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Global CO2 emissions could be reduced 50% by 2050 without sacrificing economic development and growth by focusing on the development and promoting the adoption of 17 key advanced energy technologies. So asserts the International Energy Agency – one of, if not the most authoritative sources of information and research on world energy supply-demand, technology and market conditions – in its latest bi-ennial report, “IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2008.”
Responding to the G-8’s call for guidance on how to achieve “a clean, clever and competitive energy future,” the International Energy Agency released “IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2008″ June 6 in Tokyo in which it lays out three possible alternative courses – a business-as-usual case, a set of ACT scenarios, and a set of BLUE scenarios – projecting the path of global CO2 emissions and energy supply and demand out to 2050.
“The world faces the daunting combination of surging energy demand, rising greenhouse gas emissions and tightening resources. A global energy technology revolution is both necessary and achievable; but it will be a tough challenge”, Nobuo Tanaka, IEA’s executive director said upon announcing the report’s release in Tokyo.
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According to an ACNielsen and Natural Marketing Institute study (PDF), green consumers are willing to pay more for organic, natural or environmentally-friendly products compared to “non-green” consumers. The section of consumers termed “lifestyles of health and sustainability” or “LOHAS” spend the most on consumer packaged goods such as cereal, jelly, pasta, produce, soup and ready-to-serve prepared food despite the state of the economy.
“LOHAS” products represent a $209 billion industry, a number that is suspected to rise to $400 billion by 2010. Small brands are able to succeed in the face of such demand. According to Brandweek, Ian’s Natural Food’s is growing 45% annually while Nature’s Path Foods grew 30% in the first half of this year and plans to launch 15 new products. ACNielsen and NMI point out that there are still more categories (sports drinks, baking mixes, and syrups among them) that represent “opportunities for CPG manufacturers and retailers seeking to capture LOHAS consumers wallet.”
The ability to store energy will be crucial for renewable energy sources to flourish and become a major source of energy. As the industry matures, affordable storage will increasing become an important obstacle to overcome.
This is why:
Not all watts are created equal. During peak demand on the electric grid, electric companies will pay more for electricity. The opposite is true during times of low demand. Solar energy tends to correspond with these price fluctuations by generating large amounts of electricity during times of peak demand.
This is because air conditioning loads are largely responsible for increased electric demand. People tend to crank up the a.c. when the sun it out. Wind energy and other renewable energy sources however don’t necessarily correspond as closely.
Opened in 1919, the GM auto plant in Janesville, WI is the company’s oldest in the country. It has survived both the Great Depression and WWII. The place is an institution. And, according to GM CEO Rick Wagoner, that institution is going to close by 2010.
This is but one of four SUV-producing auto plants that will feel the pinch of corporate belt-tightening, as production costs soar and public opinion of larger, gas guzzling cars diminishes. Along with Ford and other automotive manufacturers, GM intends to focus production on smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles as we witness the “structural” rather than a “cyclical” change in the auto industry, according to Wagoner.
The GM CEO even said that the company will take the Hummer under “strategic review,” hinting at possibly selling off the once immensely-popular line. For all intents and purposes, this symbolizes a win in the war against the fuel-inefficient, impractical SUV that has haunted environmentalists for years.Click to continue reading »
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Researchers at Harvard University Medical School working with SunEthanol will try to develop new, genetically modified strains of the ‚ÄòQ’ microbe, an anaerobic bacterium found in soil that holds out the promise of accelerating the commercialization of second-generation biofuels made from woody biomass and the remnants of food crops, such as switchgrass, corn stover, wheat straw, sugar cane bagasse and wood pulp, as well as other organic material, such as recycled newspapers and wood chips.
SunEthanol has developed a more efficient Complete Cellulose Conversion industrial process that harnesses the ‚ÄòQ’ microbe’s ability to very efficiently break down sugars found in plant material and convert them into ethanol, thereby significantly reducing the costs of producing a commercial fuel from biomass.
By employing microbes, in theory, as much as 96% of energy in plant sugars can be converted to ethanol. Actual yields are slightly lower but still the most efficient yet found, according to Dartmouth College professor of engineering and biology Lee Lynd.
*Photos courtesy: Sun Ethanol
UK farmers and businesses producing biomass that can be used for fuel and electricity creation can apply for government grants of up to GBP200,000. By paying farmers for various types of wood, grass, straw and dead forest wood, the UK government hopes to raise electricity derived from biomass supply to 6% by 2020, up from 3.5% now. Demand for renewable heat is expected to increase to 6% by 2020, up from 0.6% currently.Click to continue reading »
Edging out 129 institutions across 54 countries, Brazil’s Banco Real was chosen as this year’s Sustainable Bank of the Year by London’s Financial Times and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). Awards were given out to financial institutions operating with triple bottom line principles, incorporating social and environmental aims into their investment portfolios and business practices.
“When we initiated this process of inserting sustainability into our business,” according to a statement by the bank, “our aim was to build a new bank for a new society, and reinforce the role of banks generally as agents for economic and social development.” A subsidiary of Spain’s Banco Santander, Real has a product portfolio offering carbon credit solutions as well as fosters local development through microcredit initiatives.
