increased energy costs. It works to smooth the transition to a locally-based, self-reliant and sustainable way of living through conservation and cooperation.

We are a group of about 15-20 active people, mostly from the Canton/Potsdam area (one from around Watertown),with a much larger community of interested folks who come to our showings and would work on specific projects. Many of us were lucky enough to attend a month long class on Peak Oil last June at SUNY Potsdam given by Richard Heinberg for professors and other interested community people. We decided to organize a powerpoint talk by him and out of the hundred or so who attended was born the idea of starting an action group.

Our group had its first meeting in September and has met monthly or more often since. We had a breakfast meeting this morning at the Potsdam Village Diner. Steve attempted the Flapjack Challenge, but only managed to eat half of it. If you're interested in attending these get-to-gethers, contact or 315-379-9466. At the last meeting we viewed Guy Dauncey's The Great Energy Revolution, and afterwards discussed it and planned various actions.

We have had public showings of The Power of Community (a film on how Cuba met their own peak oil crisis in the 90's after the Soviet Union fell) and The End of Suburbia.

Some of our members are breaking down into action groups in the areas of teaching self-sufficiency skills, getting a local ride board going, exploring the possibility of starting a community garden, creating a display for our annual Sustainable Energy Fair April 27-29 at SUNY Canton and other things.

We have started a project called THE ARK COMMUNITY, which now has monthly potluck get-togethers where we get to know each other, share self-sufficiency ideas, discuss our situation in the North Country and have work days helping each other. One person is planning to go door to door in their neighborhood with a questionaire and we are looking for other ways to organize and create a feeling of commuity.

We are trying to be positive, not gloom and doom, and relate the larger picture of peak oil to our local situation here in the North Country from Watertown to Plattsburg, NY. Although we have four universities here in the Canton/Potsdam area at the center of our region, we are a very rural area of upstate NY with our agricultural base still pretty much in tact or revivable. We have good forest resources, a soybean oil plant and developing biodiesel and pelleting industries, lots of homesteading people, cheap land and a strong independent tradition that will stand us in good stead during this transition. We hope to form alliances by hooking up with other active groups in our area promoting local agriculture,local currency, reviving trains, using draft horses, etc.

We welcome new members and people who want to be on our mailing list for events.
For more information about this Local Group, please contact Patricia Greene.

Location Canton, NY United States

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Local food vs. global food?

I'm sitting here at the table this morning, eating breakfast. I'm having locally baked bread, locally produced jam, and locally produced butter. I'm being warmed from the heat from the woodstove with wood cut on my own property and I look over at the apple juice container and it says "Concentrate from New Zealand/China" ....

I live in New York State. We are well known for apple production, and my apple juice (Food Club / Topco) has to be brought from the other side of the world? Something is very wrong.

Why Buy Local?

Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold. And this is when taking into account only US grown products! Those distances are substantially longer when we take into consideration produce imported from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America, and other places.

We can only afford to do this now because of the artificially low energy prices that we currently enjoy, and by externalizing the environmental costs of such a wasteful food system. We do this also to the detriment of small farmers by subsidizing large scale, agribusiness-oriented agriculture with government handouts and artificially cheap energy.

Cheap oil will not last forever though. World oil production has already peaked, according to some estimates, and while demand for energy continues to grow, supply will soon start dwindling, sending the price of energy through the roof. We'll be forced then to reevaluate our food systems and place more emphasis on energy efficient agricultural methods, like smaller-scale organic agriculture, and on local production wherever possible.

Cheap energy and agricultural subsidies facilitate a type of agriculture that is destroying and polluting our soils and water, weakening our communities, and concentrating wealth and power into a few hands. It is also threatening the security of our food systems, as demonstrated by the continued e-Coli, GMO-contamination, and other health scares that are often seen nowadays on the news.

These large-scale, agribusiness-oriented food systems are bound to fail on the long term, sunk by their own unsustainability. But why wait until we're forced by circumstance to abandon our destructive patterns of consumption? We can start now by buying locally grown food whenever possible. By doing so you'll be helping preserve the environment, and you'll be strengthening your community by investing your food dollar close to home. Only 18 cents of every dollar, when buying at a large supermarket, go to the grower. 82 cents go to various unnecessary middlemen. Cut them out of the picture and buy your food directly from your local farmer. -

Saturday, March 03, 2007

State makes big fuss over local couple's vegetable oil car fuel

By HUEY FREEMAN - H&R Staff Writer

DECATUR - David and Eileen Wetzel don't get going in the morning quite as early as they used to.

So David Wetzel, 79, was surprised to hear a knock on the door at their eastside home while he was still getting dressed.

Two men in suits were standing on his porch.

"They showed me their badges and said they were from the Illinois Department of Revenue," Wetzel said. "I said, 'Come in.' Maybe I shouldn't have."

