Economic Growth: The Silver Lining of Climate Change?

| Friday December 7th, 2007 | 2 Comments

Good Environmental Policy is Good Economic PolicyGood environmental policy equals good economic policy 100% of the time”
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

As the UN Framework Conference on Climate Change winds up its first week in Bali, scientists reiterate their call for quick and decisive action as the United States remains opposed to any mandatory cuts in emissions for fear of “undermining economic growth”.

Perhaps I’m being overly simplistic, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say that nobody seeks to undermine economic growth.

Funny thing too, for it seems as if progressive policy and action will very likely do just the opposite.

The UNEP issued a press release on Thursday with preliminary research findings from a draft report, due to be released early next year, entitled Green Jobs: Can the Transition to Environmental Sustainability Spur New Kinds and Higher Levels of Employment? 

The report was commissioned in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and shows that, in quick summary, “the challenge of climate change… presents opportunities for new industries and employment”. In other words, economic growth in response to an inevitably changing world.

That is, I might add, if we don’t wait too long to realistically face the challenge.    

 

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Shorter, stouter…skinnier?

| Friday December 7th, 2007 | 0 Comments

coke_bottles.jpgBeing in the sustainable business realm, it makes for interesting conversation with the relatives during the holidays. From the father who thinks that global warming is based on loose science and is politically motivated to the mother who asks at the restaurant whether the fish is farmed or wild caught, you’re in for some interesting mind openings about what and how much people that are outside the “green bubble” of your peers know, and what they care about. It gives hope and confirmation that you are indeed not just shouting into the void.
A particularly interesting exchange happened when my in law was talking about greenwashing, and what a farce it was that Arrowhead water was claiming to have an “eco shape” bottle and that it was all a PR sham. Inquiring further, I found that it was made with 30% less plastic in the bottle, with a similarly smaller label, a pretty admirable development on their part, from my perspective. But to my surprise, my suburban San Diego in law said he would like to see them do away with plastic all together, for something all together much more environmentally friendly.
True enough, this would be desirable, said I, though it should be acknowledged that the cumulative impact of this reduction should be noted, that it would lessen the actual resources used, diminish the weight to transport, reducing the fuel consumption of the vehicles transporting it, therefore reducing the emissions produced, and lessening the impact on global climate change. He gave a thoughtful smile and said he’d think further about that, chewing his baked honey ham.

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Meter, Meter on the Wall: Giving & Taking from a Smarter Grid

| Friday December 7th, 2007 | 3 Comments

ppp016-lightbulbban.jpg Use of, and plans to use, electricity net metering are spreading around the country driven by a pressing need to modernize and upgrade the nation’s electricity grid in the face of forecast increases in demand and an equally urgent drive to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, net metering is a key element of efforts to build a Smart Electrical Grid, which in and of itself may be one of the largest generators of power and cost savings, as well as catalysts for increasing use of renewable energy sources.
More than 35 states currently offer net metering programs. In addition to enabling electricity suppliers to better manage and increase the efficiency of power generation and distribution, net metering is considered to be among the best ways of providing incentives for consumers to invest in renewable energy generation.
Able to turn backwards, net meters enable customers to offset their electricity consumption over a billing period by putting surplus electricity they don’t use or generate themselves back into the grid. In return customers receive retail prices for their electricity surplus. In contrast, programs that entail installation of a second meter to measure electricity that flows back to the provider typically credit customers’ accounts at a below market rate, according to the Dept. of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Green Power Network.

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New Battery-Electric Vehicles Entering the U.S. Market

Shannon Arvizu | Thursday December 6th, 2007 | 6 Comments

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At this week’s International Electric Vehicle Symposium in Anaheim, California, several exciting all-battery electric vehicles were on display. These vehicles have already been successfully introduced into the European market and are now available to American consumers. If you are looking for ways to reduce your corporate carbon output, it is worthwhile to invest in electric vehicles because they are currently our cleanest form of transportation.

