Archive | Tidal

Clean vs. CO2-Free

Following this brief commentary is a “letter for publication” entitled “CLEAN, SAFE SOURCES OF ELECTRICITY” received from www.mng.org.uk/gh/ and if you can find out what M, N, and G mean you are more observant than I. In this “letter for publication” we are provided a list of alternative energy technologies that may power the planet without combustion – photovoltaic and solar concentrator 35%, wave and tidal 31%, combined heat and power and reduced wastage 26%, and wind 26%. The perspicacious reader will note this is overkill, by 18%.

This smorgasbord of alternative energy compares to our current worldwide energy production as follows: oil 34.3%, coal 25.1%, gas 20.9%, “combustible renewables” (mostly wood) 10.6%, nuclear 6.5%, and hydro-electric power 2.2%. None of the alternatives make this list, which totals 99% of all energy produced in the world. And today, 80% of the remaining one percent is geothermal. All of the proposed alternatives, today, only produce two-tenths of one percent of all energy production on earth.

So in the letter to follow, we have a prescription for how we will take what is currently two-tenths of one percent of our worldwide energy production, and provide 200% of our worldwide energy production. If we adhere to this non-nuclear, non-hydroelectric, non-fossil fuel prescription, a 1,000x increase in alternative energy production is what we will need to accomplish, since our planet’s growing, industrializing human population will need 2x more energy even if huge efficiencies are gained.

And to build all these wind and tide emplacements, 1,000 times what we have now, how much concrete and steel would we need? Wouldn’t it be much easier and less disruptive to the environment if we simply ran diesel fuel refined from heavy oil through solid oxide fuel cells? Or what if we continued to burn fuel, but in a totally clean manner – only emitting CO2, and instead used all that concrete and steel for housing and freeways, and maybe even aqueducts and desalination plants and pumping stations to grow trees?

Implicit in this alternative energy prescription is that we must stop all burning. Civilization must stop all burning, because burning gives off CO2. But fully 90% of all energy produced by humanity requires burning, and in the short term it is impossible to eliminate burning without shutting down civilization – so we must find other ways to maintain a stable global climate. Clean burning is feasible, but eliminating all burning is not feasible without shutting down existing economies, let alone permitting economic growth. It can’t be done in the time we’ve got.

Remember that worldwide burning of fossil fuels is nothing in the grand scheme of earthly CO2 emissions – less than 3%. The rest is from nature. And today we spew far more CO2 into the air each year through rapaciously burning away – to make room for biofuel – the paltry 40% of our tropical forests that still remain. And this burning can be stopped. Global warming and climate change can be successfully addressed through massive tropical reforesting where biofuel plantations stand or are planned. What if that were all it would take? And what if nothing else would work anyway?

To their credit, the bmg.orgsters did not include biofuel on their agenda, and to their credit, they are trying to put forward an alternative. But even if our rainforests are replanted, do we really want wind generator towers and blades surveiling every landscape, menacing flying creatures? And do we really want seabeds and reefs and tidepools everywhere to sport massive underwater propeller-driven electric turbines? Aren’t the people proposing these alternatives the same folks who don’t like hydroelectric power? When all we have to do to supply energy between today and when we reach the fusion fueled, electrochemical energy economy of the future is tear up a few thousand square miles of oil sands? Sure, solar power is good, but clean fossil fuel is a realistic goal, not no fossil fuel.

LETTER FOR PUBLICATION

Dear Editor,
CLEAN, SAFE SOURCES OF ELECTRICITY
Contrary to what is suggested in the new Energy White Paper, there are more than enough clean, safe sources of electricity to meet our needs and there is absolutely no need for nuclear power and all its many headaches (see www.mng.org.uk/gh/no_nukes.htm).

There are now several reports showing in detail how the UK can meet its needs for electricity, make deep cuts in CO2 emissions from electricity generation, and phase out nuclear power. These can be downloaded from www.mng.org.uk/gh/scenarios.htm .

It is simply not true that “the lights will go out” without nuclear power. The British Wind Energy Association say that “the UK’s offshore resource is equivalent to three times the UK’s annual electricity consumption.”. But rather than rely on one single source of renewable electricity, there are good reasons to develop a variety of sources as described in the analysis and spreadsheet at www.mng.org.uk/gh/energy.htm .

In summary, UK electricity needs may be met quite comfortably, and soon, from the following renewable, carbon-free sources:
Percentage of total UK demand

Wind power (large scale) 20 (or more)
Wave power 20
Tidal currents 3
Tidal lagoons 8
Photovoltaics 20 (or more)
Micro wind power 6
Combined heat and power 16
Concentrating solar power 15
Reduced wastage 10 (or more)
Total 118

Apart from these sources, there is energy from biomass and there are plans to import geothermal electricity from Iceland (see www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1782183.ece).

There is no “energy gap”, only a gap in the political will needed to bring these renewable sources of energy on stream.

Sincerely,
Dr Gerry Wolff
Gerry@mng.org.uk, +44 (0)1248 712962, www.mng.org.uk/gh/
18 Penlon, Menai Bridge, Anglesey, LL59 5LR, UK.

Posted in Coal, Consumption, Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Fuel Cells, Geothermal, Hydroelectric, Nuclear, Other, Solar, Tidal, Wind0 Comments

Technology & Sun – India's Green Future

SOLVING INDIA’S ENERGY, WATER, AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES TO CREATE A GREEN, PROSPEROUS FUTURE
India at Night from Outer Space
India at night from outer space -
already glowing with energy and light

To ensure India will have adequate energy and water supplies in the future…

The first step is to predict where India’s population will level off. Assume India’s population is going to peak at around 1.3 billion people. This may be somewhat underestimating reality, but everything that follows can be proportionately increased based on higher population projections.

Next, determine how many units of energy (expressed in millions of BTUs per year), and how many cubic meters of water per year, on average, are required to sustain the lifestyle for a citizen of a fully industrialized nation. Currently, on average, each Indian citizen consumes 25 million BTUs of energy per year and consumes not quite 500 cubic meters of water. In the European Union, which provides a useful comparison, the average energy consumption is well over 150 million BTUs per citizen per year, and just over 500 cubic meters of water.

It is safe to assume India will employ more energy efficient “leapfrog” technologies as she industrializes, meaning that it will not be necessary to achieve increases in per capita energy consumption all the way to the levels of the Europeans. This is also a safe assumption because much of Europe’s energy consumption is required for heating during their much colder winters.

…assume that India’s per capita energy production will need to get to at least 50% of that currently enjoyed by Europeans. Taking into account projected population increases, this means India’s total national energy production per year will need to quadruple from 25 quadrillion BTUs per year to 100 quadrillion BTUs per year.

India’s water production per person would not have to increase, but overall supply will still need to keep pace with population growth, meaning India will eventually need to divert 667 cubic kilometers of water per year, up from 500 cubic kilometers per year today. Bear in mind that abundant energy leads to abundant water, since a cubic meter of seawater can be desalinated for a mere two kilowatt-hours (ref. “Photovoltaic Desalinization”).

DELIVERING ABUNDANT FRESH WATER

TO EVERY CORNER OF INDIA

With India’s future water challenges, the problem isn’t so much one of supply, it’s more a problem of uneven distribution. The north and east of India enjoy abundant supplies of water, but the south and west of India are relatively arid. It is important to note that if the proposed aquaducts, reservoirs and pumping stations were built, India’s major river interlinking projects, through a system of reservoirs and aquaducts, (ref. India’s Water Future) could then move water in cubic kilometer volumes relatively cost effectively. Once the costs of the interlinking system are borne, the biggest ongoing cost is the energy required for the pumps. But to pump a cubic kilometer of water up a 250 meter lift, which is what it would take to get water from the Ganges basin to the Deccan Plateau, would only require 100 megawatt-years of power. To pump 50 cubic kilometers of water per year from the Ganges basin upwards 250 meters into aquaducts flowing south and west, which is more than the most ambitious of India’s current interlinking projects, would only require about 5 gigawatt-years of electricity. This amount of electricity represents only about one-half of one percent of India’s current total yearly energy production (all sources).

HOW MUCH ELECTRICITY WOULD BE REQUIRED
TO PUMP WATER FROM THE GANGES TO THE KRISHNA BASIN?
Water Required to Pump Water from the Ganges to the Krishna Basin
As the table indicates, it would take 3.8 gigawatts of electricity (representing about 2.7% of
India’s estimated 2005 electrical generating capacity of about 140 gigawatts), running constantly,
to pump water 250 meters uphill at a volume of 38 cubic kilometers per year. Put another
way, a 250 meter lift will require about 100 megawatt-years for each cubic kilometer pumped.
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Water supply in India, regardless of whether or not there are a few interlinking projects on a national scale, will be managed, overwhelmingly, using decentralized solutions. Both innovation and traditional methods can combine and evolve, proliferating via an information enlightenment nurtured by internet communications, to produce thousands of water management projects: cisterns in buildings, contour berms to collect and percolate runoff, refilling underground aquifers with runoff, and smaller but numerous new reservoirs (ref. “Harvesting Water”).

It is important to emphasize that as India generates more energy, more uses for water will be required. India is challenged not only to redistribute water on a national scale, but also to use water much more efficiently.

…plant biofuel crops in the desert…
Lumber Truck in South America
Strip mining the lands for biofuel is driving a
new round of global deforestation – especially in
the tropics – of catastrophic proportions.

When forests are regrown, more tigers and other wildlife may survive. Equally important however is the role forests play in increasing water supplies.

One often overlooked but decisive contribution to water supply and storage is through reforestation. India has lost about 90% of her forest cover. Watersheds need to be reforested everywhere, and when they are, the springs will flow again, and the water tables will rise. Forests moderate heat, they increase cloud formation and rainfall, they protect topsoil, and they nourish aquafirs. Do you want more fresh water? Then reforest India.
(ref. “Profitable Reforesting,” and “Reforesting Brings Rain”).

Not only on the land, but just offshore, reforesting needs to be a priority for India. The best way to protect India’s coast from tidal surges is to replant the mangrove forests (ref. “Mangroves Stop Tsunami”). Mangrove deforestation has occurred on a massive scale worldwide, and can be reversed simply by planting more mangroves.

Most projections of India’s future energy supplies are almost completely reliant on increasing conventional energy production, and they are also far too low. An interesting side note is that India’s most ambitious plans for nuclear power don’t amount to more than about 3% of India’s projected energy production (ref. “India’s Nuclear Power”). India cannot plan to simply double energy production, they must quadruple it. To do this, conventional sources (including nuclear power) are not sufficient. A breakthrough is required, and that breakthrough is almost here.

SOLAR ELECTRICITY IS THE

MOST PROMISING RENEWABLE

There is only one source of renewable energy that can quickly get built and installed and can produce 50 quadrillion BTUs or more per year, and that is solar energy, photovoltaic energy in particular (ref. “Power the World With Photovoltaics,” “Photovoltaic Powered Cars,” and “The Photovoltaic Revolution). India needs a photovoltaic array on every rooftop. Today photovoltaic cells, in the whole world, produce at most 10 gigawatt-years of electric power per year, which at 3,416 BTUs per kilowatt-hour, equates to only .3 quadrillion BTUs. Given worldwide energy production is over 400 quadrillion BTUs, photovoltaic power today is a drop in the bucket. But that is about to change.

CHINA, INDIA, USA, EUROPE – KEY VARIABLES 2005
Key Variables in China, India, the United States, and Europe
India’s terribly inefficient energy intensity (BTU’s per unit of GNP)
is reason for hope – through more energy efficiency, quantum
increases in energy output may not be necessary for India to
achieve first world per capita economic status
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Photovoltaic manufacturing relies on supplies of polysilicon, which have never been reliable. But there are new designs that require far less silicon, or no silicon at all. These next generation photovoltaic cells are called “thin skin,” a catch-all term describing several technologies which all use a far thinner coating of photo-electric material. There are companies claiming to have this technology all over the world, including India. (ref. “Thin Film Photovoltaics,” “Crystaline Photovoltaics,” and “fuels/the-photovoltaic-boom.html). It is vital that photovoltaic technology be the top priority of India’s alternative energy research and development community, as well as for investment in manufacturing. There is no other plausible way to produce, within a decade, a quantity of energy sufficient to lift the Indian economy to sustainable prosperity. Even if the thin film breakthroughs don’t occur, India should invest in polysilicon manufacturing for the production of conventional crystaline photovoltaics. Even at current costs, conventional photovoltaics make long-term economic sense, and the greatest cost to their manufacture is energy, which can be produced by photovoltaics themselves. Conventional photovoltaics now have an energy payback of 20+ to one.

View of Asia from Space
India can have a green and prosperous future

Other than photovoltaics, solar electricity via solar-thermal arrays is surprisingly cost-competitive and space-efficient (ref. “Solar Thermal Power,” and “Saharan Solar Power”) The space-efficiency of solar energy collection units (electric and thermal) enables decentralized energy development. Alternative technologies in general support the design of each home or building being adapted to collect and store solar, wind, or even geothermal energy. In a modern green structure, thermal energy from any source can be stored on-site and converted back into electricity, as well as used for space heating and water heating. Thermal energy can even by used as an energy source for refrigeration. Clearly the design of buildings to acquire and store energy is another area where technology, tradition, and innovation can significantly address India’s future energy challenges.

