Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mackenzie pipeline also approved yesterday by fed panel - let the cash flow!

Yet another bombshell of potentially unsavory environmental news snuck through under the radar yesterday while most Canadians were ignoring news of any kind.

This time, it's the MacKenzie Valley pipeline, in Canada's Northwest Territories, up for approval by Stephen Harper's Conservative government. Yeah, this is the same pipeline that was Considered too much of a potential sociological and environmental hazard to be allowed even by lax 1976 standards,

That was then, this is now:

"The project would provide the foundation for a sustainable Northern future," the panel concluded while laying down numerous conditions. The project is backed by Imperial Oil (Exxon), Shell and ConocoPhillips.

All this fall, there has been rumblings of discontent from the carbon industry, commentators and various interest groups. They say construction was supposed to have already started. The panel has "dragged on" for four years, they say. woo-hoo!

Even though industry has been pushing for 40 years for this $16 billion construction project / cash pipeline to go through, they are still pushing for hefty government incentives... which of course the Harper Reform Cons will be sure to give (after pretending to play it tough a bit longer).

Meanwhile, previously ambivalent or hostile first nations groups have been bought out by promises of free-flowing construction cash as hundreds or thousands of workers trample through the boreal forest and across the permafrost...

Considering that this would be the country's largest construction project, to be built through the most fragile ecosystems imaginable, it would be pure folly to allow it.

When you consider that the purpose of this pipeline is to pipe natural gas to the Tar Sands... just so that they can burn more carbon and make more profit while they "MAKE" dirty oil... it is absolute insanity.

And they want public money to build this?

These guys are pathological! It is disgrace.

Not to mention - they could have coughed up a few billion 5, 10, 15 or 20 years ago and put up windmills to their hearts' content. They would have clean power to spare up there by now - to "make" all the oil they want. Clueless.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Canadian government agent of mass destruction on two fronts

The Canadian government is now an agent of mass destruction on two fronts.

We know all about the Alberta Tar Sands, the world's filthiest industrial project that produces the world's dirtiest oil.

Now, in an apparent fit of revenge after being embarrassed by an amusing spoof at Copenhagen by the Yes Men, the Canadian government has ordered the destruction of 4,500 websites in Germany.

Only two of the websites had anything to do with the Yes Men prank.

Harper Turtles - shuts down Parliament again

For the second time in a year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has prorogued Parliament.

Harper's sorry regime has gotta come down.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sale of NB Power to Hydro Quebec - beyond the high voltage rhetoric

Face it, NB Power has got itself in a position where $4.8 Bil of debt is sinking it. NB residential customers are paying 60% more for their power than Hydro Quebec customers and industrial users are paying 20% more. And, with major assets coming up for replacement, the future is looking bleak indeed.

Prices and discontent with the utility are already high - and a viable operational model for the utility has yet to be unveiled by NB's official opposition or the opponents to the Hydro Quebec deal.

Now major renovations are underway at the Point Lepreau nuclear facility and several old coal generating stations are due to be refurbished or scrapped, which, when all is said and done will add perhaps billions more to the debtload.

Not surprisingly, the announced sale to HQ has caught New Brunswickers in an already owly mood. And it's not getting any sweeter.

Frantic commentators on message boards, news story comment rants and blogs have stated things like, "Quebec is trying to spread French across Atlantic Canada", "no truck nor trade with separatists", "this deal will be NB's Churchill Falls", or... "I'm not paying one cent to the separatists". Obviously, there is already a severe brainpower shortage in certain parts of NB, (as is the case everywhere!). The fact remains though that there is a huge opposition to the deal even though New Brunswick business (i.e. McCains & Irvings) and government are very much in favour of it.

Really, it comes down to a perceived loss of sovereignty and a (simply unthinkable) perception of getting shown up by Quebec. New Brunswickers, especially the English-speaking population, just cannot bear the humiliation of having mismanaged their utility into the ground, only to have it magnanimously 'rescued' by Quebec.

In all the hyperbole written over this deal, I don't think I have seen a single reference to price vs. value. Meanwhile, HQ is already supplying over one-third of the electricity consumed in New Brunswick, so the question of sovereignty over energy supply is already well watered down.

I think that if one person (like, say, a "news reporter") in New Brunswick would actually take the trouble to discover that B.C. Hydro is now in the process of buying a one-third share in the 450Mw Waneta Dam for $825 million, then the already high decibel level of the protest going on would be increased by tenfold!

The trouble is, the nature of the protest in NB is totally knee-jerk and emotional, so no one seems to care about finding actual reasons why the deal should be opposed.

And, having just said that, I think it is the B.C. Hydro - Waneta deal with Teck Resources that is the exceptional case, going against the grain of market price logic. The NB Power deal seems to be well justified by market conditions, even if the pending BC deal makes it look like a giveaway.

