Export Land Model - the Saudi update

Today's blog is posted by guest blogger, Ed Marshall, a senior account manager at Beaupre. Check out his bio in our "About Authors" section.

A quick update on the export land issue that I blogged about previously. In short, the problem is petroleum-producing countries becoming wealthy exporting oil and then finding their rising domestic oil use significantly cutting into what’s available for export even as their oil fields become less productive due to age. The ramifications are manifold – from unrest at home as shrinking revenues reduce subsidies and push up prices on things like food and gasoline, to turmoil on international markets as shrinking surplus capacity makes it easier for traders to drive price swings through speculation.

With this in mind, a few recent stories involving Saudi Arabia caught my eye. The first is a pretty straightforward endorsement of the export land model theory. In this story, Abdel Salam al-Yamani, head of the Saudi Electricity Company, is quoted as saying that, if left unchecked, Saudi Arabia’s current domestic oil consumption rates will deplete the country’s reserves by 2030. The second story involves the Saudi’s ramping up a nuclear energy program to the tune of at least $100 billion dollars. This story on the Saudi oil export and energy issue in the Wall Street Journal has a nice graph charting rising Saudi oil consumption. Finally, this story pulls in the previous points and also notes that the Saudi’s are going full bore into an energy source they’re likely to have in abundance for a long time to come: solar. Who knows, maybe one day they’ll be exporting that energy, too. In the meantime, the Middle East, in general, seems interested in conservation to ensure exports of their main revenue source remains high.

 

Global investors pour money into green energy

Global investors pour money into green energy; CleanSpeak Beaupre Clean Technology PracticeNothing like cool, refreshing facts to support the desperate hope for a renewable energy revolution.

New investment in green energy was up nearly one-third globally in 2010 to a record US$211 billion. That’s 32 percent above the 2009 level and more than five times that of 2004, says the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Other facts from UNEP’s new report:

  • Wind farms in China and rooftop solar panels in Europe were key drivers in the investment increase.
  • China was the world leader in “financial new investment” – i.e., investment in utility-scale renewable projects and equity capital for renewable energy companies. The nation's tally was US$48.9 billion, up 28 percent this year.
  • Developing economies (which invested US$72 billion this year) overtook developed ones (US$70 billion) in financial new investment. 
  • Investments in small distributed capacity, e.g., rooftop solar, rose 132 percent in Germany to US$34 billion.
  • Costs for renewable technologies are falling.
  • Wind dominated financial new investment in large-scale renewable energy. 
  • Biggest percentage jumps in overall investment were in small-scale projects, up 91 percent to US$60 billion, and in government funded R&D, up 121 percent to US$5.3 billion.

"The finance industry is still recovering from the recent financial crisis," Udo Steffens, president of the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, said in a UNEP news release. "The fact that the industry remains heavily committed to renewables demonstrates its strong belief in the prospects of sustainable energy investments."

So there’s hope. And now facts.

More here

'Don't call it global warming. Call it climate change'

Don't call it global warming. Call it climate change. CleanSpeak blog by Steve McGrathI’ve always thought this admonition a little pedantic, a cheap, phony way to separate those who supposedly truly care about the planet from those who like to speak plainly. I mean, it’s not as if the planet isn’t warming.
But I’m rethinking this. A new study out of the University of Michigan proves the words really matter. For some reason, more Americans buy into the reality of climate change than global warming.
Online survey respondents were asked the following question, of which there were two versions as indicated:
"You may have heard about the idea that the world's temperature may have been going up [changing] over the past 100 years, a phenomenon sometimes called 'global warming' ['climate change']. What is your personal opinion regarding whether or not this has been happening?”
When referred to as climate change, 74 percent thought the problem was real.
When referred to as global warming, only 68 percent thought it was real.
Global warming’s tight conceptual linkage to temperature might be one reason for the disparity, a study author said, since “an unusually cold day may increase doubts about global warming more than about climate change.”
Researchers also found a dramatic difference in answers depending on political affiliation. On the Republican side, 60 percent said they think climate change is real, though only 44 percent said they believe in global warming. About 86 percent of Democrats thought climate change was serious no matter what it was called.
The US Environmental Protection Agency uses the more credible term. Google global warming and, though you get 32 million results, the third result is “Climate Change |US EPA.”

