Movie Review – Carbon Nation

I took a brief break from my 2012 La Nina Reading list to watch a documentary on climate change.  Carbon Nation touts itself as a “climate change solutions movie that doesn’t even care if you believe in climate change.” Yet this movie does care about climate change.  The narrator says, “We thought we had time to figure things out. Trouble is there is no more time. Climate change is happening now.”

The movie features many of the same players and same technologies as other films – Lester Brown, Van Jones (who just released Rebuild the Dream, which I will be reviewing soon), Amory Lovins, and Thomas Friedman.  In terms of technologies, it covers wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels, and it also has sections that discuss land use, deforestation, transportation, and energy efficiency.

The movie was well done, interesting and had great graphics. In addition, I really liked some of the people who were interviewed – real down to earth people who are taking clean technologies into their own hands. The other thing I liked about the movie was the way it broke down how each technology or action will or can affect carbon.

What do I mean?

For example, globally, the world uses 16 terawatts (TWh) of energy each year. Of those, it is estimated that when fully developed, solar could produce 86,000 TWh, geothermal 32 THw, and wind 870 THw. In other words, these three technologies alone could replace all fossil fuel based energy and leave room for growth. This doesn’t even include the amount of energy saved and carbon reduced when you factor in gains from energy efficiency and land use strategies.

Continue reading

Movie Review – Deep Green

This week I watched the documentary, “Deep Green,” written and produced by Matt Briggs. The documentary takes the position that global warming is real and global warming is serious but, “We can fix this.” Using a combination of animation shorts such as “The Krill is Gone” along with interviews of leading global warming influencers, the documentary says that if we don’t cut out carbon emissions between 80-90 percent in the next few years, it will be too late to reverse its course and well, we’re doomed.

The documentary travels to nine different countries including Germany, Sweden, China and the U.S. to take a look at actions taken to solve global warming. The film features green building projects, renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar and highlights energy efficiency strategies. Briggs interviewed several environmental “who’s who’s” including Lester Brown, the founder of the Earth Policy Institute; David Suzuki, Co-Founder of The David Suzuki Foundation; James Woolsey, former CIA Director and founding member of Set America Free Coalition; Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore’s Dilemma; and Amory Lovins, Co-founder, Chairman and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute.

The documentary was well done and beautifully produced and did an excellent job on intertwining commentary, with interviews, with animated shorts, and solutions. And Brigg’s solutions are not presented as once and done, a strategy often undertook. He continues to lay out solutions over, and over so that you walk away with some solid personal actions you can take to mitigate your own personal carbon footprint. Continue reading

Book Review – Energy, Convenient Solutions

I read an unusual book this week. “Energy, Convenient Solutions,” by Howard Johnson. The book was part Energy 101, part manifesto, part conspiracy theory. It began with a look at various forms of energy ranging from fossil-fuels to biofuels – to nuclear energy. From there, Johnson laid out his manifesto, per se, or his ideas on energy, our current state and what the future could or should look like. The end of the book reviewed factors that make it difficult to effect change as well as highlighted several “hate campaigns” that have been lobbied against big oil and nuclear energy.

Johnson says the real purpose of the book is to present many different ideas about the generation, transport and use of energy. “The study of these ideas and the efforts to make them into realities can result in excellent and viable solutions in years, instead of decades. Creative solutions are sure to be found that require few and inexpensive infrastructure changes and by using both new and existing technologies.”

Now, before I continue, some of you will accuse me of being in the pockets of Big Oil. I’m not. I’m simply reviewing the author’s book and the thoughts contained therein. What makes the diversity of energy books so compelling is the fact that each author has his or her own ideas, predictions and solutions.

Speaking of predictions, Johnson outlines a few in his book. First, he notes that the largest energy growth sector is expected to be in electricity and the largest growth product will be nuclear energy followed by geothermal. He believes there will be a decline in coal-fired power plants unless carbon sequestration technologies come a reality, and also believes wind and solar energy will require long-term substantial subsidies to compete, and even so, may never be cost competitive. In addition, he predicts hydropower will stay fairly stagnant due to environmental concerns and finally believes electric vehicles will dominate and vehicles fueled by liquids (such as gas or biofuels) will be phased out. Needless to say, like so many others, Johnson does not believe first generation biodiesel or ethanol is a solution but does have hope for things such as algae-based biofuels. Continue reading

IPPC Releases Renewable Energy Report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a paper on the potential of renewable energy and its impacts on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are believed to contribute to global climate change. The report found that close to 80 percent of the world’s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if supported by the right policies.

