Friday, July 27, 2012

Citizens Climate Lobby: the Regeneration of Participatory Democracy

In order to ensure that our economic and environmental policies harmonize with the life-as-lived interests of ordinary human beings, at the human scale, a grassroots movement of citizens has begun working to steer the US Congress away from corporate backers and toward people-centered solutions. The American economy’s dependence on fossil fuels carries an incredible burden of hidden costs, and the American people are increasingly aware that clean energy will make the nation more prosperous, more environmentally stable and more democratic.

Citizens Climate Lobby is a non-partisan, non-profit volunteer organization, with over 60 local chapters in 26 states, and more in Canada. Founded in late 2007, by the anti-poverty crusader and microfinance hero Marshall Saunders, its first national “conference”, in Washington, DC, in 2009, brought Marshall, organizing wizard Mark Reynolds and scientist Danny Richter, to Capitol Hill to press Congress to end the nation’s addiction to carbon-based fuels.

Read More

Thursday, July 26, 2012

We Don’t Need to Dam Rivers to Make Clean Energy

The key to a fuel free energy economy is clean, renewable energy. For a long time, the most abundant, most economically productive source of clean, renewable energy has been river water, which produces hydroelectric power through turbines that turn inside major dams. Dams can have catastrophic environmental impacts, even where their use for irrigation and flood-control have a positive impact on human populations. 

The truth of the matter, however, is that we no longer need dams to produce clean energy, and we can achieve a 100% clean renewable energy economy without building any new dams. There is enough wind to power all of our energy needs many times over. And there is far more solar energy available than that. All we need to do is build the infrastructure to harness that energy and convey it to the end users (households, transport, military and industrial). 

In Building a Green Economy, we used Department of Energy data to show that by the most conservative estimate possible (in fact, far more conservative, mathematically, than is reasonable, by any standard), the territory of the United States receives more than 342 times the energy it requires for out entire economy, directly from the Sun, every day.

We know that offshore wind alone can provide up to 70% of current electricity demand (if the infrastructure is built), and just three states (Texas, Kansas and South Dakota) have enough wind to power all US electricity needs (households, transport, military and industrial). SolarImpulse, a Swiss aerospace firm, has developed a 100% solar-powered airplane that can fly for more than 24 hours straight, without landing. 

The work ahead entails refining these technologies so they can meet the full bulk of demand inherent in our current economic activities:

  • The SolarImpulse airplane needs to carry 50 to 100 passengers to be commercially viable as a replacement for the big jets, but the industry will see overhead fall dramatically when it transitions to a fleet of fuel-free aircraft, which could make it possible to replace jumbo jets with ultralight solar planes that carry only two to three dozen passengers at a time. 
  • We now have the technology to build super-fast, high-powered electric vehicles that surrender nothing to combustible-fuel vehicles (the Tesla Roadster can outpace the Porsche 911), and this technology will soon be cost-effective for general-market personal automobiles. 
  • Electric vechicle (EV) infrastructure is evolving fast, and will be bolstered by the work of Better Place, a worldwide EV-refueling firm that has developed battery switch-out technology, allowing for the full repowering of electric cars in less time than it takes to pump a tank of gasoline. 
  • Wind power is now rapidly developing across rural America, with many farmers, families and communities finding it the most cost-effective way to both provide energy and to finance their own ongoing activities, without having to sell out to agribusiness or urban development. 
  • Following the lead of California, states like New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts are showing that aggressive development of solar-voltaic infrastructure means they can become world leaders in solar production per land-area, and begin the transition away from a 100% combustible/nuclear energy economy.
  • Solar Roadways has already developed technology that makes it more cost-effective to use modular in-ground solar panels instead of asphalt to build state-of-the-art roads and highways. 
  • Transitioning away from combustible-fuel-powered buses to electric vehicles and trams is showing how better planning, more green space, and quieter, cleaner, fuel free transport, can create better living conditions, move people more efficiently from place to place, build better cities and take cars off the roads. 
  • Urban bikeshare programs are showing that the healthiest, most cost-effective, punctual and convenient way to get around is by bicycle, making city centers cleaner, safer and friendlier to human beings operating at the human scale. 
  • In the US and Canada, Citizens Climate Lobby, a non-partisan, non-profit grassroots volunteer organization, is working with Congress and Parliament, to pass fee and dividend legislation, which will provide incentive and economic comfort to households, decentralizing the energy economy and speeding the transition to a 100% clean, renewable energy economy.

In short: the only reason we do not yet have a 100% fuel free clean, renewable energy economy is because we have not yet built the infrastructure. We don’t need to build massive dams along the world’s major rivers, altering ecosystems and threatening human populations and vital climate patterns, to get clean energy. 

With American transport infrastructure more than $3 trillion behind schedule for basic maintenance and upgrades, now is the perfect time to make sure we build the rational, cost-effective, democratizing 21st century clean-energy economy we need. We have an opportunity to show the world there is a smarter, healthier, less destructive way forward. There is nothing to do but do it.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

We Don’t Need to Dam Rivers to Make Clean Energy

The key to a fuel free energy economy is clean, renewable energy. For a long time, the most abundant, most economically productive source of clean, renewable energy has been river water, which produces hydroelectric power through turbines that turn inside major dams. Dams can have catastrophic environmental impacts, even where their use for irrigation and flood-control have a positive impact on human populations. 

