The Price Of Non-Nuclear Energy: 3,000 Lives Per Day

Never before have the costs of energy been so starkly illustrated in the period of a few months. The Deepwater Horizon gulf oil spill disaster, The Middle East riots to overturn petrodictators fueled by billions of dollars of oil payments, Massey Energy’s coal mining disaster and now Fukushima.

As in the past, many wrongly now want nuclear power, which supplies 20% of US electricity, unplugged. To be sure, some nuclear plants, such as those fueled by plutonium, are past their lifespans, or in dangerous places like earthquake faults should be closed, but eliminating nuclear is a mistake.

About the same number of people die every day from conventional energy than have died from nuclear power in its 60 year history according to the World Health Organization. About 3,000 people per day die by producing and burning conventional fuels. Conveniently for the oil & coal industry, most die silently one by one from cancer or other diseases from vehicle and (chiefly coal) powerplant emissions of lead, mercury, NOx, sulfur and other nasties. About 10 people per day die in coal mining accidents. Tens of thousands more are imprisoned, abused or die at the hands of petrodictators such as Qaddafi, Amedinajhad or the Saudi princes. 1,000,000 deaths per year. Over 30 million deaths since Three Mile Island. Read More...

Obama Gives Detroit Its Best Day In Decades

This is a story of supply and demand. On the demand side of the equation, President Obama has put in place landmark new vehicle mileage standard for cars and light trucks. By 2016, cars must achieve 39 miles per gallon in city + highway driving. Light trucks must average 30 mpg. How aggressive is this standard? Less than a handful of cars and no trucks can meet it today. Yet everyone from Detroit to retired military brass and Republican leadership support it.

Why? Read on to see why President Obama has given Detroit’s its best chance in decades.


Betting The Farm On The Right Curve

Imagine you are the President of the United States. You face big choices over which energy supply sources (e.g. oil, wind, nuclear, coal, solar) to support for our future, and which to reduce.

I’m going to show you the prices of three energy sources (e.g. oil or wind or coal in say, dollars per barrel) over time. (For you geeks, these are all in 2008 $ and the source is the U.S. Dept. of Energy)

US taxpayers have subsidized one of these energy sources for nearly a century with tens of billions of $ of tax breaks and other easements every year. As a result, we now depend upon this source of energy above all others.

You as President, must decide which energy sources you support and which you think the United States should wean itself away from.

From the mystery charts below, pick the two energy sources you think would be best for the American people and click Read More to find out what they are...


3.

If You Read Just One Book This Year...

This book should be required reading for everyone in the developed world. That’s a strong statement and I’ll preface it with the fact that I often find that three-times Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman’s New York Times writings sensationalist.

Hot, Flat & Crowded, (winner of Washington Post, Chicago Tribune & Business Week Book of the Year) is different. It’s visionary, well researched and page-turningly well written. It offers a new path away from the growing consequences of our increasingly hot (climate change), flat (rapidly expanding global middle class), and crowded planet.

To begin with, the book demonstrates there is simply not enough energy to fuel a 10x growth of the world’s consumptive middle class driven by China & India if this middle class consumes as much resources (energy, water, land) as we do today. If you buy this thesis (and it’s hard not to, based on the evidence we saw in the summer of 2008 with skyrocketing commodity prices, record pollution and temperatures) the question Friedman begs is: now what?

Here is the visionary part: Friedman creates a wholistic (and fact-based) perspective of how an resource-efficient, economic, clean and sustainable low/no carbon economy can be built with existing and maturing technologies. And it offers a path to return the United States to the forefront of its historical leadership: exporting new technologies - something we have lost in the past 15 years.

If this all sounds horrendously dull, it’s not. The inspired vision is matched by inspired writing.
Get it here. To save some paper and energy, read it on your Kindle 2 or get it from your library.


Hawaii Superferry: It's Not About The Environment

I have never written about my professional endeavors on my blog until now. However the time has come to shed some light on how legitimate environmentally friendly efforts can be hijacked by a few self-interested individuals claiming “the environment” in their name.

Hawaii Superferry is a company I founded in 2001 shortly after 9/11 grounded Hawaiis airlines for four long days. This halted Hawaii like no other place on earth because it is the world’s only island archipelago solely dependent on flying. My two cofounders and I did this to bring an affordable, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly alternative for interisland travel to Hawai`i. Hawaii Superferry successfully carried around 250,000 passengers during the time it operated, only to be derailed by a lawsuit from powerful special interests like the Sierra Club after 11 months of operation.

