Category Archives: renewable energy

Solve tomorrow’s problems. Today.

Mañana.

Sigh.

Procrastination is a disease that inflicts many of us (certainly not excluding this author) and The US.

It seems that there is nary a chore, nary a challenge whose solution can’t be put off to tomorrow or, preferably, the day after.

The time has passed. It is time to change our habits. We must start doing our chores.

We must stop making a mess. We must fight to clean up our collective messes. 

We, together, can solve tomorrow’s problems.  Today.

Al Gore gave a speech Thursday (video)americansunitedforchange.org in Washington, DC, one that set a major objective before us, a path toward clean up our biggest mess, the dumping of carbon and other pollutants into our atmosphere and waters. He set a path for us to begin to  Solve Tomorrow’s Problems, Today.  And, he gave another speech earlier today in Austin, Texas, at Netroots Nation that raised, not just Global Warming, other serious problems in our society and democracy.  He laid out problems, but, at the core, stated:  Carpe Diem.  Seize the Day.  Work together, fight to Solve Tomorrow’s Problems.  Today!  

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Reid: “Coal makes us sick …”

Harry Reid spoke bluntly on energy issues.  Looking the Faux and Balanced cameras square on, he spoke truth:  

Coal makes us sick …

This is an important statement.  Reid is speaking truth to an audience that isn’t used to hearing it.

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Beware the Silver Bullet …

Across the world, people are passing around with great excitement the news that there might be a bug that will create oil. And, not just bio-derived oil, but carbon-negative oil. One little bug, too small for the naked eye to see, and all our problems are solved!

Peak Oil? Forget it. Solved.

Global Warming? Forget it. Solved.

Export of dollars overseas for energy? Forget it. Solved.

Failure of the Big Three Automakers to adapt to a new world? Forget it. Solved.

Risks to American National Security due to funding both sides of the world? Forget it. Solved.

Average Americans’ financial challenges in face of skyrocketing gas prices? Forget it. Solved.

My sleepless nights concerned about the above? Forget it. Solved.

Time to roll over and go back to sleep? Forget it. At least for now.

I am a techno-optimist. I believe that scientists and engineers provide part of our solution paths forward. I believe (know) that there are tremendous things being developed in laboratories and garages around the world that will help us (the US) deal with the challenges we face. Yet (that “but”), I am leary of leaping upon the latest news, the item from the laboratory, the newest press release that screams “PROBLEM SOLVED” because, for whatever reasons, those miraculous answers all too often head back to the laboratory, turn out to be more difficult and costly than first described, and end up doing less than imagined.

This is the “Silver Bullet” solution concept, the idea that there is something magical out there, one single path toward solving all our problems. Silver Bullets are often thrown out when it comes to Peak Oil. When it comes to gasoline problems, for example, the Republican solution path is to feed what George W. Bush called our oil addiction and empty America’s limited oil reserves through a crash program of DRILL! DRILL! DRILL! (Of course, they won’t mention that this drilling program will have no influence on prices for years and perhaps only a 1-2 cent impact 15 years from now.)  Vinod Khosla has been making a lot of news (and making real investments) in the idea that biofuels will be the Silver Bullet for awhile now.   And, he might be right … he might be … But, what if he is not?  What if we (the world) seized upon this magical bug and said: full stop on everything else, problem solved?   If Khosla is right, problems solved and I can roll over and go back to sleep. If not?

The other idea is the Silver BB, that there are a myriad of responses and answers to our challenges. Each Silver BB (and silver speck of dust … do you compost?) is part of the a larger, system-of-systems, holistic response to our global challenges (energy, water, global warming, food, economic development, etc …).  And, if a Silver BB turns out to be a false path, to not be a precious metal but something less, then we continue with our other approaches, not having made a bet on that single Silver Bullet.

We must continue to tackle our challenges in a holistic manner.  We must tackle energy efficiency.  We must look toward paths for retiring coal from the electrical system. We must pursue renewable energy. We must look toward non-oil based transportation paths. We must … approach our challenges in a holistic, system-of-system manner. And, we should do this in a flexible, (mainly) technology-neutral fashion, ready to incorporate (and even embrace)  Silver Specks of Dust that might turn into Silver BBs and that might … might … might … turn into true Silver Bullets that change the game.

Will Khosla’s bugs solve humanity’s problems?  Maybe. And, I might even bet some bucks on it. But I won’t bet our future.