The truth of the matter, however, is that we no longer need dams to produce clean energy, and we can achieve a 100% clean renewable energy economy without building any new dams. There is enough wind to power all of our energy needs many times over. And there is far more solar energy available than that. All we need to do is build the infrastructure to harness that energy and convey it to the end users (households, transport, military and industrial). 

In Building a Green Economy, we used Department of Energy data to show that by the most conservative estimate possible (in fact, far more conservative, mathematically, than is reasonable, by any standard), the territory of the United States receives more than 342 times the energy it requires for out entire economy, directly from the Sun, every day.

We know that offshore wind alone can provide up to 70% of current electricity demand (if the infrastructure is built), and just three states (Texas, Kansas and South Dakota) have enough wind to power all US electricity needs (households, transport, military and industrial). SolarImpulse, a Swiss aerospace firm, has developed a 100% solar-powered airplane that can fly for more than 24 hours straight, without landing. 

The work ahead entails refining these technologies so they can meet the full bulk of demand inherent in our current economic activities:

  • The SolarImpulse airplane needs to carry 50 to 100 passengers to be commercially viable as a replacement for the big jets, but the industry will see overhead fall dramatically when it transitions to a fleet of fuel-free aircraft, which could make it possible to replace jumbo jets with ultralight solar planes that carry only two to three dozen passengers at a time. 
  • We now have the technology to build super-fast, high-powered electric vehicles that surrender nothing to combustible-fuel vehicles (the Tesla Roadster can outpace the Porsche 911), and this technology will soon be cost-effective for general-market personal automobiles. 
  • Electric vechicle (EV) infrastructure is evolving fast, and will be bolstered by the work of Better Place, a worldwide EV-refueling firm that has developed battery switch-out technology, allowing for the full repowering of electric cars in less time than it takes to pump a tank of gasoline. 
  • Wind power is now rapidly developing across rural America, with many farmers, families and communities finding it the most cost-effective way to both provide energy and to finance their own ongoing activities, without having to sell out to agribusiness or urban development. 
  • Following the lead of California, states like New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts are showing that aggressive development of solar-voltaic infrastructure means they can become world leaders in solar production per land-area, and begin the transition away from a 100% combustible/nuclear energy economy.
  • Solar Roadways has already developed technology that makes it more cost-effective to use modular in-ground solar panels instead of asphalt to build state-of-the-art roads and highways. 
  • Transitioning away from combustible-fuel-powered buses to electric vehicles and trams is showing how better planning, more green space, and quieter, cleaner, fuel free transport, can create better living conditions, move people more efficiently from place to place, build better cities and take cars off the roads. 
  • Urban bikeshare programs are showing that the healthiest, most cost-effective, punctual and convenient way to get around is by bicycle, making city centers cleaner, safer and friendlier to human beings operating at the human scale. 

In short: the only reason we do not yet have a 100% fuel free clean, renewable energy economy is because we have not yet built the infrastructure. We don’t need to build massive dams along the world’s major rivers, altering ecosystems and threatening human populations and vital climate patterns, to get clean energy. 

With American transport infrastructure more than $3 trillion behind schedule for basic maintenance and upgrades, now is the perfect time to make sure we build the rational, cost-effective, democratizing 21st century clean-energy economy we need. We have an opportunity to show the world there is a smarter, healthier, less destructive way forward. There is nothing to do but do it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Toward a Deep Green Economy

We are moving through a period of global economic transition. The new economy will favor complexity over hierarchy, and work with ecosystems and civil society, to achieve a more harmonious relationship between individuals and their environment. There are certain key points that will define this progress and build resiliency and generative capacity into the global economic system:

  1. Decentralization of energy supply
  2. Decentralization of financial influence
  3. Decentralization of national policy-making: Citizen-centered policy process
  4. Transition from GDP to more complex array of human development metrics for economic data
  5. Greening of energy supply
  6. Markets defined by benefits to people, not by wishes of already powerful interests
  7. Always-on democratic process: local, national, global
  8. Global free media: full-spectrum transparency standard for banks + governments
  9. Open technology: crowd-sourcing / prioritization of delivery of new technologies to those who need them
  10. Lifelong learning: education as national, global priority, right to access to education is lifelong

These principles provide a baseline for charting and monitoring the rise of the deep green economy: a new economic paradigm in which the avenues of extraction and consolidation are opened up and replaced with a fabric of reciprocal ingenuity and positive feedback. In the deep green economy, the dignity of human beings, their ability to exercise genuine freedom of imagination and personal talent, and the viability of natural support systems, will take precedence over narrow profit interests, and this will open the possibility for gain from virtuous economic activity to an ever-wider complex of interests, communities and people.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wind Turbines are Not Causing Mass Bird Extinction

The Reality: Wind power is far less harmful to birds than the fossil fuels it displaces. Incidental losses of individual birds at turbine sites will always be an extremely small fraction of bird deaths caused by human activities. 