How did this happen?


REALLY fixing Detroit

Taxpayers have pumped over $20B into Detroit with more to com - yet it is a band aid, not a fix. To be sure, Detroit and its unions have been their own worst enemies but government regulation is a close second. Deregulation and synchronization with global standards are the key to the survival of the US auto industry. Here’s what needs to change to ensure economic viability AND environmental sustainability of this industry. Read More...

HCR-188c The Holy Grail Of Refrigerants?

Refrigerants - the liquid / gaseous material inside air conditioner and refrigerator compressors - are not the most glamorous of materials - but they are massive contributors to global warming.

What if a refrigerant...

  • Reduced refrigerator and A/C energy consumption by over 30%
  • Cost just 1/3rd of conventional refrigerants
  • Has 96% less global warming impact than conventional refrigerants
  • Has zero ozone depleting impact

What if this breakthrough was not developed by a giant chemical company, but over the past 15 years by a passionate former mechanic in Hawai’i?
Mr. Maruya of Kane’ohe Hawai’i could be one of this century’s energy heroes.

The EPA has just approved Mr. Richard Maruya’s remarkably simple
HCR-188c refrigerant. Haier the Chinese white goods giant has provided research assitance, while Greenpeace has given him recognition.

While we would love to see the world beat a path to Mr. Maruya’s door, his challenge may be just beginning...

We Need Global Auto Standards

The Renault Espace and Fiat 500 are just two of the cars that could be built in the US IF government regulators are serious about helping our auto industry turn around.

An insightful recent
New York Times article points out that the US auto industry could transition to more efficient vehicles quickly IF the US government transitioned to more efficient regulations.

GM and Ford both produce outstanding and efficient vehicles in Europe. These vehicles could be produced quickly in the United States if (already similar) safety and emissions standards were “harmonized” (at least temporarily) to allow European-spec. vehicles to operate here.

This would allow European-spec. vehicles to be built and sold in the U.S. - AND cut the cost of government regulation. Let’s see if our government figures what’s good for the goose (US auto industry ) is good for the gander (government regulatory organizations.)

Bolder, less “Americanized” versions of non-US cars have recently been selling briskly: Audi’s range is the fastest growing in the luxury sector and Nissan and VW have also seen success with more stylish & less Americanized versions of their products.

Beijing: Indoor Smog - An Export Industry

Until yesterday, I had never seen indoor smog... Below is the vast Norman-Foster designed arrival hall at Beijing’s new airport - its soaring roof supported by dozens of chimney-like columns fading away into the coal smoke in the distance...

As we drove downtown in one of Beijing’s ubiquitous minibuses, visibility decreased to about 1km as you can see from (click below to continue)Read More...

China Ends Fuel Subsidies - Will Others Follow?

China, the world’s #2 oil consumer behind the US, has demonstrated a remarkable show of economic force:
it eliminated fuel subsidies and let oil prices float. Better yet, it increased gasoline tax 500% and diesel tax 800% to about $0.14 per liter ($0.50 per gallon.)

OPEC predictably reacted allergically but the real question is will other fuel subsidizing countries like India, Mexico and Indonesia follow? Here’s why they can and should now.Read More...

Federal Loans For Tesla Motors?

The New York Times announced today that Tesla Motors, the pioneering Silicon Valley electric car company, wants a $400 million (1.6%) slice of the $25B federal government loan program for building efficient cars. We think the government has no choice...Read More...

Bullet Trains in America?

OK, we admit it -
this is the coolest video we have seen in a long time. And it’s going to happen, thanks to California voters passing a $10B bond measure. The Environmental Impact Statement is complete and it’s supported by the Sierra Club.

Electric high-speed trains are
five times more efficient than flying and three times better than driving. We think the timing and technology couldn’t be better...

The Ten (Energy) Commandments

I’m not the President, King, or a holy deity. But if I were, here are my 10 Commandments of Energy. I’d love feedback - what SHOULD the energy 10 Commandments look like?

1. Nations such as China, India, Mexico and Iran should stop government fuel subsidies that increase global oil usage up to 15%, drive up energy prices and hurt government financial stability. Read More...