More than 120 researchers worked with IPPC on the report, “Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN),” and the findings also indicate that the rising penetration of renewable energies could lead to cumulative GHG savings of 220 to 560 gigatonnnes of carbon dioxide between 2010 and 2050.

“With consistent climate and energy policy support, renewable energy sources can contribute substantially to human well-being by sustainably supplying energy and stabilizing the climate,” said Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, Co-Chair of Working Group III at the report launch. “However, the substantial increase of renewables is technically and politically very challenging.”

According to a news release, the upper end of the scenarios assessed, representing a cut of around a third in GHGs from business-as-usual projections, could assist in keeping concentrations of greenhouse gases at 450 parts per million. If this were the case, it could help to hold the increase in global average temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius, a goal laid out in the Cancun Agreements (COP-16).

Youba Sokona, Co-Chair of the Working Group III, said: “The potential role of renewable energy technologies in meeting the needs of the poor and in powering the sustainable growth of developing and developed economies can trigger sharply polarized views. This IPCC report has brought some much needed clarity to this debate in order to inform governments on the options and decisions that will needed if the world is to collectively realize a low carbon, far more resource efficient and equitable development path.”

The six renewable energy technologies reviewed were bioenergy, solar energy, geothermal energy, hydropower, ocean energy and wind energy. The report, which is a summary of a longer, 900 plus page research document, will feed into the broader work of the IPPC as they prepare its Fifth Assessment Report that is scheduled to be released in September 2014.

How Much CO2 Does an Electric Vehicle Emit?

Ever wonder how much carbon dioxide (CO2) you are emitting when you drive? How about when you’re driving an electric vehicle (EV)? Well, technically EVs don’t emit CO2 but there is CO2 emitted during the process of creating the electricity used to “charge up” the batteries.  There is an online tool helps people calculate their greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from flying, driving and home energy use. Now this tool created by TerraPass makes it possible to calculate your GHGs from driving all electric vehicles.

Using the U.S. EPA’s figures, the TerraPass calculator uses the “miles per gallon-equivalent” figure shown on vehicle sales stickers as an input to its calculations. Since EVs don’t use gasoline, a “gallon-equivalent” was determined to be 33.7 kilowatt-hours, the quantity of stored electrical energy equivalent to the energy stored in one gallon of gasoline. For example, the EPA rates the all-electric Nissan Leaf at 99 miles per gallon-equivalent.

Not driving an electric vehicle? The calculator also works for those driving all gas cars, ethanol or biodiesel fueled vehicles and even those running on compressed natural gas. In these situations, the driver enters the miles per gallon (or gallon-equivalent) from their own driving experience or from the numbers published by the EPA. They also drive the number of miles they drive each year, and walla, you know now have many GHG’s you’re spewing out.

The calculator update also provides emissions estimates for all 2011-model cars on sale nationwide. This makes the TerraPass calculator the most comprehensive U.S. vehicle calculator available. While many calculators use EPA data, the EPA’s public dataset contained substantial errors and omissions this year.

“For literally hundreds of car models, we went back to source data and either corrected or supplemented the EPA dataset,” said Erin Craig, TerraPass’ CEO. “Our customers were helpful in road-testing our calculator to make sure we got it right.”

Here is a quick look at a few of the most fuel-efficient vehicles provided the following figures (lbs of CO2 per year with 12,000 miles driven):

Toyota Prius: 4,661 lbs CO2
Lexus CT 200h: 5,549 lbs CO2
Nissan Leaf: 5,588 lbs CO2
Honda Civic Hybrid: 5,684
Honda CR-Z: 6,298 lbs CO2

Ready to try out your own vehicle? I did and the pic included is of my GHG emissions. Now try it for yourself.

Book Review – World On The Edge

I spent Earth Day 30,000 feet up and I must admit that there was a tiny part of me that felt guilty. So to make myself feel better, I read “World On The Edge,” by Lester Brown.  The book focuses on how to prevent environmental and economic collapse and operates on the assumption that it’s not “if” global warming will change business as usual, but when. It should be noted that Brown is the founder and president of Earth Policy Institute and has been advocating for change relating to environmental concerns such as climate change for more than 30 years.