Climate not changing? Tell it to tsunami victims

There’s nothing a climate change denier likes better than a good cold winter. “Hey, how’s that global warming working for you,” they’ll chortle as the sides of your nose freeze together in the latest Arctic blast.
 


Photo credit: NYDailyNews Kyodo/AP

First of all it’s not global warming, it’s climate change, and the changes are coming faster and faster with each passing year. If you want to know how “well” it’s working, take a look at what the earthquake and tsunami did in Japan the other day. The early death toll was 350, with more expected. More than 500 people are still missing, 1,800 homes have been damaged or destroyed, billions of dollars worth of property lost. The earthquake the caused the tsunami was 8,000 times stronger than the quake that leveled vast areas of Christchurch, New Zealand, just a few weeks ago
 
It was just seven years ago that an Indian Ocean tsunami killed an estimated 150,000 people. See a pattern here? Extreme environmental events are on the rise. The most damaging tsunami on record before 2004 was the one that killed an estimated 40,000 people in 1782 following an earthquake in the South China Sea. There were a few more significant tsunamis before 2004, but they were spaced decades apart. In 1883 some 36,500 people were killed by tsunamis in the South Java Sea, following the eruption of Indonesia's Krakatoa volcano. In northern Chile more than 25,000 people were killed by a tsunami in 1868.
 
The Davos, Switzerland-based Global Risk Forum specializes in identifying risks of any kind to society. The group’s president, Walter Amman is convinced that climate change will lead to more disasters due to extreme weather. He told German’s Deutsche Welle that he believes that we no longer can or should argue that we merely register events more quickly and accurately than 20 years ago. “If you look at the number of those events over the last 10 years, then it is clear that they have increased in number,” he said.
 
Some people won’t believe the climate is changing until they see a polar bear raiding their backyard bird feeder. Hopefully, however, the majority will take events like the tsunami to heart and realize that things they do every day – what they buy, drive, burn, throw away – have a bearing on the life of the planet and everyone on it.

'I've been working on the turbine, all the live-long day ...'

A study that came out of Germany this week theorized that investments in renewable energy could pump as much as 600 billion euros into the European Union’s economies. The study, by Germany’s Institute for Climate Impact Research, forecasts a construction boom as owners retrofit homes and businesses to cut their energy costs, and as electrical utilities upgrade their existing grids into efficient “smart” grids.
So naturally, that made me think of railroads. Let me explain how the playpen of free association in my mind arrived at that comparison.
The railroads were the first quantum leap from colonial to modern America. Pre-railroad, the U.S. population huddled around harbors and rivers and lakes because they were the best means of transporting goods over long distances. Most of the American interior might as well have been Venus for all the good it was doing us. The massive agricultural plains of the Midwest were so far from major markets that it didn’t make economic sense to cultivate them on a large scale. There was no way to get the product to market. Then along came the railroads, and all of a sudden those empty acres in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, the Dakotas et al were a treasure trove. The railroads sparked one of the greatest economic expansions in history. As historian Chris Butler puts it on his site “The Flow of History,” “By 1900, railroads had virtually revolutionized overland transportation and travel, pulling whole continents tightly together (both economically and politically), helping create a higher standard of living, the modern consumer society, and a proliferation of new technologies. Although airplanes and automobiles would continue this revolution, it was the railroad that paved the way.”
The U.S. government subsidized railroad growth with land grants and military protection. It could have the same role in developing the renewable energy economy. Today, Congress and the White House are debating how much to support renewable energy economy’s development. President Obama put $16.8 billion for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development into the 2008 recovery act. Deficit-conscious legislators in the House of Representatives want to scale that back.
The question is whether federal renewable energy spending is a drag on the economy (through deficits) or a growth path, as the German study suggests. The study’s author, Carlo Jaeger, doesn’t mince words.
“What we are showing here is that by credibly engaging in the transition to a low-carbon economy through the adoption of an ambitious target and adequate policies, Europe will find itself in a win-win situation of increasing economic growth while reducing greenhouse gases,” he writes.
What do you think? Is clean energy investment the next railroad, or interstate highway system, or Internet? Or is it just another debt to be paid off by the next generation?