  • Wind is the only source of energy that does not present population-level risks to birds, according to a study of coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, and wind power. [3]
  • Wind turbines are estimated to cause less than three out of every 100,000 human-related bird deaths in the U.S., and will never cause more than a very small fraction no matter how extensively wind power is used in the future, the National Academy of Sciences found. [4]
  • Wind power causes far fewer losses of birds (approximately 108,000 a year) than buildings (550 million), power lines (130 million), cars (80 million), poisoning by pesticides (67 million), domestic cats (at least 10 million), and radio and cell towers (4.5 million). [5]
  • Non-renewable energy sources “pose higher risks to wildlife” than renewable sources. Coal - which wind directly replaces - “is by far the largest contributor” to wildlife risks. [6]

- - - 

More at Rhetoric vs. Reality

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Solar Power May Be Generated by Spray-on PV Paint

Solar power is one of the most promising and unpredictable forms of clean energy, because light and heat are so diverse in their effects and so fundamental to our interactions with energy. Innovations in harvesting solar power have come fast and furious over the last decade, with miniaturization to the nanoscale of light-sensitive particles able to capture solar energy. Now, a Norwegian company has developed a system with “metal nanoparticles embedded in a transparent composite matrix that can be easily sprayed on”.

According to Inhabitat, the EnSol spray-on solar film could be applied not only to windows, but to walls, or even to automobiles, to help charge batteries. The potential for more advanced forms of the technology to ultimately provide a means by which battery-powered vehicles could maintain a charge or repower in motion is a serious consideration of ongoing zero-combustion energy research. The technology is expected to be available to the general consumer market by 2016.

In April, it was reported that NextGen had created one of the most advanced solar paint technologies to date and was raising money to move from the laboratory environment “into the real world” of manufacture and sales. NextGen’s solar paint also involves nano-scale PV particles that form larger solar “cells” when the paint dries, and that could achieve 40% energy-conversion efficiency for one-third the cost of traditional PV cells.

The Pentagon began funding research on solar paint back in 2004. EnSol, in Norway, is another pioneer in this field. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the University of Texas, are just a few of the other major institutions researching ways to apply solar photo-voltaic energy-capture technology by way of infused paint products.

Len Batterson, an investor in cutting-edge technologies, says NextGen’s research could lead to the biggest venture capital deal in history, if the technology is proven in a setting that shows it can work commercially. EnSol’s success is another indication that this kind of PV technology can work, and should be on the market by the middle of this decade.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Reinventing Fire: Build the Smart Clean Energy Economy

From the Rocky Mountain Institute: “Through our Reinventing Fire initiative, RMI aims to help put oil solidly on track to become, over the next few decades, no longer a strategic commodity—much as (Jim Woolsey reminds us) refrigeration did to salt. We’ve been predicting for two decades that oil would become uncompetitive even at low prices before it became unavailable even at high prices; now it’s time to make that trend unarguably irreversible.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

China Rapidly Outpacing U.S. in Clean Energy Investment (infographic)

This infographic, from One Block Off the Grid, details some startling statistics that show China surging ahead of the United States in the race to build the world-leading clean energy economy of the 21st century. While the most significant government backing for clean energy in US history came in the form of an $80 billion commitment in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, China has raised its clean energy investment from far below that to over $200 billion, and now with planned investments in excess of $600 billion. 

At present, China has installed 103 gigawatts of clean, renewable energy production capacity, while the United States’ clean energy production capacity stands at just 58 gigawatts. China has made a major play to capture the world’s clean energy markets, at all levels, and is investing $9 billion per month in doing so. Meanwhile, the United States’ decade of neglect of the emerging clean energy economic paradigm has left US manufacturers producing only 7% of the world’s solar panels. China now controls 70% of global solar PV technology exports. 

  • Use this page to discuss ways to motivate major clean energy invesment and the green economic transformation in the US and elsewhere. 
  • Continue the discussion on Twitter at #race2gogreen
Sunday, October 16, 2011

UN Report on ‘The Great Green Technological Transformation’

2011wess.pdf Download this file
This UN report, from the Department of Economica and Social Affairs (DESA), details the ongoing technological transformation tied to the emerging clean energy economy. This landmark report calls for a major conceptual and process-oriented transformation of the industrial economy. The green economy will be a new paradigm for economic development, at the global and the local scales. The report finds:

To achieve this goal, a radically new economic strategy will be needed. Economic decision- making, by Governments and private agents alike, will need to focus on ways to strength- en, rather than endanger, environmental sustainability. The “green economy” has been promoted as the key concept in this regard—the concept that embodies the promise of a new development paradigm, whose application has the potential to ensure the preservation of the earth’s ecosystem along new economic growth pathways while contributing at the same time to poverty reduction.

The report also calls for a commitment to building Green National Innovation Systems (G-NIS) across the world, to spark, speed and sustain the transformation.