Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Will Romney Have the Courage?

The one question everyone across the world needs to be asking, now that Mitt Romney has named Paul Ryan to be his running mate, is: will Romney have the courage to denounce the liars, frauds and corrupting interests that have so far sought to use Ryan as a way to remake the American economy for their own illicit gain? 

Paul Ryan is tied to the Koch brothers, and their megamillion-dollar campaign to spread lies intended to undermine public understanding of the scientific consensus on the ongoing process of global climate destabilization. He has taken money from organizations linked not only to the Koch brothers and their secretive private oil empire, but to the big oil companies, which take tens of billions of dollars in subsidies every year.

Ryan’s budget, which purports to be intended to streamline public spending, is laced with massive new cash credits and tax breaks for the world’s wealthiest and most profitable oil conglomerates. Those incentives would send tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to multinational firms whose operations help to fund some of the most oppressive regimes on Earth. 

That money no longer needs to be spent funding big oil. We have the technology to power the entire global economy on clean energy; all we need to do is invest in infrastructure and deploy that technology. 

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

The World Will Not Need Liquid Fuels in 20 Years

In the July 23, 2012, edition of CQ Weekly, on page 1483, Randy Udall, brother of Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), is quoted as saying, regarding the potential for development of environmentally unsound oil shale development, “underlying it is this question that everyone is asking: ‘Well, where is the world going to get its liquid fuels 20 years from now?’” The truth of the matter is: there is no reason we should be using liquid fuels 20 years from now.

Thanks to the work of Mark Jacobson, of Stanford, and Mark Delucci, of UC Davis, we know it is possible to power the entire global economy without carbon-based fuels, by 2030, using technologies already in existence, and in use, in 2009. We also know it is possible to do this without spending more than we will have to spend to upgrade and maintain the existing energy infrastructure, designed to deliver fossil energy to consumers and industry.

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Building a Fuel Free NYC

Bloomberg administration many years behind schedule on the green transition

The world is now entering into a new period of economic upheaval and transformation, in which old models of energy production, hobbled by massive contamination and market manipulations rooted in scarcity, will be phased out and new sources of energy will allow for a clean, renewable, energy economy based on the logic of natural abundance.

In his book Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy EraAmory Lovins explains that:

The old fire was dug from below. The new fire flows from above. The old fire was scarce. The new fire is bountiful. The old fire was local. The new fire is everywhere. The old fire was transient. The new fire is permanent. And except for a little biofuel, biogas and biomass, all grown in ways that sustain and endure, the new fire is flameless—providing all the convenient and dependable services of the old fire but with no combustion.

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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.

Building a Fuel Free NYC

Bloomberg administration many years behind schedule on the green transition

The world is now entering into a new period of economic upheaval and transformation, in which old models of energy production, hobbled by massive contamination and market manipulations rooted in scarcity, will be phased out and new sources of energy will allow for a clean, renewable, energy economy based on the logic of natural abundance.

In his book Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era, Amory Lovins explains that: 

The old fire was dug from below. The new fire flows from above. The old fire was scarce. The new fire is bountiful. The old fire was local. The new fire is everywhere. The old fire was transient. The new fire is permanent. And except for a little biofuel, biogas and biomass, all grown in ways that sustain and endure, the new fire is flameless—providing all the convenient and dependable services of the old fire but with no combustion

If you visit Flushing Meadows Corona Park, in the heart of Queens, New York, you will find that the infrastructure to match the power of this moment of global economic transformation is lagging. New York City’s 3-term mayor, billionaire media-mogul Mike Bloomberg, who professes to be an imaginative, collaborative pragmatist recuperating from his years immersed in the dogma of party politics, also professes to be greening the City. 

But what one sees at Flushing Meadows Corona Park is that the project of greening New York City is in a state somewhat similar to the old World’s Fair grounds: there are symbols and ideas, there is possibility and there is longing, but the action is not there; the City is leaving the full potential of the scene remorselessly untapped. 

The park is surrounded by highways. 

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On the east, it is flanked by the Van Wyck Expressway, on the south, by the Long Island Expressway, and on the west by the Grand Central Parkway. Just beyond Citi Field, to the north, Northern Boulevard carries a constant flow of local traffic congestion past the park. One of the biggest green spaces in Queens is ringed by one of the tightest complex of interchanges in the borough. 

This is not an uncommon feature of New York City’s green spaces: they are meant to be oases of seminatural semi-openair experiences, in a forever agglomerating matrix of asphalt and construction. They are not so much a break from the built environment as an organic part of the built environment, a confirmation of its power over the human experience of everyone living in the City. 