Just as the potential for nuclear power to address India’s energy needs may be overstated – as well as the risks therein, the potential for biofuel is overstated as well, and the risks of biofuel are decidedly understated (ref. “IPCC Report & Deforestation,” and “Biofueled Global Warming”). Biofuel can provide an important supplemental fuel, but even at 2,500 barrels of oil per square kilometer per year – which would be an excellent yield – there is not enough land in India to begin to rely on biofuel to replace conventional fuels, let alone provide the fuel necessary to quadruple India’s energy output. As it is, biofuel crops are beginning to crowd out food crops, pushing up the price of food. Biofuel crops also can provide the reason for further deforestation. Biofuel crops make sense as a supplemental fuel, not as a comprehensive energy solution. Biofuel crops make sense in arid regions where any crop is a welcome bulwark against desertification, and biofuel will eventually be extracted from virtually all municipal waste, but under no circumstances should a forest be cut down just to grow biofuel.

India’s green and prosperous future will require education, infrastructure, innovation, pluralism, and enlightened, adaptable environmentalism.

Addressing India’s energy and water needs requires servicing five interrelated industrial sectors; agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, buildings and shelter, and waste management (ref. “The Electric Car Revolution,” “Clean the Ganges,” “Organic Farming in India,” and “India’s Energy Future”"). In all these areas, green technology and high technology, working together, can provide answers. Often solutions will embrace traditional practices as much as adopt scientific breakthroughs, and working synergistically within all these dimensions is necessary to quicken progress. It should be a source of inspiration that India can complete the process of industrialization today, meaning she can leapfrog obsolete legacy technologies that often hamper innovation in the west.

To produce so much more energy, to collect and distribute so much water, India’s challenges are daunting but achievable. The key is to balance large scale projects that are often costly and difficult to manage ecologically, with smaller projects that can be adopted at the scale of individual homes or communities. And at both scales, the solutions will be easier if there is a faith and reliance on India’s world-class intellectual and scientific community to provide assistance through high technology.

Ed Ring Portrait

About the Author: Ed “Redwood” Ring is the Editor of EcoWorld, reporting on clean technology and the status of species and ecosystems. This story was originally published in the January-March 2007 issue of “TerraGreen” Magazine, published by the Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi, India (www.teriin.org). In his spare time, Mr. Ring grows and gives away trees, especially his beloved Redwoods.

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EcoWorld - Nature and Technology in Harmony

Posted in Buildings, Consumption, Education, Electricity, Energy, Energy Efficiency, Geothermal, Infrastructure, Other, Population Growth, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Tidal, Transportation, Waste Management, Wind3 Comments

What are the Global Warming Priorities & how much does Anthropogenic CO2 Contribute?

Anything in the name of fighting global warming, you say?Meanwhile , where are hte desalinization plants that could easily restor our depleted watertables?
Airplane with Big Jetstream
Where are the clean aerosols?

Editor’s Note: In spite of serious debate being over, and only fringe groups, hacks, and the obsolete and defiant holdouts remaining steadfast in their denial, we’ve decided to publish Dr. Edward Wheeler’s latest essay regarding global warming. To be possibly overstating the matter, Dr. Wheeler thinks the entire notion that global warming is a dire threat – which can be stopped if we cut back on our industrial CO2 emissions – to be pure hogwash.

With so much at stake and so much still unknown it is not just contrarian, it is vital to maintain a vigorous, intellectually honest debate over global warming – whether or not these theories are worth mandating unprecedented leaps in government power?

Over the past few years we’ve begun to cover global warming more, often doing quantitative comparisons using the data put forth from the media reports and the underlying studies, and far too often, we have found that the hype and the spin coming from the environmental activists, the media, and lately, politicians and corporate America, is over-stated. If we have a hot day, there is an ominous inflection in a newscaster’s voice. It isn’t just hot, we’re on the road to oblivion. If it hasn’t rained yet, it’s because of human caused climate change. If you don’t completely believe all this terrifying hyperbole, it sounds incredibly opportunistic or just thoughtless.

What if none of them have the slightest idea what they’re talking about?

Here are questions regarding the notion of anthropogenic CO2 causing runaway global warming that all who opine might find worth answering with more than fatuous declarations or blind acquiescense:

  • Atmospheric CO2 molecules boil off the upper atmosphere and are self limiting
  • Tthe impact of increasing atmospheric CO2 is non-linear, we’ve already seen most of the warming effect
  • Global warming is caused more by sunspot and cosmic ray activity, as well as earth’s many orbital cycles (ex: when earth’s orbit is more circular, the planet is hotter)
  • Recent measured temperature change just below the “CO2 belt” in the upper stratosphere is down, not up, contradicting fundamental runaway CO2 threat theories
  • Anthropogenic CO2 is only 3-5% of CO2 emitted, the rest is natural
  • Yearly fluctuations in natural CO2 emissions are an order of magnitude greater than all yearly anthropogenic CO2 emissions
  • There is evidence that historically (over the past several million years) rising CO2 levels were the effect of global warming, not the cause
  • The southern icecap is actually increasing in mass (Ref. Antarctic Ice)
  • Greenland’s icecap is not melting at a significant rate (Ref. Greenland’s Ice Melting Slowly)
  • Sea level rise is insignificant – much flooding is due to land subsidance
  • Storm fury is more visible today because of overbuilding into marginal areas
  • The western arctic is warming but the eastern arctic is actually cooling
  • Warming in the northern hemisphere over the past 20-30 years could be due to the interdecadal oscilation between the northern and southern Atlantic ocean temperatures
  • The most recent IPCC summary acknowledges there is no evidence to suggest the gulf stream that warms Europe may be disrupted
  • Global temperature measurements are weighted towards areas that are increasingly urbanized, and urban areas absorb more heat
  • There are now over a million square miles of urbanized land, and this urban heat island effect could cause some warming on a global scale
  • Transpiration from watered, forested land, especially in the tropics, is the forcing mechanism to maintain global monsoon circulation and prevent drought – in turn – deforestation causes drought, creating hotter land and additional heat island effect
  • The tropical forests have declined from over 7 million square miles to less than 3 million, and tropical forests release more moisture and are cooler than open land
  • Using mechanized pumps, in the last 100 years we have depleted aquafirs in all the agricultural lands of the world, lowering water tables from, say, 10 meters deep to over 500 meters deep. The resulting agricultural land heat island comprises perhaps 10% of all land surface on earth
  • Even taking into account the possible errors in measurement, the recorded warming over the past 150 years is about .5 degrees centigrade, not a significant amount
  • The claims that the last 10 years include several of the “warmest on record” is disputed, just as the claims the landbased icecaps are rapidly melting (net loss) is completely false
  • CO2 forcing theories and the computer models associated with them do not sufficiently take into account natural balancing processes in the earth’s climate regulatory system

These are a few questions that anyone who is listening to the debate about global warming should wish to hear answered. There is much, much more. Global warming alarmists and the things they’re trying to do are extreme. If you pause to consider the laws being proposed based on blind acceptance of global warming alarm, you may find many of them do more harm than good. In the name of reducing CO2 emissions, there is reduced attention to other pollutants, and massive new rounds of deforestation to grow biofuel.

Meanwhile, there is a stifling of dissent when skeptics like Dr. Wheeler can be compared to holocaust deniers. There is too much fanaticism and blind acceptance of whatever is proposed in the name of reducing CO2 emissions. Regulating CO2 is going to crush small businesses while awarding lucrative “mitigation” government contracts to large businesses, raise taxes and create new bureaucracies, and undermine our freedom to use energy as we choose, especially energy with CO2 emissions which is 80% of all world energy. It may create dangerous tensions with the Chinese, many of whom don’t buy any of this, and perhaps they shouldn’t.

The call for drastic measures because of global warming and the role of CO2 is a huge shift, for better or for worse. Be careful what you wish for. Yes we must produce clean energy. But overall, overproducing energy will spawn prosperity and innovation, and underproducing energy will spawn rationing and tyranny. Do we want to scare ourselves, unthinking, into swindling ourselves out of a glowing future of private enterprise and prosperity? What is clean? – Ed “Redwood” Ring

Global Warming / Climate Change Redux
by Edward Wheeler, March 15, 2007

In March of 2006, I wrote an article for EcoWorld “Global Warming – Is it Real, Are Humans the Cause, and Can Anything be Done?” which emphasized that there really IS a scientific debate going on over whether anthropogenic (human induced) CO2 generation from burning of fossil fuels is responsible for global warming (GW). If you haven’t read it yet, go to the link now. There will be a quiz. However, the mass media have concluded that there is no doubt whatsoever (such as in Time magazine’s cover story, “be worried, be VERY worried”) that GW is caused by anthropogenic CO2 emissions, and that civilization as we know it is doomed unless we stop using fossil fuels. I, on the other hand, concluded that CO2 doesn’t have much at all to do with GM in general, and even if it were a major factor, strict following of the Kyoto protocols wouldn’t fix anything.

Richard Lindzen Black & White Portrait
Dr. Richard Lindzen
Professor of Meteorology, MIT
A skeptic who is respected by his foes.
Ref. Lindzen
“Is There a Basis for Global Warming Alarm?”
also by Lindzen
“Some Relevant Figures for Current
Behavior of Global Surface Temperatures”

Since then, additional feature articles have been published on this web site which also express a skeptical view of the CO2 induced GW dogma in different ways. Since my first article, some very important new scientific findings have been published that raise strong doubt that the anthropogenic generated CO2 GW theory is true. However, the mass media and the climate scientist establishment have ignored any evidence that calls into question the CO2 dogma. So please, read what follows with an open mind, something hard to find in people when considering “hot” issues (pun intended) like GW these days. Consider also that just because your mind is open, your brains won’t necessarily fall out.

Before getting into the heart of this matter, let me state very clearly that, probably like most of you reading this, I am TOTALLY in favor of developing and using alternative sources of energy; including solar, wind, tidal, hydrogen fuel cells, nuclear (whoops, some of you won’t like that one) and sex. With the exception of sexual energy, which generates LOTS of CO2, none of the others mentioned above generate anything other than water and heat. We absolutely need to stop financing terrorists and polluting the air by our profligate use of mostly foreign oil. This is one of the rare times that I think we need the Federal Government to take over and do something. This is very difficult for me to say because I am a libertarian type, but the government should tax gasoline so that it always costs at least $4.00 a gallon. Americans will never stop guzzling gas unless it really costs them. Europeans have managed to survive even higher gas prices for decades. Also, give big tax breaks to companies doing research on alternative energy sources.

Having said that, I still find it puzzling that it has become common to call CO2 a “pollutant”, one needing EPA regulation just like Nitrogen oxide emissions from automobiles and soot and sulfur oxides from coal fired power plants. Many of you readers, not to mention virtually every reporter for the mass media in the country, may not be too familiar with biochemistry (and in the case of most of those reporters, no familiarity whatsoever). So I will state the simple facts of what keeps life on Earth going: Every living animal on this planet breathes. We animals (assuming none of you readers are plants) take in oxygen and use it for energy production to keep us alive. The next step of breathing is that we exhale CO2. This happens every moment of our lives. Meanwhile, every green plant on the planet is waiting with baited breath, ha ha, to inhale that CO2 that we animals exhale to use for their energy needs. They exhale oxygen, which us animals need. What a great system! God is great! It is also true that whenever we humans burn wood, coal, oil, natural gas (a clean fuel), CO2 and water are released. Is this then a big new cause of elevated CO2 levels in the atmosphere? Probably yes, but is this fossil fuel burning causing GW? Probably not!

Thus, even though I agree with environmentalists about the ABSOLUTE need for developing and using all those alternative energy sources, I am still called an enemy of humanity (Gelbspan book), akin to holocaust deniers, and could just as well believe in a flat earth (Al Gore). There is no doubt among sentient people that the Earth is not flat and that there was indeed a holocaust, but there is no proof that GW is caused by the well documented increase in atmospheric CO2 over the last 100 years! It’s a theory. I believe Mr. Gore and other true believers have it backward. They may just as well believe that the earth is the center of the universe, as did the Catholic Church in the middle ages. In 1633, Galileo was forced to recant his assertion that the Earth moved around the sun, not the other way around. The Inquisitors would have put him to death for heresy had he not recanted. Are we getting there yet? Should I be worried for my safety? It seems to me that Mr. Gore’s best selling book “Inconvenient Truth” should have been titled, “Convenient Truthiness” (look it up in Wikipedia). The word’s about people believing what they want to believe, and don’t confuse them with facts. GW is just the latest in mankind’s long tradition of infatuation with disaster scenarios; right up there with pesticides causing 100% incidence of cancer by 1970 (Silent Spring), mass starvation by the mid 1980″ (Paul Ehrlich), everybody (especially people who like to sunbathe in Antarctica) getting skin cancer because of ozone layer shrinkage, Y2K destroying the world’s financial system at a minute after midnight 2000, African bees destroying U.S. agriculture in the 70′s, and the world pandemic of killer flu due to mutated bird flu virus that we are all still waiting for. I personally worry a lot more about the earth colliding with an asteroid.