It’s a known fact that trees are only temporarily carbon sequesters and that by the time they start to rot, all the nasty material gets transmitted back into the atmosphere again. So why not prevent this? Thus far we’ve been held back from doing so because intervening into the natural cycle somehow doesn’t feel right. But if we only tidied up one sixth of all the tree wastage lying around on the forest floors, we’d be nearing the carbon levels emitted by burning fossil fuels.Click to continue reading »
Growing energy demand and peaking fossil fuel production may lead to worldwide economic depression and disastrous climate warming as oil and fossil fuel production peaks and energy demand continues to increase, cautions Feasta, the Foundation for Economics of Sustainability.
Seeing parallels between economic developments today and the disastrous effects of petrodollar recycling seen in the 1970s – stagflation, a massive debt crisis and a 20-year-long slump in oil prices – the trillion or so dollars a year over and above anticipated revenues being funneled to oil exporters and the governments of oil exporting nations taking place today not only is the largest and fastest transfer of wealth yet seen in economic history, it is driving dislocations in savings, investment, economic growth and capital allocation that threaten the prevailing global economic system, Feasta argues.
Turning the economic concept of scarcity rent on its head in its May 2008 paper, “Cap and Share: A fair way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Feasta proposes addressing both issues through the establishment of a politically practical, market-based Cap-and-Share system that would cap and then rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by giving every adult in countries that adopted it the means of generating income from rising oil and fossil fuel prices.
As stated in the executive summary, “The paper argues that C&S needs to be adopted urgently not just for climate reasons but because the scarcity rent being captured by fossil fuel producers is concentrating global wealth in a way that threatens to collapse the world economy. The payment of scarcity rent is already causing severe hardship for millions of poorer people around the world.”
Walking through some trendy shopping district, with seasonal banners/flags above, do you ever wonder where they go after they’ve been switched out? In most cases, they get disposed of, adding to the waste stream. While it could be argued that these districts could find other creative, less resource intensive ways to promote themselves, one area, Commercial Drive in Vancouver, has taken another path:
They take previously used banners and make them into attractive shopping bags, 10 colors in all, in two sizes. This is brilliant for multiple reasons: It takes the current burgeoning popularity of eco friendly shopping bags, and gives people the option to get a visually unique choice. And it’s a conversation piece that will likely result in additional person to person promotion of the shopping district it came from, and the store that they purchased it at.
Aware that re-purposed billboards have long been around doing this same trick, the Commercial Drive district bag initiative also donates proceeds from these bags to the creation of new green spaces in the area.
What sort of impact does this have?
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Republicans are unwilling to slap a 25% windfall profits tax and rescind $17 billion in tax breaks over the next 10 years for Big Oil that were earmarked to provide incentives to develop alternative energy, arguing that such measures would only add to gasoline prices at the pump and increase U.S. reliance on foreign oil.
In blocking a Democrat-led bill voted on in the Senate yesterday, they also blocked renewal of the renewable energy production tax credit for solar, wind and other alternative energy sources.
The bill would have also given Congress greater powers to take action against excessive oil market speculation, increasingly viewed as a big factor in the oil price rise as Saudi Arabia makes the case that recent price rises are unwarranted in light of supply-demand conditions. It would also have made energy price gouging a federal crime and would have opened up the possibility of anti-trust actions against OPEC members, accoridng to an AP report.
Canada’s derivatives exchange in Montreal has begun trading the country’s first carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) contracts. The newly established Montreal Climate Exchange (MCeX) developed the product together with the Chicago Climate Exchange in the US. The CO2e units can be traded by industrial companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The listing of the MCeX futures contract is a ‚Äòfirst’ and it makes Montr√©al the first regulated environmental market in Canada.Click to continue reading »
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There’s a new player moving forward with plans to add to the world’s supply of high-purity silicon. With supplies tight and demand for polysilicon forecast to continue growing strongly on the back of demand for silicon-based solar photovoltaics and semiconductors, Pasadena-based
Jacobs Engineering Group announced today that it will provide engineering, procurement and construction management services for Italy’s Estelux, which plans to construct a state-of-the-art polysilicon manufacturing facility, on the site of an existing petrochemical plant in Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna.
At a cost of 360 million euros and due to be completed in 2010, the plant will have the capacity to produce 4,000 tons of polysilicon per year. Backed by investors including Solon Photovoltaik, one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of solar PV modules, Estelux sees the gap between polysilicon supply and demand continuing to widen. Production totaled approximately 32,000 tons in 2005.
Despite all the talk about green interior design, there’s a long way to go before we live with furniture and household items that are actually biodegradable. A truly green sofa ought to be disposable via the compost heap in your own garden by the time you’re done with it, don’t you agree? That’s the central argument in the Cradle2Cradle philosophy. Unlike durable design, C2C is the real end of the throw away society.
The C2C philosophy has been around for the last five years, but to find furniture designers that adhere to its principles it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack. A recently created design house by eight Dutch design students has embraced C2C fully. The company, called Artishok, has just completed its first designs after spending months researching the best 100% biodegradable materials for modern furniture.
Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s make sure we’re all clear on what a carbon offset actually is. In its most simplified form, a carbon offset is a commitment that 1 metric ton of C02 equivalent has been prevented from entering the atmosphere and contributing to global warming. Whew. Feel free to read that again if you need to. The offset can come about through dozens of different means like tradable credits from the Chicago Climate Exchange, or they can take the form of different carbon reduction projects.
Carbon offsets can be categorized into three main types: renewable (emissions free) energy generation, energy efficiency, and sequestration. The first two avoid emissions, while sequestration projects attempt to aim to absorb or capture emissions that have already occurred.