Tag Archives: energy

Why making a more efficient car does not work

Let’s say the oil company has 100m tonnes of fuel in reserve, and at present levels that 1m cars on the roads, for example, each use 100 tonnes of fuel. The car companies make a new “eco” car which only uses 80 tonnes of fuel instead. The government replaces all the cars with these new “clean cars. Now the cars only altogether 80m tonnes of fuel.

But the oil company is not complaining. Knowing that the car companies see the opportunity to sell more cars, they wait patiently. Lowering the price point is but still making a better profit they sell 1.25m of these “eco” cars instead.

Now, we are still using 100m tonnes of fuel and the roads get more crowded also. A bit of a #wtf moment.

Nuclear versus fossil fuel power

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident Japan had gone quite literally all non-nuclear for a while. The country had switched off all of its nuclear power plants in what amounts to a knee-jerk reaction to the disaster that still is happening now and will for many more decades to come. In its place we turned back to using coal importing more than we ever had. And all of the sudden nobody in Japan cared much about climate change and global warming anymore.

The question should never have been about whether we choose nuclear or fossil fuel for our energy needs, but rather how we can reduce our energy usage in the first place. Whichever we choose to use we are still using too much energy for the good of the planet.

And now that the dust (or is that nuclear dust) has settled from Fukuyama we have turned on the nuclear tap again to quench our nuclear thirst.

Nothing ever changes, does it.

How to slow down the destruction of the planet

Today is the nine anniversary of Sustainability Dharma and me blogging. This post is in part a celebration of this event. I am not sure how many original followers I have left but thank you for reading. Let’s hope we can save our demise.

You have heard it before that we are comsuming more than the earth is renewing the resources. Industrialization is one reason for this. The efficiency with which a small number of individuals can produce a large amount of products is staggering. Think logging. Cutting down a tree took a lot more effort than it did a hundred ago. So when we say economical we don’t just mean efficiency by the end-user but also the producer. Now multply that by the staggering population we have now and you will understand nothing in this world is going to slow consumption except reduction per person and a reduction of the population.

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A Battery With A Twenty Year Lifespan …

It is all very well to produce a battery that will last 20 years. But is not that useless if your equipment lasts only three, maybe four years maximum? It is like having a heart built to last five-hundred when the rest of your body breaks down in 100.

Ancient fuel

Friend: So, did you read the story about moss surviving on poo from 8,000 years ago?

Me: That’s nothing. Man has been surviving on dead things that’s 650 million years old!

How feasible is green energy?

According to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry the country’s energy from renewable sources accounted for only 1 percent of the total energy gneration in 2009. And that number has improved in much 2011 though efforts, verbally at least, have increased due to the Fukushima Incident.

Why is this so? Well, it takes area of 65 square kilometers of solar panels to generate the same amount power of one nuclear reactor. Now that is not efficient, is it? The same problem goes for wind power generation. And we have yet to talk about the cost here.

No, the aim for 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 in Japan just seems near impossible though an accident of the size we had in Fukushima may well change that. One has to ask why must we wait for such things to happen before we act.

First Peace Declaration since the Fukushima Nuclear Accident

HIROSHIMA, 6th August  2011. From Kyodo News

The following is the full text of the Peace Declaration issued Saturday by Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui at a memorial ceremony to mark the 66th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Sixty-six years ago, despite the war, the people of Hiroshima were leading fairly normal lives. Until that fateful moment, many families were enjoying life together right here in what is now Peace Memorial Park and was then one of the city’s most prosperous districts. A man who was 13 at the time shares this: ”Aug. 5 was a Sunday, and for me, a second-year student in middle school, the first full day off in a very long time. I asked a good friend from school to come with me, and we went on down to the river. Forgetting all about the time, we stayed until twilight, swimming and playing on the sandy riverbed. That hot midsummer’s day was the last time I ever saw him.”

The next morning, Aug. 6 at 8:15, a single atomic bomb ripped those normal lives out by the roots. This description is from a woman who was sixteen at the time: ”My 40-kilogram body was blown 7 meters by the blast, and I was knocked out. When I came to, it was pitch black and utterly silent. In that soundless world, I thought I was the only one left. I was naked except for some rags around my hips. The skin on my left arm had peeled off in 5-centimeter strips that were all curled up. My right arm was sort of whitish. Putting my hands to my face, I found my right cheek quite rough while my left cheek was all slimy.”

Their community and lives ravaged by an atomic bomb, the survivors were stunned and injured, and yet, they did their best to help each other: ”Suddenly, I heard lots of voices crying and screaming, ‘Help!’ ‘Mommy, help!’ Turning to a voice nearby I said, ‘I’ll help you.’ I tried to move in that direction but my body was so heavy. I did manage to move enough to save one young child, but with no skin on my hands, I was unable to help any more…’I’m really sorry’…”

Such scenes were unfolding not just here where this park is but all over Hiroshima. Wanting to help but unable to do so — many also still live with the guilt of being their family’s sole survivor.