So... what would make the deal palatable to New Brunswickers?

This would answer the problems that most people have with the deal:

1. A clause that would tend to narrow the difference paid by NB and HQ residential customers after the five-year rate freeze already agreed by HQ
2. Some way of making the sovereignty of the assets less of an issue

If the deal succeeds, it opens up opportunity for greater synergies. With the NB coal-burning generating stations nearing the end of their useful lives, it must be assumed that HQ has in mind to replace a lot of this high-emission dirty energy with clean sustainable energy from the HQ grid.

The other possibility is that HQ would take advantage of the opportunity to introduce new elements of alternative sustainable power into NB, leaving the utility free to sell additional excess hydro power to the U.S.

Although New Brunswick and Quebec share many common features, there are also many differences that could prove interesting as the search for plausible future models of heating and power generation are concerned.

For one thing, has anyone thought of this...?:

Geo-thermal conversion for New Brunswick

Someone out there ought to be researching practical ways of introducing geo-thermal heating into the mix, for example. Say the New Brunswick government, using a small portion of the theoretical debt carrying potential that is freed up with this deal, were to sponsor a geo-thermal installation program that could be implemented on an individual home-by-home basis... This would effectively put the heat-generating capability in the hands of the individual homeowners of New Brunswick.

Do the math. There are 300,000 households in New Brunswick. Let's say, for example, that an individual geo-thermal system could be engineered to sell for $10,000. And let's say that 100,000 households would qualify and take advantage of an initial 10-year program.

That would represent a $1 billion price tag - a pretty small price to pay for the virtual guarantee of sovereignty and sustainability for heating in an entire province! We see, though, that the $1 billion doesn't really need to be paid by N.B. The price would largely be paid by home owners (perhaps via a system of provincially guaranteed loans) and this, largely, out of savings they would realize in their heating bills.

The program could include aspects of manufacturing to be handled in New Brunswick, and of course there would be the jobs benefit of the contracting to install the systems. The resale value of the homes would be greatly increased. The high concentration of geo-thermal heating in N.B would set the province up as a center of excellence and expertise in sustainable energy, potentially developing export products.

A substantial portion of geo-thermal conversions would be from oil, as well as electric, so both heating oil and electricity suppliers would be losing sales. However, since Irving and HQ are seen to be big winners in the deal to sell NB Power, it seems like a no-brainer that they would be on board for such as deal as this. Not to mention that any electricity not needed to heat N.B. homes could be heating U.S. homes more profitably.

The province, meanwhile, wouldn't have to actually go into debt to manage the program - it could be a cooperative arrangement amongst all stakeholders - the province, banks, utilities, contractors and home owners.

The project could be run in conjunction with other projects for commercial and industrial buildings.

The whole thing would contribute to massively reduce the carbon footprint of New Brunswick at virtually no cost to the province, or to anyone, at the same time as building a new industry and providing thousands of permanent jobs.

Frankly, it appears to me that it would be so easy to turn this thing into a massive positive for New Brunswick, that my "conspiracy theory" sensors are starting to tingle...!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What was China's strategy in Copenhagen?

Was China dealing in bad faith in Copenhagen?

If you read Mark Lynas' piece in Tuesday's Guardian, you may well conclude, 'yes' they were dealing in bad faith.

Lynas' headline on the front page of the Guardian environment section says, "How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room.

Lynas goes on to detail several reasons why he feels China is responsible for the poor agreement that isn't even agreed.

He writes, "China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful "deal" so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame."

The humiliation to Obama, of course, originated with the Chinese Premier, Wen Jinbao, who did not attend the negotiating session on the night of Friday, Dec. 18, at which Obama spent several hours. So President Obama was forced to deal with some Chinese flunky, who would need to excuse himself periodically to call his bosses for guidance.

Having some personal experience with Asian cultural sensitivity in face-to-face interactions, the two conclusions I draw are that, firstly, Jinbao must have been keenly aware of the awkwardness and embarrassment he caused by not showing up. Second, and more important, though, I think his reason for not attending could have been influenced to some extent by a determination to not get into a face-to-face confrontation or disagreement with Obama.

The failure of Copenhagen to result in an agreement that would be considered useful in terms of alleviating Co2 emissions and global warming is widely being put on the Chinese.

No need to even mention here the ghost in the room, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was basically persona non grata anywhere and everywhere in Copenhagen. We might, however, consider what a difference it could have made if Canada were to have been an activist for tough emissions cuts, rather than trying not to be noticed. I would imagine that both the U.S. and China would have been pressured towards greater resolve in achieving a significant deal.