Michael Oppenheimer Portrait
Dr. Michael Oppenheimer
Professor of Geosciences, Princeton
Principal contributor to IPCC studies.
Ref. “IPCC 4th Assessment Summary”
February 2007

Now for the real science that has turned me into a heretic, an infidel in the climate change arena. In my previous GW article, I stated that,

“the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a U.N. sponsored group of more than 2,000 scientists from over 100 countries, has concluded that human activity is a major factor in elevated atmospheric CO2 levels, and this will result in rising temperatures and sea levels that could prove catastrophic for multi-millions of coastal dwelling folk all over the world.”

It is the IPCC’s conclusions upon which Mr. Gore and most Climate scientists base their beliefs in Global Warming due to greenhouse gas CO2 dogma. The problem is that the IPCC essentially based their conclusions on only ONE scientific study, one authored by Michael Mann, an American scientist, published in the prestigious journal “Nature” in 1998. The alarmist IPCC report cited above (U.N. sponsored and therefore driven by politics) based its assessment of climate change almost solely on Mann’s study. In essence, he said all the historical temperature data was wrong. He claimed his data showed that there has been only a gradual global temperature change over the last millennium, but that there has been a very sharp rise in the last 100 years, i.e., his temperature graph looked like a hockey stick. Because atmospheric CO2 has doubled in that time, the sharp increase in temperature must be caused by that increase in greenhouse CO2. Gosh, only enemies of humanity could dispute that conclusion, right?

The big problem is that Mann’s research is either fraudulent or simply the work of an incompetent or very bias scientist who wishes to get the results he desires, as in truthiness. In June 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives committee on energy and commerce asked Dr. Edward Wegman, chairman of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics, to form an independent committee to assess Mann’s data. To you blogers who insist that all the infidel scientists like me are funded stooges of the big oil industry, Wegman’s group did it all pro bono, and that means FREE! In short, the committee concluded that Mann misused statistical methods, and that the hockey stick model is false. After their report, a separate committee was formed by the NAS to review Wigman’s report Mann’s work. I assume most of the scientists on the committee were true believers because they started their report saying something like, WE BELIEVE THAT THE LAST DECADE HAD THE HIGHEST TEMPERATURES EVER RECORDED, but the rest of his work is wrong and the hockey stick model is bogus (my words). They didn’t even mention CO2. Why, you might ask, have you probably not read about this in the mass media? Because the mass media is composed mostly of true believers who don’t want to be confused with facts that go against their faith, so they don’t report what they don’t like. Truthiness is rampant in elitist environmentalist circles. Pointing out the facts only hurts the “cause” many of them say. I must point out that I am an environmentalist, but not an elitist one, and I am ashamed of the extremism and deliberate disregard of real science that has taken over some environmental organizations (you know who you are).

So what are the believers left with as far as scientific evidence for anthropomorphic CO2 induced global warming? There is nothing but a statistical correlation between increasing atmospheric CO2 levels and rising global temperatures over the last century. Statistical correlations never prove anything. Over the last fifty years, the incidence of lung cancer in women has about doubled, as has the level of atmospheric CO2. Lung cancer rates in men, however, over the same time period have not increased at all. So should we conclude that CO2 causes cancer in women, but not in men? Perhaps we should look further and note that women, very few of whom smoked before 1960, started smoking profusely in the 60′s, while men leveled out in their smoking habits. When grass is tall and green, 1000 times more people drown than when grass is short and brown. Therefore, green grass causes drowning, right? Well, consider that when grass is green and tall, it’s summertime, just when people are likely to go swimming. My favorite, however, is the well known fact that the more time a person spends driving his car on the highway, the more likely he/she is to get in an auto accident, possibly fatal. Knowing this, one can limit the risk of an accident by driving as fast as possible, damn the speed limit. Obviously you will spend less time driving the faster you go, thus you reduce your risk of having a fatal auto accident, right? Reduce CO2 emissions and the earth will stop warming, right?

“A team at the Danish National Space Center has discovered how cosmic rays from exploding stars can help to make clouds in the atmosphere. The results support the theory that cosmic rays influence Earth’s climate.”

That news, like anything that might go counter to the GW dogma, was not widely reported in the mass media.

Here’s another excerpt:

“It is known that low-altitude clouds (my insert: high altitude clouds are greenhousers) have an overall cooling effect on the Earth’s surface. Hence, variations in cloud cover caused by cosmic rays can change the surface temperature. The existence of such a cosmic connection to Earth’s climate might thus help to explain past and present variations in Earth’s climate.”

It goes on:

“during the 20th Century, the Sun’s magnetic field, which shields Earth from cosmic rays more than doubled, thereby reducing the average influx of cosmic rays. The resulting reduction in cloudiness, especially of low-altitude clouds, may be a significant factor in the global warming Earth has undergone during the last century. However, until now, there has been no experimental evidence of how the causal mechanism linking cosmic rays and cloud formation may work.”

Perhaps while we are spending lots of money trying to limit CO2 emissions, we should also have politicians pass laws limiting how many stars in the galaxy should be allowed to explode!

Finally, economist Bjorn Lomborg, author of the book “Skeptical Environmentalist” is a GW believer. He buys the CO2 theory. However, he strongly disputes the wild disaster scenarios put forth by folks such as Al Gore and the recent report on climate change by Nicholas Stern and the U.K. government.

Referring to them, he states in the November 2006 issue of the Wall St. Journal:

“Faced with such alarmist suggestions, spending just 1% of gross domestic product (GDP) or $450 billion each year to cut carbon emissions seems on the surface like a sound investment. In fact, it is one of the least attractive options. Spending just a fraction of this figure 75 billion the U.N. estimates that we could solve all the world’s major basic problems. We could give everyone clean drinking water, sanitation, basic health care and education right now. Is that not better?”

Do you still believe, after reading this far, that global warming is totally due to anthropogenic CO2 emissions?

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Rebuttal to Al Gore's Inconvenient "Truth": One-sided, Misleading, Exaggerated, Speculative, & Wrong

Editor’s Note: One of the most powerful political speeches we’ve seen in recent years, if ever, is the passionate critique of the media leveled by Al Gore. This “other” latest cause of the esteemed former Vice President is unerring in its truth, and unsparing in its victims. Gore quite accurately presents today’s media as lapdogs of the entertainment industry. In the same speech, Gore goes on to correctly indict technology for enabling marketing and manipulation as much as it has enabled communication and enlightenment.

Al Gore is a man whose spirit has been reforged and hardened in the crucible of great aspiration and cruel disappointment. Had he shown such genuine soul back in the year 2000, he might have won big, instead of losing a close Presidential race on technicalities. But is Gore’s great other cause, where he demands from today’s media renewed accountability, skepticism, independent verification, in-depth analysis, integrity and relentless investigation, something in conflict with his greatest cause, his campaign to convince us to curtail CO2 emissions?

Global warming skeptics aren’t saying Al Gore is wrong, or if they are, that isn’t all they’re saying. They’re simply asking everyone who jumps onto this bandwagon, uncritically generated by the credulous, sensation-addicted media who Gore decries, to think carefully about all consequences of anti-CO2 policies.

Is the emphasis on eliminating CO2 distracting us from other environmental problems? What ever happened to the Aral Sea, drained nearly dry in the years since it was the poster child for Al Gore’s first major environmental book, “Earth in the Balance?” What about the oceans whose fisheries are being strip mined to exhaustion by fleets of factory ships with sonar and driftnets 50 miles long? What about forests from Indonesia to the Amazon to the Congo, who are being urgently felled so “carbon neutral” biofuel might grow?

There is never too much skepticism in the world according to Al Gore, media critic. Al Gore, the anti global warming crusader, might remember this, and celebrate healthy debate not only as to how much and why the earth warms, but what to do about it. From that perspective, this spirited rebuttal to points Al Gore makes in his book “An Inconvenient Truth” are welcome and necessary. – Ed “Redwood” Ring

Al Gore’s “Truth” – One-Sided, Misleading, Exaggerated, Speculative, Wrong
by Marlo Lewis, Jr., December 23, 2006
Cars on Freeway

Al Gore’s book on “The planetary emergency of global warming and what can be done about it,” purports to be a non-partisan, non-ideological exposition of climate science and moral common sense. In reality, An Inconvenient Truth is a colorfully illustrated lawyer’s brief for global warming alarmism and energy rationing.

It is a J’Accuse hurled at fossil fuel energy-based civilization, especially the United States, and above all the Bush Administration and its purported allies in the U.S. oil and auto industries.

We do not expect lawyers to argue both for and against their clients, nor do we expect “balance” from political party leaders. However, although Gore reminds us – in the film version of An Inconvenient Truth – that he “used to be the next President of the United States,” and concludes both the book and the movie with a call for “political action,” he presents AIT as the work of a long-time student of climate science, a product of meditation on “what matters.” He asks his audience to expect more from him than the mere cleverness that can sway juries or win elections.

What we get instead is sophistry. In AIT, the only facts and studies considered are those convenient to Gore’s scare-them-green agenda – and in many instances, Gore distorts the evidence he presents.

Nearly every significant statement Gore makes regarding climate science and climate policy is either one sided, misleading, exaggerated, speculative, or just plain wrong. The present OnPoint summarizes my findings. An Inconvenient Truth does the following:

Cow in Field
More Cows

ONE-SIDED

Never acknowledges the indispensable role of fossil fuels in alleviating hunger and poverty, extending human life spans, and democratizing consumer goods, literacy, leisure, and personal mobility.

Never acknowledges the environmental, health, and economic benefits of climatic warmth and the ongoing rise in the air’s carbon dioxide (CO2) content.

Never acknowledges the major role of natural variability in shrinking the snows of Kilimanjaro and other mountain glaciers.

Never mentions the 1976 regime shift in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, a natural ocean cycle, which is a major cause of recent climate change in Alaska.

Presents a graph tracking CO2 levels and global temperatures during the past 650,000 years, but never mentions the most significant point: Global temperatures were warmer than the present during each of the past four interglacial periods, even though CO2 levels were lower.

Never confronts a key implication of its assumption that climate is highly sensitive to CO2 emissions – that absent said emissions, global climate would be rapidly deteriorating into another ice age.

Neglects to mention that, due to the growth of urban heat islands, U.S. cities and towns will continually break temperature records, with or without help from global warming.

Neglects to mention that global warming could reduce the severity of winter storms – also called frontal storms because their energy comes from colliding air masses (fronts) – by decreasing the temperature differential between colliding air masses.

Highlights London’s construction of the Thames River flood barrier as evidence of global warming-induced sea-level rise, but does not mention that London is sinking two to six times faster than global sea levels are rising.

Ignores the large role of natural variability in Arctic climate, never mentioning either that Arctic temperatures during the 1930s equaled or exceeded those of the late 20th century, or that the Arctic during the early- to mid-Holocene was significantly warmer than it is today.

Cites a study that found that the number of recorded wildfires in North America has increased in recent decades, but not the same study’s finding that the total area burned decreased by 90 percent since the 1930s.

Fosters the impression that global warming can only be good for bad things
(algae, ticks) and bad for good things (polar bears, migratory birds) – depicting nature as a morality play.

Cites a study by Isabella Velicogna and John Wahr, of the University of Colorado, that found an overall loss in Antarctic ice mass during 2002-2005, but ignores a study by University of Missouri professor Curt Davis and colleagues that found an overall ice mass gain during 1992-2003. Three years worth of data is too short to tell anything about a trend in a system as vast and complex as Antarctica.

Cites a recent study by John Turner of the British Antarctic Survey that found a 0.5° Celsius (C) to 0.7°C per decade wintertime warming trend in the mid-troposphere above Antarctica, as measured by weather balloons, but fails to mention that the same study found much less warming – about 0.15°C per decade – at the Antarctic surface, or that NASA satellites, which also measure troposphere temperatures, show an Antarctic cooling trend of 0.12°C per decade since November 1978.

Misanthropically sees “success” not in the fossil fuel energy-based civilization that has enabled mankind to increase its numbers more than six-fold since the dawn of the industrial revolution, but in the recent reduction of global population growth rates.

Compares Haiti – which suffers from deforestation – unfavorably with neighboring Dominican Republic – which enjoys lush forest cover – to illustrate the impact of politics on the environment, but ignores another key implication of the comparison: Poverty is the environment’s number one enemy.

Notes that “much forest destruction” and “almost 30%” of annual CO2 emissions come from “the burning of brushland for subsistence agriculture and wood fires used for cooking,” but never considers whether fossil fuel energy restrictions would set back developing countries both economically and environmentally, by leading to more such burning.

