This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.


Money falls from the sky in Germany: My roof has been turned into a cash machine, thanks to a state-mandated "feed-in tariff" that requires utilities to pay anyone who installs a photovoltaic system more than double the market rates for the electricity produced for the grid.

The short term economics don't make traditional financial sense, but there is clearly a long term social benefit, or at least that is the presumption since government policy is clearly meant to encourage this behaviour. It would be interesting to know how widespread policies similar to this would impact US utilities (how do you plan for this?), carmakers (how much faster would the Volt and other PHEVS come to market?), home builders, and possibly others.

As reference -- Germany pays 49 cents for solar power; most jurisdictions do not pay, but simply credit your account (you can't make money, you just reduce your bill to naught). 49 cents is also pretty high compared with other jursidictions; Ontario pays 42 cents a kwH for solar, 14 cents for wind, and is (I believe) the most generous in North America by far.


Money falls from the sky in Germany
Wed Dec 19, 2007 11:05pm EST

By Erik Kirschbaum

Erik Kirschbaum, a U.S. citizen, has worked for 18 years as a Reuters correspondent in Germany, Austria and the Balkans. In the following story "Money falls from the sky in Germany" he describes how installing photovoltaic panels on his Berlin roof is paying him handsomely.

BERLIN (Reuters) - My father warned me "money doesn't grow on trees" and he was right, of course.

But I have discovered that money can fall out of the sky -- if you have the equipment to catch it.

In an age of global warming, rising fossil fuel prices and dwindling natural resources, I've learned that in Germany and a growing number of countries, solar power can give you more than just a feeling of "doing something" for the environment.

It can also give you a steady stream of income.

My roof has been turned into a cash machine, thanks to a state-mandated "feed-in tariff" that requires utilities to pay anyone who installs a photovoltaic system more than double the market rates for the electricity produced for the grid.

The 34 sleek black panels, measuring about 1 meter by 1.5 meters (yards) each, lie inconspicuously on the slopes of the roof as they quietly harvest enough power for two households -- and generate annual revenues of some 3,600 euros ($5,300).

In other words: Every day about 10 euros ($15) worth of energy from the sun (or even daylight) lands on the roof and is converted into electricity through the wonders of photovoltaic.

The local utility is required, by law, to buy it off me at a fixed rate of 49 cents per kilowatt -- guaranteed for 20 years.

The entire supply of rooftop power spins through the meter into the grid at the elevated rate and the power used returns through another meter in my basement at the market rate of 20 cents per kilowatt.

A London friend who installed a PV system on his roof earns the market rate of 9 pence (13 cents) per kilowatt that he feeds into his grid and has to pay 12 pence (17 cents) for what he takes in from the grid.

It annoys him that Britain is one of the few countries without a higher feed-in tariff to promote private investment in the green technology. He reckons in the long run his outlay was still worthwhile because it added value to his house and freed him from the whims of power company price increases.


Yet no one should feel any pity for the utilities paying out the higher feed-in tariffs for they simply pass along the costs (nearly 1 billion euros a year in Germany) to their customers.

Thus, those with no solar panels are subsidizing those who have them. I'm not sure that's fair. But it's the law.

About 47 countries -- including Spain, Greece, Portugal, France and Italy -- have adopted laws modeled on Germany's 2000 "Erneuerbares Energie Gesetz" (Renewable Energy Act).

It may not be the silver bullet the world is looking for to solve climate change but the abundance of solar energy means photovoltaic produces fast results in reducing CO2 emissions.

Germany now has more than 300,000 PV systems and that is projected to triple by 2013. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says he will put a PV system on his roof at home.

Even though Germany is often covered by clouds, the EEG has helped the northern European country become the world's leader in PV and eliminate 10 million tonnes of CO2 each year. Some 55 percent of the world's total PV output comes from Germany.

Some farmers in Germany derive more income selling the electricity collected from solar panels on their barn roofs than they do from their harvests or livestock.

Germany gets 3 percent of its electricity from photovoltaic.

The total worldwide peak power of installed PV was about 6,000 gigawatts (more than 3,000 from Germany) at the end of 2006 and was forecast to rise to 9,000 gigawatts this year. In Germany, some predict 100,000 gigawatts of PV within 10 years.


The idea of installing solar panels had been on my mind for years but there were always reasons not to do it -- it seemed costly, my roof was not pointed south, and there was always a worry solar panel prices might later plunge.

But when I took a close look, I saw I could turn a profit.

So instead of a just plundering my savings for a 3 kw system to produce enough for a family, I got a bank loan to double the size of the investment to about 30,000 euros for 7 kw.

Ever since I've been happily answering a deluge of questions from neighbors, strangers and colleagues about the nuts and bolts of whether it really works. It does. It's magic.

-- For Reuters latest environment blogs click on:

67% Of Consumers Willing To Pay More For Green Power (according to a report from IBM Global Business Services that forecasts how changes in energy customers’ expectations will impact the utility industry’s business model in the next five to ten years)

67% Of Consumers Willing To Pay More For Green Power

67-of-consumers-willing-to-pay-more-for-green-power.jpegSixty-seven percent of consumers polled across six countries - Australia, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States - would be more willing to pay for eco-friendly energy, according to Plugging in the Consumer: Innovating utility business models for the future, a report from IBM Global Business Services that forecasts how changes in energy customers' expectations will impact the utility industry's business model in the next five to ten years.

Australians are most willing to pay a premium for green power, but, surprisingly, Americans are most willing to pay a sizable premium, up to an additional 20 percent or more.

But while the environment is important, cost and quality are still more important considerations for consumers in their choice of products.

While carbon footprints and other analyses of personal environmental impact have attracted widespread attention, 75 percent of consumers surveyed outside the U.S. have not performed one - and only 15 percent of U.S. consumers have done this.

Most consumers want the option to choose their electric or gas utility provider (83 percent of those surveyed), but the majority reported either they cannot or do not know they can. A full one quarter of consumers who have renewable power options available to them actually purchase renewable power, and most of those who do not have renewable power options (65 percent) said they would like the option to do so.

The survey also found that the promise of reduced energy costs would impact how and when consumers heat and cool their homes, do their laundry and cook their meals. Of those surveyed, 84 percent said that a 50 percent reduction in energy cost during off-peak hours was the most important. Sixty-one percent would change their energy-consuming behavior in response to claims that there would be a positive environmental impact from such changes, and this would rise to 65 percent if such benefits could be demonstrated.

Stages Of Corporate Sustainability: Final stage -- At some point, companies realize they can’t take this journey alone and they need their company collaborating within functions and business units and to drive for more collaboration with business partners, governmental bodies, NGOs, and customers

Stages Of Corporate Sustainability

5-stages-of-corporate-sustainability.jpegIn a recent AMR Research newsletter, John Davies wrote about five Elisabeth Kubler-Ross-like stages that a business might go through when embracing a sustainability strategy:

Desire - The need for a company to "do something" can be driven by protesters, a board member, or the CEO's grandchildren asking what he's doing to stop global warming.

Pride - A small group is soon assigned to address the topic of sustainability, and as they look around their company they find numerous examples of just how good their workplace environment is - people recycle, they print on both sides of paper, or they even have compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Satisfaction - The company initiates energy efficiency and waste reduction projects that all meet the financial hurdle rate and ROI requirements established by the CFO. Marketing wants to publish its first corporate citizenship report, which may or may not contain cautious but long-term emissions reduction targets.

