Better Place

February 19, 2009

Let’s shift to global warming, the world oil crisis – and Israel, where a smart entrepreneur called Shai Agassi has dreamed up a project called Better Place which will see the whole country being set up with electric vehicles (EVs) from Nissan-Renault, a nation-wide network of charging spots, and software that automates the whole experience. If your car’s battery is low and you need to make a longer trip, you just drive to a battery exchange station and exchange it for a new one.

The Israeli government is involved, and the same is happening in Denmark, using excess energy generated at night by the country’s many wind turbines. Better Place is also negotiating in 25 other countries, involving many major automakers.

There’s a whole revolution brewing here. The German capital, Berlin, is gearing up for the installation of 500 EV charging posts around the city and 100 Mercedes-Benz electric cars powered by green electricity which will be available for public use in 2010.

Here in BC, where most of our electricity is green, a Better World EV network would work well in the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island – but not elsewhere, since distances are too large. For that, we need to wait for the Plug-In Hybrid EVs that almost every major automaker is promising by 2010.

In September, Chrysler surprised the world by announcing not one but four electric vehicles for probable delivery in 2010 - a Lotus-based Dodge EV sports car, a plug-in hybrid Minivan and Jeep Wrangler, and the low-speed Peapod Neighbourhood EV pictured here, which will be officially allowed on the streets of Oak Bay.

Smiley Car



First published in EcoNews: A monthly newsletter funded by your donations that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, and the joys of personal fulfillment, guided and protected by our active citizenship.

Read more...

San Francisco Zero Waste

February 18, 2009

Let’s take another problem our generation has created – tonnes of garbage, which we cram into holes in the ground. Here in Greater Victoria, our recycling rate has been falling for the last few years, not rising. We need to look south to San Francisco, which has achieved a 69% recycling rate, chasing 75% by 2010 and zero waste by 2020.

What are they doing that we are not?

They use a 3-bin system – black for regular garbage; blue for mixed paper, bottles, and cans which go to a state-of the art recycling facility; and green for food and yard waste, which they compost.

They use financial incentives, so that the more a business recycles, the lower its garbage bill: the Fetzner winery has reduced its waste by 95%. And they have banned the use of plastic bags and take-away Styrofoam food containers – restaurants must now use biodegradable, compostable or recyclable containers.

They have squads of friendly recycling missionaries who inspect people’s garbage and teach the gospel of recycling to any backsliders, and they have staffed the city’s recycling department with social activists, rather than engineers, which may be their real secret.

What would it take to turn thing around for us in Victoria, and elsewhere in BC? Zero Waste activism, citizen engagement on advisory committees, a ban on compostables going to the landfill, and taking it out of the sole hands of the engineers, as San Francisco has done.



First published in EcoNews: A monthly newsletter funded by your donations that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, and the joys of personal fulfillment, guided and protected by our active citizenship.

Read more...

Güssing Green

February 16, 2009

More inspiration to show what’s possible.

Güssing is a small Austrian forest community of 3,800 people on the border with Hungary which has reduced its carbon footprint by an amazing 93% since 1995 (less flying).

They did it with leadership from the Mayor, and by engaging with local people – and engineers – to make their buildings much more efficient, and to generate heat, electricity, and vehicle fuel from forest wastes, sawdust, maize, cooking oil, and solar energy, all within a radius of 5 km, creating over 1,000 jobs in 50 new businesses, while turning the town into a magnet for 30,000 ecotourists a year who come to learn how they did it.

The Gussing Energy Network includes more than 30 different energy projects, and the town now exports energy instead of importing it. Now they are planning to do the same for the wider area of 27,000 people.

BC is full of forest communities like Güssing that could adopt a similar approach. The main obstacle might be the pricing, since Austrians pay more for energy, and have better funding for private power projects (IPPs).

www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Güssing



First published in EcoNews: A monthly newsletter funded by your donations that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, and the joys of personal fulfillment, guided and protected by our active citizenship.