Neglects to mention the circumstances that make it reasonable rather than blameworthy for America to be the biggest CO2 emitter: the world’s largest economy, high per capita incomes, abundant energy resources, markets integrated across continental distances, and the world’s most mobile population.

Impugns the motives of so-called global warming skeptics but never acknowledges the special-interest motivations of those whose research grants, direct-mail income, industrial policy privileges, regulatory power, prosecutorial plunder, or political careers depend on keeping the public in a state of fear about global warming.

Castigates former White House official Phil Cooney for editing U.S. government climate change policy documents, without ever considering the scientific merit of Cooney’s decisions to delete certain passages as “speculative.”

Waxes enthusiastic about cellulosic ethanol, a product with no commercial application despite 30 years of government-funded research, and neglects to mention that corn-based ethanol, a product in commercial use for a century, is still more costly than regular gasoline despite oil prices exceeding $70 a barrel.

Misrepresents the major auto companies’ position in their lawsuit to overturn California’s CO2 emissions law by neglecting to mention that CO2 standards are de facto fuel economy standards and that federal law prohibits states from regulating fuel economy.

Blames Detroit’s financial troubles on the Big Three’s high-volume production of sport utility vehicles, even though U.S. automakers probably would not exist today had they been “ahead of their time” and pushed hybrids during the 1990s, contrary to consumer demand. AIT says nothing about the biggest cause of Detroit’s falling capitalization – unaffordable payments for employee benefit packages negotiated decades ago.

Touts Denmark’s wind farms without mentioning any of the well-known drawbacks of wind power: cost, intermittency, avian mortality, site depletion, and scenic degradation.

Never addresses the obvious criticism that the Kyoto Protocol is all pain for no gain and that any policies far-reaching enough to noticeably slow warming would be a “cure” worse than the alleged disease.

Claims a study by Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala of Princeton University shows that “affordable” technologies could reduce U.S. carbon emissions below 1970 levels even though the authors specifically note that their study does not estimate costs. AIT also neglects to mention that Socolow and Pacala’s study is a response to a 2002 study by Martin Hoffert of New York University and 17 other energy experts who concluded that, “CO2 is a combustion product vital to how civilization is powered; it cannot be regulated away.”

Smokestacks from Coal Powerplant
Coal Plant

MISLEADING

Implies that a two-page photograph of Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina shows that the glacier is melting away, even though the glacier’s terminal boundary has not changed in 90 years.

Implies that, during the past 650,000 years, changes in carbon dioxide levels preceded and largely caused changes in global temperature, whereas the causality mostly runs the other way, with CO2 changes trailing global temperature changes by hundreds to thousands of years.

Belittles as ideologically motivated the painstaking and now widely-accepted methodological critiques by Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph in Ontario and Steve McIntyre of the Hockey Stick reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere climate history.

Cites increases in insurance payments to victims of hurricanes, floods, drought, tornadoes, wildfires, and other natural disasters as evidence of a global warming-ravaged planet, even though the increases are chiefly due to socioeconomic factors such as population growth and development in high-risk coastal areas and cities.

Distracts readers from the main hurricane problem facing the United States: the ever-growing concentration of population and wealth in vulnerable coastal regions, which is partly a consequence of federal flood insurance and other political subsidies.

Ignores the societal factors – such as poverty – that typically overwhelm climatic factors in determining people’s risk of damage or death from hurricanes, floods, drought, tornadoes, wildfires, and disease.

Implies that the 2006 tropical cyclone season in Australia was unusually active and, thus, symptomatic of global warming. In contrast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) describes the season as “near average.”

Re-labels as “major floods,” a category defined by physical magnitude, a chart of “damaging floods,” a category defined by socioeconomic and political criteria.

Re-labels as “major wildfires,” a category defined by physical magnitude, a chart of “recorded wildfires,” a category reflecting changes in data collection and reporting, such as increases in the frequency and scope of satellite monitoring.

Conflates the Thermohaline Circulation (THC), a convective system primarily driven by differences in salinity and sea temperatures, with the Gulf Stream, a wind-driven system energized primarily by the Earth’s spin and the lunar tides, exaggerating the risk of a big chill in Europe from a weakening of the THC.

Presents a graph showing the number of annual closings of the Thames River tidal barriers from 1930 to the present, even though the modern barrier system was completed in 1982 and became operational in 1984. This apples-to-oranges comparison conveys the false impression that London faced no serious flood risk until recent decades.

Blames global warming for the decline “since the 1960s” of the emperor penguin population in Antarctica, implying that the penguins are in peril, their numbers dwindling as the world warms. In fact, the population declined in the 1970s and has been stable since the late 1980s.

Implies that a study finding that none of 928 science articles – actually abstracts – denied a CO2-global warming link, shows that Gore’s apocalyptic view of global warming is the “consensus” view among scientists.

Reports that 48 Nobel Prize-winning scientists accused President Bush of distorting science, without mentioning that the scientists acted as members of a “527″ political advocacy group set up to promote John Kerry’s 2004 campaign for president.

Implies that the United States is an environmental laggard because China has adopted more stringent fuel economy standards, glossing over China’s horrendous air quality problems.

Northern Ice Cap 2005
Northern Ice 2005 (blue area)

EXAGGERATED

Exaggerates the certainty and hypes the importance of the alleged link between global warming and the frequency and severity of tropical storms.

Hypes the importance of NOAA running out of names (21 per year) for Atlantic hurricanes in 2005, and the fact that some storms continued into December. The practice of naming storms only goes back to 1953, and hurricane detection capabilities have improved dramatically since the 1950s, so the “record” number of named storms in 2005 may be an artifact of the resulting data. Also, Atlantic hurricanes continued into December in several previous years including 1878, 1887, and 1888.

Never explains why anyone should be alarmed about the current Arctic warming, considering that our stone-age ancestors survived – and likely benefited from – the much stronger and longer Arctic warming known as the Holocene Climate Optimum.

Portrays the cracking of the Ward Hunt ice shelf in 2002 as a portent of doom, even though the shelf was merely a remnant of a much larger Arctic ice formation that had already lost 90 percent of its area during 1906-1982.

Claims that polar bears “have been drowning in significant numbers,” but this is based on a single report that found four drowned polar bears in one month in one year, following an abrupt storm.

Claims that global warming is creating “ecological niches” for “invasive alien species,” never mentioning other, more important factors such as increases in trade, tourism, and urban heat islands. For example, due to population growth, Berlin warmed twice as much during 1886-1898 as the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates the entire world warmed during the 20th century.

Blames global warming for pine beetle infestations that likely have more to do with increased forest density and plain old mismanagement.

Presents a graph suggesting that China’s new fuel economy standards are almost 30 percent more stringent than the current U.S. standards. In fact, the Chinese standards are only about 5 percent more stringent.

Northern Ice Cap 2030 Projection
Northern Ice 2030 (blue area)

SPECULATIVE

Warns of impending water shortages in Asia due to global warming but does not check whether there is any correlation between global warming and Eurasian snow cover (there isn’t). If Tibetan glaciers were to melt, that should increase water availability in the coming decades.

Claims that CO2 concentrations in the Holocene never rose above 300 parts per million (ppm) in pre-industrial times, and that the current level – 380 ppm – is “way above” the range of natural variability. Proxy data (leaf stoma frequency) indicate that, in the early Holocene, CO2 levels exceeded 330 ppm for centuries and reached 348 ppm.

Claims that a Scripps Oceanography Institute study shows that ocean temperatures during the past 40 years are “way above the range of natural variability.” Proxy data indicate that the Atlantic Ocean off the West Coast of Africa was warmer than present during the Medieval Warm Period.

Blames global warming for the record number of typhoons hitting Japan in 2004. Local meteorological conditions, not average global temperatures, determine the trajectory of particular storms, and data going back to 1950 show no correlation between North Pacific storm activity and global temperatures.

Blames global warming for the record-breaking 37-inch downpour in Mumbai, India on July 26, 2005, even though there has been no trend in Mumbai rainfall for the month of July in 45 years.

Blames global warming for recent floods in China’s Sichuan and Shandong provinces, even though far more damaging floods struck those areas in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Blames global warming for the disappearance of Lake Chad, a phenomenon more likely stemming from a combination of regional climate variability and societal factors like population increase and overgrazing.

Claims that global warming is drying out soils all over the world, whereas pan evaporation studies (which measure the rate of evaporation from open pans of water) indicate that, in general, the Earth’s surface is becoming wetter.

Presents one climate model’s projection of increased U.S. drought as authoritative even though another leading model forecasts increased wetness. Climate model hydrology forecasts on regional scales are notoriously unreliable. Most of the United States, outside the Southwest, became wetter during 1925-2003.

Blames global warming for the severe drought that hit the Amazon in 2005. However, RealClimate.Org, a web site set up to debunk global warming “skeptics,” concluded that it is not possible to link the drought to global warming.

Warns of a positive feedback whereby carbon-induced warming melts tundra, releasing more CO2 locked up in frozen soils. An alternative scenario is also plausible: The range of carbon-storing vegetation expands as tundra thaws.

Claims that global warming endangers polar bears even though polar bear populations are increasing in Arctic areas where it is warming and declining in Arctic areas where it is cooling.

Blames global warming for Alaska’s “drunken trees” – trees rooted in previously frozen tundra, which sway in all directions as the ice melts – ignoring the possibly large role of the 1976 PDO shift.

Blames rising CO2 levels for recent declines in Arctic sea ice, ignoring the potentially large role of natural variability. AIT never mentions that wind pattern shifts may account for much of the observed changes in sea ice, or that the Canadian Arctic Archipelago had considerably less sea ice during the early Holocene.

Warns that meltwater from Greenland could disrupt the Atlantic thermohaline circulation based on research indicating that a major disruption occurred 8,200 years ago when a giant ice dam burst in North America, allowing two lakes to drain rapidly into the sea. AIT does not mention that the lakes injected more than 100,000 cubic kilometers of freshwater into the sea, whereas Greenland ice melt contributes only a few hundred cubic kilometers a year.

Warns that global warming is destroying coral reefs, even though today’s main reef builders evolved and thrived during periods substantially warmer than the present.

Warns that a doubling of pre-industrial CO2 levels to 560 ppm will so acidify seawater that all optimal areas for coral reef construction will disappear by 2050. This is not plausible. Coral calcification rates have increased as ocean temperatures and CO2 levels have risen, and today’s main reef builders evolved and thrived during the Mesozoic Period, when atmospheric CO2 levels hovered above 1,000 ppm for 150 million years and exceeded 2,000 ppm for several million years.

Links global warming to toxic algae bloom outbreaks in the Baltic Sea that can be entirely explained by record-high phosphorus levels, record-low nitrogen-to-phosphorus levels, and local meteorological conditions.

Asserts without evidence that global warming is causing more tick-borne disease (TBD). A 2004 study by Oxford University professor Sarah Randolph found no relationship between climate change and TBD in Europe.

Blames global warming for the resurgence of malaria in Kenya, even though several studies have found no climate link and attribute the problem to decreased spraying of homes with DDT, anti-malarial drug resistance, and incompetent public health programs.

Insinuates that global warming is a factor in the emergence of some 30 “new” diseases over the last three decades, but cites no supporting research or evidence.

Blames global warming for the decline “since the 1960s” of the emperor penguin population in Antarctica based on a speculative assessment by two researchers that warm sea temperatures in the 1970s reduced the birds’ main food source. An equally plausible explanation is that Antarctic ecotourism, which became popular in the 1970s, disturbed the rookeries.

Warns of “significant and alarming structural changes” in the submarine base of West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), but does not tell us what those changes are or why they are “significant and alarming.” The melting and retreat of the WAIS “grounding line” has been going on since the early Holocene. At the rate of retreat observed in the late 1990s, the WAIS should disappear in about 7,000 years.

Warns that vertical water tunnels (“moulins”) are lubricating the Greenland Ice Sheet, increasing the risk that it will “slide” into the sea. Summertime glacier flow acceleration associated with moulins is tiny. Moulins in numbers equal to or surpassing those observed today probably occurred in the first half of the 20th century, when Greenland was as warm as or warmer than the past decade, with no major loss of grounded ice.

Presents 10 pages of before-and-after “photographs” showing what 20 feet of sea level rise would do to the world’s major coastal communities. There is no credible evidence of an impending collapse of the great ice sheets. We do have fairly good data on ice mass balance changes and their effects on sea level. NASA scientist Jay Zwally and colleagues found a combined Greenland/Antarctica ice-loss-sea-level-rise equivalent of 0.05 mm per year during 1992-2002. At that rate, it would take a full millennium to raise sea level by just 5 cm.

Forecasts an increase in U.S. renewable energy production during 1990-2030 more than twice that projected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Northern Ice Cap 2095 Projection
Northern Ice 2095 (none left)

WRONG

Claims that glaciologist Lonnie Thompson’s reconstruction of climate history proves the Medieval Warm Period was “tiny” compared to the warming observed in recent decades. It doesn’t. Four of Thompson’s six ice cores indicate the Medieval Warm Period was as warm as or warmer than any recent decade.

