Monday, May 31, 2010

Japan's Politicians Just Gain Right to Use Social Media During Campaigns

Believe it or not, up until a deal was struck last week, politicians in Japan have been prohibited from using social media or (in theory) even updating websites during election campaigns.

It has been said that Japan is a land of contrasts, especially those that can be found between tradition and technology. Indeed, even people with only a passing knowledge of Japan are probably aware that many special rules of etiquette that apply in Japan and things like intricate tea ceremonies hold places of special importance. And, of course, the level of technological attainment in that country is pretty well legendary.

So it did come as a surprise to me to learn that the internet was off limits for Japanese politicos. In practice, apparently at least some were finding ways to get around the regulations, so perhaps that's why they decided to update the laws.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Are Cell Phones Killing the Honey Bees?

Scientists in India coming out with this news... today.

The reper- cussions of this could be huge. These findings may only be the tip of the iceberg.

If this is confirmed - then what? Honey bees are *almost* indispensable.

Up until now, it has been widely assumed that the decline of the bees has been a result of some combination of global warming, pesticides and natural enemies, such as mites.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Enbridge Submits Application for Northern Gateway Pipeline to Kitimat, B.C.

Enbridge filed the environmental application yesterday with the National Energy Board for the proposed 1,172-kilometer, $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline projected to run from Edmonton to the B.C. coastal town of Kitimat.

The pipeline would carry about 550,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Edmonton to the Pacific Ocean port for export. This pipeline is very similar in length, although in a much different situation, as the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline, which received a measure of approval from a federal review panel in Dec. '09.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Roughing in the Scenery in the EV Battery Landscape

Another piece of the puzzle is falling into place in the EV battery landscape.

This week, Canada's Magna announced they are in the process of scouting sites for two new lithium ion battery factories, one to be located in North America, the other in Europe. The amount of investment is between $400 million and $600-million and production of batteries could begin in 2013, Siegfried Wolf, Magna’s co-chief executive officer, said Tuesday.

This follows last October's news that Bollore Group, of France, is building a  $120 million EV battery factory  in Boucherville near Montreal. and is planning on further expansion in France in the near future. Bollore will be producing proprietary lithium-metal-polymer batteries.

A gaping hole in the EV battery/storage cell landscape continues to be the spot reserved for, but as yet unoccupied by, the Eestor storage unit, whose status for the time being is trending to vaporware. An April 22 entry on the GM-Volt blog or whatever it is reveals nothing new from the Eestor side of things although did include this interesting but not promising tidbit: High level GM sources have just recently told GM-Volt they tried in earnest to do some fact finding discussion with EEStor but “never got anything substantive from them.”

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Arctic Sea Ice Meltdown - Below '07 Record Low

Barely six weeks ago a not-so- freak cold spell in the Bering Sea combined with some weird winds to cause the extent of sea ice in the Arctic to build up to "near normal" levels. (Normal at least in terms of the 1979-2000 average)

This resulted in worldwide headlines blaring from Drudge Report, Faux News and petro-powered right-wing propaganda press word wide.

As in, "Arctic Sea Ice Normal!!".

So, you may be forgiven for being surprised that there are no worldwide headlines today, as the sea ice extent has plummeted sharply to cross the low mark of the 2007 low ice year for this date.

The net result is that the ice levels have gone from relatively high on April 1 to very low and falling on May 23, creating a steep downwards trajectory.

Who knows where this may lead? Given the high temperatures in much of the Canadian Arctic all spring, and that so much of the Arctic ice is already merely single-year ice, rather than an ice cap per se, it looks like another record breaking low ice pack could be in store this year. Then again, another cool snap could reverse the trend enough to fire up the engine on the big anti-environmental propaganda machine once again... Stay tuned!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Canadian firm Genoil in Discussions with BP re Gulf disaster clean-up

According to a press release dated today, Genoil, of Edmonton, is "in discussions" with BP and "United States authorities" regarding the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

As detailed in my post on Friday, May 21, Genoil is a publicly traded company specialized in upgrader and oil sands related technologies, which include capabilities in both sand cleaning and oil / water separation.

The press release mentions that Genoil is also currently "in discussions in the Middle East regarding oil spills from the first Gulf War of 1991 for extensive oil contamination that covers an astounding 800 miles of beaches at a depth of six feet stemming from tactical military decisions of Saddam Hussein which created one of the greatest ecological disasters in history."

In case the irony is lost on anyone, we could be talking about two of the worst environmental disasters in history here getting cleaned with involvement by Canadian technology spawned in the tar sands that are so reviled by environmentalists.

The press release goes on to address aspects of its equipment that would potentially give it a leg up over Kevin Costner's CINC Industries "Ocean Therapy Solutions" water separators or possibly other competitors.

