09 02
New Wind Turbine Designs


When you think of a wind turbine do you think of a oversized propellor on a tall stick? You are not alone. The world is being slowly land-marked by thousands of these wind power icons.

There are alternative though, especially when thinking about smaller, lower powered turbines in urban settings. One unique design is the Quiet Revolution “elegant” turbines. Shaped more like a blender blade and less like a fan, the QR5 design brings a number of advantages to the world of green power generation.

[email this story] Posted by Robert Ouellette on 09/02 Comment Here (0)
08 12
Comparing Responses To Oil Crisis


In August 9th’s New York TImes Thomas L. Friedman author of “The World Is Flat” writes about how Denmark faced down the last oil crisis. He then compares how the U.S. responded (and, by extension, how Canada is now responding). Big difference.

Unlike America, Denmark, which was so badly hammered by the 1973 Arab oil embargo that it banned all Sunday driving for a while, responded to that crisis in such a sustained, focused and systematic way that today it is energy independent. (And it didn’t happen by Danish politicians making their people stupid by telling them the solution was simply more offshore drilling.)

What was the trick? To be sure, Denmark is much smaller than us and was lucky to discover some oil in the North Sea. But despite that, Danes imposed on themselves a set of gasoline taxes, CO2 taxes and building-and-appliance efficiency standards that allowed them to grow their economy — while barely growing their energy consumption — and gave birth to a Danish clean-power industry that is one of the most competitive in the world today. Denmark today gets nearly 20 percent of its electricity from wind. America? About 1 percent.

Friedman goes on to argue that regulatory intervention spawned innovation in Denmark not seen in the United States. How does he measure it?

Because it was smart taxes and incentives that spurred Danish energy companies to innovate, Ditlev Engel, the president of Vestas — Denmark’s and the world’s biggest wind turbine company — told me that he simply can’t understand how the U.S. Congress could have just failed to extend the production tax credits for wind development in America.

Why should you care?

“We’ve had 35 new competitors coming out of China in the last 18 months,” said Engel, “and not one out of the U.S.”

For more about the Danish wind power industry, please go here.

[email this story] Posted by Robert Ouellette on 08/12 Comment Here (0)
08 05
The Environmental Macroeconomics Of Predicting The Future


There was a time when predicting the future was best left to charlatans and religious leaders. Few legitimate academics, if any, were willing to bet their careers on some pie-eyed prognostications on what might be happening globally in, say, 2050. Unfortunately, guessing what might happen fifty years from now is easier than ever, with more and more respected literati lining up to take a shot at it. Why? Well, the world of economic theory has made predicting the future child’s play if you know the rules.

Take, for instance, the world’s energy consumption. Were you aware that the world consumed some 13.5 terawatts of energy from all sources in 2002. BTW, a terawatt equals one trillion watts. That could power a lot of electric cars. The United States was by far the greatest consumer of that power. MIT professor Daniel Nocera calculated that if the world’s population is 9 billion people in 2050, and they consumed electricity like Americans do today, the world would need to produce 102 TWs of power, a staggering amount that could not be supplied with current technologies. (Read the story here) Economics suggests that in a supply and demand world people and governments will respond to this growth in one way. They will produce more energy. So how will they do it?

Given the trend towards more and more energy use as the former third world continues its move to first world standards, possible scenarios get filtered out as being either unsustainable or ridiculous. The truth of 2050 is binary. Either we will have figured out how to produce adequate amounts of power in sustainable ways or we will live in a world that is apocalyptic—at best. The future’s big hope? Solar energy. 

[email this story] Posted by Robert Ouellette on 08/05 Comment Here (0)
08 01
CKF Film Friday No. 7: How Some Media Spin Green

We all know that in an open society voices from a range of the political spectrum have the right to state their views. In recent years media purveyors have built empires around an extension of this concept: There is no longer truth, there is only opinion. One of the most successful empires built on this strategy is Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News. So, when Al Gore releases “An Inconvenient Truth” it is no surprise that Fox takes a different position. After all, when there is no truth what remains is only ad revenue. Here are some egregious examples of how media influences the masses around green issues.

[email this story] Posted by Robert Ouellette on 08/01 Comment Here (0)
07 18
CKF Film Friday No. 6: Al Gore Predicts The Future

In case you didn’t watch or hear about Al Gore’s challenge to citizens of the Untied States yesterday, our film Friday brings it to you in its entirety. What is Gore’s challenge? He wants the U.S. to generate all its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2020. Quite a challenge, but achievable through existing technologies now that oil is over $50 a barrel. Will his desired audience listen? If the comments on YouTube—where the video is posted—are an indication, we are at about 50/50 yes and no.

Here are some of my favourites:

The Chinese have forged a deal with Cuban leader Fidel Castro to explore and tap into massive oil reserves almost within sight of Key West, Florida. At the same time, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who controls the largest oil reserves in the Western Hemisphere, is making deals to sell his country?s oil to China, oil that is currently coming to the United States.