Calls carbon dioxide the “most important greenhouse gas.” Water vapor is the leading contributor to the greenhouse effect.

Claims that Venus is too hot and Mars too cold to support life due to differences in atmospheric CO2 concentrations (they are nearly identical), rather than differences in atmospheric densities and distances from the Sun (both huge).

Claims that scientists have validated the “hockey stick” reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere temperature history, according to which the 1990s were likely the warmest decade of the past millennium and 1998 the warmest year. It is now widely acknowledged that the hockey stick was built on a flawed methodology and inappropriate data. Scientists continue to debate whether the Medieval Warm period was warmer than recent decades.

Assumes that CO2 levels are increasing at roughly 1 percent annually. The actual rate is half that.

Assumes a linear relationship between CO2 levels and global temperatures, whereas the actual CO2-warming effect is logarithmic, meaning that the next 100-ppm increase in CO2 levels adds only half as much heat as the previous 100-ppm increase.

Claims that the rate of global warming is accelerating, whereas the rate has been constant for the past 30 years – roughly 0.17°C per decade.

Blames global warming for Europe’s killer heat wave of 2003 – an event caused by an atmospheric circulation anomaly.

Blames global warming for Hurricane Catarina, the first South Atlantic hurricane on record, which struck Brazil in 2004. Catarina formed not because the South Atlantic was unusually warm (sea temperatures were cooler than normal), but because the air was so much colder it produced the same kind of heat flux from the ocean that fuels hurricanes in warmer waters.

Claims that 2004 set an all-time record for the number of tornadoes in the United States. Tornado frequency has not increased; rather, the detection of smaller tornadoes has increased. If we consider the tornadoes that have been detectable for many decades (category F-3 or greater), there actually has been a downward trend since 1950.

Blames global warming for a “mass extinction crisis” that is not, in fact, occurring.

Blames global warming for the rapid coast-to-coast spread of the West Nile virus. North America contains nearly all the climate types in the world – from hot, dry deserts to boreal forests to frigid tundra – a range that dwarfs any small alteration in temperature or precipitation that may be related to atmospheric CO2 levels. The virus could not have spread so far so fast if it were climate-sensitive.

Cites Tuvalu, Polynesia, as a place where rising sea levels force residents to evacuate their homes. In reality, sea levels at Tuvalu fell during the latter half of the 20th century and even during the 1990s, allegedly the warmest decade of the millennium.

Claims that sea level rise could be many times larger and more rapid “depending on the choices we make or do not make now” concerning global warming. Not so. The most aggressive choice America could make now would be to join Europe in implementing the Kyoto Protocol. Assuming the science underpinning Kyoto is correct, the treaty would avert only 1 cm of sea level rise by 2050 and 2.5 cm by 2100.

Accuses ExxonMobil of running a “disinformation campaign” designed to “reposition global warming as theory, rather than fact,” even though two clicks of the mouse reveal that ExxonMobil acknowledges global warming as a fact.

Claims that President Bush hired Phil Cooney to “be in charge” of White House environmental policy. This must be a surprise to White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chairman James Connaughton, who hired Cooney and was his boss at the CEQ.

Claims that the European Union’s emission trading system (ETS) is working “effectively.” In fact, the ETS is not reducing emissions, will transfer an estimated £1.5 billion from British firms to competitors in countries with weaker controls, has enabled oil companies to profit at the expense of hospitals and schools, and has been an administrative nightmare for small firms.

Claims U.S. firms won’t be able to sell American-made cars in China because Chinese fuel-economy standards are stricter, even though many U.S.-made cars meet the Chinese standards.

Conclusion: Vice President Gore calls global warming a “moral issue,” but for him it is a moralizing issue – a license to castigate political adversaries and blame America first for everything from hurricanes to floods to wildfires to tick-borne disease. Somehow Gore sees nothing immoral in the attempt to make fossil energy scarcer and more costly in a world where 1.6 billion people still have no access to electricity and billions more are too poor to own a car.

Nearly every significant statement that Vice President Gore makes regarding climate science and climate policy is either one sided, misleading, exaggerated, speculative, or wrong. In light of these numerous distortions, “An Inconvenient Truth” is ill-suited to serve as a guide to climate science and climate policy for the American people.

Marlo Lewis

About the Author: Marlo Lewis, Jr. is a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, where he writes on global warming, energy policy, and other public policy issues. Originally published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute on September 28, 2006, this is a brief overview of author Lewis’s critique of An Inconvenient Truth. Republished with permission. For further documentation, please read the Lewis’s upcoming full-length monograph, “A Skeptic’s Guide to An Inconvenient Truth.”

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First Solar & Thin Film

First Solar, the first company to set up volume production of thin-film photovoltaics, has just gone public, and the market loves them. According to Morningstar, by mid-day on Monday 11-20, First Solar’s stock (FSLR) has rallied 24% after their IPO on Friday 11-17.

While the U.S. has fallen behind in production of crystalline silicon photovoltaics, it appears the U.S. manufacturers are poised to take the lead in worldwide thin film photovoltaic production.

DayStar Technologies
The photovoltaic tidal wave gathers…
Photo: DayStar Technologies

Along with First Solar, U.S. companies already shipping thin film photovoltaics include DayStar Technologies, and Unisolar. Joining them soon are silicon valley debuts Nanosolar and Miasole, who both have thin film manufacturing lines under construction.

If the forecast manufacturing levels of just these five U.S. companies are to be believed, by early 2008 they are going to be producing nearly 1.0 gigawatts of photovoltaics per year, and that is just the beginning.

This compares to the entire world production of photovoltaics in 2005 totalling only 1.6 gigawatts, and thin film only accounted for about 100 megawatts of that total. Photovoltaic manufacturing using both conventional means, using silicon ingots, and using thin film technology, is about to explode.

For photovoltaics to contribute significantly to global energy production, sustained exponential growth is necessary. But this appears possible, given the number of credible entrants into the thin film photovoltaic market, and the apparent ability of these companies to quickly establish production lines that within 18 months could easily double the manufacturing output of photovoltaics worldwide.

Moreover, the supply and the cost of raw materials necessary to manufacture thin film photovoltaics does not appear to be a constraint, as it is with with those relying on crystalline silicon. As a result, thin film photovoltaics are cheap and getting cheaper. In First Solar’s S-1 Statement, filed prior to their IPO, they state “During the three months ended September 30, 2006, we produced approximately 18MW of solar modules at a manufacturing cost per Watt of $1.42.” This cost includes about $.07 for expensed stock options, which the accountants among us know is a theoretical cost at best.

First Solar claims they could soon be the first company to manufacture photovoltaics at a cost that would be competitive with conventional electricity, which would require their costs to get down to around $.75 per watt. They are well on their way, and if the claims of newcomers such as Nanosolar come to fruition, they won’t be alone.

Posted in Electricity, Energy & Fuels, Science, Space, & Technology, Shipping, Solar, Tidal3 Comments

Mangroves Stop Tsunami

MANGROVES & CORAL REEFS STOP TSUNAMIS
WILLY BRANDT’S VISION CAN HELP
A Mangrove Seedling Sends it Roots Deep into Sand

Editor’s Note: Few places on earth are as vulnerable to ecological disruption as where the sea meets the land. On the coastlines of this world the tidal erosion, the deposition of silt and effluents from rivers and the batterings of storms create a fragile and ever-changing environment.

Not only are coastline ecosystems unusually fragile, they are crucial to the fortunes of humanity. Over a billion people reside within 100 miles of the ocean, many of them deriving their livelyhoods from the ocean, and all of them dependent on a measure of stability between sea and land.

Few people realize how dependent tropical coastal communities are on Mangrove forests; trees that grow in sand and salt water and form a buffer miles in depth between ocean storms and tidal waves and the land and human communities just inland. Fewer still realize the havoc wreaked on Mangrove forests by commercial aquaculture. In just the last few decades over 30% of the world’s Mangrove forests, covering tens of thousands of miles of coastline, have been destroyed to make room for shrimp farms.

This article by Muhammed Meshabi also examines the recommendations made by the Brandt Commission, headed by Willy Brandt in the 1980′s after he reliquished his Chancellorship of what was then West Germany. Willy Brandt was a visionary, a man of extraordinary compassion and conscience, who anticipated the onrush of global trade liberalisation, and made attempts to recommend ways to mitigate the consequences of unfettered capitalism.

While many readers may not agree with the specific recommendations Brandt and his successors have made, nor many of their assumptions, some facts are none-the-less clear. One example among countless others is the failure of the global community to protect Mangrove forests, and the catastrophic consequences of replacing these forests with shrimp farms. While obviously the impact of globalization on the environment and humanity isn’t always negative, it’s important to heed the warnings and the recommendations of those who see alternative models of globalization, models that also strive to hold the interests of humanity and the environment in harmony with economic gain. – Ed “Redwood” Ring

The response of the world public to the tsunami disaster

on December 26th, 2004 is one of heartfelt empathy and an instinctive desire to help fellow human beings in trouble. Never before have so many people, from so many countries given so much to the victims of a disaster. World governments have promised and provided far greater sums of aid than they originally intended to offer because of the sheer magnitude of the public’s generosity. The US initially pledged $15 million but in the end promised $350 million while the UK government raised their pledge to $96 million.

MANGROVE FORESTS ABSORB TSUNAMI

How many people realise, however, that many of the deaths caused by the Tsunami could have been prevented? The areas affected have been hit by tsunamis in the past, with far fewer deaths resulting, because the coastlines of South East Asia were protected by a natural defence system, composed of coral reefs and mangrove forests.

Many of the previous tsunamis were tamed by the coral reefs before hitting the coast, where they were absorbed by a dense layer of red mangrove trees. These flexible trees, with long branches growing right down into the sand below the surface of the sea, absorb the shock of tsunamis. Behind the red mangrove trees there is a second layer of black mangrove trees, which are taller and slow down the waves.

Mangrove roots form powerful limbs in open water

Thousands of miles of coastline in South East Asia were densely covered in mangrove forests, protecting the coastline from erosion, absorbing carbon dioxide and providing a breeding ground for crustaceans and fish, on which the local population depended for their livelihood. This was a fragile environment, which ecologists have long recommended should enjoy special protection. In India a Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) was created to protect a 500 meter buffer zone along the coast.

While the belt of mangrove forest still existed, the people of the area lived inland, behind it. In 1960 a tsunami hit the coast of Bangladesh in an area where the mangroves were intact. No-one died. These mangroves were subsequently cut down by the shrimp (prawn) farming industry and in 1991 thousands of people were killed when a tsunami of the same magnitude hit the same region. On Dec 26th 2004, Pichavaram and Muthupet, in South India, who still have their mangrove forests, suffered fewer casualties than the surrounding mangrove-less areas of coast.

Mangroves also acted as a barrier, helping people to survive on Nias Island, Indonesia, close to the epicentre of the Dec 26 tsunami. Burma and the Maldives suffered less from the tsunami because the shrimp and tourism industries had not yet destroyed all their mangroves and coral reefs.

CONVENTIONAL SHRIMP FARMS DESTROY MANGROVE FORESTS

Since the 1960s, the mangrove forests of South East Asia have been systematically destroyed to make way for commercial shrimp (prawn) farming and a massive increase in the tourism industry. The aquaculture and tourism industries succeeded in diluting any protective regulations that were in place, until they were able to take over most of the buffer zone. Almost 70% of South East Asia’s mangrove forests have now disappeared.

Industrial Shrimp
Action Network

Since three quarters of South East Asian commercial fish species spend part of their life cycle in the mangrove swamps the loss of these swamps has resulted in declining fish harvests. To compound this situation, the commercial feeds, pesticides, antibiotics and non-organic fertilizers used in intensive shrimp farms have generated huge amounts of pollution, destroying the remaining fish and harming the coral reefs.

As the fish have declined, desperate fishermen resorted to dropping dynamite into the reefs to drive them out. Scientists working for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) have recently compiled The World Atlas of Coral Reefs, an underwater survey. They found that one third of the world’s coral reefs are in South-east Asia and almost all are under threat. 70% of the world’s coral reefs have already been destroyed. 80% of Indonesia’s reefs are in danger. Dynamite fishing has contributed to the destruction of an ecosystem already under threat from sediment erosion caused by the loss of mangrove forests, shrimp farm pollution and untreated sewage from the tourism industry.

Global Aquaculture
Alliance

Almost all farmed shrimp is eaten in the US, Western Europe and Japan, where consumption has increased by 300% in the last ten years. Today world shrimp production, in an industry worth $9 billion, is almost 800,000 metric tons and 72% of farmed shrimp comes from Asia. Hundreds of nongovernmental organizations have sprung up at local, national and international levels to oppose this destructive aquaculture industry. In 1997 the Industrial Shrimp Action Network (ISA Net) was formed, a global alliance opposed to unsustainable shrimp farming. Aquaculture corporations responded by forming the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) to counter the claims of the ISA Network. Commercial shrimp farming has displaced local communities, exacerbated conflicts, decreased the quality and quantity of drinking water and decimated the natural fish species on which the local population rely. The population of these areas ended up living right on the coast, without the benefit of their protective mangrove forests. Their coral reefs were by now eroded by pollution, dynamite fishing, tourists (who tread on the reefs) and the rising temperature of the sea.