It appears to me like BP and the U.S. government could bring in all the players to bear on the problem and there would still be a heck of a difficult and expensive clean-up to do. Let's just say that time lost during discussions will result in exponentially higher damage and clean-up expenses in the long run.

The words, Genoil, Costner or CINC do not show up on a search of the BP website. Mind you there is a good deal of material on the response to the spill, as well as invitations for people to register their "ideas" or professional services by phone.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Canada's Tar Sands as Risky as the Gulf: Report

A typical comment around Canadian water coolers and message boards, when the topic of the BP environmental disaster in the Gulf arises, is: "yeah it's a tragedy but the Alberta oil sands are looking better every day."

Whooaa... not so fast there. 

A new report claims that "Canada's Oil Sands Face Significant Financial and Environmental Risks as Great as Those in BP Spill"

The report was commissioned by Ceres and authored by RiskMetrics Group.

At the press conference announcing the report May 17, Ceres President Mindy Lubber said, "The risks for companies involved in developing Canada's oil sands are arguably greater than those in the Gulf of Mexico,"

The report cites numerous risks, including pricing, market conditions, transportation obstacles, water and other resource shortages, first nations issues and the mounting costs and liability connected with land reclamation.

Even without considering environ- mental factors, pricing alone is a potential game breaker. If the price of oil is too low, the oil sands then become uneconomical. But, if the price goes too high, alternative sustainable energy sources suddenly become extremely viable.

What the Gulf situation tells us is that the unthinkable does happen and if something can go wrong it will.  

About Ceres
Ceres is leading coalition of investors, environmental groups and other public interest groups working with companies to address sustainability challenges such as climate change. Ceres also directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a network of 90 institutional investors with $10 trillion of collective assets focused on the business impacts of climate change.

About RiskMetrics Group
RiskMetrics is a leading provider of risk management and corporate governance services. Its ESG Analytics Group analyzes cutting edge issues like climate change, water and ecosystem services that support the global economy.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Canadian angle in Waterworld hero Costner's quest to save the water on our world

Way back in 2001, a little noticed news item on imbd proclaimed, "Costner Goes Green". The article stated that Kevin Costner had recently started his own company, Costner Industries Nevada Corp. (CINC Industries), which would be "looking into" 21st Century environmental planning. "I put my money into that. That's my personality, something I believe in," said Costner.

Now, $26 million and ten years later, Costner's CINC Industries liquid separators are being demoed and tested around the Gulf - to pretty substantial fanfare. Meanwhile, a Canadian company, Genoil, also has impressive water separation expertise, not to mention sand cleaning technology, however involvement in the Gulf at this time seems to be behind-the-scenes, if at all.

The claims appearing in various new stories over the last couple of days state that Costner's machine can clean 97-99% of the oil out of the water. The trouble, which no one has really mentioned, is that the U.S. Coast Guard has some regulations that say you can't put more than 2.5 parts per million back in the water, whereas 99% still leaves what, 10,000 parts per million in the water.

Regardless of what the regulations are, it would seem to be a no-brainer to get Costner's 10-30 units of various sizes in place, and at least start cleaning something, right? I dunno though. What if the intake is already pretty diluted? Well, they're supposed to be testing now.

The largest units, which have been nicknamed "Ocean Therapy Solutions" by Costner, but are more accurately called liquid separators, can clean about 200 gallons of water a minute, or 200,000 gallons a day.

Some have mentioned that that is about the same amount of oil spilling per day. But a couple of questions I would have are: what is the concentration of the water being taken up by these units? and - how practical is it to get the machine access to a continuous flow of dirty water?

Another question - there are other companies that have oil / water separators. One in particular is Alberta's Genoil Inc., a publicly traded Edmonton-based corporation whose main strengths are "in engineering and design of heavy oil upgrading facilities, petrochemical, oil sands, and refinery processes, oil and water separation, and chemical engineering."
These guys have kick-ass oil water separators that do clean the water to U.S. Coast Guard standards. One presumes they are not as yet involved in the Gulf clean-up, as there have been no press releases given on their website since March and nothing comes up on a web search. Now I have no clue whether Genoil could even get a machine up and running in the Gulf in a year, let alone in a few weeks. Nor do I know how Genoil's machines stack up against the 200,000 gallons a day that CINC's units can process.

However, one thing is clear: Genoil boasts it is "the most advanced oil technology company in the world." Seems like a pretty good reason to get involved in the Gulf. Soon! 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Step right up on the scale, Greenland

Here's a guy with a pretty cool job.

Scott Luthcke, who works at NASA's Goddard Flight Center in Maryland, weighs Greenland every 10 days using a sophisticated satellite-based system.

According to this and other systems, it has been learned that Greenland is losing an average of about 183 gigatons, roughly 200 cubic kilometers of ice, a year. This is equivalent to about half the volume of Lake Erie.