The next step, as I see it, is to let time do its work. In two weeks I believe we will have a much clearer idea of where Copenhagen has brought us.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Eco Art by Tatiana Iliina

Tatiana Iliina has completed a new Glacier painting.


This one is entitled "Glacial Interface" and is 24th in the series. It is painted with acrylic on canvas, using Tatiana's signature painting knife techniques. The painting is 30x36 inches. (94x78 cm)

These paintings are unique for our time. They are a reminder of the power and frailty and beauty of our planet, all at the same time.

Monday, December 21, 2009

178 World Leaders, Please Take Note: Next time how about negotiate a deal to note beforehand

In case anyone didn't like the way the Copenhagen agreement unfolded, here's an idea.

For the purposes of negotiating a deal for everyone to take note of:

Please just stay home and negotiate the whole thing by email and phone. If you want to celebrate taking note of the deal, then you could send envoys or environment ministers to the site of the celebration, so that you can all take note of it.

For the purposes of negotiating a deal for everyone to agree on:

First organize yourselves into blocks which feel they have common positions. Something like 5-8 blocks would be OK. Then appoint negotiators, take the deal that everyone agreed to take note of - and push it towards a deal that everyone will sign.

That will probably work.

In the meantime, if we are going to get a handle on the situation with the environment, some people are going to have to strike out on their own and take leadership. It will have to be people who have the wherewithal to do it and they will need to do it large and loud.

There needs to be many more successful showcase projects up and running soon, in order to convince less visionary leaders that there are other ways to turn profits besides by burning fossil fuels.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Copenhagen Accord - final text

Fifteenth session
Copenhagen, 7– 18 December 2009
Agenda item 9

High-level segment
Draft decision -/CP.15
Proposal by the President

Copenhagen Accord
The Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers, and other heads of delegation present at the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen,
* In pursuit of the ultimate objective of the Convention as stated in its Article 2,
* Being guided by the principles and provisions of the Convention,
* Noting the results of work done by the two Ad hoc Working Groups,
* Endorsing decision x/CP.15 on the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action and decision x/CMP.5 that requests the Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments of Annex I, Parties under the Kyoto Protocol to continue its work,

Have agreed on this Copenhagen Accord which is operational immediately.

1. We underline that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. We emphasise our strong political will to urgently combat climate change in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. To achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, we shall, recognizing the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius, on the basis of equity and in the context of sustainable development, enhance our long-term cooperative action to combat climate change. We recognize the critical impacts of climate change and the potential impacts of response measures on countries particularly vulnerable to its adverse effects and stress the need to establish a comprehensive adaptation programme including international support.


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2. We agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science, and as documented by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report with a view to reduce global emissions so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius, and take action to meet this objective consistent with science and on the basis of equity. We should cooperate in achieving the peaking of global and national emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that the time frame for peaking will be longer in developing countries and bearing in mind that social and economic development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing countries and that a low-emission development strategy is indispensable to sustainable development.

3. Adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change and the potential impacts of response measures is a challenge faced by all countries. Enhanced action and international cooperation on adaptation is urgently required to ensure the implementation of the Convention by enabling and supporting the implementation of adaptation actions aimed at reducing vulnerability and building resilience in developing countries, especially in those that are particularly vulnerable, especially least developed countries, small island developing States and Africa. We agree that developed countries shall provide adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources, technology and capacity-building to support the implementation of adaptation action in developing countries.

4. Annex I Parties commit to implement individually or jointly the quantified economywide emissions targets for 2020, to be submitted in the format given in Appendix I by Annex I Parties to the secretariat by 31 January 2010 for compilation in an INF document. Annex I Parties that are Party to the Kyoto Protocol will thereby further strengthen the emissions reductions initiated by the Kyoto Protocol. Delivery of reductions and financing by developed countries will be measured, reported and verified in accordance with existing and any further guidelines adopted by the Conference of the Parties, and will ensure that accounting of such targets and finance is rigorous, robust and transparent.

5. Non-Annex I Parties to the Convention will implement mitigation actions, including those to be submitted to the secretariat by non-Annex I Parties in the format given in Appendix II by 31 January 2010, for compilation in an INF document, consistent with Article 4.1 and Article 4.7 and in the context of sustainable development. Least developed countries and small island developing States may undertake actions voluntarily and on the basis of support. Mitigation actions subsequently taken and envisaged by Non-Annex I Parties, including national inventory reports, shall be communicated through national communications consistent with Article 12.1(b) every two years on the basis of guidelines to be adopted by the Conference of the Parties. Those mitigation actions in national communications or otherwise communicated to the Secretariat will be added to the list in appendix II. Mitigation actions taken by Non-Annex I Parties will be subject to their domestic measurement, reporting and verification the result of which will be reported through their national communications every two years. Non-Annex I Parties will communicate information on the implementation of their actions through National Communications, with provisions for international consultations and analysis under clearly defined guidelines that will ensure that national sovereignty is respected. Nationally appropriate mitigation actions seeking international support will be recorded in a registry along with relevant technology, finance and capacity building support. Those actions supported will be added to the list in appendix II. These supported nationally appropriate mitigation actions will be subject to international measurement, reporting and verification in accordance with guidelines adopted by the Conference of the Parties.