WILLY BRANDT’S VISION FOR INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

The reason aquaculture and tourism corporations have been allowed to destroy the coastal environment of South East Asia is because the current neoliberal trade system tends to favor corporations over concerns for the environment and the people living in it. Trade liberalisation, through the World Trade Organisation, has enabled corporations to challenge the legislation of countries they want to operate in, legislation that was designed to protect the local environment.

Willy Brandt

In the 1980s Willy Brandt warned that the current global economic system, with its emphasis on profit as an overriding virtue, would lead to environmental degradation and worsening poverty in the third world. He said “Important harm to the environment and depletion of scarce resources is occurring in every region of the world, damaging soil, sea and air. The biosphere is our common heritage and must be preserved by cooperation – otherwise life itself could be threatened” How prophetic these words sound today.

Brandt set up the Independent Commission on International Development Issues to make an in-depth study of the global economy. His team of advisers included many experts in the field of international policy and economics. Their detailed report came to the conclusion that the developed nations dominated international trade and that this was unbalanced and biased in favour of large corporations based in the West. The Brandt Commission was the first major independent global panel to examine connections between the environment, international trade, international economics and the third world. The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development took Brandt’s proposals regarding the environment seriously enough to hold international conferences in Rio in 1992 and in Kyoto in 1997. However America refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol and corporate power prevented any of the Brandt Report recommendations being put into practice.

The Brandt Reports called for a complete restructuring of the global economy, in order to protect the environment and meet the needs of the world population. Willy Brandt said “We see a world in which poverty and hunger still prevail in many huge regions; in which resources are squandered without consideration of their renewal; in which more armaments are made and sold than ever before; and where a destructive capacity has been accumulated to blow up our planet several times over.” He proposed a Summit of World Leaders, with the backing of a global citizens’ movement, to discuss how to meet the needs of the majority of the world’s people. This would, he recognised, mean huge changes to the international economy. He proposed a series of measures, including:

An emergency aid program to assist countries on the verge of disaster

Third world debt forgiveness

Fair trade

Stabilisation of world currencies

Reduction in the arms trade

Global responsibility for the environment

A major overhaul of the global economic system.

Brandt also recognised that poverty contributes to high birth rates and that overpopulation puts pressure on the environment. This has indeed happened all over the world, including South East Asia.

UN’s Office of
Coordination
of Humanitarian Affairs

Only one organisation has the people and the close relationships with governments to make coordinated disaster aid work, the UN’s Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Yet immediately after the 2004 tsunami world leaders were in disagreement over coordination of the relief operation.

Willy Brandt recognised that the UN needed to be restructured to make it democratic and effective and all the UN agencies needed to be reformed to make them more efficient. He called for emergency programs for food, housing and healthcare to be coordinated. He recommended cutting the red tape to ensure that resources reached impoverished people directly, unfiltered through inefficient bureaucracy. He called for national projects, overseen by representatives from developed and developing nations.

Brandt recommended that instead of fighting wars, armies and navies from the developed world could be deployed to bring in the food, resources and technology needed to help poor nations reverse hunger and poverty. This has indeed been happening since the tsunami. Armies and navies have indeed been bringing food, resources and technology to the disaster areas.

Since the tsunami world opinion has shifted. People have been so moved by the plight of the people in the devastated areas that they have begun to talk about poverty and injustice in other parts of the world, such as Africa. Some of the poorest people in the world are concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa. Over the past few decades official development assistance to third world countries has been declining and few donor countries now give the internationally-agreed 0.7% of their gross domestic product. In the end it will be popular opinion which pushes governments into rethinking their aid policies. Since the tsunami, people have been increasingly questioning the amount of their countries’ aid budgets and demanding that more aid is given to third world countries.

MANGROVE FORESTS OF THE WORLD
Most of the world’s tropical coastlines have a barrier ofMangrove forests, but only about 70% of these forests remain.

THE BRANDT REPORT – UPDATED FOR 2004

In a special report to Kofi Annan at the United Nations in 2004, Jeffrey Sachs presented the “Global Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals”. This report, developed by 300 economists and researchers, reiterates many of the aims of the Brandt Reports:

Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Achieve universal primary education

Promote gender equality and empower women

Reduce child mortality

Improve maternal health

Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Ensure environmental sustainability

Develop a global partnership for development

THIRD WORLD DEBT STIFLES THEIR ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES

20,000 poor people die every day from preventable diseases in Africa, partly because their governments are paying $30 million dollars a day in interest to the World Bank, the IMF and the rich world creditor nations. Currently for every one dollar that is given to Africa in aid one and a half dollars goes out to pay the interest on debts.

Third world debt today is $2.6 trillion. Between 1982 and 2003 the developing world has paid $5.4 trillion in interest. This means that the developing world has already paid back the amount it now owes more than twice. Willy Brandt called for total third world debt forgiveness. However the World Bank, the IMF and rich creditor countries were not prepared to forgo the huge amounts of interest they were receiving every year from poor, heavily-indebted countries. But over the past twenty years a groundswell of public protest has gradually been growing, demanding an end to third world debt. After the tsunami the voice of the protesters were heard again, demanding the immediate cancellation of the debts of the countries affected. As a result governments have been pressured into giving third world debt relief some serious thought.

WEALTHY COUNTRIES CAN AFFORD TO SUBSIDIZE THEIR EXPORTS

Brandt recommended restructuring the World Trade Organisation to allow
proportional representation and decision-making by poor countries of the third world. He wanted to establish a new code of conduct for international corporations, to curb their power and prevent them from carrying out environmentally unsound practices and to improve conditions of the workers. He proposed trade liberalisation and the removal of trade barriers. Unfortunately GATT has done just that, but only in the third world. Trade barriers remain in the first world, where the rich counties spend $300 billion every year in subsidies, subsidies that prevent the poor countries having access to their markets. Brandt wanted to remove these subsidies, which give the rich world an unfair advantage.

POOR COUNTRIES SACRIFICE HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT FOR EXPORTS TO PAY DEBT

Since Brandt’s reports the World Trade Organisation and the Free Trade Agreements have carried out a policy of perpetual trade liberalisation at any price. The result has been disastrous for the third world, which comprises 85% of the world population. Their share of international trade is only 25% because prices for everything that they export, from raw materials to cash crops, have fallen and continue to fall. Legislation designed to promote health and protect the environment in third world countries has been challenged and overruled in the name of trade
liberalisation.

WEAK CURRENCIES FLUCTUATE, CAUSING FINANCIAL TUSNAMIS

The Brandt Reports noted that the abolition of the gold standard had had a disastrous effect on the currencies of third world countries. When the US set up the flexible exchange rate system in 1971 third world currencies began to fluctuate and in most cases to fall in value. This was and is because investors could now buy and sell currencies on the world market, thus causing their value to increase or decrease at a moments notice. Rich countries such as the US and the EU were better protected against these currency fluctuations simply because they had larger amounts of money. This has led to rich people in third world countries investing their money in the US in order to protect it from the monetary instability of their own countries. This money has bolstered the US dollar, which otherwise would not be able to withstand the enormous fiscal and trade deficits incurred during the Bush administration.

TAXING CURRENCY EXCHANGES WOULD DISCOURAGE SPECULATORS

Brandt wanted to stabilise world currencies and another Nobel Prize-winner, the economist James Tobin, proposed a solution. In 1971 he suggested that a tax of less than 0.5% on all foreign currency exchange transactions would deter currency speculation. Support is growing for the Tobin tax, which would reduce the volatility of exchange rates and raise much needed revenue to pay for sustainable human development.

MILITARY SPENDING SOAKS UP CAPITAL FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Brandt was concerned about the huge waste of resources involved in military spending. Arms sales to poor countries contribute to conflict, increase their burden of debt and further impoverish them. As of late 2004, 24 of the 40 poorest countries in the world, mostly in Africa, continue to suffer armed conflict. The Brandt Reports recommended the conversion of arms production into civilian production, reducing arms exports, making the whole arms export business transparent and taxing
the arms trade.

British tax payers subsidise the armament industry to the tune of approximately L200 million per annum. The reason governments subsidise corporations who export weapons is because the public allow them to. Tax payers’ money benefits arms exporters, who do inestimable harm to the third world countries who buy the arms. These countries are spending money they can ill afford on armaments, instead of investing in services. The Campaign against the Arms Trade recommends putting a stop to subsidies to arms manufacturers and exporters. According to estimates from the World Bank, world poverty could be relieved by spending approximately one tenth of the world’s annual military budget.

Not everything in the Brandt Reports is relevant today but significant portions of it are more relevant than ever: those parts that refer to the necessity to cancel third world debt, reduce arms trading and to put in place and enforce international legislation to protect the environment. The world was not ready for these proposals in the 1980s but perhaps it is ready now.

Nobel Prize winner Willy Brandt had high hopes when he and his team of experts compiled their detailed reports. They had spent years researching world poverty and the best way to alleviate it. Brandt’s far reaching vision predicted many of the human and ecological disasters that have occurred since the 1980s, as a result of neoliberal economic policies. His reports laid out an alternative system of global governance, based on the principle of sharing: sharing the world’s resources and sharing responsibility for the environment. He proposed that every member of the human race had a right to food, water, shelter, clothing, education and healthcare. Only when every human being’s basic needs have been fulfilled will the world’s population stabilise. Social sustainability is the prerequisite for environmental sustainability.

Sustainable models of aquaculture preserve Mangrove
forests, leaving human communities safer from
Tsunami, and protecting fish breeding grounds

Perhaps world leaders could be persuaded to re-examine both the original Brandt reports and their updated versions to come together to discuss how to implement some of the recommendations. World opinion is calling for a more equitable and just world in which everyone has the right to food, water, shelter, clothing, education and healthcare; where the power of corporations is curbed in favour of human rights and the environment; where governments are shamed into putting a stop to arms exports and where the money currently squandered in wars is spent on raising the standard of living of the world’s poor.

About the Author: Mohammed Mesbahi is the Chair and Founder of Share the World’s Resources (STWR), based in London, England. The website of Share the World’s Resources is www.stwr.net.

REFERENCES

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development

http://www.un.org/geninfo/bp/enviro.html

Mangrove Nursery Establishment & Management

http://www.oneocean.org/download/20000929/chapter_2.pdf

One Ocean

http://www.oneocean.org/

Mangrove Action Project

http://www.earthisland.org/map/index.htm

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EcoWorld - Nature and Technology in Harmony

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Vandana Shiva – In Her Own Words

Interviewed by Paolo Scopacasa March 6, 2004
Vandana Shiva
Vandana Shiva
curriculum vitae

Editor’s Note: Vandana Shiva, a scientist and activist from India, has become an outspoken critic of privatization, globalization, and genetically-modified crops. Shiva is strident and at times inflamatory but her fundamental arguments are powerful and resonate with millions. It is at our peril when we no longer even ask these questions: Do corporations rule the world? Is soverignity for sale? What voice do regular people have in the tidal wave of globalization and privatization? Who speaks for the people on the land from Asia to Africa to the Americas? Should a watershed be sold like any other asset? Are the seeds of seeds that grow someone’s property?

Shiva’s opinions cover a broad range of issues, and she is often fierce in her rhetoric. But many of her positions have great merit and import. Her stand against rampant privatization is well founded. The idea that private enterprise is always more efficient than a government operation is a hilarious myth. Government organizations, such as the military or the public works administrations, enjoy access to much less expensive capital. Government agencies can pay less in salaries in exchange for offering more job security. A government agency can reinvest revenues and always focus on the efficiency of its core service. Because government-ran operations perform a specific service to the public, they avoid the constant searching for new business and higher profits that drain the resources of private sector companies. Keeping the government out of everything can be monstrously inefficient for any economy.

Shiva is also a critic of fundamentalist fanaticism, which in her view springs from a masculine, patriarchical system of rule in the world. As she puts it “They’re fighting each other around religion and fundamentalism, but they both want the same bomb, the same destruction.” Shiva champions diversity, localization, de-industrialization, public administration, feminization. Is she always right? Probably not, but who is? Should she be heard? Absolutely. EcoWorld Contributing Editor Paolo Scopacasa interviewed Vandana Shiva in the summer of 2003 in Milan, Italy. Here is Vandana Shiva, in her own words:

Q: Time Magazine has called you a hero who is fighting to preserve agricultural diversity. Michael Fumento, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute for Biotechnology wrote in the National Review: “If developing world farmers took her one-tenth as seriously as do Western activists, her proclamations would lead inexorably to massive famine. She was born into wealth and her soft palms have never worked a plow. Hunger to her is something she reads about in the newspapers.” Who is Vandana Shiva really?

