Where is Obama’s Energy?

Five guesses who proposed this inspiring question:

“Will America watch as the clean-energy jobs and industries of the future flourish in countries like Spain, Japan, or Germany? Or will we create them here, in the greatest country on earth, with the most talented, productive workers in the world?”

Was it:

a) Thomas Freidman
b) Arianna Huffington
c) Al Gore
d) Bill Gates
e) None of the above

If you chose option (e) you are correct. The correct answer would have been president of the United States of America, Barack Obama. He spoke these words when still just a candidate, back in August, 2008, in Lansing, Michigan. That day he gave a speech, avowing that his administration would fashion new clean-energy industries, wean the nation from its foreign oil addiction, and create five million green jobs. How many? Five million!

Two years later, “Obama’s environmental agenda is in tatters…” wrote Michael Shellenberger in the New Republic:

“His green jobs plan has done little to make a dent in unemployment, which persists at close to 10 percent. Obama’s signature environmental initiative, cap-and-trade, died in the Senate in July. And, during the first year of Obama’s tenure, China massively outspent the United States on clean-energy technology.”

Even with a climate-change-denying Republican House, the facts are, had Obama stricken while the iron was hot, we would be in better shape today.

Shellenberger wrote:

“Cap-and-trade would not have birthed a domestic clean-energy economy—indeed, it wasn’t designed to. Meanwhile, the administration’s green stimulus spending was split between short-term, if worthy, investments in green technology, to which far too little money was allocated, and overhyped public-works projects that would never have delivered the new industrial economy Obama promised as a candidate.”

Statoil on the Wind

Floating Wind TurbineNorway’s largest energy company, Statoil, plans to build a demonstration site to test their “floating” offshore wind turbines. The move is based upon the success of their 2.3-megawatt prototype, floating 10 kilometers offshore at Karmoy in Norway.

Oistein Johannessen, the company’s spokesman, reports that their Norwegian prototype has been working “beyond expectations” 200 meters deep in the water.

According to an article at Bloomberg, Statoil announced during a meeting with Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, that it is considering two sites in the waters off the Scottish coast, one at Lewis and one at Aberdeenshire, to test the commercial potential of its “Hywind” project.

Back in 2009, Statiol held a meeting with Habib Dagher, of the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center, for a business meeting and tour at its Orono research and development facility. The state of Maine too has high hopes to be chosen to reach their vision of a “bright future” in wind energy.

According to Oistein Johannessen, the company plans to decide upon a site by 2011.

Flying on the Wind: The Alternative Energy Race Is On

Set for construction in the Golan Heights – that is Israel’s Northern-most point and border with Syria – a 155-megawatt wind turbine farm.

wind turbine in IsraelFinally given permission by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ministry of National Infrastructures, The Clean Wind Farm company has actually been pushing for construction since 2005 to erect the 80 large 2.5-megawatt wind turbines.

The 80 turbines will be 80 meters tall each and have blade diameters of 50 meters.

The turbines will use 300 square meters and be set 300 meters apart. The land will still be used for agricultural applications – in fact, according to an article in the Jerusalem Post, cows love to use the wind turbine poles to scratch their backs.

While Israel’s solar power is quite lucrative and effectual in a country so close to the equator, some are skeptical that the Jewish State does not have sufficient wind speeds to “sustain a robust wind power industry.”

Meanwhile in another ancient pastoral setting, the world’s largest-ever wind turbine farm opened off the coast of Southeast England last week! Operated by Swedish energy company, Vattenfall, the farm bearing the capacity to power more than 200,000 homes per year, has 100 turbines spread over 13.5 square miles.

The wind farm, which took more than two years to build and can generate 300 megawatts of electricity is visible from the coast in Kent, due to the turbines’ height of 377 feet each.

The British government claims that it aims to support the renewable energy industry to reach its goal to receive 15% of energy from sources like these wind farms by the year 2020.

Britain’s 260 wind farms account for 4% of England’s energy to date.

Vattenfall also operates 700 wind turbines in countries including Germany, Sweden, Poland and Britain.

And the Renewable Energy Technology Center of Israel, got the go-ahead to build a renewable energy technology center in the Negev and Arava deserts of Southern Israel, according to an announcement by ProSeed Venture Capital Fund.

The Israeli government has set a goal to generate 10% of their electricity from renewable sources by the year 2020 – just barely on the heels of Great Britain in the alternative energy race.

Israel’s Hunt for Oil Alternatives

Largely brought on by obvious security incentives, the Jewish Country in the Middle East, Israel is uniquely poised to become a world leader in the field of alternatives to oil.

Last year, around the time of the Climate Summit in Copenhagen, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared that Israel would find a substitute for oil in the next 10 years – despite that country’s relative (enough for self-sufficient success at best) surplus.

Well this year, he is recalling the promise which he made in that green year.

A national plan for developing alternatives to crude oil will be proposed by the Israeli prime minister to his cabinet this week.