Mother Nature has gone off message

Forty-nine of our 50 states have snow on the ground – even Hawaii, says CNN – and we in the Northeast are getting dumped on. We’ve got official emergency declarations, National Guard activations, power outages, car crashes, flight cancellations and closings of just about every kind of operation that has a choice. It’s hard to worry about global warming today.

But just in case you were out shoveling and missed it:

  • We (or rather our descendants) are going to be living for the next 1,000 years with the adverse effects of the CO2 we’ve already generated – even if we could somehow halt fossil fuel use today. That's according to a study just published in Nature Geoscience.

 So if you go outside today, bundle up – and pray for a way to stay cool.

 

 

We care less about the climate

Or so it seems. As the planet heats up, global media coverage of the climate is down. Journalists published 23,156 climate-related stories in English last year, down 30 percent from 2009’s count, according to DailyClimate.org.
The new UN climate agreement in Cancun was largely ignored, at least compared with the 2009 edition in Copenhagen. That’s the one that brought us the Climategate scandal, which set carbon consciousness back decades. Daily Climate says the December 2010 Cancun conference got a mere 10 seconds of airtime on the major network news.
The public just doesn’t seem to care like it used to. Or is it the media?
One thing stifling effective climate coverage is newsroom “tyrannies,” including those of limited time and space, of balance, and of the required “peg” or hook to justify a story’s urgency, says New York Times Dot Earth blogger Andrew Revkin.
'Bo-ho-ho-ring'
There’s another tyranny, adds a Dot Earth commenter: The Tyranny of Boredom. “What about the simple fact that climate is quite possibly the most boring subject the science world has ever had to present to the public?” Randy Olson asks. “This stuff is bo-ho-ho-ring.”
If boring, it’s also complex. Consider the fact that December 2010 was the United Kingdom’s coldest since nationwide records began in 1910, and it was central England’s second coldest December since 1659. Now that’s a news hook. But being of the man-bites-dog variety, it muddies the waters, undermining the general understanding that global temperatures are, in fact, trending up.
(Eco-jargon compounds the boredom, complexity and confusion. Sustainability, for example,is one of Advertising Age’s top 10 “jargoniest” pieces of jargon in 2010. "The term is a good concept gone bad by mis- and overuse. It's come to be a squishy, feel-good catchall for doing the right thing.”)

In all of these cases, the “right” side of the argument is simply drowned out. A wind power company in the UK notes that 66 percent of survey respondents living near its controversial project actually support its proposed massive turbines while only 12 percent oppose them. But you’d never know it. Said the wind power company’s CEO, “We see this too often, the small loud minority being mistaken for the voice of the people.” (via Treehugger)

A new communications weapon
Concerned climate environmentalists and scientists are hoping to penetrate the ennui and reignite passion for their cause through “mind bombs,” writes Der Spiegel’s Axel Bjanowski. Mind bombs distill a cause into a highly emotional image, such as Greenpeace’s famous bleeding whale (image above), and drive a core message home. But photos of polar bears on ice, violent storms, turbines, or hockey stick graphs have been mind duds. They just aren’t working.
 
Other new communications strategies might include:
  • Sexy ads, e.g., a good-looking researcher in a bathing suit in the Arctic
  • Enlisting scientists to do their own journalism
  • Thinking smaller, i.e., focusing on a single, discrete facet of the climate problem and engaging a target audience to act
  • Anointing a new Al Gore
  • Establishing dedicated channels and processes for communicating important climate findings. (via Der Spiegel)
My hunch is that climate interest will largely hinge on the mind bombs. Two sets of birds falling from the sky – sad but not climate-related – are insignificant in the great scheme of things, but they generated massive interest this week. Meanwhile, a truly nuclear mind bomb, the BP spill, has an astonishingly short half-life in the public consciousness.
Climate change is the most important question of our generation: How can we amplify the silent ticking of the most devastating bomb of all, so that we compel the world to disarm it?