Depression - The easy projects are done, and now management wants to know how they're going to make money at this sustainability stuff. A NGO publicly chastises the company for not doing enough, and the core team responsible for the company's sustainability initiatives realizes "this stuff is hard."

Collaboration - At some point, companies realize they can't take this journey alone and they need their company collaborating within functions and business units and to drive for more collaboration with business partners, governmental bodies, NGOs, and customers to continually revisit their strategy as it relates to their sustainability journey.

Cisco plans to launch a new program that will give each department within its business a carbon quota

[I believe Shell had implemented internal carbon markets years before the external ones came to light. Perhaps more to come...? Hat tip to Peter

Cisco To Implement Department-Level Carbon Quotas

cisco-to-implement-departmentlevel-carbon-quotas.jpegCisco plans to launch a new program that will give each department within its business a carbon quota, BusinessGreen reports. The company will pilot the program early next year with a company-wide roll out possible in the second half of 2008.

Departments will be given a carbon quota as well as tools designed to help them cut their emissions. Rather than penalizing departments that go over their quota, the company is leaning towards giving incentives to departments that cut emissions. Senior managers will be assessed on how well they manage their carbon budget.

IBM 2007 Corporate Responsibility Report -- Podcasts available

The term podcast is possibly incorrect in this case (I have not found an RSS feed to pull the MP3s down), But you can download the files individually and transfer them to an iPod, telephone or other device.

Thanks to the CR team for putting it together :-)

MIT studes run supercomputer on pedal power: The ten cyclists pedaled their bikes, set on stands, with the wheels driving dynamos to generate direct current power which was converted into the alternating current needed. The supercomputer modeled a nuclear fusion reaction.

Thanks to Andy for this one. I can't wait to see what the IBM office of 2020 looks like... See below story for suggestions

MIT studes run supercomputer on pedal power
Could this be a possible career alternative for displaced bike messengers?
12/20/2007 6:00:00 AM
by Chris Mellor

A team of ten Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) students powered a supercomputer by pedalling bicycles.

The 20-minute exercise earned the world record for human-powered computing (HPC) for the Massachusetts university team.

They powered a SiCortex SC648 supercomputer with a Linux cluster of 648 CPUs and almost 1TB of main memory in a single cabinet. The system is low-powered and draws 1,200 watts without needing special power supplies or cooling.

An SC648 chip, with six processors on it, draws around 8 watts of power, which compares to a typical notebook computer CPU needing 100 watts, according to SiCortex CEO John Mucci. Other supercomputers draw tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of watts.

The ten cyclists pedaled their bikes, set on stands, with the wheels driving dynamos to generate direct current power which was converted into the alternating current needed. The supercomputer modeled a nuclear fusion reaction.

A spokesperson said that the human-powered session produced more computations than took place in the first 3,000 years of civilization. He also said that more arithmetic calculations were computed than were done on the entire earth up to 1960.

The MIT team was highlighting the need for sustainable energy supplies, competing for a Google prize and also for an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.

Google and a bike company sponsored an Innovate or Die contest with contestants having to use bike power and post a video of their submission on Google-owned YouTube to win US$5,000 for the team and a specialized bike for each member.

Five members pedaled for the Google prize and a ten-member team pedaled for the Guinness Book of Records entry.

Energy guru Amory Lovins lays out his plan for weaning the US off oil -- and revitalizing the economy in the process. It's the subject of his book Winning the Oil Endgame, and he makes it sound fairly simple: On one hand, the deadly risks of continued dependency, and on the other, some win-win solutions

Thanks to Jon Z and others for the material


Amory Lovins: We must win the oil endgame
Energy guru Amory Lovins lays out his plan for weaning the US off oil -- and revitalizing the economy in the process. It's the subject of his book Winning the Oil Endgame, and he makes it sound fairly simple: On one hand, the deadly risks of continued dependency, and on the other, some win-win solutions.
Watch this talk >>



Green Energy Advocate Amory Lovins: Guru or Fakir?

In early August, it was announced that Amory Lovins had won the Volvo Environment Prize. Regarding Lovins's selection, Volvo officials said, "He has developed a number of path-breaking technical, economic and policy concepts and succeeded in merging theory with a wide range of practical applications. His work is transforming the way we use energy worldwide."

The Volvo Prize is just the latest in a string of high-profile awards garnered by Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, an energy think-tank in Colorado. He's also received a "genius" grant from the MacArthur Foundation as well as numerous honorary degrees.

The mainstream media adores him. In a January profile, Elizabeth Kolbert of the New Yorker magazine wrote that Lovins "is routinely described, even by people who don't particularly like or admire him, as a 'genius.'" In 2004, the Associated Press called him "one of the nation's most influential energy thinkers." And in 1986, the Washington Post said Lovins has "the heart of an insurgent, but he has the mind of a scientist."

Lovins is America's most famous advocate of "green" energy. Over the past three decades, he has tirelessly advocated a "soft path" on energy – one that relies mainly on energy efficiency, small, decentralized power plants, and renewable energy. In doing so, Lovins has won widespread acclaim from environmentalists and the Left, and as one critic put it, is "a rock star." His rock stardom is understandable: Lovins is a good public speaker who provides snappy sound-bites and appealing solutions. He's personally engaging (I met him in the early 1990s in Minneapolis), and given his small stature, has a sort of Pillsbury Doughboy appeal. Aside from his low-key personality, all of his recommendations sound eminently doable. The only thing required, Lovins repeatedly declares, is society's will to follow his energy solutions, which invariably include efficiency and still more efficiency. A classic example is in a short article he wrote in June, "Saving the climate for fun and profit," in which he presented a variation on his efficiency-will-save-us mantra. Stopping the global-warming problem, he wrote, "will not cost you extra, it will save you money, because saving fuel costs less than buying fuel." Or look at his 2004 book, Winning the Oil Endgame, written with several co-authors, in which the word "efficiency" appears 549 times.

What could be better than stopping climate change for fun and profit? As for efficiency, who could possibly be opposed? Doing more with less makes sense for a whole lot of reasons. As Lovins once put it, his efficiency prescriptions are "better than a free lunch, it's a lunch you get paid to eat." But amid all the sound-bites, prizes, speeches, and laudatory news articles, a few key questions are seldom posed: is he the real deal? Or put another way, how much of Lovins's theology is rhetoric and how much is based in reality?

The facts plainly show that Lovins has been consistently wrong about the ability of renewables to take large amounts of market-share from fossil fuels. He's been proven wrong about the long-term ability of efficiency to reduce overall energy consumption. And yet, despite being so wrong for so long, he keeps getting awards and prizes by the forklift-load. And the fact that the Lovins love-fest continues unabated causes no small bit of antipathy among some long-time energy watchers. One of them is Vaclav Smil, the polymath and distinguished professor of geography at the University of Manitoba who has written numerous books on energy. "Inexplicably," Smil wrote recently, Lovins "retains his guru aura no matter how wrong he is."

Smil and others point out that Lovins has been wrong on numerous fronts. Four of Lovins's claims are worth investigation.

1. Renewables will take huge swaths of the overall energy market. (1976)
2. Electricity consumption will fall. (1984)
3. Cellulosic ethanol will solve our oil import needs. (repeatedly)
4. Efficiency will lower consumption. (repeatedly)

Before delving into those issues, let's take a quick look at Lovins's history. He grew up in the East, moving among towns in Maryland, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. His father was a designer of optical equipment. Lovins went to Harvard, where he studied physics and several other subjects. He dropped out of Harvard, moved to England, and attended Oxford, but quit before finishing his degree. In the early 1970s, he met David Brower, the famed environmentalist and founder of the Friends of the Earth. Lovins became a leading opponent of nuclear energy, arguing that the spread of nuclear power would inevitably result in proliferation.

