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Amory Lovins on Lessons from Fukushima

21 Mar

Writing at RMI Outlet, the blog for the Rocky Mountain Institute, Amory Lovins draws lessons from Fukishima, noting that the US has 6 plants identical to those and 17 very similar to them. And he notes that that pouring money money in the nuclear swamp will “reduce and retard climate protection.” Thus:

Each dollar spent on a new reactor buys about 2-10 times less carbon savings, 20-40 times slower, than spending that dollar on the cheaper, faster, safer solutions that make nuclear power unnecessary and uneconomic: efficient use of electricity, making heat and power together in factories or buildings (“cogeneration”), and renewable energy. The last two made 18% of the world’s 2009 electricity (while nuclear made 13%, reversing their 2000 shares)–and made over 90% of the 2007-08 increase in global electricity production.Those smarter choices are sweeping the global energy market. Half the world’s new generating capacity in 2008 and 2009 was renewable. In 2010, renewables, excluding big hydro dams, won $151 billion of private investment and added over 50 billion watts (70% the total capacity of all 23 Fukushima-style U.S. reactors) while nuclear got zero private investment and kept losing capacity. Supposedly unreliable windpower made 43-52% of four German states’ total 2010 electricity. Non-nuclear Denmark, 21% windpowered, plans to get entirely off fossil fuels. Hawai’i plans 70% renewables by 2025.

He further notes that:

Japan, for its size, is even richer than America in benign, ample, but long-neglected energy choices. Perhaps this tragedy will call Japan to global leadership into a post-nuclear world. And before America suffers its own Fukushima, it too should ask, not whether unfinanceably costly new reactors are safe, but why build any more, and why keep running unsafe ones. China has suspended reactor approvals. Germany just shut down the oldest 41% of its nuclear capacity for study. America’s nuclear lobby says it can’t happen here, so pile on lavish new subsidies.

Real Returns, Sustainable Communities

11 Mar

In the Spring of 2010 three executives in New York University’s CleanTech Executives Program, conducted a field survey and study on locally-driven sustainable energy initiatives: Wendy Brawer, Brett Barndt, and Lakis Polycarpou, Real Returns for Sustainable Communities: White Paper, Linking Communities and Investors for Sustainable Development (downloadable PDF of the complete study). They were particularly interested in how such projects could be financed:

Our survey found that investment professionals are interested in local sustainable development projects as a potential asset class. As one professional put it, “Local infrastructure projects like these are very suitable to our investor profiles.” Project finance professionals also said that they expected the sustainable development industry to “grow immensely,” and the key is to “build a platform” for growth.

What then is needed to increase adoption of cleantech and sustainable development projects? “We need to get beyond the bias we have toward centralized energy sources,” and develop ways to get small projects funded, said one professional.

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Mauritius in Transition?

7 Mar

Mauritius is a small island nation off the east coast of Africa with a population of 1.3 million. With no exploitable natural resources, the smart money would have bet against Maritius when it became independent of Britain in 1968. The smart money would have been wrong. At the time of independence it had a per capita income of $400; now it’s $6,700 and the country has 87% home owndership, compared to 79% in the USA, home of the meltdown. According to economist Joseph Stiglitz, who recently visited, Mauritius provides “free education through university for all of its citizens, transportation for school children, and free health care – including heart surgery – for all.”

They must know something the USofA doesn’t.

& maybe they’re not as deeply mired in the ways of a world that’s gone forever.

Walk Like an Egyptian: Protest the Fat Cats

4 Feb

Writing in The Nation, Johann Hari spells out this fantasy:

Imagine a parallel universe where the Great Crash of 2008 was followed by a Tea Party of a very different kind. Enraged citizens gather in every city, week after week—to demand the government finally regulate the behavior of corporations and the superrich, and force them to start paying taxes. The protesters shut down the shops and offices of the companies that have most aggressively ripped off the country. The swelling movement is made up of everyone from teenagers to pensioners. They surround branches of the banks that caused this crash and force them to close, with banners saying, You Caused This Crisis. Now YOU Pay.

And he goes on to point out that it has happened:

This may sound like a fantasy—but it has all happened. The name of this parallel universe is Britain. As recently as this past fall, people here were asking the same questions liberal Americans have been glumly contemplating: Why is everyone being so passive? Why are we letting ourselves be ripped off? Why are people staying in their homes watching their flat-screens while our politicians strip away services so they can fatten the superrich even more?

And so a dozen British citizens decided to start protesting against Vodaphone, which had managed to to gull the government into forgiving £5 billion in taxes:

That first protest grabbed a little media attention—and then the next day, in a different city, three other Vodafone stores were shut down in the northern city of Leeds, by unconnected protests. UK Uncut realized this could be replicated across the country. So the group set up a Twitter account and a website, where members announced there would be a national day of protest the following Saturday. They urged anybody who wanted to organize a protest to e-mail them so it could be added to a Google map. Britain’s most prominent tweeters, such as actor Stephen Fry, joined in.

Could this happen in the USofA?

Peak Oil and Financial Decline

1 Feb

The Nation has posted a video by James Howard Kunstler on Peak Oil and Our Financial Decline:

From the description of the video:

Kunstler suggests that “cheap abundant energy” has facilitated ever-increasing industrialization for centuries. But now that society is in a period of self-destructive capital accumulation, he expects debt to increase as abundance in energy drops. The tremendous amount of accumulated debt, “a by-product of cheap abundant energy,” will mean that in the future governments will be less able to make investments in socially-beneficial programs.

He also criticizes the US environmental movement for shying away from the problem of energy. The movement is unable to talk about walkable neighborhoods, smaller cities or investing in rail or water transit,  an “intellectual failure of the culture to have a coherent conversation from people who ought to be leading” such a conversation.

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