6. We recognize the crucial role of reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation and the need to enhance removals of greenhouse gas emission by forests and agree on the need to provide positive incentives to such actions through the immediate establishment of a mechanism including REDD-plus, to enable the mobilization of financial resources from developed countries.

7. We decide to pursue various approaches, including opportunities to use markets, to enhance the cost-effectiveness of, and to promote mitigation actions. Developing countries, especially


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those with low emitting economies should be provided incentives to continue to develop on a low emission pathway.

8. Scaled up, new and additional, predictable and adequate funding as well as improved access shall be provided to developing countries, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, to enable and support enhanced action on mitigation, including substantial finance to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD-plus), adaptation, technology development and transfer and capacity-building, for enhanced implementation of the Convention. The collective commitment by developed countries is to provide new and additional resources, including forestry and investments through international institutions, approaching USD 30 billion for the period 2010 – 2012 with balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation. Funding for adaptation will be prioritized for the most vulnerable developing countries, such as the least developed countries, small island developing States and Africa. In the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, developed countries commit to a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries. This funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including alternative sources of finance. New multilateral funding for adaptation will be delivered through effective and efficient fund arrangements, with a governance structure providing for equal representation of developed and developing countries. A significant portion of such funding should flow through the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund.

9. To this end, a High Level Panel will be established under the guidance of and accountable to the Conference of the Parties to study the contribution of the potential sources of revenue, including alternative sources of finance, towards meeting this goal.

10. We decide that the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund shall be established as an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the Convention to support projects, programme, policies and other activities in developing countries related to mitigation including REDD-plus, adaptation, capacitybuilding, technology development and transfer.

11. In order to enhance action on development and transfer of technology we decide to establish a Technology Mechanism to accelerate technology development and transfer in support of action on adaptation and mitigation that will be guided by a country-driven approach and be based on national circumstances and priorities.

12. We call for an assessment of the implementation of this Accord to be completed by 2015, including in light of the Convention’s ultimate objective. This would include consideration of strengthening the long-term goal referencing various matters presented by the science, including in relation to temperature rises of 1.5 degrees Celsius.


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Quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020
Annex I Parties Quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020
Emissions reduction in 2020 Base year


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Nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing country Parties
Non-Annex I Actions
- - - - -

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Climate denier Prof Ian Plimer ripped to shreds on Australian TV

The Australian geologist and businessman, Prof. Ian Plimer's lies are exposed in a debate with journalist George Monbiot.

The dynamics of the interview / debate, which appeared a couple of nights ago on Australian ABC Television are pretty strange.

It appears as if Plimer wanted to be the interviewer rather than the interviewee, even though he was the one who wrote the book that was the topic of discussion. Yet, he refused to answer straightforward questions regarding the accuracy of statements he made in the book - even though these questions tend to cast the pages of his book in the light of used toilet paper.

He would constantly revert to the tactic of answering a straight question about his own book with some random balderdash.

He was snafu'd most blatantly of all on his contention that volcanoes produce more Co2 than human beings. This is like a piece of gospel for climate deniers. It's a claim that I have seen repeated dozens of times by deniers.

It was pointed out that the U.S. Geological Survey found that humans actually produce 130 times more Co2 than volcanoes. After numerous attempts to change the subject, Plimer then goes on a lengthy explanation that 85% per cent of volcanoes are under the oceans. At this point, Monbiot submits that the U.S. Geological Survey had been specifically asked by a U.K. journalist about this point and that the response was that undersea volcanoes had been included in the USGS calculations. Plimer was just totally exposed for the fraud he is.

It may all be moot at this point. As Copenhagen nears the end, still no hope for a deal is in sight, with U.S. President Obama scheduled to arrive tomorrow.

Canada's role has been little more than an embarrassment.

Admittedly, Canadian emissions are not really a factor, even though we are the world's 8th highest Co2 emitter and have the dirtiest project on Earth, the Alberta Tar Sands, right here in our ownback yard.

The major polluters - primarily the U.S.and China, are the ones that have to change their positions in order to achieve an overall different result.