It’s interesting how people whom I have never met…

…and who know nothing about me can create images that totally fly off the face of reality. I grew up on a farm with my mother. She was highly educated, but she chose to be a farmer, because she believed that the highest state of human evolution is to be a peasant.

I don’t say this as a prescription to someone else. I actually spend most of my time on a farm I started. I find no work as meaningful as working with the soil. I defend the farmers’ dignity and their right to survival, because for me peasants are the most creative and productive individuals on this planet not the people who gamble on Wall Street and make billions overnight. I think the real wealth is created on the land by people who soil their hands, by people who work in cooperation with nature and give us the nourishment we need as humans.

Some of these corporate spokesmen would like humanity to believe that genetic engineering, nano-technologies and chemicals can replace human creativity and human labor. But most people are fed up of the bad food they are being forced to eat.

Poor people are fed up of being made scapegoats for corporate schemes to make super profits by squeezing money out of peasants for seed royalties and water. People can see the game. Ultimately, the issue is corporate control over the means of life versus the celebration of a partnership between people and the Earth.

Soil is my teacher, seeds are my teacher, nature is my teacher. So I don’t have to worry about these accusations. I spend a tiny part of my life and my work in solidarity. But if I were always in the West, I would have never done the work which makes the guy you mentioned so panicky.

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Water Wars, Privatization, Pollution and Profit Book Cover
Water Wars
Privatization,
Pollution & Profit
by Vandana Shiva

Q: In your book Water Wars you argue that wars are already being fought over water. Where is this happening and why?

When water wars are referred to, people usually imagine militaristic attacks between countries, but the water wars that are spreading around the world are, at one level, paradigm wars. They are about two ways of looking at the world.

In one view, water is nature’s gift, and we need to maintain its flow as a gift. Even now, if you come to India on a hot day, you will see people put out water in street corners. It’s called the gift of water or the temple of water. Anyone who’s thirsty can go there and drink. Instead of accumulating wealth, these people are accumulating the good act of giving and meeting other people’s needs for basic survival.

The other view has it that water can be appropriated and sold to make huge profits or wasted.

In the summer of 2002, 1,300 people died of the heat in India. But heat alone does not kill. Heat transformed into dehydration is what becomes a killer. Water is becoming more and more scarce because there are swimming pools and golf courses, wasteful crops, such as sugar cane, green revolution paddies, hybrid and GM cotton, where there is not enough water to support all these non-sustainable systems. And that scarcity is leading to conflicts within families, between men and women, within communities.

During the summer of 2002 people were killed in water fights in the country. Water riots happened every second week in the capital of India. So the water wars are very real, they are actually annihilating life. Some of these fights transform into regional conflicts, which take on the color of chauvinism, but they are really about water, as was the conflict in Punjab, where thirty people were killed over a canal being taken away from Punjab to another state.

Hundreds of people lost their lives in fights over the Kaveri water, fights created by the promotion of non-sustainable industrial agriculture rather than the sustainable, prudent agriculture that Kaveri used to have. Nature has given enough water for each ecosystem to support itself, if water is conserved. When we start to go against that, water wars are unleashed. Right now, the most important water war has been declared by a handful of corporations against the entire planet, on all the people.

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Stolen Harvest Book Cover
Stolen Harvest
The Hijacking of the
Global Food Supply
by Vandana Shiva

Q: According to your book Stolen Harvest, “a hijacking of the global food supply” is taking place at the same time. Who is stealing the harvest from whom? And how?

Food is produced by farmers, most of whom in the Third World happen to be women. In India, about 60% of the farming work is done by women. They are the producers of the harvest. Their harvest is being stolen through a trade mechanism. This allows corporations which don’t grow food and don’t work the land, to make super profits at the cost of farmers and to capture markets around the world.

The corporations are enabled to do this through trade rules, through the agriculture agreement of the World Trade Organization, through so-called free trade, which is actually forced trade.

And another means for stealing the harvest from the people and from nature is this amazing invention of calling life itself an invention, the patenting of life. Suddenly, a harvest that originates from nature and from those who have evolved seeds, bred seeds and grown the crop, becomes property of a corporation. And the small farmers are treated as thieves when they save part of the harvest of their own crop for growing the next year’s crop.

Corporations like Monsanto declare people like Percy Smitheson, the Canadian farmer, a thief, after they polluted his field through genetically modified crops. So, the stolen harvest is really the grandest of thefts ever designed, and it’s a theft of the very basis of life. It’s a theft of the food chain, from nature and from those who are the actual producers of food, by those who trade in food and monopolize seed.

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Protect or Plunder? Book Cover
Protect or Plunder
Understanding Intellectual
Property Rights
by Vandana Shiva

Q: According to many of these corporations, by developing patented GM crops, they are helping reduce hunger in the world. What do you think about this?

World Trade Organization Logo

That is the rhetoric. That’s also Mr. Bush’s argument for the new case he started against Europe in the WTO. He argued that, by not eating GM foods, Europeans are somehow creating hunger in the South. Unfortunately, no lie is bigger than the fact that genetic engineering will be a solution to hunger.

In fact, it’s becoming a cause for hunger, it’s becoming the cause for poverty. In India, since globalization introduced new rules for the seed sector, farmers are having to pay so much for totally unreliable seed, which needs huge amounts of chemicals.

They’re getting into debt, they’re spending a hundred thousand rupees per acre for production and earning ten thousand rupees at the end of the year. They get into ninety thousand rupees of debt every year. Twenty thousand farmers have committed suicide as a result of this. The genetic engineered crops themselves are actually not performing because they have been engineered to use more chemicals, not to produce more yields. They have what is called a yield drag.

Monsanto Imagine Logo

When they brought their BT cotton to India, Monsanto announced that this genetically engineered cotton would double the yield, and bring a doubling of incomes. Well, the first year of cultivation showed that this was totally false. There was a 90% decline of yields and increase of farm losses of rupees 6 to 7,000 per acre. Monsanto has just been banned from expanding its cultivation in India for the extremely bad performance of its seed.

In the third world Monsanto is causing hunger, suicides and poverty. In fact, genetic engineering is not affordable in India. Our peasants are poor, and we can’t afford to play the profit-making games of corporations at the cost of polluting nature and biodiversity and impoverishing already marginalized farmers.

Q: Do you think that this kind of development has a negative impact on the so-called Third World countries only? Does it affect people in Europe and the United States, also?

Most Member Countries of the “Global South” are in the Tropics
-

If globalization was only affecting the South, we would not have had the huge turnout of people at the WTO meeting in Seattle. We would not have seen Genoa happen and the sacrifices made by innocent citizens in those protests, we would not have seen Evian. People in the North, in the more affluent parts of the world are also getting affected. They’re getting affected in two ways. First of all, the young are beginning to see that in this world they don’t have the kind of future they want. They probably don’t have a future at all. Look at America, the so-called richest country. It cannot place its graduates. They can’t find jobs.
University enrolment in the information technology sector, which was supposed to be the miracle sector, dropped to one third, because there are no jobs.

People can see that in this system corporations can control the economy, but really generate jobs for only 2% of the world’s population. And 98% will lose their livelihoods. This will definitely happen first in the South, creating more misery there. But it is happening in the North, also.

The GATS is leading to the privatization of education, health, water and energy. This denies the access to fundamental rights and basic needs. People can see this. The wonderful thing is that the movements against globalization are movements of solidarity. For the first time, we have gone beyond selfish movements. It is no longer my cause, my need today and I can let the rest go to hell.

There is a clear recognition that this is an issue of everyone’s interest. Water privatization has to be fought for all people on the Earth. GMO’s are being resisted, both in the North and the South. Corporations in agriculture are being fought in the North and the South. In fact, globalization has created an objective situation in which, for the first time, citizens in the North and South have one common agenda for creating alternative systems.

Earthworms in Hand
Earthworms: The Key to Healthy Soil

Q: In your book Stolen Harvest you also mention that earthworms are stolen their food. Why is that a problem for us?

Darwin has been quoted so much for talking about the competition between species and the struggle for survival, but Darwin’s more important contribution was a book on the earthworm. In that book, he wrote that the most significant species on the planet is the earthworm, because it is the most efficient converter of waste into fertility.

All systems of modern industrial farming, whether they be the Green Revolution, chemical agriculture or genetic engineering, assume that the millions of living beings which live in the soil and make it fertile can be killed. They assume that fertility will come out of explosive factories which make nitrogen fertilizers and a handful of other synthetic chemicals. But those synthetic chemicals rob the earthworms of their food, and in fact they create warfare in the soil, though we can’t see it.

The killing of the earthworms is the reason why our soils are getting desertified, production is dropping, our farming systems become vulnerable to disease, pests and environmental stress increase. We need the earthworm for food security, our food security.

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BioPiracy
The Plunder of
Nature & Knowledge
by Vandana Shiva

Q: So it’s basically about respect for the soil and the Earth. In your book Staying alive, you introduced the term maldevelopment, referring to a “masculine mode of knowing”, or a patriarchal mode of development, which harms both women and the Earth. Why do you make a connection between women and ecological issues?

First of all I’d like to clarify that patriarchy is a system of male domination, but it dehumanizes the men as much as the women, and it robs from most men as much power as it robs from the Earth and from women.

The masculine mode of thinking, of doing science, of defining the economy is a mode that gains power for those who control wealth and property through controlling capital.

The reason women and nature are linked is because they are the original sources of creativity. Maldevelopment defines them into passivity. In fact the very word matter comes from mother, but matter today is the inert object around us, it’s that which provides raw material. Matter has lost its creative activity. Soil is mere matter, it’s mere container. Water is purely matter, it doesn’t have any life-nourishing force, therefore it can be commoditized.

The blindness to the creativity of nature and women is the source of power in patriarchal structure and patriarchal organization. It’s a very convenient source of power, because it allows destruction to be defined as the creation of wealth. In fact, after the war against Iraq, the general who was put in charge of reconstruction used a phrase: we are giving birth to a new Iraq. Now, after you’ve devastated a country, you’ve bombed it out, you see that phenomenon as a birthing process. And in my mind I said, generals don’t give birth and life is not born through bombs. But this illusion allows destruction to be interpreted as creation. And that is the ultimate partnership.

The partnership of ecology and feminism is a partnership of liberation. It’s not a partnership of essentially biological determinism, very far from it. It is a political association. It’s a political association that sees that systems that treat nature as merely raw material also treat women as purely suppliers of labor. And all our indicators of measurements of growth and prosperity are gained at the cost of women and nature. In India it translates into the most horrendous and the most violent systems.

Women are walking longer miles for water. Women are having to go into more and more hazardous work. But the worst form of violence we have seen emerge in the last decade is female feticide. This annihilating phenomenon is linked very intimately to globalization. It began to happen in the regions with the highest growth rates, the highest integration into commerce, the highest commoditization of culture.

Q: Isn’t that part of an Indian tradition?

Traditional patriarchy has a male bias and sons are preferred. But until a decade ago, baby girls weren’t killed. The female fetus wasn’t annihilated. The preference for the male child has been transformed into an annihilation of the female fetus by a combination and convergence of traditional patriarchy with its biases and the global capitalist patriarchy with its culture of commoditazion, which translates into a further devaluation of the female life.

Diverse Women for Diversity Book Cover
Diverse Women
for Diversity

Q: You have created a movement called Diverse Women for Diversity with several other women. What kind of world do these women want?

Very clearly a very diverse world. Our movement, Diverse Women for Diversity, is really a triple response. It grew out of defending biological diversity. It grew out of a group of women who were fighting genetic engineering, the biotech giants and the seed monopolies. We were a bunch of scientists, primarily, but we also recognized that we were all from different cultures. While we all wanted to fight monopoly, each of us wanted to defend our way of speaking, our way of eating, our way of dressing, everything that makes us what we are. But it was also a response to the dominant mode.

When India and Pakistan were competing with nuclear tests, and India called its nuclear bomb the Hindu bomb, while Pakistan called its bomb the Islamic bomb, I said: this is the perfect example of diverse men for monoculture. They’re fighting each other around religion and fundamentalism, but they both want the same bomb, the same destruction. For us, diversity is liberation. For us, diversity is precisely the solution and not the problem.

Navdanya Logo
Navdanya

Q: You have also started a movement called Navdanaya, the 9 seeds. In one of your books you mentioned that seeds are sacred for Indian farmers. Is Navdanya connected to this in any way? Do you think that the industrialized world lacks a spiritual approach?

Industrialization is desacralization. Industrialization is a project of hubris which basically assumes that there is nothing like life processes, nature doesn’t have its self-organizing capacities, people don’t have their self-organizing capacities, women have no potential, they are merely the second sex, Third World peasants have no brains, therefore intellectual properties are in the industrialized North. All of these arrogant assumptions come out of a denial of reverence for life and the lack of recognition of that which makes life possible.

All societies throughout history have organized themselves around the maintenance of life and the renewal of life. And systems that are centered on that define spirituality in different ways. However, spirituality is a link. It is about connection. Spirituality is merely the recognition that everything is related. It is what the indigenous Americans call being part of the web of life.

