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Posts Tagged ‘renewable energies’

Barbara Boxer, one of the four senators to sponsor the Climate Security Act, touts it as:

the world’s most far-reaching program to fight global warming, instituting an economy-wide cap on emissions that would cut greenhouse gases below 1990 levels by 2020 and slash emissions by nearly 70% by 2050. In addition to fighting global warming, our bill will provide cleaner air, greater energy efficiency, relief for consumers, and the alternative energy choices that American families deserve — significantly reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil.

Opposing senators, such as vocal climate denier James Inhofe, see it as a threat to the welfare of the American people:

Any action has to provide real protections for the American economy and jobs, and we must protect the American families. Any action should not raise the cost of gasoline or energy to American families, particularly the low-income and elderly who are most susceptible to energy costs.

For an objective view, I turned to a recent analysis from NRDC and The International Resources Group. According to that report, the Lieberman-Warner Bill will greatly:

  • reduce our oil consumption and imports
  • increase our clean energy production, and electricity from renewables,
  • increase the number of fuel-efficient vehicles
  • increase our energy efficiency
  • all at a minimal cost to our energy system, less than one half of one percent
  • benefit companies that lead the transition to clean and efficient technologies
  • contribute to the creation of jobs, manufacturing opportunities, and spark innovation
I have always trusted NRDC on all green matters. This one is no exception.

 

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Last month I accompanied my friend Christian Forthomme, during one of his visioning seminars. Christian’s job is to help companies imagine their future and devise a plan to make their vision a reality. Makes sense. It is hard to move forward without having a clear picture of what to shoot for. As we struggle with finding solutions to the current climate crisis, we would do well to spend time visualizing what it is that we want. This is different than thinking about the problem and relying solely on our brain to come up with answers. 

What I am suggesting instead is to take some quiet time alone, and slowly let a picture emerge, of the kind of world we want for ourselves, and our children. I tried it, and I was surprised with how difficult it was. Here is what I saw:

A world with lots of bikes and walking routes, and buses and trains. Cars and trucks are all electric as in the Better Place Project. Gas stations are now serving as battery recharging centers. All the energy comes from renewable sources, cultivated in solar and wind farms throughout the land. In a way, I want to go back to life as it was on my grandparents’ farm. When time was slower, and we lived with the rhythm from the seasons. Food is all grown locally and organically. Cities and suburbs are experiencing an overall greening, with many people involved in urban farming, starting with children in schools. There are trees along all the streets and the freeways. People spend most of their time working from home or very close. They work shorter hours, and they use video conference technologies such as Cisco Telepresence. There is a bustling green economy, with green collar jobs replacing lots of the retail jobs. Malls are a vestige from the past. Instead of buying things, people are consuming experiences. The obesity rate has gone down, due to people walking and biking more, and eating less junk food. Fast food places are now serving organic nutritionally healthy Happy Meals. The water crisis has been averted thanks to new technologies and smart conservation policies. Businesses have turned into social centers that help connect people in developed countries with their counterparts in developing countries. Municipalities have a no waste system, where everything gets recycled or ends up in compost. The world feels happy and at peace. 

Now, your turn! What do you see? 

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I was catching up on my reading, going through last weekend’s Sunday New York Times, when the following ad caught my eye:

My mind still fresh from the recent media frenzy around rising gas prices, and still pondering what to do about James Hansen‘s call to action, I was not about to let this one go. And went on the Energy Tomorrow‘s website, for more. As I browsed through the site, I couldn’t help but think, boy these guys are good! The Big Oil guys are masters at twisting the truth, and washing their dirty secrets into bright green. That they are swimming in cash does not hurt either. Slick campaigns, slick website, great copy, seductive images, multimedia blitz, nothing is spared.

Of course, the first step is to expose their lies to as many people as possible, as in writing this post for instance. Next is to take concrete action, to get at them where it hurts the most, in this case the value of their companies. This is where it gets very interesting. Those tens of millions of Americans with a stake in the oil and natural gas industry, that the ad talks to, . . . imagine a campaign asking them to switch to ‘less risky stocks’, stocks that bank on the bright future of renewable energies for instance.

What do you think?

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I had the privilege to attend the last Stanford University Woods Institute for the Environment Energy Seminar, featuring Dan Reicher, Director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives, for Google.org, the philanthropist arm of Google.

The folks at Google have a plan and it makes lots of sense. They have two major initiatives currently at work:

To develop Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal (RE<C): Create utility-scale electricity from clean renewable energy sources that is cheaper than electricity produced from coal. For RE<C to work, Google is betting on four arms: R&D, Investment, Policy, and Information Tools.

To accelerate the Commercialization of Plug-In Vehicles (RechargeIT): Seed innovation, demonstrate technology, inform the debate, and stimulate market demand to foster mass commercialization of plug-in vehicles.

Most striking in the Google plan, is its exclusive reliance on technology and policy, not unlike the recent McKinsey recommendations. At the end of his talk, I asked Dan Reicher if Google was considering any people driven initiatives? According to him, Google has just started looking into consumers’ behaviors and their impact on climate change.

In a way, Google‘s emphasis should be of no surprise. Google is a technology company, and they cannot tackle every possible angle of the problem. Instead they are focusing on their core competencies, engineering and technology. Google‘s top-down approach should be considered alongside bottom-up strategies such as David Holmgren‘s Permaculture Project, for instance.

For more on the Google approach to climate change, here is a video of Google.org‘s introductory course for Google employees. The session tackles global development, global health, and climate change, and explores how the three domain areas relate to each other. Well worth sitting for an hour. The bulk of the climate change lecture is towards the end:

Of course, I was particularly interested in the Information Tools aspect of the Google plan. Here is the list of all the Google tools that can be used to further the climate fight, as presented by Dan Reicher during his talk:

If you are not familiar with some of these tools, I urge you to play with them.

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