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NREL to Cut Emissions 75% by 2009

| Thursday December 6th, 2007 | 3 Comments

ppp015-boulder20.jpg The Environmental Protection Agency’s National Renewable Energy Lab is at the forefront of change in the nation’s energy resources sector. Its R&D and public-private partnership programs run the gamut of emerging new renewable energy and clean technology, enabling the crucial transition from “bleeding edge” to “leading edge” to take place. Its outreach efforts, meanwhile, are catalysts for the adoption of comprehensive, long-term climate change strategies in both the private and public sectors.
On Tuesday at the EPA’s Climate Leaders meeting in Boulder, Colo., NREL committed itself to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions 75% between 2005 and 2009. Two new renewable energy projects are expected to go a good way towards achieving its goal: a five-acre solar cell array will provide some 7% of the Lab’s electricity needs while a biomass combustion plant using forest thinnings as fuel stock will replace 75% of the natural gas currently used to heat the Lab’s research buildings.
The initiative also entails purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates, which will be purchased to offset the indirect emissions generated as a result of using electricity from non-renewable sources, as well as from Lab operations such as employee commuting and business travel.

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Stop the Vote! Can a Cap-and-Trade System Really Work to Reduce Emissions in the U.S.?

Shannon Arvizu | Wednesday December 5th, 2007 | 1 Comment

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In theory, a U.S. Federal Cap-and-Trade System provides market incentives to lower our nations’s carbon emissions. That is why the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is seriously considering adopting the Warner-Lieberman Bill this week (albeit with currently over 150 amendments). But the E.U. experience with a Cap-and-Trade market shows that carbon emissions have increased under this policy. The author of a recent report, “Europe’s Dirty Little Secret; Why the E.U. Emissions Trading Scheme Isn’t Working,” is interviewed on E&E’s OnPoint today. Neil O’Brien says that a fluctuating carbon value may be less effective in mitigating carbon output than a straight carbon-tax and additional incentives for the adoption of eco-efficient technology. Watch the video here.

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Continental Carbon Offset Program Adds to Their “Green Giant” Status

| Tuesday December 4th, 2007 | 0 Comments

Continental introduces its new carbon offset programAirline travel is carbon intensive – there’s no way around that. 

Despite more fuel-efficient and cleaner burning engines on newer planes, with increased demand for air travel and the physics and chemistry of high-altitude emissions, airlines face significant challenges in lightening their footprint.

But it isn’t as if commercial aviation hasn’t faced challenges before.

Continental Airlines, the world’s fifth largest air carrier, announced yesterday the launch of their new carbon offset program in partnership with Sustainable Travel International.

Continental joins other airlines, such as Delta, Virgin, Cathey Pacific, and SAS, in offering customers a means of potentially offsetting their carbon footprint as they fly.

With Continental’s program, customers are given information on the estimated carbon footprint of their flight based on their booked travel, with an option for making a contribution to Sustainable Travel International for funding offsets through a variety of “project portfolios”.

And you just wanted to buy a plane ticket, didn’t you? On the other hand, perhaps a great time to think about being “green” is when you’re about to do something that inherently isn’t.

And what about all the stuff that goes on before the flight even gets off the ground?

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Indigenous Designs: Fair Trade, Organic Clothing

| Tuesday December 4th, 2007 | 8 Comments

Scott Leonard founded Indigenous Designs over 14 years ago on the backbone of imported fair trade organic clothing. When he told people that was his business he was rebounded with blank stares and expressionless “okay” replies. In a time when organic food was still an unknown he pioneered this do-good business and conitnues to operate strongly today.

In 2007 his fashion line has reached sales of $4 million in revenue with distributors like Whole Foods and the Sundance catalog. His bottom line is increasing rapidly as more and more people are becoming aware and begin to put their consumer dollars where it counts; for their own well-being and a better planet.

