Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Peak Oil Crisis: Adaptive Technology

Significant technological advances rarely make eye-catching headlines as they come from many small advances involving numerous scientific disciplines. However, every now and again it becomes clear that progress is being made.

When President Obama recently proposed raising the mileage for cars to an average of 54.5 miles per gallon, the automobile manufacturers-- much to the surprise of many -- said we can do it. An increase of this size is not a trivial task that can be accomplished overnight as it primarily involves numerous small improvements that together lead to significant change.
Improvements in transportation and other energy related technologies are being reported every day. Most of the developments, however, are down in the technological weeds and involve technical concepts nearly incomprehensible to laymen; however, some of the reports do give insights into the directions in which our civilization may be evolving.

Despite the reservations of many veteran auto industry observers, it is clear that plug-in electric cars are coming soon. Nearly every major automobile manufacturer in the world appears ready to market some flavor of plug-in vehicle with in the next few years. A recent study concluded that together these manufacturers have committed to producing some 840,000 electric vehicles by 2013. The demand for lithium-ion automobile batteries is projected to increase from 2.4 gigawatt hours (GWh) this year to 18 GWh by 2013 - a seven fold increase. The rapid increase in lithium-ion battery production -- 20 new plants are under construction -- is expected to drive the cost of these batteries down from $800-1000/kWh today to the vicinity of $350 by the end of the decade. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

IDB, GDF Suez to Support Sustainable Energy Access to Isolated Regions

21 September 2011: The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and GDF Suez signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to support social entrepreneurial projects aimed at providing sustainable energy access to disadvantaged populations.

During the annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting, IDB and GDF Suez agreed to collaborate in a programme aimed at promoting economic and social development of isolated regions, and at reducing energy insecurity worldwide. GDF SUEZ hopes, through its corporate social responsibility programme, “GDF SUEZ Rassembleurs d’Energies,” to sponsor up to eight significant projects with high social impact by 2013. More >>>

Location: Cayman Islands

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Economy, Peak Oil and Permaculture

Richard Heinberg- Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute is a Permaculturist.

His latest book describes The End of Growth- isn't looking for when the recession will end and we'll get back to "normal". He believes our decades-long era of growth was based on aberrant set of conditions- namely cheap oil, but also cheap minerals, cheap food, etc- and that looking ahead, we need to prepare for a "new normal". The problem, according to Heinberg, is our natural resources just aren't so cheap and plentiful anymore, and he's not just talking about Peak Oil, Heinberg believes in Peak Everything (also the title of one of his books). Heinberg thinks for many, adjusting to a life where everything costs a bit more, could be very hard, but he also thinks the transition to a new normal might actually make life better. "Particularly in the Western industrialized countries we've gotten used to levels of consumption that are not only environmentally unsustainable, they also don't make us happy. They've in fact hollowed out our lives. We've given up things that actually do give us satisfaction and pleasure so that we can work more and more hours to get more and more money with which to buy more and more stuff- more flatscreen tvs, bigger SUVs, bigger houses and it's not making us happier. Well, guess what, it's possible to downsize, it's possible to use less, become more self sufficient, grow more of your own food, have chickens in your backyard and be a happier person." This is not all theoretical. In the backyard of the home Heinberg shares with his wife, Janet Barocco, the couple grow most of their food during the summer months (i.e. 25 fruit & nut trees, veggies, potatoes.. they're just lack grains), raise chickens for eggs, capture rainwater, bake with solar cookers and a solar food drier and secure energy with photovoltaic and solar hot water panels. Their backyard reflects Heinberg's vision for our "new normal" and it's full of experiments, like the slightly less than 120-square-foot cottage that was inspired by the Small Home Movement. It was built with the help of some of Heinberg's college students (in one of the nation's first sustainability classes) using recycled and natural materials (like lime plaster). Heinberg admits it's not a real tiny house experiment since they don't actually live in it- his wife uses it as a massage studio, he meditates there and sometimes it's used as a guest house (though that's hush hush due to permitting issues). But their tiny cottage points to the bigger point behind why a transition to a less resource intensive future could equal greater happiness. "Simplify. Pay less attention to all of the stuff in your life and pay more attention to what's really important. Maybe for you it's gardening, maybe for you it's painting or music. You know we all have stuff that gives us real pleasure and most of us find we have less and less time for that because we have to devote so much time to shopping, paying bills and driving from here to there and so on. Well, how about if we cut out some of that stuff and spend more time doing what really feeds us emotionally and spiritually and in some cases even nutritionally."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Remote Island Paradise to Be Powered By Coconuts and Sunshine

In the Malay language, the coconut palm is called “pokok seribu guna,” meaning “the tree of a thousand uses.”

Make that one thousand and one. In just over a year’s time, the entire chain of the Tokelau islands plans to get 100 percent of their energy from a heavenly mix of coconuts and sunshine, according to United Press International.

It is perhaps incontestably appropriate that an island paradise should power itself with its two most plentiful resources. The new energy policy should also help to make these tiny, vulnerable tropical atolls more self-sufficient, as well as send the world a message about the feasibility of locally sourced renewable energy.

Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand, consists of three small atolls located roughly halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. About 1,500 people call Tokelau home. Since the highest point on the islands is only 16 feet, they are particularly vulnerable to the threat of rising sea levels.

Under the new energy plan, most of the islands’ power — 93 percent — is slated to come from solar energy. The coconut power will supply the remaining 7 percent, and will come into play when skies are overcast or when electricity demand exceeds solar supply.
More >>>

Location: Amman, Jordan

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Peak Oil Crisis: Efficiency is the Solution

If there is a way to get through the loss of fossil fuels, it lies in developing new and more efficient ways to generate renewable energy and more efficient ways of utilizing the fossil fuels we have left.

Renewable sources currently provide only 16 percent of our energy in the U.S. and 11 percent of our electric power. Unless the production of these renewables can be increased substantially in the next 50 years and the efficiency with which we use energy increased many fold, then the world is going to become a very dark and stagnant place.
There is running debate going on between people who believe all is lost without copious supplies of fossil fuels to power the global civilization and those who believe that the conservation and efficiency that will come with very high fossil fuel prices will provide a recognizable future for civilization. The great unknowns in all this is whether there will be sufficient financial and other resources available to effect the transition and whether or not the damage wrought by a changing climate will be so serious that a global transition to renewable energy will be difficult if not impossible.

For the immediate future, however, much of what life in the future will be like will depend on the technologies that will enable civilization to continue while using only a fraction of the energy that is consumed today and to develop the technology to produce large quantities of cheaper renewable fuels. The manner in which our fossil fuels are being used is so wasteful of the energy contained in fossil fuels that major reductions can be made with little real impact on the activities that consume energy. The prime examples of this waste is the internal combustion engine which uses only 14 percent of its fuel to turn the wheels while wasting most of the rest. Huge central power plants waste most of the energy that devours coal and natural gas, and produce much waste heat that is dumped into the air or local water bodies or in line losses. Without the massive waste, the fossil fuel age could last a lot longer. More >>>

Location:Amman, Jordan