Read more...

My Beef with Global Warming

February 15, 2009

First published in Common Ground Magazine


I am not a meat eater. I have been vegetarian all my adult life, simply because I don’t want to contribute to the suffering and killing of animals that are raised for meat.

I still consume milk and cheese so I have to acknowledge that I’m still a cause of the cruelty associated with the dairy industry, where the cows’ male calves are taken away from them at birth and raised in tight crates, before being killed for veal (see www.noveal.org).

The matter that concerns me here is the impact of animal farming on global warming. This has been the quiet taboo that most climate scientists and activists don’t want to talk about. One prominent scientist publicly scolded me for even raising the topic. He said it was hard enough getting people to cut back on driving, let alone asking them to stop eating meat.

During 2007, awareness that the livestock industry was part of the problem took a leap forward with the release of the UN report Livestock’s Long Shadow, which teases apart the many ways in which cattle, sheep and pigs are a cause of global warming.

It starts with the production of nitrogen fertilizers for use on livestock feed crops. This uses five percent of the world’s natural gas, producing 40 million tonnes of CO2 a year.

Next, there’s the use of fossil fuels for heat, machinery, irrigation, drying, etc, at 90 million tonnes.

A third factor is the burning of forests to grow feed for livestock, especially in Latin America. This is a big component, releasing 2.4 billion tonnes of CO2 a year. Cattle that graze on open pastures are not off the hook; the desertification that grazing causes produces 100 million tonnes.

Then there is the reality that cows have four stomachs. Without oxygen, their food ferments and they burp methane; that traps 25 times more heat than CO2 over 100 years (up to 100 times as much over 12 years, the natural life of methane). Buffaloes, sheep, goats and camels also burp methane. Pig and cow manure releases another 200 million tonnes. Measured as CO2 equivalent (CO2e), it comes to 2.2 billion tonnes.

Finally, we come back to nitrogen. When nitrogen fertilizer is applied to the land wastefully, it is not all absorbed by the soil, but escapes as nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas that traps 298 times more heat than CO2 and persists in the atmosphere for up to 150 years. It is also released by animal manure. All told, livestock’s N2O emissions produce a further 2.2 billion tonnes of CO2.

When you total it up, it comes to 7.1 billion tonnes, or 18 percent of the 40 billion tonnes of CO2e that humans produce each year – more than all the world’s transport.

I am rewriting my book on solutions to global warming and when I crunched the numbers I got the astonishing result that eating beef adds 4.6 tonnes to an individual’s yearly emissions of CO2e – more than a year’s driving in an average car. A kilogram of beef produces 90 kg of CO2e. If true, a ¼ pound single hamburger is responsible for 9 kg of emissions – the same as driving 20 to 25 miles.

I should state that my results are still in the interim stages. The Greenpeace report Cool Farming suggests 13 kg of CO2 per kg of beef, 17 kg per kg of lamb. A 2007 Japanese study suggested 36.4 kg of CO2 from a kg of beef. For determined meat-eaters, a 2003 Swedish study concluded that organic beef, raised on grass, produces 40 percent less CO2e. It is also far healthier since it contains good Omega 3 fatty acids, instead of the harmful Omega 6.

Whatever the final numbers, the conclusion is clear. Cutting right back on our consumption of meat and dairy must be an essential part of any strategy to tackle global warming.

But don’t mourn – I can assure you that good veggie food tastes delicious and is far better for your health. You’ll even live longer. Not a bad trade-off!

Read more...

Avaaz Amazes

February 13, 2009

Personal despair about the growing global crisis is a direct function of disconnection and powerlessness. Climate change, hunger, warfare, poverty, the Middle East, the corruption of democracy in the USA - it all seems so overwhelming. Our tiny individual actions seem so pathetic compared to what’s happening, and yet switching off does not make the despair go away. It simply etches it deeper into our souls. Unless we are careful, we risk turning into gloomy or angry cynics.