Lovins's anti-nuclear stance was one of his early claims to fame. And this was a key element of the article that catapulted him to fame: his 1976 piece for Foreign Affairs, published when he was just 28, called "Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken?" In it Lovins argued that American energy policy was all wrong. What America needed was "soft" energy resources to replace the "hard" ones (namely fossil fuels and nuclear power plants), ones that are decentralized, small, and renewable.

In 1979, Lovins married L. Hunter Sheldon, a lawyer and social scientist. In 1982, the couple (who later divorced) founded the Rocky Mountain Institute, a think-tank focused on efficient resource and policy development. Today, Lovins is chairman and chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute, which employs some 50 people and is based in Snowmass, just outside of Aspen, Colorado. The buildings that house the institute are reportedly so efficient that they need no outside heating, even during the winter, thanks to their passive solar design and the body heat of those who work inside them. Lovins himself lives in a super-efficient "bio-shelter" that uses some of the same passive solar techniques as the institute's office space. His salary for running the think-tank, according to 2005 Internal Revenue Service filings, is $160,833.

The biography Lovins sent to me via e-mail from Tokyo says he has worked in over 50 countries, has been awarded the "Blue Planet, Volvo, Onassis, Nissan, Shingo, and Mitchell Prizes, the Benjamin Franklin and Happold Medals, nine honorary doctorates, honorary membership of the American Institute of Architects, Life Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts, and the Heinz, Lindbergh, Time Hero for the Planet, and World Technology Awards." He has written 28 books. His bio also states that he "advises industries and governments worldwide, and has briefed 19 heads of state," and that the Rocky Mountain Institute has "served or been invited by more than 80 Fortune 500 firms and has included the recent energy-efficient redesign of $30 billion worth of facilities in 29 sectors."

By any measure, his resume is impressive. But what about his record? That's where things get hazy. Lovins has a number of critics, and among the most prominent is Paul Joskow, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "My rule of thumb," Joskow wrote me in an e-mail, "is to double his cost estimate and divide his energy saving estimate in half to get something closer to reality."

Indeed, a close look at the Foreign Affairs article points up the difference between Lovins's rhetoric and reality. The piece predicted that if the U.S. were to embrace Lovins's vision, by around 2005 more than a third of the country's energy would be coming from "soft technologies," which Lovins defined in part as relying "on renewable energy flows that are always there….such as sun and wind and vegetation." Fossil fuels were not mentioned in any of his definitions of "soft" technologies.

So how did Lovins's prediction turn out? This graphic from the Government Accountability Office provides a useful comparison, covering the period just before Lovins's piece in Foreign Affairs, to 2004.

Overall U.S. Energy Consumption, by Source, 1973 and 2004

As shown, the only energy source that has displaced any fossil fuel is nuclear power. And yet, Lovins still claims that nuclear power "continues to die of an incurable attack of market forces."

Electricity demand "ratcheting downward"?

It's clear that Lovins was wrong about renewable energy's ability to displace fossil fuels. So let's look at electricity demand. In 1984, Lovins told Business Week that "we see electricity demand ratcheting downward over the medium and long term. The long-term prospects for selling more electricity are dismal." During the same interview he said, "We will never get, we suspect, to a high enough price to justify building centralized thermal power plants again. That era is over." Except that it isn't.

America's electricity production has jumped by about 66 percent since Lovins made his declaration, rising from 2,400 billion kilowatt-hours in 1984 to just over 4,000 billion kilowatt-hours in 2005. And to meet that demand, utilities have built dozens of centralized thermal power plants.

Lovins refuses to admit that his forecast was flat wrong. In an e-mail, Lovins said he couldn't verify the quote and that the Business Week piece was "widely misquoted." In his initial response to the question, he said that "the general sentiment is correct in its historical context." What that means, I have no idea. A few days later, after I sent him the full text of the Business Week story, Lovins sent another response, in which he again declared that the magazine had misquoted him and that "Cost and climate pressures and revolutionary efficiency techniques will ultimately make electricity demand stabilize and then decline in most states as it has begun to do in some. Most electricity is now wasted, and eventually economics wins. New central plants are uncompetitive and getting more so."

Despite Lovins's insistence that efficiency will lessen demand, electric consumption continues to rise. Between 1994 and 2005, according to the Energy Information Administration, electricity generation in the U.S. grew by an average of 2 percent per year. And in the hot summer of 2005, generation jumped by 6 percent compared to the year-earlier period. If electricity consumption rates continue growing at 2 percent per year, in about 35 years electricity consumption in the U.S. will have doubled. Electricity demand is growing so rapidly that in late 2006 the North American Electric Reliability Council warned that the U.S. could face a shortfall of 81,000 megawatts of generating capacity by 2015.

Cellulosic ethanol and biofuels

Lovins has consistently hyped the potential for biofuels to replace oil. And once again, he's been proven wrong. Lovins has been advocating biofuels since his 1976 Foreign Affairs piece, in which he wrote that there are "exciting developments in the conversion of agricultural, forestry and urban wastes to methanol and other liquid and gaseous fuels." He went on, saying that those fuels "now offer practical, economically interesting technologies sufficient to run an efficient U.S. transport sector." Except that they don't.

Some 31 years after Lovins said that biofuels "now offer" the ability to run the entire transport sector, corn ethanol provides just 1 percent of America's oil needs. And that ethanol production requires the consumption of some 14 percent of America's corn crop.

Those facts have not prevented Lovins from continuing his hype.

In his 2004 book Winning the Oil Endgame, Lovins declared that advances in biotechnology will make cellulosic ethanol viable and that replacing hydrocarbons with carbohydrates "will strengthen rural America, boost net farm income by tens of billions of dollars a year, and create more than 750,000 new jobs." In his 2006 testimony before the U.S. Senate, Lovins declared that the U.S. could dramatically cut its oil consumption by using more natural gas "and advanced biofuels (chiefly cellulosic ethanol) for the remaining oil at an average cost of $18 per barrel."

By nearly any measure, Lovins's estimate is absurdly low. Producing ethanol for $18 per barrel implies production costs of just $0.43 per gallon. That's about one-fourth the cost of producing gasoline in mid-2007 at a major oil refinery on the Houston Ship Channel.

Of course, plenty of other people are hyping the potential for cellulosic ethanol to make a major breakthrough.

After his 2006 movie An Inconvenient Truth was released, former vice president Al Gore promised that cellulosic ethanol would "be a huge new source of energy, particularly for the transportation sector. You're going to see it all over the place. You're going to see a lot more flex-fuel vehicles. You're going to see new processes that utilize waste as the source of energy, so there's no petroleum consumed in the process." Gore's former boss, Bill Clinton, loves cellulosic ethanol, too. While promoting Proposition 87 in California in 2006, he declared, "These things are not expensive. We have this kind of biomass to make cellulosic ethanol all over America. It would increase income in rural America. It would increase income in rural California. It would stabilize the environment and improve our national security."

Despite the hype, the commercial viability of cellulosic ethanol remains remarkably similar to the Tooth Fairy: it's an entity that many people believe in but no one ever actually sees. And according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cellulosic ethanol remains years away from viability. In September, the agency's Economic Research Service reported that while cellulose-based fuels hold "some longer-term promise, much research is needed to make it commercially economical and expand beyond the 250-million-gallon minimum specified for 2013 in the Energy Policy Act of 2005."

