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.

Firstly, we would like to welcome Upper Hutt City Council as our latest subscriber to e-Bench™

This week, we open with the news that the data which was at the centre of the 2009 Climategate controversy has been released. The release of the data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia is something sceptics have been baying for ever since the UEA Server was mysteriously hacked just before the Copenhagen summit. Meanwhile, the UEA is confident that genuine and proper analysis of the data will reproduce the same conclusions – that global temperatures are rising. Of course as Gavin Schmidt of New York’s Colombia University says “there are some people who are never going to be satisfied”. Regretfully, I concur and have experienced first hand a few of those individuals.

With the USA recently losing their S&P AAA+ credit rating we thought we might take a closer look at their debt situation. This next article, written from a British perspective, concludes that the word ‘austerity’ is virtually unknown in the US and that they are a nation where the rights of the individual surpass that of society in general. The American dream is after all, succeeding whatever the financial or environmental cost. This of course, creates massive distortions in wealth, where the rich have so much power and assets and the poor – nothing.

And in case you thought this might be about to change, then you might shake your head when reading the next article, as the GOP declared ‘victory’ because they had successfully defunded all programmes that promoted the energy-saving light bulb. According to Michelle Bachman, one of the leading GOP presidential candidates, the energy-efficiency light bulb programme is an assault on individual liberty and an affront to the memory of the light bulb inventor, Thomas Edison. I guess on that reasoning, she should still be driving round in a Model T Ford. Oh and they also voted to cut Federal spending on the environment by $ one billion.

Next up we review the release of ISO 14066:201. The new standard is aimed at building confidence in the carbon market by detailing the level of competency required to verify greenhouse gas emissions. You know, sort of audit the auditors. And in case you might be wondering where these emissions come from, we have helpfully included a useful flow chart showing world greenhouse gas emissions by sector.

Plastic bags. Two words that a couple of years ago came to represent everything unsustainable. Well, we sorted that one and now we take our own reusable bags when shopping? Well some of us do, but not as many as you might think as our next two articles discuss. Evidently the world consumes a staggering one million plastic shopping bags every minute (525 billion per year) and the industry doesn’t want us to wean off our addiction. Whilst many countries have instituted tough new rules to curb the use of plastic bags and some, like China have banned the plastic bag, the USA is very different. There, the plastic bag industry is using political donations, lobbying and misleading PR scare campaigns very much like that employed by the tobacco industry. And it would appear to be succeeding as the use of plastic bags is now again on an upward trend.

Our next set of articles takes a look at the future of the automotive industry.

The first is the role out of electric vehicle (EV) charging points and the development of smart grid solutions such as the ability to control charge times and also being able to use EV batteries to act as a form of electrical reserve for the grid. Examples of manufacturers supporting these initiatives include General Motors with the Chevy Volt, Nissan with the Leaf and Toyota with its Prius. All up, there about different 130 EV models under development or in production.

Not only do EVs have a multiplicity of uses, they can also be quicker than conventional or non-hybrid vehicles as our next article examines, with Honda being asked to leave it’s Hybrid out of Formula 1000 as it is proving too fast.

Casting your mind back, perhaps you might recall Hydrogen fuelled vehicles being touted as the mainstream vehicle of the future. From everything we have read it would appear that the EV has won that coveted title, due not only to having an existing infrastructure (the electric grid), being able to provide additional robustness to that same grid (a means of storage), but also as the costs of storage continue to fall and battery energy density rise.

For example, we understand that a company called Eos Energy Systems, headquartered in New York City with manufacturing facilities in Easton, PA is soon to release its rechargeable zinc-air solution at $165 per kilowatt-hour – about one-quarter of the current price for lithium ion. This quite simply will be a game-changer.

That is not to say that Hydrogen doesn’t have it’s place in the mix – perhaps as a niche provider for end-uses such as fork lifts and light duty vehicles, where having a refuelling infrastructure can be met in other ways.

And if you want to head down the organic route, there is always the wood burning Beaver XR7 as something to do the shopping in. And it is smoking hot and I mean that literally!!

We round off this week with the solar powered bikini fitted with its own USB port for women; and for men, solar powered budgie smugglers fitted with it’s own 1.5 amp peltier junction which can be used to cool a single beer in its own custom unit. Sounds like the perfect Christmas present to me.

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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