Based on their own experiences and carrying in their hearts the voices and feelings of those sacrificed to the bomb, the hibakusha called for a world without nuclear weapons as they struggled day by day to survive. In time, along with other Hiroshima residents, and with generous assistance from Japan and around the world, they managed to bring their city back to life.

Their average age is now over 77. Calling forth what remains of the strength that revived their city, they continue to pursue the lasting peace of a world free from nuclear weapons. Can we let it go at this? Absolutely not. The time has come for the rest of us to learn from all the hibakusha what they experienced and their desire for peace. Then, we must communicate what we learn to future generations and the rest of the world.

Through this Peace Declaration, I would like to communicate the hibakusha experience and desire for peace to each and every person on this planet. Hiroshima will pour everything we have into working, along with Nagasaki, to expand Mayors for Peace such that all cities, those places around the world where people gather, will strive together to eliminate nuclear weapons by 2020. Moreover, we want all countries, especially the nuclear-armed states, including the United States of America, which continues its subcritical nuclear testing and related experiments, to pursue enthusiastically a process that will abolish nuclear weapons. To that end, we plan to host an international conference that will bring the world’s policymakers to Hiroshima to discuss the nuclear nonproliferation regime.

The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11 this year was so destructive it revived images of Hiroshima 66 years ago and still pains our hearts. Here in Hiroshima we sincerely pray for the souls of all who perished and strongly support the survivors, wishing them the quickest possible recovery.

The accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and the ongoing threat of radiation have generated tremendous anxiety among those in the affected areas and many others. The trust the Japanese people once had in nuclear power has been shattered. From the common admonition that ”nuclear energy and humankind cannot coexist,” some seek to abandon nuclear power altogether. Others advocate extremely strict control of nuclear power and increased utilization of renewable energy.

The Japanese government should humbly accept this reality, quickly review our energy policies, and institute concrete countermeasures to regain the understanding and trust of the people. In addition, with our hibakusha aging, we demand that the Japanese government promptly expand its ”black rain areas” and offer more comprehensive and caring assistance measures to all hibakusha regardless of their countries of residence.

Offering out heartfelt condolences to the souls of the A-bomb victims, reaffirming our conviction that ”the atomic bombing must never be repeated” and ”no one else should ever have to suffer like this,” we hereby pledge to do everything in our power to abolish nuclear weapons and build lasting world peace.

Masao Senzaki to head new nuclear nonproliferation centre

According to the Daily Yomiuri newspaper former physicist and and diplomat, Masao Senzaki is to head the new Support Center for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Nuclear Security for Asia.

He said Japan has a crucial role to play achieving US president Obama’s lofty goal of creating a world without nuclear weapons, and that our experience of using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes should be a valuable example [to other countries].

Technology isn’t the answer

If you have been following this blog then you would know I dislike technology. You may be saying, “Well, if you dislike it so much then why are you using the internet?” A good question and one I will have to answer.

For me technology and science are not the same thing. You might be here thinking I am stating the obvious but I am not. Technology and science, of course, has a lot to do with each other. Many, if not all, of the great scientific discoveries have gone on to change our lives. But changing our lives can be done in many ways. A scientific discovery may help our understanding of our world. But there is a definite push, today, towards applying what we have learned and know to manipulate the world.

A while back I had read an excellent biography on Isaac Newton (of that title) by James Gleick. The feeling I get from this biography about the man (and the period) was that our concerns were – largely – about the knowledge and understanding of the nature of the world. While, of course, Newton was worried about credit due to him (he was a very secretive person) it was the knowledge that was important.

But this all seemed to have changed with the Industrial Revolution. Today in our concerns are on “how we can make the most everything”. Whether it is the money in our pockets, the time on our hands (or sometimes even the love that we receive). The word we use is efficiency. But our usage of it is misleading. We used to use the word to indicate little wastage. But before we can understand what we had meant by efficiency we will have to look at this word, waste, because this word also has metamorphosed over time.

It seems waste once had meant not using more than we need to. While we still use it in this sense we apply it to different values. The question is what? Not really that hard. I do not need to do an Z-score corpus analysis of the word to guess that “waste” these days collocates with “time”, “money” and “energy” (as in “a waste of time”). Otherwise it collocates with adjectives like “toxic”, disposal” and “radioactive” (as in “radioactive waste”). This second usage is interesting because it is now a product, a noun, and cannot be made into a verb. It no longer is an action but a thing.

I am just amused that no one actually has come out and say something like “All this waste is a waste”.