In the first part of the book, Brown lays out the problems at hand including falling water tables and shrinking harvests, eroding soils and expanding deserts and finishes with a discussion about the effect of rising temperatures including the melting of ice and glaciers and food security. He notes that several researchers conducted a study whereby they aggregated the use of earth’s natural resources including CO2 and discovered that we first surpassed the earth’s regenerative capacity around 1980. In 1999, global demands on the earth’s natural systems exceeded sustainable yields by 20 percent and today it would take 1.5 Earths to sustain our current consumption.

Next Brown begins a discussion of the consequences as a result of our foundation in peril. He discusses rising food prices and food scarcity, environmental refugees (think Hurricane Katrina where more than 300,000 people were displaced and many never went back) and failed states such as Somalia and Iraq. During the first part of the book, the big link, or the big disaster, is failed agriculture. He notes that many archeologists have determined that many civilizations that disappeared did so because of food shortages and he believes this is the weak link for today’s civilization.

He uses the 2008-2009 “food bubble” as an example. This was when energy prices hit record highs and food prices also hit record highs. He explained that with countries producing fuel from food crops, such as the U.S. producing ethanol from corn, energy prices/fuel prices are now directly tied to food prices.

“The question is not whether the food bubble will burst but when,” says Brown. Continue reading

Book Review – Climate of Corruption

In the past several years, there seems to be a growing number of people who believe that global warming is a very orchestrated political and environmental hoax. As hype around Earth Day is growing (April 22, 2011), I thought it would be interesting to read, “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax,” by Larry Bell. Now Larry Bell is no more a climate scientist than Al Gore. He is a space architect and doesn’t pretend to be anything different. But Bell believes there is a conspiracy amongst us relating to the horrors of climate change that center around fossil-fuel CO2 emissions.

He writes, “Understand that the real impetus behind the cooked numbers and doomspeak of the global warmers has little to do with the state of the environment and much to do with shackling capitalism and transforming the American way of life in the interests of global wealth redistribution (“social justice”).

Bell acknowledges that climate change is real – only that it is not man-made- and says that no one can reliably predict what Earth’s global climate will be in a decade or longer. What he sees as the real problem is the global energy supply dilemma, one that he believes has no simple solution.

Throughout the book, Bell lays out his case for his way of thinking beginning with “outing” those who are “cooking the climate books.” This includes Al Gore as well as the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In other words, he “sets the record straight.” From there, he highlights those that he believes are political hijackers of science – meaning policy makers who have molded climate science research to support their own agenda – mainly cap and trade. (I fondly call this crap and raid.) Bell argues that all forms of cap and trade are scams. Continue reading

Environmental Watch List of 2011

Environmental Watch List of 2011. The 10 environmental hot topics range from issues like oil spills and offshore drilling to breakthroughs in wind and solar energy and the military’s increased use of renewable energy. The full report evaluates 10 judicial, legislative and other actions that the top-ranked law school considers to significantly affects humans and the natural world.

“We can continue our short-sighted addiction to fossil fuels or we can adopt innovative, healthier, more sustainable practices,” said VLS Dean Jeff Shields. “The Environmental Watch List will help improve public understanding of how to use the law to take action on the critical issues of our time.”

The 2011 Watch List:
1. Congressional failure to enact climate change legislation – will states take over where federal failed in 2011?
2. The nation’s worst oil spill – Deepwater Horizon Disaster
3. First U.S. greenhouse gas rules – Will the EPA’s efforts to restrict global warming pollutants survive judicial and political challenges?
4. Climate change in the courts – Supreme Court case that would allow public nuisance lawsuits against major air polluters.
5. California’s climate law dodges a bullet – Voters kill Prop 23 in November elections
6. EPA clamps down on mountaintop removal coal mining – Looks at the EPA’s crackdown on the coal industry’s practice of tearing off mountain peaks
7. Wind and solar projects make breakthroughs – Including offshore wind and solar projects on public lands
8. Supreme Court reviews genetically modified crops – Looks at the Supreme Court’s first ruling on so-called Frankenfoods
9. EPA’s water transfer exemption remains in force – Conflict over transferring polluted water from one water body to another.
10. U.S. military going green – Looks at how the military is reducing its dependence on fossil fuels

You can learn more about each issue and delve into the debate on their dedicated Environmental Watch List 2011 website.

Book Review – Energy And Climate Wars

The debate about climate change change is over right? Wrong. At least according to authors Peter C. Glover and Michael J. Economides in their book, “Energy and Climate Wars.” The premise of the book is that politicians (aka Al Gore) green ideologues and media elites (What, me? Oh, I’m not a media elite.) are undermining the truth about energy and the climate and that is, well, to put it simply, is that it is not man made and carbon dioxide is not killing us quickly, or even slowly for that matter. It’s a hoax. A farce. A well orchestrated campaign designed to make a few rich in the new “carbon” or for some “clean/green economy” billionaires.