This person’s answer is to invade Cuba and piss off the Chinese—not very good strategy for a host of rather obvious reasons.

Another was more thoughtful, even startling, but their conclusion takes a nasty turn for Gore:

What it takes to make ethanol:

It takes about 600 pounds, or about 10 bushels of either Wheat, or Corn to fill a 25 gallon tank of gas.

You would get about 3 tanks of gas per acre with Wheat and about 9 tanks of gas per acre with Corn.

What it takes in grain to fill up an SUV one time, could feed a person for up to a year.

How large a carbon foot print is crated to grow and harvest an acre of Wheat or Corn?

Starving people all over the world thank you Obama and Al Gore.

Then there are the inevitable arguments over the validity of global warming:

We must remember that it is the TREND that matters. Any given year might be warmer or cooler than any other, especially within eight years. Let’s consider that global warming has raised average temperatures a degree or two, therefore we are not necessarily going to feel it yet, but more sensitive environments, especially those in the polar regions - due to global heat distribution - are warming faster. Just as NASA, NOAA, or any truly credible foundation will tell you, the trends do not lie.

My favourite piece of paranoia makes references to the movie “There Will Be Blood’s” long straw metaphor:

Absolutely, and I know in 50 years we will be. I will be dead by then, so I’m worried about today. Its upsetting Honda just came out with a hydrogen fuel cell car, I constantly hear, “see, we don’t need to drill”. Fact is, that car will not be into production for 10 more years. How many more years after that before electric power plants are running on hydrogen fuel cells? China is right now 30 mile out from our border horizontally drilling the oil we are not allowed to.

If you follow this person’s line of thought the Chines will soon be beating the U.S. over the head with a bowling pin.

Enough of the commentary: here is the Nobel Prize winner speaking for himself. Enjoy.

[email this story] Posted by Robert Ouellette on 07/18 Comment Here (0)
07 11
New York TImes: American Energy Policy Asleep At Spigot


Nelson Schwartz of the New York TImes takes aim at America’s glutinous consumer class and the country’s politicians in a critique of the country’s energy policy.:

Even as politicians heatedly debate opening new regions to drilling, corralling energy speculators, or starting an Apollo-like effort to find renewable energy supplies, analysts say the real source of the problem is closer to home. In fact, it’s parked in our driveways.

Nearly 70 percent of the 21 million barrels of oil the United States consumes every day goes for transportation, with the bulk of that burned by individual drivers, according to the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan research group that advises Congress.

So despite the fierce debate over what’s behind the recent spike in prices, no one differs on what’s really responsible for all that underlying demand here for black gold: the automobile, fueled not only by gasoline but also by Americans’ famous propensity for voracious consumption.

While everybody knew that the 8 cylinder, gas-guzzling proclivity of the buying public was just not sustainable, turning off all that profit was not going to happen. Instead auto companies and their government enablers poured billions into a model that was never going to bring the North American auto industry the competitive success it wanted.

[email this story] Posted by Robert Ouellette on 07/11 Comment Here (0)
07 02
Why You Should Care About Your CO2 Emissions

If you are a polar bear or a penguin, the news so far this year is not good. First, this summer may be the first time in recorded history that the Arctic’s polar ice cap melts. Not concerned about something so far away from your downtown condo? Don’t be too smug. These kinds of environmental changes will impact you no matter where you may live—you drink water, don’t you? Watch this video and you may be convinced high gas prices are a good thing if they keep another Hummer off the road.

Then there is the Antarctic. In a recent academic study from Australia, researchers speculate that a massive rise in the oceans’ water levels could be just a few years away:

Dr Bradley Opdyke, a paleoceanographer from the Australia National University (ANU) believes the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could partially collapse within 20 years, resulting in a dramatic jump in sea levels.

His talk on glacial cycles and the WAIS was presented earlier this month at the Imagining the real: life on a greenhouse earth conference held in Canberra.

“The 900-pound gorilla hiding in the closet is Antarctica. We have evidence that it is not a stable beast,” Opdyke says.

He says the WAIS is inherently unstable, and the current rate of sea level rise is placing it at risk.

“It is pinned on the spines of a few mountains, with ice sheets draped off them,” Opdyke says. “If sea level rise unpins these sheets, it is plausible that there will be dramatic ice collapse in the West Antarctic."

Opdyke goes on to say that such a collapse could take place in weeks rather than decades. Now, aren’t you glad you support the local Sierra Club and your family has reduced its carbon emissions? What about your business? Is it part of the old economy—you know, the one that measures success by the amount of polar ice it melts—or is it embracing the future of green? 

[email this story] Posted by Robert Ouellette on 07/02 Comment Here (2)
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