Now, the denial of being part of the web of life is the desacralization that is at the heart of the project of industrialization. It is at the heart of trying to genetically engineer life on Earth, including humans through the new nano-technologies.

Bija Vidyapeeth

Q: You have even started your own college, it’s called Bija Vidyapeeth. What kind of education does it provide?

Bija Vidyapeeth translates into the school of the seed. And it’s basically about living on Earth. We call it education for Earth citizenship. I started it after September 11, because I could see that now the formal education is going to be about hatred, animosity and annihilation, and we need education for love, for compassion, for sustainability and for justice. In the School of the Seed we do short courses, to learn from the seed how to renew ourselves.

Paolo Scopacasa conducted this interview in the summer of 2003 in Milan, Italy. The interview was originally aired on Italian radio.

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Winds, Waves, Tides – Ocean Energy

Offshore Windmills
Five Megawatt Offshore Wind
Turbines Are Now Being Installed

Editor’s note: Terawatts of energy bombard earth daily via the sun’s rays, but competitively converting renewable solar energy into usable energy, electricity in particular, remains a formidable hurdle. When evaluating totally renewable sources of energy for their economic viability, the world’s oceans beckon as an alternative quietly emerging, especially in Europe, as a replacement to fossil fuels that could take hold before solar solutions. Ocean winds blow harder and with more reliable consistency than wind on land, which more than offsets the greater cost of building windmills offshore. While winds are in many respects indirectly derived from solar energy, the world’s oceans also contribute massive amounts of renewable energy that is gravitationally derived through the interplay of the earth and the moon. The energy from ocean waves and tidal streams, along with ocean-based wind energy, make the world’s oceans a source of renewable energy that may in the next few decades greatly outstrip solar energy as the economical alternative of choice.

Options for exploiting the energy available from the world’s oceans include offshore wind, wave and tidal stream energy. Offshore wind is by far the closest to commercial exploitation, but the range of possibilities is surprisingly broad.

Offshore wind is set for rapid development and could become fully commercial in 15-20 years. However, both wave and tidal stream energy face one of the so-called ‘valleys of death’ in the development of successful innovation – that between the prototype and wide utilisation. Some, perhaps many, of the current companies and designs will fall by the wayside. Nevertheless, wave and tidal hold considerable promise for the longer term.

Extracting clean and economically viable energy from the world’s oceans has fascinated researchers and engineers for centuries. The first patent on a wave energy device was taken out in 1799, and more than 300 such devices have been patented since. Commercial application has been limited to a small number of devices that use wave energy to power navigation buoys. However, concerns over climate change may fuel progress. All of the marine renewables offer energy with low environmental impact and near-zero emissions.

European
Union

While estimates of resources available depend upon assumptions about technology and the availability of suitable sites, all options are able, in principle, to provide large amounts of electricity. Global resources have not been mapped in detail, but studies of EU and UK resources provide an indication of the scale of the potential. Offshore wind could provide 900 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year in Western Europe, and wave 50-700 TWh/year in UK waters alone. Tidal resources appear more modest: 48 TWh has been identified in EU waters, but at present only limited sites have been considered. (UK electricity consumption is around 380 TWh/year.)

Here is an assessment of the economic prospects for deriving energy from ocean wind, waves, and tides.:

OCEAN WIND ENERGY

Map of Denmark>
Maritime Denmark is a World Leader in
Low-Cost, Large-Scale Wind Energy

Offshore wind has benefited from progress made onshore over the last 20 years. Costs have fallen dramatically – in good locations it is almost competitive with conventional energy sources. Turbines have grown from less than 100 kilowatts (kW) to 1 megawatt (MW) or more. Offshore wind farms under development feature turbines of 2 MW, and 3-5 MW turbines are widely predicted to become available soon. Large turbines are essential if offshore wind is to deliver energy at acceptable cost, and this is one reason why the stage is set for developments offshore.

Offshore wind involves additional costs in installation, cabling and maintenance, with existing plants generating at 4.5-7 US cents per kWh – twice the cost of developments on land. However, wind regimes are typically more stable offshore and the absence of noise constraints means turbines can spin faster, which raises efficiency and reduces costs. Current developments in turbine design, experience in installation and operation, and economies of scale as the industry expands, suggest costs will fall. Costs halved between Denmark’s Vindby development in 1991 and its recent Horns Rev project. A recent study for the UK government concluded that offshore wind costs are likely to fall to 3-5 US cents per kWh by 2020. Although less than 100 MW of offshore wind is currently installed worldwide, this is expected to grow to 3 gigawatts (GW) by 2005 because individual offshore wind farms can be large. Several developments of 100-500 MW are being built.

OCEAN WAVE ENERGY

Power generation using wave energy is at a much earlier stage of
development. Wave energy offers more predictable outputs than wind, but in early 2003
there was only around one megawatt of generating capacity installed worldwide, all of it essentially with demonstration prototypes. Proposed projects are likely to take this to about 6 MW over the next few years. The wave industry is characterised by a wide variety of novel devices
and a large number of small firms. Devices can be classified by generic technology type, though there is some overlap:

Types of Wave Energy Devices:

Shoreline
Inexhaustible Electricity from Wave Energy
Can Already Cost Under $.06 per Kilowatt Hour

* Pneumatic devices, such as the oscillating water column (OWC), use wave motion to compress and decompress air, and drive a turbine.

* Float-based devices utilise a buoyant float moving with the waves, reacting against a sea bed anchor in order to harness energy.

* Spillover devices utilise wave height to replenish a reservoir of seawater, which runs a turbine.

* Raft-type devices use the relative motion of adjacent rafts or pontoons to harness wave energy.

* Moving-body devices articulate in the water, inducing motion, which may be used to drive a hydraulic motor.

Commercial-scale wave energy is yet to become a reality and as such empirical evidence on costs is limited. Of those devices that have been deployed (for the most part near-shore and shoreline OWC devices), costs are in the region of 6-8 US cents per kWh. Three designs – the Limpet, Osprey and Pelamis – have secured support from the Irish and Scottish renewables schemes – though supplementary investment has also been required (for example, EU grants). The other devices are still at the research stage, though some are much closer to commercial deployment than others. (Float based devices are already in use for niche applications such as navigation buoys.) The Osprey is designed to provide a mounting platform for wind turbines and hence offers the prospect of the first hybrid wind-wave device. Hybrids have the potential to improve the utilisation of sub-sea power connections and to raise the ratio of output to construction cost.

OCEAN TIDE ENERGY

Map of Shetland Islands
A Seabed-Mounted Tidal Energy
System is now being tested off
the U.K.’s Shetland Islands

Tidal stream devices extract energy from the diurnal flow of tidal currents (caused by the gravitational pull of the moon). Unlike wind and wave power, tidal streams offer entirely predictable output. However, as the lunar cycle is of around 25 hours’ duration, the timing of peak outputs differs by around an hour each day and tidal energy cannot be guaranteed at times of peak demand.

Typically, tidal turbines, similar in appearance to wind turbines, are mounted on the seabed. They are designed to exploit the higher energy density, but lower velocity, of tidal flows compared to wind. Tidal stream differs from established technology for exploiting tidal energy (eg estuarine tidal barrages, such as the 240 MW barrage operating in France) in that tidal flows are not captured and controlled by means of a large dam-like structure. Rather, tidal turbines operate in the free flow of the tides, meaning that large construction costs and disruption of estuarine ecosystems associated with barrages may be avoided. However, as tidal streams are a diffuse form of energy and the purpose of the barrage is to concentrate tidal flow, this also means that large numbers of turbines, spread over relatively large areas of seabed, are required if significant amounts of energy are to be extracted.

Until recently, the diffuse nature of the resource, combined with the relatively high costs of engineering and installing turbines able to withstand the rigours of the sea, confined tidal stream to university laboratories. However, several large grid-connected demonstration projects are expected to enter the water in the near future. Tidal stream is thus a few years behind wave energy.

Tidal Energy Turbine
Seabed-Mounted Tidal Energy
Lowering A Tidal Propeller
Marine Current Turbines

Marine Current Turbines is about to field test a submerged 300 kW tidal turbine off Devon in the United Kingdom, and a seabed-mounted system called Stingray is being tested off the Shetlands. Both have EU and UK government funding. A novel device called the Rochester Venturi, which uses tidal flow to draw a working fluid through turbines mounted onshore and hence has no moving parts under water, is also expected to enter large-scale demonstration soon. The manufacturers of all these devices expect to deliver
energy at a cost of 10-14 US cents per kWh, falling to below 6 US cents as
experience grows and technologies mature

About the Author:
Gordon Feller is the CEO of Urban Age Institute (www.UrbanAge.org). During the past twenty years he has authored more than 500 magazine articles, journal articles or newspaper articles on the profound changes underway in politics, economics, and ecology – with a special emphasis on sustainable development. Gordon is the editor of Urban Age Magazine, a unique quarterly which serves as a global resource and which was founded in 1990. He can be reached at GordonFeller@UrbanAge.org and he is available for speaking to your organization about the issues raised in this and his other numerous articles published in EcoWorld.

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Photovoltaics Blending into the Woodwork

EcoWorld - Upward Trend Atlantis Energy Makes Solar Beautiful
Joe Morrissey with Solar Roof Panels
Joe Morrissey with
roof panels

When we think of home power, we often still think of roofs covered with rectangular black water heating or photovoltaic modules, propped up with struts at awkward angles to the roof in order to face south and gain maximum exposure to the sun. Aesthetically minded folk might worry about windmills erupting off front lawns everywhere, or diesel generators droning unmuffled through the nights. In short, we might think, “ugly!” So what if home power meant nothing more than grey slate roof tiles, and tinted glass on the windows that face south? What if home power was beautiful instead of grotesque?

That is the dream that underlies the success of Atlantis Energy, whose manufacturing plant is in Virginia, and whose sales headquarters is in Sacramento, California. “Why should a photovoltaic array look like a 15 year old’s science project?” asks Sales Director Joe Morrisey. The idea of “building integrated photovoltaics” is not unique to Atlantis Energy, for example, BP Solar has begun to develop photovoltaic window glass. But Atlantis Energy brings it all together, creating windows and roof panels that correspond to typical commercial and residential standards, allowing builders to literally replace conventional windows and roofs with units that not only let in light or keep out rain, but create electric power at the same time. And Atlantis Energy products are designed to last 50 years.

While in 2001 using building integrated photovoltaics averages $12 to $15 per watt installed, which is 20-50% more costly per watt than standard photovoltaic panels, this money is more than recovered because the photovoltaic units are replacing window and roofing material that would have to be purchased anyway. Moreover, the design of the roof panels, which requires about two inches of airspace underneath the photovoltaic panels, creates an insulating layer that reduces home heating and cooling expense, and also causes snowfall to melt off the roof much faster than off a conventional roof. Similarly, the photovoltaic windows are tinted which can reduce costs for air-conditioning.

Worker Installing Solar Tiles“We are working with roofing contractors to have them install the photovoltaic material,” says Morrisey, and this goal is reflected in that the roof and window photovoltaic panels are built to the same size specifications as regular roof and window materials, and also in the simplicity of the electrical connections. “Eighty percent of the work to install one of our roofs is the same work required to install a regular roof, and the remaining 20% is electrical work that any electrician can perform,” said Morrisey.

Atlantis Energy may have a great idea, but for now there aren’t a lot of competitors in the U.S. Atlantis Energy has done some big jobs in recent years, including the Whitehall Ferry Building in New York City and the First Federal Courthouse in Denver. In 1998 Atlantis Energy was spun off parent company Atlantis Solar Systems AG, located in Switzerland. The U.S. company has about 45 employees at their manufacturing plant in Virginia, and 7 employees at their sales office in Sacramento.

American Detached HomeThe future of building integrated photovoltaics will continue in the form of high-profile large commercial buildings, and Atlantis Energy is working with top-notch architectural firms such as Skidmore, Owens & Merrill, Cesar Pelli, and Schwartz Architects. But a direction of even greater potential is in the new home market, where entire subdivisions will be built with photovoltaic systems part of the pre-fabricated roofs and windows. Atlantis Energy is currently negotiating with some of the largest homebuilders in the U.S. to supply photovoltaic roofing and window materials for use in residential construction. According to Morrisey, it is already possible (in volume orders) to equip a home with 2 kilowatts of building integrated photovoltaic power for as little as $20K per house, before any subsidies or rebates.

For photovoltaics to become ubiquitous, it is necessary for them to blend into the woodwork, so to speak. Photovoltaics must migrate from the pages of Popular Science to the pages of Architectural Digest. As photovoltaics become cost-competitive with conventional power, they will also have to become aesthetically pleasing. Atlantis Energy is a pioneer in this trend. As Morrisey points out, building integrated photovoltaics create “multiple values;” electric power, construction material, and thermal insulation, and, they don’t make the neighborhood look like a science project.

Investors take note, Atlantis Energy is riding the early swells of a tidal wave. They, like many, are currently looking for strategic investors and “synergistic partners,” as the next new economy takes shape. The green age.

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