The spirit of life can never be suppressed, however. It’s like a perennial Phoenix, always dreaming up new hopes, actions, and ways to intervene. In January 2007, a group of people who understood the power of the Internet decided it was time global opinion had a global voice. They founded Avaaz.org as a global web movement with a simple democratic mission: to close the gap between the world we have, and the world most people everywhere want.

The Avaaz community now has 3.4 million members in every country of the world, growing by 40,000 people a week, who have taken 7.7 million actions over issues as diverse as Tibet, the world food crisis, democracy in Zimbabwe, and the Israel/Palestine conflict. They have helped secure a global treaty banning cluster bombs, successfully campaigned for a ceasefire in Gaza, helped bring the President of Sudan to trial for genocide in Darfur, and pushed the G-8 leader to do more than waffle on climate change.

To add your voice to the global chorus, go to www.avaaz.org. And have hope: when it comes to global organizing, we have only just begun. And here’s an interview with Ricken Patel, Avaaz’s founder.



First published in EcoNews: A monthly newsletter funded by your donations that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, and the joys of personal fulfillment, guided and protected by our active citizenship.

Read more...

TOP 10 CLIMATE SOLUTIONS: Solution #9: Global Efficiency

February 5, 2009

There is one source of green energy that is far cheaper than the others, be it solar, wind, geothermal, or condensed camel-burps, and that is the humble negawatt – which had its birth when Amory Lovins’ mother mistyped the word “megawatt”.

A negawatt is a watt of energy saved through efficiency. When utilities invest in measures to help us reduce our use of power, such as rebates for the best appliances, or home retrofit programs, the cost can be as low as 2 - 4 cents per kilowatt hour saved, compared to 6 to 25 cents that people pay around the world, 8-9 cents for new wind power, and 50 cents for new solar PV.

Along with BC, California has the best policies. They have decoupled utility profits from sales, so they no longer lose profit if they persuade people to use less power.

Under the new law, if a utility persuades people to use less power, they keep some of the savings as profit - this should be adopted worldwide. In the US, only California and Idaho have such a rule, although four other states are considering it. Here in BC, we should do this for Terasen, Fortis, and other private utilities.

When it comes to appliances, Japan has the best policy. Their Top Runner Program requires the manufacturers of 21 appliances from TVs to vending machines to develop an overall average appliance efficiency that matches the most efficient product in the market; this has led to a 66% increase in air conditioning efficiency, and an 83% increase in computer efficiency.

For housing, Britain leads the pack, with a requirement that from 2016, all new buildings must be zero carbon, including the use of electricity.

We need a Global Energy Efficiency Agreement that will get all countries working together to realize the potential - which is to reduce our global electricity demand by 50-70%. Locally, BC Hydro is planning to invest $500 million by 2011 in a wide range of initiatives, including higher appliance standards, time of use metering, consumer education, funds for home renovations, rebates for efficient equipment, community engagement, and industry partnerships. The goal is to save 12,000 gigawatt hours by 2020, - 20% of what we consume today - for which they should be applauded.



First published in EcoNews: A monthly newsletter funded by your donations that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, and the joys of personal fulfillment, guided and protected by our active citizenship.

Read more...

TOP 10 CLIMATE SOLUTIONS: Solution #8: Electric Vehicles

February 3, 2009

Ford, GM, and Chrysler tried to kill the electric car, but when the inquests into their future bankruptcies occur, history may judge it their single biggest error. The vehicles of the post-carbon world will not be hydrogen or biofuel – they will be electric and plug-in hybrid electric, supplemented maybe with sustainable hydrogen or biofuel, or maybe not, depending on how fast battery technology evolves.

