Geoff Bennett - Editor

Welcome to another two weekly review of energy and environmental events and developments from both here in New Zealand and around the world. As always, we hope you find our collection of stories to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.

This issue we open by examining why benchmarking is good for you and your organisation. It’s not as if benchmarking is something foreign to us – I always remember Cousin Melkoomb forever comparing how his herd of Friesians were milking much better than the Jerseys of Uncle Ralph or how his V8 Ute handled better in the gravel corners after a few beers. So, really why is it we are so slow to extend the same processes of comparisons to buildings? A lack of evidence Sherlock Holmes might suggest, but here at ETSL we have none of those problems with plenty of good data in e-Bench™. And if you were interested we could provide good empirical data on how well your building might be performing. After all, it’s what we do…

Which is why we were especially interested in changes in the Carbon Software Market being driven by an increasing emphasis on energy management. The new category combining energy and carbon management is now labelled ‘Enterprise Energy and Carbon Accounting’ or EECA for short. I am watching with interest how the Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority (EECA) is going to avoid confusion on this ~ just got to love these acronyms…

Our next couple of articles examines the extreme weather events of recent years and how in 2010 nineteen nations (a record in itself) set temperature records including Pakistan with 53.5C. Russia had a massive heatwave, with the highest temperatures ever recorded in the last 1,000 years. Australia and Pakistan suffered floods of ‘biblical’ proportions with Canarvon experiencing more than a year’s rainfall in a single day and one Queensland City having 150mm of rain in thirty minutes. I don’t know about you, but I can’t even begin to imagine what 150mm or 6 inches of rain in thirty minutes might be like. Falling into the water trough most likely.

No wonder the insurance industry is now reappraising the risks of doing business in Australia. The global quantification of risks may end up making some parts of the world uninhabitable, not because people can’t physically live there, but because they will either be unable to obtain insurance cover or the premiums will be unaffordable.

The extremes of weather are also impacting on one of the worlds most valuable Carbon sinks ~ the Amazon with 2010 being a year of severe drought in the region. This had the impact of changing it from being a net absorber of carbon dioxide into a net emitter. In an average year the Amazon absorbs around 1.5 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere. In 2010 it is estimated that it emitted around 8 billion tonnes of CO2 ~ or as much as the annual emissions of China and Russia combined.

Neatly leading us into our next article where we discuss emissions by country. China now emits more CO2 than the US and Canada combined, with India the third largest emitter. The US emits 18 tonnes per person – compared to 6 tonnes in China and only 1.38 tonnes in India. More locally, NZ emitted 9.3 tonnes and Australia nearly 20 tonnes per person.

Our next series of articles examines the vagaries of US politics. And as much as we would like to dismiss what happens in the US as inconsequential, it is the world’s only superpower and as far as NZ is concerned, historically when the US sneezes, NZ catches a cold. And for that matter, it’s not just NZ either.

So it is with great interest we quickly review the dynamics of religion, conservatism, Republicans, Democrats and plain good old home grown patch protection in the US. On one hand we have the US President Obama trying to be progressive by calling for an end to the billions of taxpayer’s dollars in oil tax breaks and the adoption of a ‘clean’ energy mandate. Instead of the money going to oil companies, Obama said “I don’t know if – I don’t know if you have noticed, but they are doing just fine on their own”. He has a good point, but sometimes good points fall on deaf or plain stubbornly blocked ears.

For example here; where Senators from both parties for varying reasons, are attempting to block the federal government from regulating greenhouse gases. And it’s not just for practical considerations as our next article discusses – it is very much governed by entrenched views and prospects of re-election. Interestingly, most scientists are Democrats (55%) compared to Republicans (6%), with Republicans tending to be much more conservative and fundamentally religious than Democrats. I don’t know about you, but I find all of these entrenched positions rather disturbing. How do you find compromise?

Our last story is a little bit quirkier and looks at how Haidar Taleb and his solar powered wheelchair continues to set world records. It is very much a personal story and how a single individual wanted to prove that physical disabilities can largely be overcome through innovation and perseverance.

Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and look forward to catching up with you again. If you have any items of interest you would like to submit, then please feel free to forward them.

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