However, a Canadian move could put a little more pressure on the U.S. and China to act. As it stands, Canada's image as the oil-rich, snotty-nosed, spoiled brat is still deflecting a lot of attention from China and the U.S. If we were to move our camp thataways, it would leave China and America more exposed to the bos and arrows from the rest of the world.

Doesn't seem likely though. Our entire country's agenda is now being run by one province, Alberta. And I think it is Harper who will ultimately be forced by Obama to budge a tiny bit, just in order to save face. Up until that time, Stevie will be happy to take a few journalistic arrows in the service of big oil profits.

That's if he isn't late for the meeting...

(and I do hope I'm wrong about this and Harper turns out to be a real leader)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Alberta Oil - One Glob for the Price of Two Globs

Has anyone noticed the elegantly profitable symmetry that is unfolding in the Alberta oil patch?

A phalanx of oil companies, all of whom swear that they do not have time nor resources to put up a few windmills or do any other reasonable thing, are lining up to get their dibs in on the Athabasca Oil Sands.

Why is this, I wondered to myself.

Of course, the answer came quite easily.

Because these oil sands are a profitable operation.

But, they are really more profitable, even, than meets the eye. That's because there is a special magic in the air in Alberta that actually doubles the sales... and who knows what's going on with the profits? The oil companies are raking it in as it is, of course. Posting gargantuan profits with minimal worries about what the economy is doing. Cheating the public outright at the retail level at every turn. It is mind boggling what they get away with.

The coffee card effect

But the real sleight-of-hand goes on in the oil sands. Remember, this is the operation where it takes something like 4 times the energy to produce a barrel of oil as it does in conventional oil production. For starters, it takes 1200 cu. ft. of natural gas to produce one barrel of oil in the extraction process of conventional tar sands production. Since a barrel of oil is equal to about 6,000 cu. ft. of natural gas, it's just about like a Tim Horton's coffee card - extract 4 barrels of oil - you get to sell another barrel! Then there is all the other fuel used in the operation. Running all those dump trucks on steroids, shuttling the workers, etc., would all be additional energy burnt and additional Co2 and other emissions in the air and water. Even today, with oil production at possibly 15-20% of the anticipated future levels, the tar sands are consuming 40% of Alberta's natural gas production.

At that point we can consider the barrel of oil delivered, for the purpose of this discussion, but the consumption of fossil fuels associated with that barrel has only just begun. That's because Alberta has the intent of using carbon capture and storage (CCS) to reduce or neutralize the impact of the fuel burnt in the extraction process. In a nutshell, each time the Co2 emissions from one unit of fossil fuel is sequestered in CCS, the equivalent of another 50-75% of a unit of fuel is burnt. As explained in more detail here, this includes 20-30% in the capture, another 20-30% in liquefaction and a long list of other costs, including transportation of the liquid to the storage site, facilities construction, etc.

The net effect is a clusterbomb of fossil fuel consumption. To be sure, there may be few, if any, cases where the oil company running a project is one and the same as the company supplying the natural gas. But it is clear that all of these companies, together with their smaller suppliers and the Province of Alberta, form a common community that, as a whole, stands to realize exceptional benefits from the multiple combustion engine that is the Athabasca Tar Sands.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New World EV Record: Japanese car goes 555 km on one charge - Tokyo - Osaka

An electric car built by the Japan Electric Vehicle Club (JEVC) traveled the 555 km between Tokyo and Osaka on one charge in November.

The car, a Daihatsu Mira EV demolished the previous record of 501 km on one charge, set in October by a Tesla in Australia.
The following details are translated from the JEVC website:

Tokyo - Osaka Mira EV charging during non-charging 555.6km trip mileage achieved!

EV dreams and romance!
"No way, Osaka, Tokyo - Mira EV travel charger
To do so much running, "

===== ===== 1 achieved 555.6km mileage charge

Japan EV Club, November 17 (Tuesday), and
"No way, Osaka, Tokyo - Mira EV charging the trip to do so much running," and the
Up from Nihonbashi Osaka Nihonbashi, Tokyo, Japan EV Club Mira produced EV (electric vehicle), and
During one run more than once without charge,
1 achieved 555.6km distance charges.

No way of charging electric vehicles in running span 555.6 kilometers,
Tesla Motors U.S. October 27 Sun no way he established a range of 501km without a recharge,
Is a new world record. Apply to this record in Guinness.

