Sunday, February 11, 2007

Energy Revolution II: Tony Blair, Clean Energy & Cuba

On Tuesday Tony Blair announced his support for a major international clean energy project. Hurrah, I say - roll out the renewables. But, wait. The focus is not on established carbon-free technologies such as those set out in the Energy Revolution report. Mr Blair's focus is on a solution not yet perfected and fraught with high costs and high risks: carbon capture and storage.

Although the goals of the project have not yet been finalised, Mr Blair is pushing for international agreement for the investment in the research and technology needed to perfect the capture of carbon dioxide produced from burning coal and store it under the ground or the seabed to prevent the release into the atmosphere. 'Clean' coal, it seems, its Mr Blair's answer to all our energy problems - bury the dirt and then it miraculously becomes clean. It begs the question Mr Blair: why are you not backing true clean technology - technology that does not release carbon dioxide in the first place?

The Energy Revolution Report has established that it can be done, with considerable reduction in carbon emissions. Is there any other plan out there that can better a result of 50% reduction of energy CO2 reductions by 2050?

Extensive gas infrastructure projects are well underway in the UK, such as the 196km pipeline connecting new gas import terminals at Milford Haven to the national transmission system. The pipeline will run from Felindre near Swansea, across the Brecon Beacons to Tirley in Gloucestershire. Similar pipelines are being put in place to enable the UK to adjust to being a net importer of gas. An industry boosted by strong long term governmental support and generous subsidies, has just announced this morning that gas prices are due to drop soon thus boosting further demand from imports. Whilst this is good news for the price conscious consumer, this does not bode well for our long-term clean energy needs.

Production and consumption of conventional energy use creates enormous environmental problems: alongside acceleration of climate change there are the additional problems of pollution to land, water and air, as well as to humans. There is an inverted logic to the solution presented: "lets dig up more fossil fuels from our planet, bag the bad gases and hide them safely out of sight and mind. Fingers crossed they do not come back to haunt someone else." We will never really know whether or not it would work, but hopefully we are not going to be around to find out. As a business venture, I for one would not give it my financial backing, and not when there are safer options out there.

Energy is essential to our everyday living and working. It provides us with fundamental services: lighting, heating and cooling and mobility all require energy use. It is difficult to visualise our lifestyles without it. Society as we know it would grind to a halt - essential services such as heath, education and welfare would break down rapidly.

Such an energy crisis did take place. In 1990, following the Soviet collapse, Cuba's massive subsidies of oil were halted. Their GDP dropped by nearly a third, transportation came close to standstill and food became scarce. The impact on individuals was most clearly demonstrated in terms of weight: the average Cuban lost 20 pounds in the first year. Remarkably, Cuba not only survived, but successfully managed to make the emergency transition by turning to local organic agriculture (called oganoponico), renewable energy, and large-scale mass transit.

Our challenge is to make the transition to clean energy whilst still meeting energy demands. Whilst Cuba was forced by dint of unanticipated circumstance, we are forced by knowledge of future circumstance - of the need for drastic greenhouse gas cuts and the pending peaking of oil.

This can be done. We are not in the same position as Cuba, but we can draw important lessons from their experience. We are not in an emergency situation - yet. We have the luxury of a little time, which allows us to be proactive rather than reactive. Stern tells us to act now rather than later is the cheaper route. It can also be the equitable route. Incorporation of renewable energies such as Concentrating Solar Power can greatly assist developing nation economies as well as sustain our energy needs. We have a short window of opportunity to put in place appropriate plans, global solutions to benefit us all to move forward into what will indeed be a new energy revolution. Decisions that will be made over the next few months have the capacity to determine our future energy needs and our future environmental impact.

Mr Blair, I ask you, read the report and act on it.

Energy Revolution Report

How Cuba Survived Peak Oil

Katherine Hamnett: Kept in the dark
Concentrated Solar Power is the secure energy supply of the future, so why haven't we been told about it?

[pictures credit: Energy Institute, Treehugger]

1 comment:

Jay Draiman said...


In order to insure energy and economic independence as well as better economic growth without being blackmailed by foreign countries, our country, the United States of America’s Utilization of Energy Sources must change.
"Energy drives our entire economy.” We must protect it. "Let's face it, without energy the whole economy and economic society we have set up would come to a halt. So you want to have control over such an important resource that you need for your society and your economy." The American way of life is not negotiable.
Our continued dependence on fossil fuels could and will lead to catastrophic consequences.