Now before you start clicking the button to post a comment, these are the views of the authors, not me. With that reminder, let me regale you with the overarching premise of the book. According to the authors, the book was written to give the reader a grasp on “the power politics of energy” or more specifically on the social ideology that increasingly influences and impacts you.

What is real, they say, is the threat on your energy security, but not for the reasons you believe (we’re running out of oil/peak oil, or that alternative energies will substitute for ‘dirty’ hydrocarbons). The REAL threats to your energy security are numerous one being alternative energy. In other words, our lifestyle as we know it (military, cars, homes, gadgets, etc.) is predicated on energy, energy that grew out of the Industrial Revolution. If we scale back on fossil-fuel based energy sources, oil, coal, natural gas, we are going to lose our way of life, our military will suffer, and ultimately, our energy security will be at risk.

The authors write, “Now let’s be clear before we go any further. Nobody is against research into new energy technologies, or demurs from the small-scale, purely supportive value of renewable energy sources from wind power (it may help keep your out-house lit) to solar power (expensive but it might give you hot or tepid bathwater) to geothermal use (maybe, but only in really cold countries). The problem is not the pin-prick, ad hoc uses to which they may be put, but the harnessing of larger projects on a commercially viable basis. On an industrial scale, they amount to nothing more than incredibly uneconomic business propositions that require the constant lifeline of government intervention and tax subsidy. The stark reality is that current technology offers no realistic replacing hydrocarbons for decades to come, if ever.” (All emphasis are those of the authors.)

Energy and Climate Wars reads a little like a Michael Crichton book (scientific thriller) dropped into the the plot of a John Le Carré global spy thriller, mixed with controversy of WikiLeaks adapted for the screen by the producer of the movie Wag the Dog.

If you question the whole global climate change movement, then you should consider reading this book. If you are one who believes that global climate change exists and that these two are the “alarmists” distracting us from the real crisis, you might want to read this book to. Why? It’s always easier to fight your enemies if you have their playbooks. Well, for the rest of you, consider a less controversial read…this one may give the weak of heart a stroke.

ACORE Calls for Global Renewable Energy Standard

During COP-16, the ongoing global climate talks taking place in Cancun, Mexico, the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) called for a global agreement on the adoption of a 25 percent renewable energy standard by the year 2025 to be called the Global Renewable Energy Standard (G-RES). In addition, ACORE went further and asked the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to be designated as the lead agency to support the implementation should an agreement be passed.

“The world seeks leadership and guidance on the best path to a cleaner, safer environment and stable atmospheric ecosystem. But it is clear to most of us that there is no single path – that this is a matter of many paths that together get the world to where it needs to be,” said Michael Eckhart, President of ACORE.

He continued, “We know today that three of the cornerstone paths to climate protection are the adoption of renewable energy, investment in greater energy efficiency, and protection of the rainforests as the Earth’s lungs. It is time to have concerted action on each of those three paths, getting started on what we know will work. I believe we can agree on the adoption of renewable energy here this week at COP-16, and we hereby call on the conference to introduce the measure and test it with a vote. We believe it can pass, and call on other associations and NGOs to encourage their governments to agree.”

ACORE put forward the following draft resolution that they believe most countries can meet while still achieving economic growth and employment.

RESOLVED, that the undersigned nations commit to a Global Renewable Energy Standard (G-RES) in the amount of 25% by the year 2025. That is, that each signatory nation shall hereby be committed to a goal of supplying not less than 25% of its national energy supply from renewable energy sources, herein defined as wind, solar, hydro, ocean, geothermal and biomass sources of electricity, fuels, heat and other end-use forms of energy; and to a process of international collaboration through the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) as the designated lead agency for implementation. The G-RES shall provide for two implementing mechanisms: direct installation of renewable energy systems sufficient to meet the goal, and the sale/purchase of Global Renewable Energy Certificates (G-RECs) between nations.

In the past, other groups have signed a memorandum of understanding on the 25 percent by 2025 goal including ACORE, the Chinese Renewable Energy Society, the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, the European Renewable Energy Council, and the World Council for Renewable Energy (WCRE). In addition, other groups around the world have promoted a “25x2025” goal including the Energy Future Coalition in the U.S.