? Tokyo - Osaka during non-charging EV Mira Travel Summary

Starting November 17, 2009 (Tue) 3 hours at Nihonbashi, Tokyo
Arrival November 17, 2009 (Tue) 16:26 min Osaka Nihonbashi

Distance: 555.6km
Running time: 13 hours 26 minutes 34 seconds
Driver: end ?? (Japan EV Club representative)
Passenger seat: Usui Takenobu (Japan EV club technical staff)

Vehicle: Mira EV (Japan EV Club Production)
Base vehicle: Miraban Daihatsu
Motor: DC brushless synchronous
Rated output: 14kW
Maximum output: 35 kW
Battery: Lithium Ion SANYO
Total Voltage: 240.5 V
Total energy: 74 kWh
Capacity: 2

Toyo Tire & Rubber Co., Ltd. Toyotaiyajapan sponsors
Sanyo cooperation
Japan EV Club hosted project management

"Tokyo - Osaka EV Mira travel during non-charging" special website
11/17 has been running on the report.

Monday, December 14, 2009

CCS - Carbon Capture and Storage - Solution? Stopgap? or a Gimmick to Drive Oil Sales?

One of the least popular alternatives, in environmentalist circles, for reducing GHG in the atmosphere, is the whole concept of carbon capture and storage.

This is the process where Co2 emissions are captured at some point in a combustion cycle and, by one of a variety of means, are trapped and sequestered so they do not enter the atmosphere.

This is seen by many as, at worst, nothing but a trick dreamed up by the oil companies to facilitate even greater profits while postponing the inevitable, that is, the day we wean ourselves from carbon fuels altogether. Others view CCS as a stopgap type of measure, which could be quick to implement and relatively useful until such time as alternative energy production is brought up to speed. And, there are others who see this option as the holy grail of making our energy needs compatible with the healthy future of the planet. Which is it? I dunno but let's take a look.

There are many different variations of CCS. Probably the most common is where Co2 is captured in a coal burning or other combustion process and then pressurized, liquefied and injected into the earth. The most common injection sites used so far are old oil fields, where the liquid Co2 is effective for recovering additional oil that otherwise wouldn't have been possible to get out of the old wells.

Then there are many variations of this process ranging from different ways of preparing the underground site to ocean floor scenarios, etc.

The other most promising technique, rather than liquifying the Co2, is to use a process called carbon mineralization, where the Co2 is used to form carbonate solid material, such as limestone or other rock.

CCS is well established on a small scale. One of the largest facilities in the world is the Petroleum Technology Research Center in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Once full, this facility will contain the equivalent of the Co2 produced by 6 million cars in one year.

The government of Alberta has budgeted $2 billion for CCS and several projects have already started.

The problems with CCS at a glance are as follows:

* high cost of capturing the Co2 (approx 20-25% of energy produced)
* high cost of liquefaction
* cost of transport
* potential of leakage
* the solution is not permanent
* sequestration sites are finite

CCS drives petroleum consumption

So, the total cost in energy and dollars of the CCS process would be something like 50% of the energy produced in the original process.

Add to this consideration the fact that oil from the tar sands already implies a huge energy component in initial production.

Well, the good thing about all this for the oil companies is that the additional energy they use can be seen as additional sales for their industry, which also have the effect of supporting petroleum prices and so forth.

The other problem is that this method only deals with the Co2. Many other serious pollutants are still dispersed into the atmosphere.

This problem is also present with the carbon mineralization technique. However, there are some advantages. First of all, the by-products of carbon mineralization, whether they be limestone or a similar carbonate, are all inert, non-toxic, solid materials that can be buried, piled or used for pretty much anything. Secondly, this technique is permanent - and, for the sake of discussion, sustainable.

In the case of carbon mineralization, you still have to capture the Co2, so you still have that cost. Most of the other costs are as yet undetermined.

Company claims to produce fuel from Co2

The down side of this technology is that tried and proven methods of rapid carbon mineralization are still in the research stage. Much of the information out there is locked down in academic portals that you have to subscribe to or pay as you go. In short, C-M could have potential, but working models are still few and far between.

There are many other techniques out there.

There has been a proposal floated for such a thing as zero-emission coal, a complex process that seems to lead to either CCS or carbon mineralization in the end anyway.

Beyond that, there is even a company in California, Carbon Sciences Inc., that is claiming to be able to produce fuel from Co2, effectively recycling the emissions.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ocean Acidification - Global Warming's Evil Twin

As Charles Clover writes in today's Times Online, there are other consequences of rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, in addition to global warming.

Approximately 25% of the co2 produced each year is absorbed into the oceans. This has lessened the impact of global warming, to be sure. However, the down side is that this has caused an increase in acidity of the oceans of about 30% since the beginning of the industrial age.

