Friday, November 24, 2006
Friday, September 22, 2006
"My purpose is not to present a comprehensive and detailed blueprint [of future climate policy], for that is a task for democracy as a whole," intoned Gore, "but rather to try to shine some light on a pathway through this terra incognita that lies between where we are and where we need to go."
The pathway Gore described began with "immediately freezing [carbon dioxide] emissions and then beginning sharp reductions." Reminiscent of the nuclear freeze of the '70s, Gore's proposed carbon freeze "has the virtue of being clear, simple, and easy to understand," he argued. "It can attract support across partisan lines as a logical starting point for the more difficult work that lies ahead."
S. Pacala1* and R. Socolow2*
Humanity already possesses the fundamental scientific, technical, and industrial know-how to solve the carbon and climate problem for the next half-century. A portfolio of technologies now exists to meet the world's energy needs over the next 50 years and limit atmospheric CO2 to a trajectory that avoids a doubling of the preindustrial concentration. Every element in this portfolio has passed beyond the laboratory bench and demonstration project; many are already implemented somewhere at full industrial scale. Although no element is a credible candidate for doing the entire job (or even half the job) by itself, the portfolio as a whole is large enough that not every element has to be used.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Sitting humbly on shelves in stores everywhere is a product, priced at less than $3, that will change the world. Soon. It is a fairly ordinary item that nonetheless cuts to the heart of a half-dozen of the most profound, most urgent problems we face. Energy consumption. Rising gasoline costs and electric bills. Greenhouse-gas emissions. Dependence on coal and foreign oil. Global warming.Walmart is slowing changing its image. The interesting thing is that it is still sticking to its original goal - save money for the customer (and make money in the meanwhile).
What that means is that if every one of 110 million American households bought just one ice-cream-cone bulb, took it home, and screwed it in the place of an ordinary 60-watt bulb, the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people. One bulb swapped out, enough electricity saved to power all the homes in Delaware and Rhode Island. In terms of oil not burned, or greenhouse gases not exhausted into the atmosphere, one bulb is equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the roads.
Swirl bulbs don't just work, they pay for themselves. They use so little power compared with old reliable bulbs, a $3 swirl pays for itself in lower electric bills in about five months. Screw one in, turn it on, and it's not just lighting your living room, it's dropping quarters in your pocket. The advantages pile up in a way to almost make one giddy. Compact fluorescents, even in heavy use, last 5, 7, 10 years. Years. Install one on your 30th birthday; it may be around to help illuminate your 40th.
In the next 12 months, starting with a major push this month, Wal-Mart wants to sell every one of its regular customers--100 million in all--one swirl bulb. In the process, Wal-Mart wants to change energy consumption in the United States, and energy consciousness, too. It also aims to change its own reputation, to use swirls to make clear how seriously Wal-Mart takes its new positioning as an environmental activist.
Steven Hamburg is an associate professor at Brown University, an expert on energy consumption and global warming who helped Wal-Mart think through the spiral-bulb strategy. "Can they change the game? Think how many games Wal-Mart has changed. There's no reason they can't change this game."
It was a perfect swirl: Katrina, Rita, $70-a-barrel oil, price-chopping, corporate consciousness-raising, with Oprah's lightbulb club thrown in.
A 60-watt classic bulb and a 15-watt swirl are identically bright--the swirl just uses 45 fewer watts.
How much is 100 million bulbs? It's 25 million classic GE four-packs. That many boxes of bulbs would fill 262 Wal-Mart tractor trailers, a ghost convoy of Wal-Mart trucks, loaded with nothing but lightbulbs, stretching 3.5 miles--a convoy that will never roll. Every year for six years--just from one bulb, this year. Not to mention the line of garbage trucks necessary to cart 100 million burned-out incandescent bulbs to the landfill.
Once Wal-Mart decides to make swirls an important product, the appeal for GE also becomes clear. It's the power of the big dog: GE can either help Wal-Mart sell swirls, or some other lightbulb company will. In either case, GE's regular-bulb business shrivels. "The business case is pretty clear," says Bolsinger. "If we don't grab the market share of CFLs, we lose." The only way to survive creative destruction, in fact, is to get out in front of the tsunami, to catch the wave.
"It's certainly possible to see a day when a cartoonist will draw a cartoon with a character having an idea," says Kerby, "you know, with the traditional-shaped incandescent lightbulb going on over the character's head--and my grandchildren will look at that and not know what it means. And that's not a bad thing, because we'll be living in a much better world."
Thursday, August 24, 2006
It may not be the cheap, easily extracted stuff found in Saudi Arabia -- but geologists claim that Alberta could well match the Middle Eastern oil exporter as far as quantity is concerned. Experts believe the accessible oil reserves here could total as much as a whopping 174.5 billion barrels -- a volume greater than supplies in Iran and Libya combined. If the calculation is accurate, then Canada is number two in the global ranking for oil reserves.
There are political reasons for the run on the oil sands too. The Canadian government is fond of reminding people that this oil is located on the territory of one of the stablest democracies in the world and is not in the hands of petrocrats like Tehran, Caracas or Moscow.
But even the present ecological side effects of this latter-day alchemy are controversial. For every barrel of oil produced, up to five barrels of water are consumed. The toxic broth swashes about in giant lakes. Cannons constantly fire into the sky to scare migratory birds away from the poisonous mix.
But what is most worrying is that the Canadian government is no longer able to meet the targets for emissions reductions it set when it signed the Kyoto Protocol. Experts have calculated that emissions in areas with oil sands will continue to rise. By 2015, the area around Fort McMurray is expected to produce as much carbon dioxide as all of Denmark.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
One of the principles of sustainability is the efficiency in the creation of man-made capital from natural capital. This would potentially extend the natural capital we have. One natural capital that is critical is minerals. Copper, Iron, Gold, Diamonds are all mined from the earth. Petrol and gas are mined from the ground and offshore locations.
The other issue is the abundance of natural capital on earth. In a discussion with Atanu Dey, he suggested that if the economics would work, there are immense minerals in the ocean which could be harnessed for the creation of man-made capital. This is important as it increases the potential natural resources available to human beings.
Reuters reports on a story of two small companies which are working on mining minerals from the ocean floor.
"Underwater mining is the future with the great demand from China and Asia making it possible, despite the higher costs," said Professor Anton Eisenhauer of the GEOMAR Research Center for Marine Geosciences at Germany's University of Kiel.
"Not many people realize that there is potentially another 200,000 tonnes of copper reaching the market in the next three and a half years," said David Heydon, president and CEO of Canada's Nautilus Minerals.
One of the main attractions is the high metal grades. "There is potential to find grades that haven't been seen for ages, the surface sampling from 2005 reached 12.5 percent on copper, 15 grams per tonne on gold per year," Heydon said.
"The technology is not that challenging," Mair said. But it all comes down to how viable it would be, he added.
Reuters on cleaner fuel in Armenia:
In countries like the Netherlands, switching from petrol to gas is seen as a green option.
In landlocked Armenia, it is not concerns over climate change or global warming that are driving growth in gas-powered vehicles. Instead, it is harsh necessity -- and an unresolved war with Azerbaijan, its neighbor to the east.
Most of the world's gas-powered vehicles run on Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), a by-product of crude oil and natural gas refining. Armenia uses the natural gas it has readily available.