Just for the sake of argument, let's assume the USDA is wrong. And let's further assume that given enough federal subsidies, cellulosic ethanol has a big technical breakthrough and expands at the same rate as what we've seen with corn-based ethanol. It took more than two decades of fat subsidies before the corn ethanol sector was able to produce 5 billion gallons of ethanol per year, equivalent to 1 percent of America's oil needs. If cellulosic ethanol follows that same trajectory, it will be 2030 or so before it too will be able to supply just 1 percent of America's oil needs.

So, just to recap, Lovins insisted back in 1976 that biofuels were capable of powering the entire transport sector. Three decades have passed. And it may be another two decades (or more) before biofuels can provide more than a small percentage of America's oil needs.

The Jevons Paradox

The final – and most important – area in which Lovins has been consistently wrong is his claim that efficiency lowers energy consumption. And when it comes to arguing the merits of energy efficiency, Lovins's prime nemesis is a dead guy – William Stanley Jevons – a British economist who in 1865 determined that increased efficiency won't cut energy use, it will raise it. "It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuels is equivalent to a diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth." And in the 142 years since Jevons put forth that thesis, now commonly known as the Jevons Paradox, he's yet to be proven wrong.

While it's true that improvements in energy efficiency on a microeconomic level – like replacing an old inefficient air conditioner with a newer high efficiency one – will cut consumption for that one location, when that same effort is spread over a macro scale the overall energy savings are usually swamped by overall increases in consumption. Thus the installation of more efficient air conditioners across an entire city or state, or country, allows people to use their air conditioners more and, since the cost of cooling suddenly becomes more affordable, more people install air conditioning.

In 1865 Jevons published what would become his most famous work, The Coal Question. Jevons's book was the beginning of what is now known as the field of energy economics. After studying coal consumption patterns in Britain, he assumed that his country's coal deposits would soon be exhausted. (He was wrong, of course.) And looking forward, he wondered what Britain would do to replace coal. He considered renewable energy.

"The wind," he wrote, "is wholly inapplicable to a system of machine labour, for during a calm season the whole business of the country would be thrown out of gear." He looked at water power, but concluded, "In very few places do we find water power free from occasional failure by drought." As for biomass, he wrote, "We cannot revert to timber fuel…for nearly the entire surface of our island would be required to grow timber sufficient for the consumption of the iron manufacture alone." He similarly dismissed geothermal, saying that the "heat of the earth…presents an immense store of force, but, being manifested only in the hot-spring, the volcano, or the warm mine, it is evidently not available."

Over the past few years, numerous energy economists have looked at the Jevons Paradox. Among the best studies is a 1998 analysis by Horace Herring from Britain's Open University. Herring surveyed numerous studies and reports, including a book by British economic historian B.W. Clapp, who in 1994 wrote that "it is a regrettable fact that efficiency is never so complete as to lessen consumption. Economists from Jevons onwards have noted with perverse satisfaction that as economy cheapens, that cheapness extends the market, and that measures of conservation or economy therefore increase, or at least do not diminish, the consumption of energy."

Energy Cost of the Economy vs. Energy Consumed

The line on the top left shows that the amount of energy
needed to produce goods and services has been on a
steady downward trend. In 1950, it took about 19,000 Btus
to produce one dollar of gross domestic product. By 2010
or so, the U.S. will only need about 9,000 Btus to produce
a similar amount of output. Also, note that a "quad" is
a common energy measurement. One quadrillion Btus is
equal to about 172 million barrels of crude oil. This graphic
is courtesy of Huber and Mills, The Bottomless Well,
Basic Books, and

Herring, after providing a survey of the literature on the matter, concluded that "economists of all persuasions, whether pro environmentalist or otherwise, seem united in their conviction that improving energy efficiency through technological means, will by lowering the implicit price, result in increased, not decreased, energy use."

Numerous other analysts have come to the same conclusion. In their provocative 2005 book, The Bottomless Well, Peter Huber and Mark Mills wrote that "efficiency doesn't lower demand, it raises it." They explain that the pursuit of energy efficiency has been the "one completely consistent and bipartisan cornerstone of national energy policy since the 1970s." And yet, even though overall energy efficiency has increased dramatically since that time, "demand has risen apace." This passage explains why energy demand will almost surely continue rising:

Efficiency may curtail demand in the short term, for the specific task at hand. But its long-term impact is just the opposite. When steam-powered plants, jet turbines, car engines, light bulbs, electric motors, air conditioners, and computers were much less efficient than today, they also consumed much less energy. The more efficient they grew, the more of them we built, and the more we used them – and the more energy they consumed overall. Per unit of energy used, the United States produces more than twice as much GDP today as it did in 1950 – and total energy consumption in the United States has also risen three-fold….Efficiency fails to curb demand because it lets more people do more, and do it faster – and more/more/faster invariably swamps all the efficiency gains.

In 2003, Vaclav Smil published an excellent book, Energy at the Crossroads, which provides readers with a comprehensive understanding of the history of energy consumption, the problems with forecasting energy use, and the challenges facing any transition away from fossil fuels. When it comes to energy efficiency, Smil – like Huber, Mills, and Jevons – concludes that Lovins's arguments about efficiency are simply wrong. In his book Smil writes that history is "replete with examples demonstrating that substantial gains in conversion (or material use) efficiencies stimulated increases of fuel and electricity (or additional material) use that were far higher than the savings brought by these innovations."

Despite the evidence stacked against him, Lovins insists that Jevons – and Smil, and especially Mills – are wrong. In an e-mail response to my question of whether Jevons was wrong, Lovins replied, "Broadly, yes." He goes on to try to turn the point into a non sequitur by saying, that if his thesis were true, if we wanted to save energy, "we should mandate inefficient equipment."

Of course, that's not going to happen. Engineers are always seeking more efficient methods and machinery. That's their job. But by throwing out a remark that reduces the issue to absurdity, Lovins avoids answering the critical, big-picture question about the ultimate effects of increasing energy efficiency.

One of the main problems with efficiency arguments like those put forward by Lovins is that engineering efficiency doesn't necessarily equal economic efficiency. That is, while it might save lots of energy if everyone in the U.S. purchased a slick new super-efficient refrigerator, many people have no incentive – in fact they have a financial disincentive – to discard their existing refrigerator and replace it with a new one, particularly if the payback (in the form of avoided energy costs) takes several years. Many of Lovins's arguments assume consumers will act with efficiency as their foremost consideration. They don't. Jesse Ausubel, the director of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University, says that while he admires Lovins, "his ideas fail to diffuse in practice because people are not rational in ways he hopes. People make choices based on basic instincts about time budgets and social status, for example. And efficiency is not a goal in general for individuals and households. People do not acquire the efficient amount of shoes or soda or shrubbery."

Ausubel's point is demonstrably true. While many consumers pay homage to the Toyota Prius and other super-efficient hybrid cars, they are still buying SUVs and pickups that use lots of fuel. In 2005, the number of hybrid vehicles sold in America doubled to about 200,000. That same year, hybrids were outsold by SUVs by a ratio of 23 to 1. In 2006, hybrid sales continued their upward trend, with sales increasing by 28 percent over the year-earlier numbers. But even with that increase, hybrids still only accounted for about 1.5 percent of all the cars sold in America. Those sales numbers show that American drivers love the concept of energy independence and hate the fact that the U.S. buys foreign oil. But when it comes time to strap on their seatbelts, they aren't as interested in efficiency as they are in the comfort, size, and convenience offered by larger vehicles.