Waving a white flag … Samuelson and Global Warming

Robert J. Samuelson simply doesn’t believe in America, in American ingenuity, in Americans ability to rise to challenges and solve problems.

From an acquaintance,

This week’s Newsweek magazine carries a column by Robert Samuelson, titled Just-Call It Cap-and-Tax. Samuelson likes to say he’s not an economist. In this column, he certainly showed that to be the case.

Join me after a fold for a stroll through some of Samuelson’s reckless truthiness.

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McCain confidant critical to anti-wind fight?

The NIMBYist fight against wind projects, most notably Cape Wind, has long been suspected of being funded from the coal industry. (After all, more wind electricity correlates to less burnt coal.)  The Boston Globe reported today about how lobbying disclosure firms have linked Cape Wind opponents to a coal-energy firm.

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Mark “Energy Smart” Begich

This year could be a breakthrough year to truly change the nature of dialogue and action in Washington, DC, and nationwide. On the tip of the toungue: will there be a super majority in the Senate (59 Democratic Party, OneOne Socialist (Sanders), and the only Connecticut for Lieberman Senator)? One of those seemingly long-shot, now truly competitive race that could help achieve this change: the race for Alaska’s next Senator.

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Energy Smarting J Street?

To say that the Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Arab conflict has been an intractable element of international politics is an understatement along the lines of saying that George the W’s Administration hasn’t been weak on Global Warming. It is hard to state these sad truths wrongly enough.

Sadly, the United States’ ability to be a positive player in seeking to achieve a more positive set of relationships within the Middle East has been distorted through a defining of “pro-Israeli” too often in a way that represents only a very narrow spectrum of Israeli opinion and in a way that too often is likely to be undercutting long-term Israeli & US interests. Just formed/announced, J-Street seeks to change this equation.

“For too long, the loudest ‘pro-Israel’ voices in this country have been those on the far-right,” says Jeremy Ben Ami, who today announced the launch of J Street—the first PAC with a corresponding lobby to give pro-peace, pro-Israel Americans a voice in American politics and in the policy process.

Now, rather than filling one in on the policy agenda items and getting into the “I-P” conflict in some detail, let us talk about an arena that is not explicitly one of the ten “policy issues” but perhaps should be: how Energy Smart concepts could fit into fostering a more secure and more peaceful Middle East: for Israelis, Palestinians, other Arabs, and America(ns).
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America funding Persian Gulf Renewable Energy Investments

While America’s Fossil Fools seek to continue America’s oil addiction, Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Initiative is setting off on a serious path toward a 21st century, renewable energy future. Last month,Masdar and the Spanish firm Sener announced the formation of Torresol Energy, a joint venture to build large-scale concentrating solar plants around the world.
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A quick fix to up hydro power globally?

In the United States, traditional hydropower (dams) provides roughly 10% of the electricity.   Traditional hydro plants, in many cases, are century+ old with embedded technology that is far from 21st century in terms of productivity for every gallon that passes by.  Thus, opportunities exist for taking existing hydropower facilities and making them more productive with the existing water resources. And, there are literally 1000s of dams and spillways across the country that do not have existing electricity production.  But, modernization operations can cost millions and take years to go through regulatory processes to seek to minimize environmental impacts (or, in the case of old facilities, perhaps to reduce environmental impact). The hydro industry often comments that the hydro regulatory process is more difficult than nuclear power’s.

Is there, however, an opportunity for getting a quick 3-7% increase at existing hydropower facilities and to put electricity production at some non-power producing dam sites with a far easier regulatory process, low per kilowatt installation costs (with, then, near free fuel), and do so quickly?  Until yesterday, at WIREC, the options didn’t really seem apparent. Now, however, my head is whirling with the possibilities. Continue reading

Energy Cool: Spend a week WIRECing

This coming week in Washington is a hot one when it comes to renewable energy, as the United States hosts the Washington Internation Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC).  WIREC is a combination of official ministerial (and other government) meetings and presentations; a business conference about renewable energy developments; a trade show; some real interesting looking “official side events“; and a chance for related presentations and demonstrations.   This really is a “be there or be square” event for those concerned about renewable energy (and its potential to help address Peak Oil, Global Warming, social justice, and other critical issues before us/US).

As per Worldwatch‘s announcement of one of the sessions with their staff speaking:

WIREC 2008 provides a center of knowledge transfer among industries, finance, academia, civil society, and government. …  an impressive group of high-level speakers and attendees for the Trade Show at WIREC 2008, … 60+ official side events …

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