But coming back to efficiency. Waste and efficiency are not the same thing, though they are seen confusingly as such. Efficiency is about getting the most out of use. Waste (as a verb) is about using less of what is there. The philosophy is like the “half empty or half full” glass question. And the assumption with efficiency is that what is there is for us to use. And this way of thinking has rubbed off onto waste also. We can only see waste as mostly being about one’s time, money or energy.

No, the world around us is not there to be used indiscriminately by us. It may seem that way. But that is what the old fashioned capitalists, neo-liberalists and cultural imperialists want you to believe. Because it is about the money and the power to make the money.

I’ve strayed from the topic here a little.

If we use science to learn and understand the world we live in and how we should relate to it then we are on a safe and wise path. But we turn science into technology for profit and manipulation then we are losing our grip on the reality and respect for our home. The more I think about it the more that it is for money. The ability to manipulate the inanimate and animate world is for money.

Yes, with what I say, the livelihood of millions are at stake here. No, technology is not the answer. It is not even the real cause of all our woes (though it is the direct physical cause of the environmental problems). The origin is in the philosophy of technology which is manipulated by the philosophy of economics. This in turn has to do with our attitude. The story is complex and beyond a one thousand word post.

But let’s take a quick look at one recent article on technology and the environment. I found this in last week’s Daily Yomiuri – recordings of endangered species to use as cell phone ring tones to spread awareness. The creators of the ring tones, Center for Biological Diversity, believes that if people hear more of these sounds they will be inspired to do something about the environment.

But no, this isn’t the answer either. There are enough people out there, including me, who are getting people to notice. I wouldn’t say the message is falling on deaf ears. But rather we have dug ourselves so deep into this rely-on-technology hole that we cannot get out of it even if we want to.

That we have done without the mobile phones for a million years until now of human history, I think we can go without it for at least a day. And I certainly do not need a ring tone to know that the planet is in trouble.

So coming back to the internet. What am I doing online if I am so against it? Again, I am not against the internet as such but its indiscriminate use. I choose to use it not for entertainment but for learning and teaching (I can see the abuses coming in from this post now). Every person has a choice. I choose not to waste the tremendous energy required to run the internet for wasteful games, cheap laughs or loveless porn (no, there is no such thing as porn with love).

I choose to use it for the environment.

So from which end of the wire shall we pollute the Earth with?

Why are we such suckers when it comes to electric cars? All we are really going to do is plug it into an electric wall socket so that the fossil-fueled power station at the other end of that wire can pump the same amount of – if not more – greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Haven’t we realised that the car makers are laughing all the way to the bank?

Recharge or reduce?

Brian Larter wrote this great little guide on rechargeable batteries. Thank you, Brian.

But still I have my gripes about upstream energy consumption and production. Are we just deceiving ourselves by not seeing the damage of energy production methods like coal. The best thing really to do is reduce consumption and use non-energy products.

Why use a PDA when we can use a diary produced from recycled paper? Why not just listen for danger in traffic coming from behind, or even better, the sound of nature on those bike rides instead of your music device? If something needs energy then it is still contributing to the problem.

Reduction – not more efficient technology – is the best method to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. More efficient energy use will only leads to more use because we can.

In short, buy less, use less.

Mr Blair, thermostats and nuclear power

There is this man named Tony Blair who one day decided to do something for the environment and then a month later decided to do another. Must be a pain to be scrutinized in the public light in this way.

Diversity and microgeneration

A friend and I had an email conversation about water recently. He reminded me that it was once each individual’s responsibility in the sense the they seeked it out and found solutions to their own water problem. And in a way this is similar to what we need to do now with microgeneration – find our own solutions.

Microgeneration is also like diversity in the sense that unique solutions must be found for each case. But govenerments in the so-called developed world have set up barriers to microgeneration in the form of controls and regulations. Whereas once we created our own solutions without restriction today everything needs approval before it can be done. Thus governments are a hinderance to our well-being “inadvertantly”.

While I understand the need for such restrictions and regulations in today’s close-knit society I still believe it might not be to the benefit of its people. finding solutions to energy – like finding solutions to water – that were once solved by individuals are now out of their hands and placed in a collective effort. And when the system fails like in the 2003 North America Black Out large sections of society are put out. But I don’t think it is such an inconvenience since the benefits outweigh the occasional ‘hickup’. However there seems to be a lack of diversity in energy generation, something that I think is important even if it is more complicated, time-consuming or troublesome to create.

This might seem like going against the ideas in my last water and the government article it does not because governments must find unique solutions for each case. What I am not satisfied with is the way governments homogenize everything and everyone. The very words “our government” blind us to the fact that not all indivduals accept the decisions it makes. In other words, the system and the people it is governing is anything but homogenous and politicians need to remind themselves of that.

Simply, diversity must be seen to be everywhere.