Americans just like big. They like big vehicles, big houses, and Big Macs. And those big appetites have resulted in increased per-capita energy use even while the amount of energy used per dollar of GDP has fallen. Since the early 1980s, the amount of energy used per capita in the U.S. has risen. And the Energy Information Administration expects per capita consumption to continue rising, albeit slowly, through 2030.

U.S. Energy Use: Per Capita and Per Dollar of GDP, 1980-2030

None of this is offered to imply that efficiency is bad. Efficiency is a wonderful by-product of human ingenuity. It is an essential part of America's ever-evolving economy. It is part and parcel of the free-market economy working independently of government-mandated efficiency programs. It makes sense to wring more work out of each unit of energy. Energy efficiency conserves capital. It is good for the environment. It is good for rich and poor alike. Efficiency helps reduce the impact of energy price volatility and possible oil price hikes.

But when it comes down to brass tacks, energy efficiency doesn't necessarily mean less energy use, it usually means more energy use. And that usually means more carbon dioxide emissions. Thus, the idea of "saving the climate for fun and profit" may be just a bit more complicated than Lovins claims.

But those complications – and Lovins's faulty predictions – don't seem to count for too much. On November 1, Lovins was in Stockholm to collect the Volvo Prize. With it came a cash award of 1.5 million Swedish kroner – about $234,000

Scanning the Globe: Standards and new publications focus on Earth observations -- To support sustainable development, we need to know the present state of the Earth and the impact of our activities. Measuring that impact and sharing the results with decision makers is the goal of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS)... there are challenges in implementing agreements that mitigate the effects of harmful human activities

Thanks to Colin and Lloyd

From The Institute print edition)
Scanning the Globe

Standards and new publications focus on Earth observations


Researchers from the U.S. National Severe Storms Laboratory struggle to launch a weather balloon into a violent thunderstorm.

It has become clear in recent years that human beings need to be much more careful in how we develop the Earth's resources if that development is to be sustainable for future generations. To support sustainable development, in turn, we need to know the present state of the Earth and the impact of our activities. Measuring that impact and sharing the results with decision makers around the world is the goal of a major international scientific effort, the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) [see "Taking the Pulse of the Earth," The Institute, September 2005].

The IEEE is contributing to GEOSS by leading the effort to develop standards and by publishing two journals on Earth observation.

STANDARDS To help identify what standards are needed and to facilitate their development, the inter­governmental Group on Earth Observation (GEO) Architecture and Data Committee approved a proposal from the IEEE Committee on Earth Observation (ICEO) to initiate and guide an ongoing Standards and Interoperability Forum. This all-volunteer committee, which is designed to support the inter­operability requirements of GEOSS, will not dictate standards. Rather, it will foster cooperation among the many GEOSS participants and help them agree on standards for the program's components, which fall into four categories: observation (acquiring data), processing (converting data into useful information), storage, and dissemination.

To determine how well the process for reaching interoperability among components works, a series of pilot projects has begun that involves four of the nine GEOSS application areas—biodiversity, seismology, weather, and water. Any of these pilots that successfully demonstrated interoperability were expected to be discussed at the end of November during the GEO ministerial meeting in Cape Town.

NEW JOURNALS The IEEE also is starting two publications dealing with the acquisition and use of data about the state of our planet. The publications—an online magazine for the general public and a peer-reviewed technical journal—join with other GEOSS-related endeavors of the ICEO. These include running Earth-observation workshops around the world, hosting a registry of GEOSS standards for such parameters as measurement units and data rates, and strengthening the ability of developing countries to acquire and use the Earth-observation data.

The journals support the GEO's effort to apply Earth-observation data to various goals. These include improved weather forecasting; better understanding of how environmental factors affect health; better management of natural resources; improved management of eco­systems; and learning to foster sustainable agriculture and combat desertification.

Earthzine (, written for the general public, went live on 30 November. The first issue of the professional journal, the IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing (J-STARS), is to appear in the middle of next year.

Earthzine aims to increase awareness among the general population of global changes, and to promote community among the world's professional Earth observers, according to its editor, IEEE Member Paul E. Racette.

"The greatest challenges of implementing GEOSS are not technical but rather sociopolitical," Racette says. "There's the challenge of coming to an agreement on how data will be shared. And, of course, there are challenges in implementing agreements that mitigate the effects of harmful human activities."

The keys to overcoming the challenges, Racette says, are education and public outreach, the primary objectives of Earthzine. By making it a one-stop shop for the latest in Earth science and observations, Racette hopes the magazine will attract a broad range of readers. Earthzine will feature interviews with leaders in the Earth observation field, he says, along with profiles of organizations active in the field, announcements of upcoming events, news stories, opinion pieces, book reviews, and noteworthy items reprinted from other publications.

J-STARS, the new technical print journal, which is scheduled to appear quarterly, is being edited by IEEE Fellow Ellsworth F. LeDrew, a professor of geography at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario. LeDrew's research focuses on remote sensing of submerged coral reefs for coastal management, as well as on applying remote sensing to measure changes in sea ice.

At the start, at least, J-STARS will have special issues dedicated to particular subjects. The debut issue will concentrate on Earth observations and renewable wind energy. Two future issues are in the works: one devoted to remote sensing of human settlements, the other, wildfires and biomass burning. The first deals with population studies and determining where to place buildings; the second covers fire management.

Together, the new publications strengthen the IEEE's education and outreach efforts on behalf of GEOSS, efforts that Senior Member Jay Pearlman, ICEO chair, regards as equal in importance to the institute's technical contributions.



Are you ready to deal with Climate Change?

Thanks to Bob for the pointer

If you can not read this email, Click Here.


Are you ready to deal with Climate Change?

Dear Robert

This is an invitation for you to download a whitepaper "Introduction to Carbon Management."

Climate Change, Carbon Management and Carbon Trading regimes are challenges of our time and their effect on your supply chain will add a new variable to your role. Whether your supply chain is global or domestic, standalone or integrated with your customers' – this is an issue that will need to be managed.

Download this informative paper to read more on how taking a proactive stance on managing your company's carbon footprint will prepare you for the future.  

Michael Yeagley

Australia - China - Hong Kong - Malaysia - Philippines - Singapore - Thailand - United Kingdom - United States



The information transmitted is for the use of the intended recipient only and may contain confidential and/or legally privileged material. Any review, re-transmission, disclosure, dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon, this information by persons or entities other than the intended recipient is prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error please notify Supply Chain Consulting Pty Limited by unsubscribing below and delete all copies of this transmission together with any attachments. The contents of this email message may not be quoted, copied, reproduced or published in part or in whole, without a written authorisation from Supply Chain Consulting Pty Limited [ACN 082 046 106]

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In China, Farming Fish in Toxic Waters: Farmers have coped with the toxic waters by mixing illegal veterinary drugs and pesticides into fish feed, which helps keep their stocks alive yet leaves poisonous and carcinogenic residues in seafood, posing health threats to consumers

Thanks to Lloyd

December 15, 2007
In China, Farming Fish in Toxic Waters

FUQING, China — Here in southern China, beneath the looming mountains of Fujian Province, lie dozens of enormous ponds filled with murky brown water and teeming with eels, shrimp and tilapia, much of it destined for markets in Japan and the West.