In Norway, the Think City EV is being sold on-line. When the battery needs recharging, it sends you an email, and likewise when it has surplus energy you can sell back to the grid. It will run 180 km on a charge, and go up to 100 kph. It sells for $34,000, but under a different formula, it could sell for $16,000 + $150 a month for the lease of the battery.

As a climate change solution, an EV can run on green power from the wind, solar, geothermal, or hydro, producing no greenhouse gases at all. The entire world’s fleet could be 100% carbon free by 2030 if federal, state and city governments were to form purchasing partnerships with businesses and citizens to place bulk orders for EVs by the million. Here in BC, with a demand like that, we could have a green EV industry by 2010.

What about the cost? An EV will run 5 to 10 kilometres on a kilowatt-hour of electricity, costing 6 to 10 cents, depending where you live. Thus, a year’s driving of 20,000 km will require maybe 3000 kWh, costing $240 a year.

A regular car with gas costing $1.50 rising to $4 a litre will burn 2200 litres, and cost $3300 rising to $9000 a year. Allow $1800 a year for 5-yearly battery replacement, for a total $2,000 a year, and the EV became cheaper when gas passed 90 cents a litre. EV prices will likely fall as mass production and battery improvements kick in. The result? A cheap, silent, zero carbon car that runs on renewable energy.



First published in EcoNews: A monthly newsletter funded by your donations that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, and the joys of personal fulfillment, guided and protected by our active citizenship.

Read more...

TOP 10 CLIMATE SOLUTIONS: Solution #7: Stop Deforestation

February 1, 2009

You can see the smoke from space, as Earth’s rainforests burn in the Amazon, central Africa, and Indonesia. As well as destroying precious ecological habitats, a host of unknown life-saving herbs and medicines, and the ways of life of their indigenous forest dwellers, the fires are producing 20% of the CO2 emissions that fuel global warming.

Since the start of the human adventure, we have cut down 80% of Earth’s forests, but 20% remains, covering 12% of Earth’s land area, storing 40% of the world’s terrestrial carbon. As a result of our assault by bulldozer, chainsaw and fire, we are losing 40,000 hectares every day. People and businesses are destroying rainforests to raise cattle, soybeans for Europe’s cattle, monocultures trees for pulpwood, palm oil plantations for biodiesel (“deforestation diesel”), and to cut the valuable tropical hardwoods (often illegally). Andrew Mitchell of the Global Canopy Program says, “Tropical forests are the elephant in the living room of climate change”.

What should we do? Costa Rica has made it illegal to convert forest into farmland. The Paraguay government placed a moratorium on deforestation in the eastern half of the country in 2004, using satellites to keep a check and sending in forestry officials and police when they spotted a problem, reducing deforestation by 85%.

Where the political will is strong, deforestation can be stopped. In Peru, the government has reduced the loss of forest in protected areas to less than 0.2% a year, using a combination of protected parks and indigenous reserves, the titling of native territories to the forest people who live there, the sanctioning of long-term commercial timber production in chosen areas, and satellite monitoring.

Providing locally enforceable rights over forest management to local forest communities is key. India recently brought in a law returning the bulk of its forests to local communities for management, and is one of the few countries where there is a net increase in forest cover.

Globally, we need either a large Global Forests Protection Fund, financed by a global carbon tax, which would be used to purchase threatened forests and give them permanent protection, or a system of “avoided deforestation” credits under the Kyoto Treaty which would give villagers, councils, tribes, and nations an incentive to protect their forests. See www.mongabay.com.



First published in EcoNews: A monthly newsletter funded by your donations that dreams of a world blessed by the harmony of nature, the pleasures of community, and the joys of personal fulfillment, guided and protected by our active citizenship.

Read more...

Make a Donation

If you can help support this blog by making a donation, whether $5 or $100, that would be most welcome.


$

Watch Guy's Video

Loading...

Subscribe to EcoNews

Get EcoNews by email each month:
Name:
Email:
* EcoNews protects the privacy of its email list, and does not share it with any other group or organization.