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AskPablo: Should I buy a hybrid?

| Monday December 3rd, 2007 | 16 Comments

hybridpic.jpgThis week a frequent reader presented me with a common dilemma. “Does the fuel economy improvement of a hybrid really justify paying the price premium?” I’ll take a look at several different car models that are available in both hybrid and standard versions in order to come up with an answer.
I began by researching the prices and fuel economy of five hybrid vehicles and their non-hybrid counterparts: Ford Escape, Honda Civic, Nissan Altima, Saturn Aura, and the Toyota Camry. The Saturn Aura Hybrid is not priced much higher than the standard model but some research showed that this vehicle is a bit of a joke in the hybrid vehicle world. It’s mpg increase is not impressive, the electric motor is weak, and the vehicle can apparently only run in fully electric mode up to 3 miles per hour. For these reasons I have excluded the Saturn Auro from the results. The Toyota Prius is also notably absent, a decision made due to the fact that the Prius is a hybrid specific vehicle and there is no non-hybrid baseline vehicle to compare it to.

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Global Warming Warrior: Phytoplankton

| Friday November 30th, 2007 | 7 Comments

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In May of this year, WEATHERBIRD II, a 115-foot research vessel trolled the Pacific Ocean dumping more than 20 tons of iron dust into the water near the Galapagos Islands. Why? The project is the first large-scale effort in a controversial field, known as geoengineering, which aims to actively combat global warming. This also proved to be the first attempt to profit from this long studied however unproved iron-seeding antidote to the global dilemma. This is an idea spawned by the company, Planktos, which is spearheaded by D. Russ George, a former Greenpeacer and environmental project manager with the Canadian government. Planktos Corp. is a public company (OTCBB:PLKT) engaged in the development of global eco-restoration projects to revive dwindling forests and ocean plankton ecosystems. The company harnesses the power of green plants and photosynthesis to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. It’s planned restoration of ocean plankton blooms are intended to produce carbon offsets for sale into both regulated and voluntary climate change markets around the world.
This solution seems a bit more than strange, but when approached from a scientific perspective, it actually makes sense. The iron rich water would stimulate the growth of phytoplankton upon the ocean’s surface which should, in theory, then suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by the tons and sink it deep into the ocean. Phytoplankton is in many ways a plant, and as such, actively absorbs the carbon dioxide in the air and converts it to oxygen. Dumping iron sulphate in the ocean to cause plankton blooms might not seem an eco-friendly way to tackle the global warming crisis. But, according to the most in depth trial of the technique so far, it could prove an effective one.

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The Efficiency Conundrum

| Friday November 30th, 2007 | 7 Comments

I need more Power!It’s a bit like the dieter who buys a box of low-fat cookies and ends up eating the entire box in one sitting. So much for the diet.

A report released on Tuesday by CIBC World Markets Chief Economist Jeff Rubin states that despite the overall gains in energy efficiency since the 1970’s – 50% per unit of GDP from 1975 to 2005 – those gains have been spent, and then some, in more gadgets, bigger cars, larger houses, and more energy consumed. Total energy use in that time has actually risen by 40% Rubin says.

The conclusion is that energy efficiency alone is not a solution to climate change or dwindling sources of oil and must be combined with actual conservation. But will efficiency ever lead to conservation? Are we going against the grain of human nature to expect it to?

In their book The Bottomless Well, Peter Huber and Mark Mills think the idea of efficiency as a means to conservation is misguided. Not that efficiency is bad or shouldn’t be pursued, but that it is never a means to conservation; “energy efficiency leads to more consumption, not less”. The report by Rubin seems to bear out Huber and Mills’ assertion.