Fuqing is one of the centers of a booming industry that over two decades has transformed this country into the biggest producer and exporter of seafood in the world, and the fastest-growing supplier to the United States.

But that growth is threatened by the two most glaring environmental weaknesses in China: acute water shortages and water supplies contaminated by sewage, industrial waste and agricultural runoff that includes pesticides. The fish farms, in turn, are discharging wastewater that further pollutes the water supply.

"Our waters here are filthy," said Ye Chao, an eel and shrimp farmer who has 20 giant ponds in western Fuqing. "There are simply too many aquaculture farms in this area. They're all discharging water here, fouling up other farms."

Farmers have coped with the toxic waters by mixing illegal veterinary drugs and pesticides into fish feed, which helps keep their stocks alive yet leaves poisonous and carcinogenic residues in seafood, posing health threats to consumers.

Environmental degradation, in other words, has become a food safety problem, and scientists say the long-term risks of consuming contaminated seafood could lead to higher rates of cancer and liver disease and other afflictions.

No one is more vulnerable to these health risks than the Chinese, because most of the seafood in China stays at home. But foreign importers are also worried. In recent years, the European Union and Japan have imposed temporary bans on Chinese seafood because of illegal drug residues. The United States blocked imports of several types of fish this year after inspectors detected traces of illegal drugs linked to cancer.

This week, officials from the United States and China signed an agreement in Beijing to improve oversight of Chinese fish farms as part of a larger deal on food and drug safety.

Yet regulators in both countries are struggling to keep contaminated seafood out of the market. China has shut down seafood companies accused of violating the law and blacklisted others, while United States regulators are concentrating on Chinese seafood for special inspections.

Fuqing (pronounced foo-CHING) is at the top of the list this year for refused shipments of seafood from China, with 43 rejections through November, according to records kept by the United States Food and Drug Administration. All of those rejections involved the use of illegal veterinary drugs.

By comparison, Thailand, also a major exporter of seafood to the United States, had only two refusals related to illegal veterinary drugs. China as a whole had 210 refusals for illegal drugs.

"For 50 years," said Wang Wu, a professor at Shanghai Fisheries University, "we've blindly emphasized economic growth. The only pursuit has been G.D.P., and now we can see that the water turns dirty and the seafood gets dangerous. Every year, there are food safety and environmental pollution accidents."

Environmental problems plaguing seafood would appear to be a bad omen for the industry. But with fish stocks in the oceans steadily declining and global demand for seafood soaring, farmed seafood, or aquaculture, is the future. And no country does more of it than China, which produced about 115 billion pounds of seafood last year.

China produces about 70 percent of the farmed fish in the world, harvested at thousands of giant factory-style farms that extend along the entire eastern seaboard of the country. Farmers mass-produce seafood just offshore, but mostly on land, and in lakes, ponds, rivers and reservoirs, or in huge rectangular fish ponds dug into the earth.

"They'll be a major supplier not just to the U.S., but to the world," said Richard Stavis, the chairman of Stavis Seafoods, an American company that imports Chinese catfish, tilapia and frog legs.

China began emerging as a seafood power in the 1990s as rapid economic growth became the top priority in the country. But environmental experts say that headlong pursuit of higher gross domestic product has devastated Chinese water quality and endangered the country's food supply. In Guangdong Province in southern China, fish contaminated with toxic chemicals like DDT are already creating health problems.

"There are heavy metals, mercury and flame retardants in fish samples we've tested," said Ming Hung Wong, a professor of biology at Hong Kong Baptist University. "We've got to stop the pollutants entering the food system."

More than half of the rivers in China are too polluted to serve as a source of drinking water. The biggest lakes in the country regularly succumb to harmful algal blooms. Seafood producers are part of the problem, environmental experts say. Enormous aquaculture farms concentrate fish waste, pesticides and veterinary drugs in their ponds and discharge the contaminated water into rivers, streams and coastal areas, often with no treatment.

"Water is the biggest problem in China," said Peter Leedham, the business manager at Sino Analytica, an independent food safety testing firm that works with companies that buy from China. "But my feeling is China will deal with it, because it has to. It just won't be a quick process."

Fishing for Prosperity

Fuqing is called qiaoxiang, or home, for those who go overseas, because for decades this port city on the East China Sea is where thousands of people fled as stowaways.

In the 1980s, some emigrants began sending home money and ideas at just about the time that investors were arriving from Japan and Taiwan, promising to help the country build fish farms.

"Aquaculture was popular in Japan, so I saw the future," said Wang Weifu, a longtime eel producer.

Thousands of peasants who had struggled to earn a living harvesting rice and potatoes began carving up huge plots, digging rectangular pits and filling them with water to create fish ponds. Other parts of the country followed, creating fish farms alongside roads, near rivers and streams and in big lakes, ponds and reservoirs.

Today, the mighty Yangtze River is lined with fish farms. Historic Lake Tai is stocked with crab pens. Near Ningde, 90 miles north of here, thousands of people live in a huge bay area, where they float on large wooden rafts, feeding and harvesting caged fish, like the yellow croaker.

The government hoped the building boom would lift millions out of poverty. And it did. There are now more than 4.5 million fish farmers in China, according to the Fishery Bureau.

Lin Bingui, 50, is one of them, a former bricklayer with an easy smile who now manages 20 enormous shrimp and eel ponds in western Fuqing, on reclaimed land with access to a narrow strait of seawater.

"This doesn't take a lot of technology," he said while walking into an indoor pond, where he raises baby eels. "You just learn it as you go along."

The boom did more than create jobs. It made China the only country that produced more seafood from fish farms than from the sea. It also helped feed an increasingly prosperous population, a longstanding challenge in China.

Many growers here struck it rich as well, people like Lin Sunbao, whose 25-year-old son is now studying at Cambridge University in England. "My best years were 1992, '93, '94," he said. "I only had one aqua farm, and I earned over $500,000 a year."

As early as the mid-1990s, though, serious environmental problems began to emerge after electronics and textile manufacturing plants moved into central Fuqing. Water shortages appeared in the southeastern part of the city, and some fish farmers say their water turned black.

Government records document the environmental ills in the region. The nearby Dongzhang Reservoir, a water source for agriculture and more than 700,000 people, was recently rated level 5, near the bottom of the government scale, unfit for fish farming, swimming or even contact with the human body.

The Long River, the major waterway in Fuqing, has been degraded by waste dumped by paper factories and slaughterhouses. The government this year rated large sections of the river below level 5, or so highly polluted that it is unfit for any use. And nearby coastal waters which are also heavily fish farmed are polluted with oil, lead, mercury and copper, according to the State Environmental Protection Administration in China.

As water quality in Fuqing declined, farmers who often filled their ponds with too much seafood tried to fight off disease and calm stressed fish with an array of powerful, and often illegal, antibiotics and pesticides.

Eel producers, for example, often used nitrofuran to kill bacteria. But that antibiotic has been banned for use in animal husbandry in the United States, Europe, Japan, and even China, because it has caused cancer in laboratory rats.

Importers of Chinese seafood quickly caught on. In recent years, eel shipments to Europe, Japan and the United States have been turned back or destroyed because of residues of banned veterinary drugs. Eel shipments to Japan have dropped 50 percent through August of this year, dealing a heavy blow in Fuqing.

Chinese farmers say they have stopped using the banned medicines, and have suffered a 30 percent decline in survival rates of their fish and other seafood.

"Before 2005, we did use drugs blindly. They were very effective in fighting disease," said Wang Weifu, chairman of a local eel association, noting that drug residues might still be in the water. "But now we don't dare because of the regulations."