Under the auspices of Dr. Eugene Kandel, head of the [Israeli] National Economic Council, the new plan will invest $53.3m a year over the next 10 years in financing research and development for companies involved in the quest for alternative fuel.

The plan also calls for government money to be supplemented by donations from the private sector at $48m a year.

In Israel, 60% of all oil is used in transportation and electricity claims only 5%. The latter statistic is due to that country’s large switch to coal, natural gas and other fossil fuels for electricity during the oil crisis of the 1970’s.

25% of oil is actually spent on petrochemicals, fertilizer and other oil-based products.

Israel justifies its pricy plan like this:

– Foreign oil is produced largely by countries which do not have cordial relations with Israel – some of which are even said to fund terrorist activity against her.

– Transportation is responsible for about 40% of greenhouse gases, and massive amounts of air pollution – this, as we are all aware, has adverse affects on the health of a population.

– The price of foreign oil is expected to rise even from its formidable price (and beneficially so) soon. In fact, projections predict oil prices rising to $130 a barrel by 2030.

The world used 85 million barrels of oil, daily in 2007. The US Department of Energy predicts that usage will rise to 107 million barrels a day by the year 2030.

Israel admits that it uses between 75 to 100 million barrels a year.
Israel’s new plan now calls for the appointment of a project manager with expert staff in the Prime Minister’s Office to emphasize the national need for the task.

Germans Push Nuke Plant Moratorium into the Distance

In an impromptu decision made last week, the government in Germany is augmenting the lifetimes’ of the country’s seventeen nuclear plants while the development of alternative energy sources gets underway.

The move is happening in counterpoint with similar lines by Italy and Sweden –both reconsidering the thwarting of example-setting policies –not new – against nuclear power.

As these existing plants continue to pump, new taxes are to be levied on German utility companies to facilitate the development of renewable energy sources. This is according to the word given by one Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

A prior German government passed a law in 2002 that the last nuclear power plant was to be terminated by 2022. These plans for the future of plants were supported by the German public and resented by the nuclear industry; the volume of the clash only intensified in the wake of what happened at Chernobyl.

According to research done by Judy Dempsey at the New York Times, a July poll said 81% of Germans insist that Germany can do without nuclear power. This is up from the 59% of five years ago.

According to Dempsey, the existing plants will be permitted life for another 12 years – the oldest plants, built before 1980 – eight years to live. Newer plants may operate for up to 14 more years.

Nuclear power accidents in Germany:

4 May 1986

Hamm-Uentrop, Germany

“Operator actions to dislodge damaged fuel rod at Experimental High Temperature Gas Reactor release excessive radiation to 4 km2 surrounding the facility 267”

1 December 1987 Hesse, Germany

“Stop valve fails at Biblis Nuclear Power Plant and contaminates local area 13”

24 November 1989 Greifswald, East Germany

“Electrical error causes fire in the main trough that destroys control lines and 5 main coolant pumps and almost induces meltdown”

Julie Urlaub Defines Sustainable Business

One mantra of the decade has been that small businesses can save money, increase sales, and improve brand and company value by implementing simple social and environmental business sustainability practices.

This philosophy is so true.

Julie Urlaub
Julie Urlaub, Founder and Managing Partner of Taiga Company a sustainability consultant who works with small businesses and advises on response conditions of market changes, and the opportunities to capitalize on them and lower their risk.

According to Miss Urlaub,

“The distinct advantages present within a small business setting” are:

  • Increased flexibility to react to market changes.
  • Reduced decision chains to propel approvals and business action.
  • Improved relations with business stakeholders to capture feedback and address concerns.
  • Improved speed to transform business sustainability resistance into organizational action.
  • She wrote:

    “In many cases, small businesses are taking the lead away from larger corporations. These progressive organizations are creating their own business case for sustainability and defining specific opportunities for improvement.”

    This seems to be the track for success. Urlaub also wrote:

    “By leveraging multifunctional resources and close working relationships as a distinct advantage, small businesses are quickly adapting and capitalizing on business sustainability value.”

    On small business models influencing the big boys, Urlaus said:

    “… a number of corporate giants like IBM and P&G have announced new initiatives that pressure suppliers to do much more to measure and manage their environmental impacts.”

    This blog post continued:

    “With water, carbon, and energy management becoming a critical sustainable business strategy to address internal and external supply issues, businesses addressing these areas are creating supply chain management alignment through increased eco awareness, cooperative business relationships, and applied sustainability concepts that can have immediate business impacts and reduce business sustainability risk.”

    Slow To Fall in Line: Oil Sand Extraction In Canada

    One environmentally destructive practice, onto which a light has been shed due to the BP oil spill in the gulf is Oil Sands Development in Alberta, Canada.

    Tar Sands CanadaOil Sands Extraction, according to a 2008 report, leaks approximately three million gallons of contaminated water into surrounding rivers and groundwater each day. Well, in addition to this, it emits high levels of greenhouse gases.

    The Pembina Institute, a Canadian organization focused on society’s transition to sustainable energy consumption and production, reported that green house gas emissions from oil sands extraction increased by 121% from the year 1990 to 2008. And oil sands extractions are going to triple between the years 2008 and 2020.
    Well, in Copenhagen last December, the Canadian government committed to a 17% decrease in green house gas emissions by the year 2020.