Gary May introduced himself as a special agent. The other man, John Egan, was introduced as his colleague. May gave the Wetzels his card, stating that he is the senior agent in the bureau of criminal investigations.

"I was afraid," Eileen Wetzel said. "I came out of the bathroom. I thought: Good God, we paid our taxes. The check didn't bounce."

The agents informed the Wetzels that they were interested in their car, a 1986 Volkswagen Golf, that David Wetzel converted to run primarily from vegetable oil but also partly on diesel.

Wetzel uses recycled vegetable oil, which he picks up weekly from an organization that uses it for frying food at its dining facility.

"They told me I am required to have a license and am obligated to pay a motor fuel tax," David Wetzel recalled. "Mr. May also told me the tax would be retroactive."

Since the initial visit by the agents on Jan. 4, the Wetzels have been involved in a struggle with the Illinois Department of Revenue. The couple, who live on a fixed budget, have been asked to post a $2,500 bond and threatened with felony charges.

State legislators have rallied to help the Wetzels.

State Sen. Frank Watson, R-Greenville, introduced Senate Bill 267, which would curtail government interference regarding alternative fuels, such as vegetable oil. A public hearing on the bill will be at 1 p.m. today in Room 400 of the state Capitol.

"I would agree that the bond is not acceptable, $2,500 bond," Watson said, adding that David Wetzel should be commended for his innovative efforts. "(His car) gets 46 miles per gallon running on vegetable oil. We all should be thinking about doing without gasoline if we're trying to end foreign dependency.

"I think it's inappropriate of state dollars to send two people to Mr. Wetzel's home to do this. They could have done with a more friendly approach. It could have been done on the phone. To use an intimidation factor on this - who is he harming? Two revenue agents. You'd think there's a better use of their time," Watson said.

The Wetzels, who plan to speak at a Senate hearing in Springfield today, recalled how their struggle with the revenue department unfolded.

According to the Wetzels, May told them during his Jan. 4 visit that they would have to pay taxes at either the gasoline rate of 19½ cents per gallon or the diesel rate of 21½ cents per gallon.

A retired research chemist and food plant manager, Wetzel produced records showing he has used 1,134.6 gallons of vegetable oil from 2002 to 2006. At the higher rate, the tax bill would come to $244.24.

"That averages out to $4.07 a month," Wetzel noted, adding he is willing to pay that bill.

But the Wetzels would discover that the state had more complicated and costly requirements for them to continue to use their "veggie mobile."

David Wetzel was told to contact a revenue official and apply for a license as a "special fuel supplier" and "receiver." After completing a complicated application form designed for businesses, David Wetzel was sent a letter directing him to send in a $2,500 bond.

Eileen Wetzel, a former teaching assistant, calculated that the bond, designed to ensure that their "business" pays its taxes, would cover the next 51 years at their present usage rate.

A couple of weeks later, David Wetzel received another letter from the revenue department, stating that he "must immediately stop operating as a special fuel supplier and receiver until you receive special fuel supplier and receiver licenses."

This threatening letter stated that acting as a supplier and receiver without a license is a Class 3 felony. This class of felonies carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.

On the department of revenue's Web site, David Wetzel discovered that the definition of special fuel supplier includes someone who operates a plant with an "active bulk storage capacity of not less than 30,000 gallons." Wetzel also did not fit the definition of a receiver, described as a person who produces, distributes or transports fuel into the state. So Wetzel withdrew his application to become a supplier and receiver.

Mike Klemens, spokesman for the department of revenue, explained that Wetzel has to register as a supplier because the law states that is the only way he can pay motor fuel tax.

But what if he is not, in fact, a supplier? Then would he instead be exempt from paying the tax?

"We are in the process of creating a way to simplify the registration process and self-assess the tax," Klemens said, adding that a rule change may be in place by spring.

David Wetzel wonders why hybrid cars, which rely on electricity and gasoline, are not taxed for the portion of travel when they are running on electrical power. He said he wants to be treated equally by the law.

David Wetzel, who has been exhibiting his car at energy fairs and universities, views state policies as contradicting stated government aims.

"You hear the president saying we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," Wetzel said. "You hear the governor saying that."

State Rep. Bob Flider, D-Mount Zion, also plans to support legislation favoring alternative fuels.

"I'm disappointed that the Illinois Department of Revenue would go after Mr. Wetzel," Flider said. "I don't think it is a situation that merits him being licensed and paying fees.

"The people at the department of revenue apparently feel they need to regulate him in some way. We want to make sure that he is as free as he can be to use vegetable oil. He's an example of ingenuity. Instead of being whacked on the head, he should be encouraged."

Huey Freeman can be reached at or 217-421-6985.

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