Published Jul 7 2009 by Energy Bulletin
Archived Jul 7 2009

Solutions & sustainability - July 7

by Staff

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California’s green dream

Agnès Sinay, Le Monde diplomatique (France)
America is waking up to the reality of peak oil and climate change. In California there are very different responses to the crisis: some pin their hopes on new technology, while others advocate a radical change of lifestyle
At the entrance to Silicon Valley, just south of San Francisco, the start-up company Solazyme Inc is chasing a new dream: forget semi-conductors, the Holy Grail of the 21st century is algae-derived diesel that is as powerful as fossil fuel.

... The dream of endless supplies of “green gold” remains some way off. But these green start-ups have no time to waste: their investors want results. Everyone agrees that the days of cheap oil are over. In 2005 the Hirsch Report by SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation), commissioned by the US department of energy, recommended preparing for the transition to other sources of energy before oil production peaks and declines

... David Fridley is a former oil industry executive who is now an energy specialist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He explained: “Ultimately, these kinds of schemes are simply a supplement to fossil fuels, not a replacement, since every stage of their manufacturing is based on fossil fuel usage. The ultimate test for a true renewable is when the output of the fuel can provide the input to its own manufacture.” These algae facilities, whether they are enclosed or in the open air, use huge amounts of energy, because of the water they require. Thousands of cubic metres of water are needed to fill them, to keep their temperature constant or replace evaporation.

... André Angelantoni, co-founder of Post Peak Living, which advises politicians and private individuals on how to prepare for the decline in oil production, doesn’t believe technology will be the great provider. He says these Silicon Valley start-ups will never be able to produce a replacement for fossil fuels quickly enough, at competitive prices and in sufficient quantities. He thinks a crash is inevitable:

... The Post Carbon Institute is a think tank based in the Sonoma town of Sebastopol – a “transition town” (3) working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It brings together economists, biologists and thinkers to ponder a future without oil, particularly for societies that currently depend on fossil fuels for their development. One of its spokesmen is the journalist and writer Richard Heinberg.
(July 2009)

Reframing Recession Fears to Conscious Consumerism

LaSara Firefox, Elephant Journal
Every challenge is an opportunity. The recession is a perfect chance to create a shift in your family’s values; a chance to move from want-based, status-based, and impulse spending, to sustainable consumer choices.

Of course, the first step is to make that reframe in your own thought process. In many cases the eco-responsible choice, and the financially sound choice, are one and the same.

It’s not always an easy leap to get from habitual, reflex, pattern spending, to more conscious choices. Here are some simple steps to get you, and your family, thinking from a more resilient and ecologically sound perspective.

Reframe Lessons Taught by the Recession to Lessons that Will Last a Lifetime—Or Even Generations.

To begin with, instead of jumping to the blanket statement, “we can’t afford a new (insert-item-of-the-moment-here)!” address the question - first in yourself and then with your child - do we need a new (insert-item-of-the-moment-here)?

Need is a complex idea. It might take a while to rebuild your, and your family’s, thoughts, feelings, and ultimately values, regarding the question of what constitutes need. It’s not as simple as just need vs. want. There’s a spectrum.

Here are a few things that can help in the process of creating a new valuation of the concept of need within your family structure.

... Reduce, Reuse, Recycle—it’s actually a pyramid!

The slogan “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is in that order for a reason; it makes more sense to envision it as a pyramid than the circular form it’s usually imaged as.

Reduce is the base of that pyramid; the foundation. Reevaluating and reducing our consumer habits is the best thing we can do to decrease our planetary impact.

It’s also a softer on the checkbook.

Reducing can be an easy step, or even many easy steps, that add up to a big change. Some of those steps will happen naturally, as a response to the tightening of belts that occurs in times of financial uncertainty.
(2 July 2009)

Costa Rica is World's Greenest, Happiest Country

Ashley Seager, Observer/UK
Latin American nation tops index ranking countries by ecological footprint and happiness of their citizens
Costa Rica is the greenest and happiest country in the world, according to a new list that ranks nations by combining measures of their ecological footprint with the happiness of their citizens.

[A rainbow over San Jose in Costa Rica. Photograph: Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters]A rainbow over San Jose in Costa Rica. Photograph: Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters
Britain is only halfway up the Happy Planet Index (HPI), calculated by the New Economics Foundation (NEF), in 74th place of 143 nations surveyed. The United States features in the 114th slot in the table. The top 10 is dominated by countries from Latin America, while African countries bulk out the bottom of the table.

The HPI measures how much of the Earth's resources nations use and how long and happy a life their citizens enjoy as a result. First calculated in 2006, the second edition adds data on almost all the world's countries and now covers 99% of the world's population.

NEF says the HPI is a much better way of looking the success of countries than through standard measures of economic growth. The HPI shows, for example, that fast-growing economies such as the US, China and India were all greener and happier 20 years ago than they are today.

"The HPI suggests that the path we have been following is, without exception, unable to deliver all three goals: high life satisfaction, high life expectancy and 'one-planet living'," ...
(X July 2009)