    Canada, however, has yet to produce an actual concrete plan for meeting this deadline. According to a report:

    “If emissions rise as projected under Environment Canada’s business-as-usual scenario, they will reach 28 percent above 2005 levels by 2020, with oil sands expansion accounting for nearly half of the projected increase.”

    And on top of this, in Alberta, the government:

    “Has released draft standards that would allow combustion on dirtier sources of fuel for oil sands,” which, if put into practice, “could lead to a 66% increase in greenhouse gas emissions per barrel produced,”

    According to the report.

    Who Can Afford An Energy Efficient Home?

    Can green homes actually become affordable?

    “To stand out in a still sluggish housing market, more builders are beginning to offer average-priced, ultra-efficient homes.”

    Writes Wendy Koch a reporter and editor from USA Today.

    Green One Construction Services, based in Beaverton, Oregon, is currently working on a zero-net-energy development of eighteen homes designed to produce at least as much power as they spend.

    The triple bedroom, Sage Green homes come with excellent insulation, solar panels and triple-glazed windows. Prices start at $257,900.

    In the southeast Phoenix suburb of Gilbert, Arizona, Meritage Homes unveiled the new Lyon’s Gate developments, which aim to be 80% more efficient than regular, code-compliant homes.

    So what comes for the base price of $174,900? Try nine-inch thick exterior walls, a thermostat which can be remotely programmed using an iPhone and an ECHO solar electric/thermal system which may produce up to 10 kilowatts of power annually. Well, that is roughly half the amount consumed by a regular house.

    Meritage’s vice president for environmental affairs, C.R. Herro told the publication, The Arizona Republic:

    “If customers respond to this, this will become the way we build houses…If we built these with $50,000 worth of (green) features and charged $50,000 more, we wouldn’t sell one…I’m building these for people who couldn’t care less about energy efficiency.”

    Energy bills will run at an estimated $734 annually for the 1,640 square-feet model and $1,218 per year for the largest, 3,062 square-feet one.

    Energizing Brew

    A new facility in the UK, Adnams Bio Energy anaerobic digestion plan, using brewery waste and local food waste will begin producing renewable gas which can be used as liquid fuel among other things.

    Working in partnership with National Grid, the facility expects to generate up to 4.8 million kilowatt-hours of energy per year – that is enough to heat 235 family homes annually.

    Well, the average home in the UK burns 56 kilowatt-hours of gas per day. The same amount of energy which could be generated from the waste left behind from brewing roughly 600 pints of beer.

    Some 28 million pints of beer are enjoyed daily by Britons — well, the waste from brewing that much beer could produce enough biomethane to heat 47,000 homes.

    The Adnams plant plans to be able to produce enough renewable gas to power the company’s brewery and run its fleet of lorries, while leaving up to 60% of the remaining output available for injection back into the national grid.

    By diverting waste from landfill, the plant will also prevent the release of methane into the atmosphere.

    Biomethane is like natural gas. Once it’s upgraded to grid specification, it may be injected into the gas network to be used by customers.

    National Grid suggests that biomethane could account for at least 15% of domestic gas consumption by the often-cited year 2020.

    The Adnams Bio Energy plant has three digesters – these are sealed vessels in which naturally-occurring bacteria act without oxygen to break down up to 12,500 tons of organic waste every year. In addition to producing biomethane, the process also yields a liquid organic fertilizer.

    Working in connection with Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, Adnams Bio Energy has also deployed British solar thermal panels at the plant and will soon install cutting-edge photovoltaic cells on site, thereby creating a sort-of mini energy park.

    The Green Light is on Beer

    We are on the heels of the hot sunny summer season – and what with global warming, things are only going to be getting hotter. Let’s face it, you’re going to want something cold to drink – and if you’re anything like me, you’ll go for a beer.

    Since environmentalists love The Ancient Brew of Hops, in our environmentally aware time we’ve witnessed a boom in green, organic spirits, sustainable and renewable energy-powered breweries.

    There’s a lot that you can do to be a green drinker: you can support sustainable and even solar powered breweries, you can drink strictly organic, pesticide-free beers. And by God steer clear of excessive packaging in cans and bottles.

    Luckily, organic beer is a growing force in the booze industry. If a beer bears an organic label, that means that it has been certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It adheres to strict, legally binding farming regulations. It means that you can expect the barley and hops to be organically grown: no toxic pesticides, no chemical preservatives and no artificial fertilizers. Drinking and buying organic is also a nice way to support more sustainable agriculture, and even to contest global warming.

    Look out for beer companies that are going the distance to achieve environmental responsibility. For instance, Sierra Nevada, powers its brewery with solar power, while Anderson Brewery in Chico, could well be the first truly 100% sustainable brewery. Or check out Cascade Green, an Antipodean beer company that offsets its emissions by 100%. Plus they’re delicious beers.

    Bottoms up.