NOAA states in their May 2008 "State of the science fact sheet for ocean acidification" that:
"The oceans have absorbed about 50% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released from the burning of fossil fuels, resulting in chemical reactions that lower ocean pH. This has caused an increase in hydrogen ion (acidity) of about 30% since the start of the industrial age through a process known as “ocean acidification.” A growing number of studies have demonstrated adverse impacts on marine organisms, including:

  • The rate at which reef-building corals produce their skeletons decreases.
  • The ability of marine algae and free-swimming zooplankton to maintain protective shells is reduced.
  • The survival of larval marine species, including commercial fish and shellfish, is reduced."
Since increased acidity is only one of the problems facing the oceans, many of the ecosystems are in dire straights. The situation with the coral, for instance is already critical - many say beyond hope.

Six Tools to Make Climate Change Art... and is there such a thing as good climate change art?

Toronto artist Franke James published 6 Tools to Make Climate Change Art on her blog for Blog Action Day, Oct 15th, 2009. James gained some notoriety in 2008, when she convinced the city of North York to allow her to have a green driveway.

Go ahead! Have at it! Use any or all of these tools - or make up your own. Everyone can make climate change art.

6 Tools to Make Climate Change Art

green conscience six tools by Franke James

Sort of following through on this, there is a discussion over on Lea Shick's blog at Arts for COP15 about what is good climate art.

Essentially the discussion mimics the "what is art?" or the "what is good art?" convo that we are familiar with.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Opposition to Teck Resources sale of Waneta Dam to B.C. Hydro

There seems to be a consistent pattern of opposition to this sale from diverse parties around British Columbia. I first wrote about this transaction in November. The terms and specifics of the deal seemed really bizarre to me at the time, especially having just read detailed descriptions of Hydro Quebec's recent deal to purchase NB Power. In short, Teck Resources is getting a lot more ($825 mil) for a 1/3 share in this asset than some verifiable market comparables would suggest as fair value.

The status of the sale at present is that it is going through the approval process at the B.C. Utilities Commission.

The so-called B.C. Hydro Final Argument document was filed with the BCUC on December 9.

In that document, the justification for the price on the transaction is rather weak, based mostly on speculative estimated costs of future alternatives for B.C. Hydro and speculation about whether Teck Resources would accept a lower price.

If you go to the BCUC link you will find links there to all the official submissions that have been made to date. There are dozens of them there. Most of the ones that I saw were opposed to the sale.

The MLA for Nelson Creston, Michelle Mungall, wrote about this issue on her blog Dec. 1.

I will continue to follow up on this matter as it unfolds.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Permaculture permeates the planet - one path to a sustainable future

The vision of a sustainable future for the planet is one shared by many - and more and more people are getting involved as time goes by.

One of the approaches to preserving a healthy planet for future generations that has become codified, if you will, and has spread throughout the world, is permaculture.

Permaculture has been defined in various ways. The following is taken from The Permaculture Association (U.K.) website:

Permaculture combines three key aspects:

1. an ethical framework

2. understandings of how nature works, and

3. a design approach

The idea of permaculture is to create communities that are self-sufficient, prosperous and respectful of values that will enable the community and the planet to exist in perpetuity.

Here are a couple of other useful links:

Permaculture Canada

Permaculture U.S.

At some point in the near future I would be interested in looking into the evolution of "permaculture| as a movement to date.

Is this something that is centrally organized on a global basis? I don't know why it has that feel about it.

Is this a globalization initiative dressed up like a "small is good" philosophy?

What caught my eye is the "design approach" to sustainable living.

To what extent does design imply art? To what extent does design imply imposing a prescribed lifestyle? Is there design going on here that is "outside the box"? To what extent is the design creating the box, if at all?

I would love to look into this more thoroughly.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Alberta Tar Sands GHG emissions to double by 2020

As bad as Alberta's GHG emissions are today, at about 5x the Canadian per capita average, the worst is yet to come.

According to Alberta government projections, GHG emissions from the Tar Sands alone will rise from a level of about 65 million tons of co2 equivalent in 2010 to about 130 million tons (megatons) per year by 2020.

For sake of comparison, 65 megatons is approximately equal to the total 2006 emissions of the province of British Columbia and approximately 80% of the current GHG emissions of the province of Quebec.

Alberta's total GHG emissions are projected to increase from approximately 236 megatons in 2006 to 270 in 2010, 290 in 2015 and 310 in 2020.

Total Alberta GHG emissions (millions of tons)

1990 - 172
1995 - 195
2000 - 210
2006 - 236
2010 - 270
2015 - 290
2020 - 310

Alberta Tar Sands Greenhouse Gas & co2 emissions

1990 - n/a
1995 - n/a
2000 - 20
2005 - 25
2010 - 65
2015 - 112
2020 - 130

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What can Alberta do about the tar sands?

Nothing is black and white.

Anyone who has paid attention has noticed that there are environmental groups that want to "shut down" the tar sands.

I don't think that is a reasonable solution and I don't think it is going to happen.