Green Launching Pad innovates state-level clean energy branding

One of the more innovative collaborations between a higher education institution, statewide and federal government is unfolding in New Hampshire... Read more.

 

A greener alternative to ethanol? I'll drink to that!

Today’s blog is posted by guest blogger, Ed Marshall, a Senior Account Manager at Beaupre.

Following up on my co-generation/ symbiosis post from earlier this summer, I came across a great example of this principle in action the other day. This story explains how scientists at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland have developed a way to turn two byproducts of whiskey production into a more-than-viable alternative to corn ethanol. Treading on stereotypes for a moment, I have to say this sort of discovery would seem destined to have been made by a Scottish or Irish scientist.

The article explains that the biofuel made from the byproducts, butanol, packs 30 percent more energy per unit than does ethanol, can be easily blended into gasoline at refineries, requires no modification to engines that use the blended fuel and does not pick up water, making it far easier to handle and use than the hydrophilic ethanol. This is all terrific, and from a symbiosis standpoint, the really good news is that it’s derived from a waste product created by a useful, needed, everyday manufacturing activity.

Truth be told, this isn’t the first time I’ve come across this sort of useful byproduct in distilling. CNET’s Martin LaMonica covered a story last year wherein Sierra Nevada Brewing entered into a partnership to turn its beer making leftovers into a feedstock for a home ethanol start-up. Out on the road, distilling byproducts are already helping save money while improving safety. Read all the way to the bottom of this Wall Street Journal article from 2009 and you’ll see that leftovers from the rum-making process are an effective supplement to road salt.

So while drinking and driving don’t mix, distilling and driving may be a rather different story.

Posted by: Ed Marshall

How many earths do you require?

Eco science can boggle the mind, and it’s easy to drown in the data. Unless we can see, smell or feel an environmental threat, we tend to ignore it. So if you want to make a memorable point, dumb it down. Way down.
 
That’s what TreeHugger.com and the Global Footprint Network (GFN) have done with respect to natural resource consumption. Here, for example, is an environmental data point anyone can grasp:
 
If every human consumed natural resources like an American, we’d need five planet earths to support us.
 
Pretty simple way to represent complex information, isn’t it? The Global Footprint Network chart documents the fact that we, as a country and planet, consume more natural resources than the earth replenishes and generate waste faster than the planet can absorb it. The chart considers energy production, settlement, timber & paper harvest, food & fiber and seafood. It’s backed up by more data than any of us care to examine here.
 
The bottom line is we have a natural resources deficit. Having considered that, GFN, in another example of dumbing-down genius, declares that…

August 21 is
Earth Overshoot Day.
 
That’s the day when we humans have used up the planet’s annual supply of resources. If you pretend we get a fresh start every Jan. 1, then August 21 is the day we go into deficit spending of our natural capital. If we were prevented from borrowing against the planet’s future, we’d run out of resources on that day. As consumption soars, Earth Overshoot Day comes earlier every year. Last year, it was Sept. 25.
 
Now that we know the day, do we know the solution to over-consumption? Well, that’s hard to dumb down. In addition to conventional sustainability measures, TreeHugger.com blogger Matthew McDermott

CALCULATE YOUR ECO FOOTPRINT

recommends “radically reassessing how much stuff we believe is required for our happiness. Rejiggering what we believe to be needs and not just wants.”
 
He’s not alone. In fact, a minimalist trend is already under way, says the BBC, starting with young American urbanites digitizing their books and music and shedding large swaths of possessions, including homes.
 
That’s sounds smart.

And so does this personal ecological footprint calculator. Try it, and tell us how many planet earths you need to support your lifestyle. (I’d need 4.6. Ouch!)

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