Some growers have lashed out at Japan, arguing that it keeps raising the drug residue standard simply to protect its own eel farms against competition. But growers here say buyers from Japan will eventually be forced to purchase eels from China.

"Our market will expand in Russia and Southeast Asia, and the E.U.," Mr. Wang said. "Also, we see big prospects in the Chinese market. In five or six years, as we transfer our export destinations, Japan will be begging us."

Retreating From the Coast

The drive about 175 miles west of Fuqing leads into the lush subtropical mountains of Fujian Province, where some of China's richest bamboo and timber reserves can be found. There, near the city of Sanming, Fuqing eel producers have built a collection of aquaculture farms, huge cement tubs wedged into the mountainside, covered by black tarps and stocked with millions of eels.

"This costs a lot more up here, but we had to do it," said Zheng Qiuzhen, a longtime Fuqing eel producer who now operates near Sanming. "We had to do something about the water problems."

In much of the country, seafood growers are leaving crowded coastal areas for less developed regions, where the land is cheaper and there is cleaner water. But they say the overall cost of doing business so far from the coast is higher, given the expense of shipping the fish in oxygenated trucks to the processing plant in Fuqing and their forswearing illegal drugs, which lowers survival rates and increases the growth period of most fish to five years from three years.

"You can't find many places as beautiful as this, covered by trees and bamboo," said Lin Sunbao, who moved from Fuqing to Sanming. "We use water from mountain streams. And because our water is better, it's harder to get disease."

This is one of the solutions to the water crisis in China: to seek out virgin territory and essentially start the cycle all over again. And that worries scientists, who say aquaculture in China is not just a victim of water pollution but a culprit with a severe environmental legacy.

Industrial fish farming has destroyed mangrove forests in Thailand, Vietnam and China, heavily polluted waterways and radically altered the ecological balance of coastal areas, mostly through the discharge of wastewater. Aquaculture waste contains fish feces, rotting fish feed and residues of pesticides and veterinary drugs as well as other pollutants that were already mixed into the poor quality water supplied to farmers.

Besides algal blooms, some of the biggest lakes in China, like Lake Tai, are suffering from eutrophication nutrient bombs, brought on partly by aquaculture, that can kill fish by depleting the water's oxygen. The government is forcing aquaculture out of these lakes, and also away from the Long River in Fuqing.

Places like Sanming may not be pristine for long. Heavy industry is moving in, lured by mineral riches and incentives from local governments, which are pushing for development.

And Sanming already has 72 giant eel farms, producing 5,000 tons of seafood a year. Those farms together use about 280 million gallons of water a day and then discharge the wastewater the following day, back into the Sanming environs.

There are efforts to operate aquaculture in a sustainable way. In Norway, for instance, salmon producers use sophisticated technology, including underwater cameras, to monitor water quality and how much fish feed is actually consumed. But nothing like this is being done in China, and specialists like Li Sifa of Shanghai Fisheries University insist that Chinese regulations are too lax and that enforcement efforts are often feeble or nonexistent.

The government has stepped up its inspections of fish farms and seafood processing plants here, alerting workers of the dangers and consequences of using illegal drugs. But the drugs have remained a problem, partly because of poor water quality.

A possible solution to the water woes is to move aquaculture well out to sea, specialists say, with new technology that allows for deepwater fish cages served by automatic feeding machines.

The United States is already considering such a plan, partly as a way to make it less dependent on imports, which now fill 80 percent of its seafood needs. China is also considering adopting what is now being called "open ocean" aquaculture.

Currently, China's coastal fish farms face many of the same challenges as those on land. Waters there are heavily polluted by oil, lead, mercury, copper and other harsh substances. Veterinary drugs dropped in shoreline waters may easily spread to neighboring aquaculture farms and affect species outside the cages, and while coastal waters are less polluted than those on land, aquaculture farms, with their intensive production cycles, are prone to be polluters.

Still, said An Taicheng of the Chinese Academy of Sciences: "China has to go to the sea because it's getting harder and harder to find clean water. Every year there are seafood safety problems. One day, no one will dare to eat fish from dirty water, and what will farmers do?"

Chen Yang contributed research from Shanghai and Fuqing.

ABB / Energy Efficiency paper: only 20% of electricity generated produces economic benefits

Thanks to Colin for this piece...

Here is an interesting paper from ABB, a major electrical engineering company and IBM partner in Switzerland/Sweden.  Among other things, it notes that only 20% of electricity generated produces economic benefits (I suppose that has to include television and video games).

Regards, colin

German ship fights climate change with high-tech kite: now, in the age of climate change, wind power is making a remarkable comeback thanks to modern technology.

German ship fights climate change with high-tech kite
Mon Dec 17, 2007 3:50pm EST

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HAMBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Turning ocean winds into gold while cutting greenhouse emissions in the process might sound like some sort of alchemy for the 21st century.

But unlike futile earlier efforts to convert ordinary metals to gold, two fast-growing German companies have worked together developing a high-tech kite system to pull enormous ships across the oceans -- and save enormous amounts of money.

The 132 meter (433 ft) long MV "Beluga SkySails" will make its maiden voyage in January across the Atlantic to Venezuela, up to Boston and back to Europe. It will be pulled by a giant computer-guided 500,000-euro ($725,000) kite tethered to a 15-metre high mast.

It is a throwback to an earlier maritime age, harnessing the winds that fell out of favor over a century ago when sailing lost the battle for merchant shipping to modern steam power because it was seen then as primitive and unpredictable.

But now, in the age of climate change, wind power is making a remarkable comeback thanks to modern technology.

"This is the start of a revolution for the way ships are powered," Beluga chief executive Niels Stolberg said in an interview with Reuters on the windswept deck of his new ship MV Beluga SkySails. "It's a small but crucial step for the future."

To latch onto the powerful winds prevailing well above the surface, the kite attached to the high-tech steerage unit flies up to 300 meters high to tug the 10,000-tonne ship forward, supporting its diesel engines and cutting fuel consumption.

Under favorable wind conditions, the 160-square meter kite shaped like a paraglider is expected to reduce fuel costs by up to 20 percent or more ($1,600 per day) and cut, by a similarly significant amount, its carbon dioxide emissions.

Burning fossil fuels cause CO2 blamed for climate change.


A driving force for Beluga -- and other shippers already lining up to buy the system if it delivers on its promise -- is the fuel price, which has tripled for shippers in recent years.

While it might seem almost too simple -- or too good -- to be true, SkySails inventor Stephan Wrage and German engineers have spent more than five years perfecting the system and they will tell you that it is anything but pie-in-the sky technology.

"At the heart of this all for me, the real motivating factor is to get to the crossroads of ecology and economics -- and to prove it pays to protect the environment," Wrage said in an interview on the ship so new it still smells of fresh paint.

While some political and industry leaders complain about the financial burdens of fighting climate change and cite costs in resisting CO2 reduction efforts, Wrage said SkySails is proof that the opposite can be true: there's money to be made.

"If our calculations are right, our clients will not only have considerably greater earnings but also substantially reduce their CO2 output as well," the 35-year-old added after a ceremony to christen the new ship in Hamburg port on Saturday.

"To be able to make a contribution to fighting climate change makes us all proud," the SkySails managing director said as the sail made of ultralight synthetic fibre and as big as a medium-sized passenger jet unfurled in a breeze above the deck.