To go jogging in Bayside, one of the greener sections of New York City, is to enjoy the view of greenery while breathing particulate matter from the many highways in the surrounding area. To go jogging at Flushing Meadows is, similarly, to come in constant contact with carcinogenic contaminants emitted in massive volume from the surrounding web of interstates and local highways. 

So, what is missing? 

What is missing is the fuel free, clean-energy based smart transport infrastructure that will allow New York City’s green spaces to be genuinely green. The “outer boroughs” are notoriously underserved by New York City’s MTA, the metropolitan mass transit authority. The Subway doesn’t reach all the way to the perimeter of Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island. So the further out one travels from Times Square, the more one needs a personal automobile to get around. Otherwise, despite the astonishing population density, practical needs end up being too far away to allow for the village life people need in order to live locally. 

This is what makes “going green” expensive. The built environment is organized as a network of obstacles opposing the transition. New York City has the resources, the ingenuity and the industrial and commercial capacity to implement a speedy, city-wide transition, starting with mass transit. The following are some simple examples that would help to pull as many as half of all the cars off the highways in Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn and even Staten Island: 

Citizens across New York City should begin a campaign to pressure Mayor Bloomberg to re-engage the logic of his self-professed entrepreneurial spirit, to accelerate the green transition city-wide and across the region. Citizens should also organize locally to help Citizens Climate Lobby to persuade Congress to pass fee and dividend legislation that will make the clean energy transition easier, faster, to the profit of consumers and the expense of those who stand in the way, defending dirty energy

At the community level, citizens can come together to demand that their City Council members become leaders in demanding, envisioning, crafting and implementing state-of-the-art, on-time fuel free transportation options. This pressure should come from all corners of the City simultaneously, and should press the problematic truth that less affluent and more remote neighborhoods are virtually neglected in terms of the relationship between their transport options and their quality of life. 

Let’s take Mayor Bloomberg’s most recent tweet to heart: “Life is too short to spend your time avoiding failure,” and let’s ask him to live that spirit in building the world’s most robust, imaginative and human-friendly fuel-free transport system. We can build a fuel free New York City; we can breathe clean air in our parks, even when their borders are defined by major transport arteries. We can be free from the environmental squalor of the combustion-everywhere way of living. 

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]

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More at Rhetoric vs. Reality

Obama Suspends Tar Sands Pipeline Project, Pending Review

Amid intense and gathering pressure from the grassroots to the state government of Nebraska, to a national coalition of activist organizations, tens of thousands of demonstrators and an intensifying drumbeat from leading scientists, Nobel laureates and concerned public officials, Pres. Barack Obama this week ordered the suspension of the Keystone XL pipeline project. The pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico, for export to other nations, and would run through some of the most sensitive and important fresh water systems in the US. 

The pipeline’s potential threat to the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest fresh water fossil aquifer in North America, and the source of water for most of the agriculture in the Great Plains—”breadbasket to the world”—, sparked grave concern among scientists, environmentalists, farmers and public officials in the region. The state of Nebraska, including its Republican governor, had fought for the project’s rejection, as it could cause serious lasting contamination to the sensitive Sand Hills region, the Ogallala Aquifer and other fresh water systems. 

Questions had been raised as to the legitimacy of building an oil pipeline to run through such a sensitive area, and about the environmental risk review being conducted by a consulting firm whose top client is the pipeline operator itself. 

There is no known way to close off a leak or clean up a spill in an underground aquifer, and the same operator had a record 12 oil spills from another, simpler pipeline, in just one year, in 2010. The catastrophe stemming from BP’s inability to close the Macondo well, when it blew out 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, has worried public officials that no project with high risk of contamination could go forward without a proven plan for response and cleanup. 

The decision to call for a fully independent, entirely fresh review of the project puts the decision off till at least the year 2013, and many believe such costly fossil fuel projects may be untenable by then, especially if the environmental review turns up a more skeptical assessment of the project’s safety for environmental and human health. 

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.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gabby Giffords Calling for Major National Investment in Solar Power

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is a leading proponent of aggressively ramping up solar power production. She has consistently championed solar not only as “serious energy” for Arizona, but as “a major contribution to our nation’s energy needs” and a highly scalable resource that can be deployed in any region, for significant economic benefit.

On her website, she lists the following quote, to put the science and the business of solar in perspective: “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”—Thomas Edison, 1931

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Sunday, July 31, 2011 Tuesday, July 26, 2011