The federal, state and local government should implement a mandatory renewable energy installation program for residential and commercial property on new construction and remodeling projects with the use of energy efficient material, mechanical systems, appliances, lighting, etc. The source of energy must be by renewable energy such as Solar-Photovoltaic, Geothermal, Wind, Biofuels, Ocean-Tidal, Hydrogen-Fuel Cell etc. This includes the utilizing of water from lakes, rivers and oceans to circulate in cooling towers to produce air conditioning and the utilization of proper landscaping to reduce energy consumption. (Sales tax on renewable energy products and energy efficiency should be reduced or eliminated)

The implementation of mandatory renewable energy could be done on a gradual scale over the next 10 years. At the end of the 10 year period all construction and energy use in the structures throughout the United States must be 100% powered by renewable energy. (This can be done by amending building code)

In addition, the governments must impose laws, rules and regulations whereby the utility companies must comply with a fair “NET METERING” (the buying of excess generation from the consumer at market price), including the promotion of research and production of “renewable energy technology” with various long term incentives and grants. The various foundations in existence should be used to contribute to this cause.

A mandatory time table should also be established for the automobile industry to gradually produce an automobile powered by renewable energy. The American automobile industry is surely capable of accomplishing this task. As an inducement to buy hybrid automobiles (sales tax should be reduced or eliminated on American manufactured automobiles).

This is a way to expedite our energy independence and economic growth. (This will also create a substantial amount of new jobs). It will take maximum effort and a relentless pursuit of the private, commercial and industrial government sectors’ commitment to renewable energy – energy generation (wind, solar, hydro, biofuels, geothermal, energy storage (fuel cells, advance batteries), energy infrastructure (management, transmission) and energy efficiency (lighting, sensors, automation, conservation) (rainwater harvesting, water conservation) (energy and natural resources conservation) in order to achieve our energy independence.

"To succeed, you have to believe in something with such a passion that it becomes a reality."

Jay Draiman, Energy Consultant
Northridge, CA. 91325
Feb. 12, 2007

P.S. I have a very deep belief in America's capabilities. Within the next 10 years we can accomplish our energy independence, if we as a nation truly set our goals to accomplish this.
I happen to believe that we can do it. In another crisis--the one in 1942--President Franklin D. Roosevelt said this country would build 60,000 [50,000] military aircraft. By 1943, production in that program had reached 125,000 aircraft annually. They did it then. We can do it now.
The American people resilience and determination to retain the way of life is unconquerable and we as a nation will succeed in this endeavor of Energy Independence.

The Oil Companies should be required to invest a substantial percentage of their profit in renewable energy R&D and implementation. Those who do not will be panelized by the public at large by boy cutting their products.

Solar energy is the source of all energy on the earth (excepting volcanic geothermal). Wind, wave and fossil fuels all get their energy from the sun. Fossil fuels are only a battery which will eventually run out. The sooner we can exploit all forms of Solar energy (cost effectively or not against dubiously cheap FFs) the better off we will all be. If the battery runs out first, the survivors will all be living like in the 18th century again.

Every new home built should come with a solar package. A 1.5 kW per bedroom is a good rule of thumb. The formula 1.5 X's 5 hrs per day X's 30 days will produce about 225 kWh per bedroom monthly. This peak production period will offset 17 to 2

4 cents per kWh with a potential of $160 per month or about $60,000 over the 30-year mortgage period for a three-bedroom home. It is economically feasible at the current energy price and the interest portion of the loan is deductible. Why not?

Title 24 has been mandated forcing developers to build energy efficient homes. Their bull-headedness put them in that position and now they see that Title 24 works with little added cost. Solar should also be mandated and if the developer designs a home that solar is impossible to do then they should pay an equivalent mitigation fee allowing others to put solar on in place of their negligence. (Installation should be paid “performance based”).

Installation of renewable energy and its performance should be paid to the installer and manufacturer based on "performance based" (that means they are held accountable for the performance of the product - that includes the automobile industry). This will gain the trust and confidence of the end-user to proceed with such a project; it will also prove to the public that it is a viable avenue of energy conservation.

Installing a renewable energy system on your home or business increases the value of the property and provides a marketing advantage.

Nations of the world should unite and join together in a cohesive effort to develop and implement MANDATORY RENEWABLE ENERGY for the sake of humankind and future generations.
The head of the U.S. government's renewable energy lab said Monday (Feb. 5) that the federal government is doing "embarrassingly few things" to foster renewable energy, leaving leadership to the states at a time of opportunity to change the nation's energy future. "I see little happening at the federal level. Much more needs to happen." What's needed, he said, is a change of our national mind set. Instead of viewing the hurdles that still face renewable sources and setting national energy goals with those hurdles in mind, we should set ambitious national renewable energy goals and set about overcoming the hurdles to meet them. We have an opportunity, an opportunity we can take advantage of or an opportunity we can squander and let go,"
solar energy - the direct conversion of sunlight with solar cells, either into electricity or hydrogen, faces cost hurdles independent of their intrinsic efficiency. Ways must be found to lower production costs and design better conversion and storage systems.

Jay Draiman
Northridge, CA 91325