SkySails developed the kite propulsion system that Beluga Shipping only just finished installing on the new cargo ship. Both firms aim to prove on a commercial scale what years of testing on smaller vessels showed: you can turn wind into cash.

Wrage, who got the idea as a 16-year-old while flying kites and wishing he could tap their power to make a small sail boat go faster, is optimistic even greater savings can be achieved. He said larger kites should cut fuel usage by 30 to 50 percent.

Two 320-square meter kites will pull two more Beluga ships by 2009 and after that 600-square meter kites will be added.

"That's where the savings get really interesting," he said.

But the immediate impact on cutting CO2 caused by ships will be limited. Shipping carries more than 90 percent of the world's traded goods. There are more than 50,000 merchant ships carrying everything from oil, gas, coal, and grains to electronic goods.

They emit 800 million tonnes of CO2 each year -- 5 percent of the world's total. They emit high levels of sulphur dioxide.

Yet Wrage is confident the demand will take off. There are three orders in hand and if the savings achieved on a smaller 55-metre long prototype are confirmed by the "Beluga SkySails", he said others were lined up to buy systems.

"We're planning to equip four to eight ships next year, provided the first voyage turns out as well as the trials did," he said. "In 2009 we expect to sell at least 35 systems. After that, we want to at least double every year."

The target is 1,500 vessels equipped by 2015.

"I've had a lot of meetings where shippers have said to me 'If it works out on the Beluga SkySails we're going to buy one, two, four or 10 systems'," Wrage said. "Believe me. If we're successful now, it won't be hard to find buyers."

(Editing by Stephen Weeks)

($1=.6881 Euro)

Two telling bar charts: Petrol consumption per day / Price to fill up a Honda Civic

Thanks to David for this graph... We all wish him best of luck in his post-IBM days :-)

AMD Study Reveals Shifting Patterns In Worldwide Datacenter Energy Use: The report shows that electricity used by servers in the U.S. and Europe currently comprise about two thirds of the world’s total, with Japan, Asia/Pacific and the rest of the world each falling at between 10 and 15 percent of the total

Thanks to Erwin for sending on this study

source -

December 17, 2007
AMD Study Reveals Shifting Patterns In Worldwide Datacenter Energy Use

Based on current growth trends, the U.S. share of total world server electricity use from datacenters will likely decline from 40 percent in 2000 to about one-third by 2010, while the Asia/Pacific region (excluding Japan) will increase its share from 10 percent to about 16 percent over that period, according to research conducted by Jonathan Koomey, Ph.D. and released by AMD (PDF). The absolute electricity consumption for servers in the Asia/Pacific region under this scenario would more than double from 2005 to 2010, requiring electricity capacity equal to output from two new 1000 MW power plants. For the entire world, server consumption from 2005 to 2010 would require additional capacity equal to more than 10 additional 1000 MW power plants.

The report shows that electricity used by servers in the U.S. and Europe currently comprise about two thirds of the world's total, with Japan, Asia/Pacific and the rest of the world each falling at between 10 and 15 percent of the total.

Examining electricity use by region from 2000 to 2005, the study found that server electricity use in the Asia/Pacific region (excluding Japan) grew at a 23 percent annual rate, compared to a world average of 16 percent a year, making this region the only one with server electricity use growing at a rate significantly greater than the world average. The Western European growth rate of 17 percent was slightly above the world average, while growth rates in the other regions were lower than the world average.

Datacenters throughout the world are designed and operated in similar ways to those in the U.S. Accordingly, if the 20 percent savings estimated in the EPA report are applied to Dr. Koomey's projections for global datacenter electricity use in 2010, total savings would equal approximately five 1000 MW power plants. In other words, relatively modest changes in the way datacenters are designed and operated could offset approximately half the expected growth in global datacenter electricity use in 2010.

AMD says that this new research adds detail to an AMD-sponsored study published in February that identified the worldwide costs associated with datacenter energy use.

Alternative energy - topic hub on ManyEyes

Thanks to Pete and Doug for sending this on. Good use of ManyEyes

An example:

Whether it's the local Safeway or some web-based e-tailer that're collecting your embedded donations, part of what's going on there is corporate America trying to earn some brownie points. Cashing in on the customer's desire to do good. That's a notion that extends beyond pure philanthropy

Thanks to David for the link

Corporations find 'responsibility' sells
Image from Jack Daniels TV ad

You've probably seen ads about what companies are doing for the environment or for the community. So many companies are jumping on the bandwagon that corporate responsibility has become an industry unto itself. Jill Barshay reports.

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Image from Jack Daniels TV ad (Jack Daniels TV ad)

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KAI RYSSDAL: Whether it's the local Safeway or some web-based e-tailer that're collecting your embedded donations, part of what's going on there is corporate America trying to earn some brownie points. Cashing in on the customer's desire to do good. That's a notion that extends beyond pure philanthropy. I'm sure you've seen ads about what this company or that is doing for the environment or for the local community.

Marketplace's Jill Barshay reports, the idea of corporate responsibility has become an industry unto itself.

JILL BARSHAY: Rob Kaplan is Brown Forman's senior analyst for corporate responsibility. Brown Forman owns Jack Daniels Whiskey and 36 other brands. Its corporate responsibility office is two years old. Kaplan is 29 years old. This is his first job since he graduated from Berkeley's Haas Business School in May.

ROB KAPLAN: Corporate responsibility to me is about how we conduct our business, and really connecting these greater social values to our bottom line.

Kaplan is faced with a particular challenge -- how to make a purveyor of sinful booze look like a paragon of civic virtue.

KAPLAN: So our products are made from corn, for example in Jack Daniels. So what are the agricultural impacts of that? Then the production process and the pollution or the water use. Then you move onto, you know distribution and marketing. How can we be responsible in our marketing with alcohol?

Companies of all sizes and in all sectors are embracing corporate responsibility, and they're defining it in different ways. For some it's a way to respond to accounting scandals, accusations of bad practices or protests against the way they do business. It's spawned an entire new consulting industry, and now advertising, marketing and PR firms are telling their clients they can sell more products through corporate responsibility campaigns. Richard Edelman runs one of the largest PR firms in the country.

RICHARD EDELMAN: Increasingly we're trying to find a larger purpose for corporate campaigns. So Ecomagination for GE for example, for the first time a major corporation was saying it's smart business to be green. So the products are going to have to connect beyond a functional benefit, that they're going to have to have some kind of bigger halo, something that they're involved in.

Cheerleaders for the corporate responsibility movement say it could transform American business, but Steve Rochlin of Accountability North America says companies co-opt the concept of corporate responsibility to boost their public images. He's been watching corporations try to clean up their acts for more than ten years.

STEVE ROCHLIN: It's the height of hypocrisy. For example, for a company to take out an advertisement that is 10 times greater than the budget it is putting into a particular issue, cause or effort, and so we start to see that type of thing happen too often.

Rochlin worries that consumers will see corporate responsibility as just another public relations gimmick. He says if the concept is discredited, companies won't even attempt to behave ethically or sensitively. Rob Kaplan at Brown Forman says he's finding it a hard sell even in his own company.

KAPLAN: So you know, I'm in the corporate responsibility department, you know banging on doors and trying to get people to listen to me. Really the best way to make change is by incorporating it into a mainstream or traditional job function.

It's happening slowly, or seems to be. American companies are making earnest statements about corporate responsibility, and Kaplan says many of his b-school buddies got jobs in the field. Hopefully their enthusiasm will rub off on their employers. Then perhaps American business really will change from the inside

I'm Jill Barshay for Marketplace.