It is clear that efficiency is but a means to an end, but how to make the consumer understand – or care about –  this efficiency paradox is a sticky wicket.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to have one more cookie. After all, it’s low fat…

A pdf of the complete Rubin report is available here

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Tornado Power: Wild Alternative Energy

| Friday November 30th, 2007 | 10 Comments

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When people think of tornados they think of mayhem and destruction. A man named Louis Michaud would rather create constructive tornados, very big ones. Louis is a Canadian engineer who intends to turn tornadoes into power plants by creating and containing tornados. Imagine descending into an urban environment aboard a commercial aircraft and seeing a 30 foot-wide, miles high spinning vortex of hot air as if it was meant to be there. These man-made turbulences could generate enough electricity to power thousands of homes; just hope your pilot has planned a way around them on his flight plan.
This so-called atmospheric vortex engine will suck in hot air through a series of ducts at the base and channel it into an open roof arena. This would lead to the production of a tornado-like funnel of air that would provide the turbulent push to turn power-generating turbines.

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The Vanishing Bees

Shannon Arvizu | Friday November 30th, 2007 | 0 Comments

Many of us have heard snipets in the news of vanishing bee colonies in our agricultural-rich states over the past year. The occurence is known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). In some states (as well as in Quebec and parts of Europe), up to 25% of total bee colonies used to pollinate crops for domestic and export consumption disappeared between 2006-2007. Several causes, including pesticide use, malnutrition, depressed immune system, GMO crops, mites, and increasing temperatures are believed to have contributed to the problem. Given that many crops are dependent upon bee poliination for survival, the economic and public health impact of CCD could potentially be catastrophic if the present trend continues.
An upcoming documentary, “The Vanishing Bees,” takes a close look at CCD in a thought-provoking and engaging manner. I encourage all of Triple P readers to take a look at the trailer posted on their website. The producers of Hive Mentality Films have done a superb job in showcasing this disturbing phenomenon.

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IT’s Drive to Go Lean, Clean & Green

| Friday November 30th, 2007 | 3 Comments

Vitruvian%2520Man%2520small.jpg Hats off to Google…I’ve been around a while now and I’ve never seen what has so quickly grown into such a large, influential organization be so openly idealistic, agile, innovative and committed, not only to green tech but to corporate social and environmental responsibility in general. Better yet, leading IT companies in general are making real and substantial commitments to becoming more energy efficient, reducing carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, and minimizing pollution. It’s a good thing and it couldn’t come at a better time as by instituting such change transnational IT industry leaders can blaze a clean and green tech trail in developed and developing nations alike.
There’s a lot to “green” in the global IT industry, however. And we’re going need to reliable, accurate, timely and comprehensive carbon and environmental business monitoring, accounting and reporting if market mechanisms are to function and capital is to be allocated effectively, as has been pointed out in previous posts. Released in August, 2006, Greenpeace’s quarterly “Guide to Greener Electronics”report “has shamed many companies — Apple, in particular — by pointing out their less-than-environmentally friendly practices, such as using toxic materials in products and offering inadequate or no e-waste recycling, disposal or take-back programs,” as pointed out in a TechNewsWorld article.
Fortunately, technological advances, increasing public awareness in countries around the world and new domestic and international government incentives and programs, coupled with green and clean tech’s rising prominence on the corporate agenda is creating a business environment in which companies are increasingly able to reduce costs and create new business opportunities by re-fashioning themselves into leading clean and green tech proponents.

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SafeTouch Insulation: So Long Fiberglass

| Thursday November 29th, 2007 | 10 Comments

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A brilliant new product has hit the market in the form of insulation without the irritating fiberglass found in its predecessors. This material caters to all those do-it-yourself handymen and women out there who have long dreaded installing insulation thanks to the glass dust and itchiness associated with fiberglass. Dow Chemical Company has recently introduced the solution. Welcome SAFETOUCH, fiberglass-free insulation.
It is a plastic fiber batt insulation that has the same R-value as fiberglass minus the common side effect of dust and itching. The only tool required is a utility knife, and let’s not forget, you can toss your goggles, work gloves and face mask because it’s just that simple to work with. Having trouble with those tough to reach spots and drafty little gaps, no problem, just rip off a piece and stuff it in those crevices and narrow, irregular spaces. As like any good batt insulation this material can support its own weight and hold itself into the desired position when placed in a stud bay. It’s so easy to use just about anyone can create a more comfortable and energy efficient building.

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