I've also noticed a few other things.

i.e. Alberta raised royalty rates in '07 and the oil cos. squawked but they still have a sweetheart deal and investment continues to roll in, despite a shaky market. Start-ups in the tar sands get a 1% royalty for a bunch of years... something like that. I haven't studied it in depth.

And, over the past couple of years the oil companies have made extraordinary profits.

So, all signs indicate that the oil companies have wiggle room. Heck, they have wiggle room for all the dinosaurs in Drumheller...

On the other side, it seems that Alberta's resource royalties have dropped from around $12+ B to $6+ B in the last year. But has Alberta had to put in a sales tax to make ends meet? Nope. In fact the popular new Wildrose Party is pushing for bigger concessions to the oil companies.

So, yeah, it looks like Alberta also has some wiggle room.

I suggest that Alberta and the oil companies get serious and figure out some ways to put the planet ahead of profits - but still keep profits intact.

As I understand, the problems with the tar sands are several - but the main one is that it takes 3 or 4 times the energy to produce the oil than a conventional oil source. So..

1. They need to have sustainable energy phasing in at all plants.

No one can claim it doesn't make economic sense. Every cubic foot of natural gas that isn't consumed today (in such a ridiculous, when you think about it, process as producing oil) is preserved for the future when it will be much more valuable. And that aside - if it is viable for Quebec to put up wind farms, when Quebec is already self-sufficient in electricity, then obviously it must be viable for Alberta.

2. They could set up one tar sands plant as a showcase to prove the viability and feasibility of a clean project. They could plan it from A to Z as a model eco community - once the lead was taken the other projects would be forced to follow suit. Parks, reforestation, fishing... They could put in rapid transit systems for the employees, gardens, geothermal heating for the houses, whatever it takes. The oil companies could never buy better PR than that. I admit it's cheaper to pay off junk scientists - but that is not going to work for long. People are just not that stupid.

When they see oil execs taking their kids to swim in tailing ponds - then people will believe that the water is safe. -not before

3. They need to come up with innovative ways of cleaning the water they use and recycling the heat out of it. And they're probably doing this already - they just need to do it 5 or 10 or 100 times as well.

4. Look at other ways of converting excess co2 or disposing of it in addition to the deep burying that they're already working on. (I find it weird that putting our atmosphere under ground could possibly be sustainable?!)

5. Try to come up with some dang thing that would be unique in Alberta that is environment-friendly. They are going to need this for cap and trade and PR reasons, as well as for the good of the planet. I dunno what to suggest - a made-in-Alberta high-speed rapid transit system between Edmonton and Calgary or right up to Ft. McMurray? Maybe an innovative way to harvest methane gas from cattle? Perhaps establish a university or technical school focused entirely on the environment? Things of this nature will be economic catalysts, they'll enable Alberta to set and meet useful emission reduction targets and improve public relations which are currently at an all-time low and about to start costing all Canadians.

If Albertans are worried that the tar sands will become another fur seal debacle - Yes. Start worrying. Tar Sands will be Fur Seals X 1000000s in terms of consequences. And the difference is the tar sands problem is legitimate.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Canada: Thanks Stephen Harper - We Are Now Known as a "Thuggish Petro-State"

Anyone who doesn't believe that Stephen Harper is single-handedly flushing Canada's reputation down the toilet...

...need look no further than Monday's Guardian, a major national / international U.K. newspaper and online news publisher.

Those with their heads in the (tar) sand can say what they will.

This is what is being said about our beloved Canada. It is being said all over the world. It is being said in the city and in the country. It is being said at war and at peace. We are numbly, willingly, greedily, aiding and abetting this lunatic Stephen Harper in destroying the viability and the essence of what has been Canada for the past 100 years.

When you think of Canada, which qualities come to mind? The world's peacekeeper, the friendly nation, a liberal counterweight to the harsher pieties of its southern neighbour, decent, civilised, fair, well-governed? Think again. This country's government is now behaving with all the sophistication of a chimpanzee's tea party. So amazingly destructive has Canada become, and so insistent have my Canadian friends been that I weigh into this fight, that I've broken my self-imposed ban on flying and come to Toronto.

So here I am, watching the astonishing spectacle of a beautiful, cultured nation turning itself into a corrupt petro-state. Canada is slipping down the development ladder, retreating from a complex, diverse economy towards dependence on a single primary resource, which happens to be the dirtiest commodity known to man. The price of this transition is the brutalisation of the country, and a government campaign against multilateralism as savage as any waged by George Bush.

Until now I believed that the nation that has done most to sabotage a new climate change agreement was the United States. I was wrong. The real villain is Canada. Unless we can stop it, the harm done by Canada in December 2009 will outweigh a century of good works

Can we please stop this insanity?