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 week we open with a couple of headline grabbing news items, the first on which is that greenhouse gases increased in 2010 by 6% over 2009 levels and are now higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts only four years ago. And the International Energy Agency (IEA) has chipped in with their prediction that any fossil fuel infrastructure built in the next five years will cause irreversible climate change. By fossil fuel infrastructure, they mean fossil-fuelled power stations, energy-guzzling factories and inefficient buildings. And you know that there are plenty of these fossil fuel projects going on right now, so how are we all to react to this? I don’t have the answers…

So why is it proving so hard to stop climate change? As our next article examines – the science of global warming is clear and so are the solutions, yet the world is moving in reverse. A recently released report found that denial seems to be an Anglo Saxon thing and that predominantly it is men in positions of authority and power that simply don’t want to acknowledge what the majority of us concede is happening to our climate and a need to change habits. And I don’t have the answers to this either, than perhaps having more women in positions of authority and I don’t mean being your mum.

The released New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development (ETSL is a member) 20/20 vision for 2050 survey points to a desire to have a clean environment and good public health system. But as the survey points out, for people it was more important to have affordable travel than a renewable fuel source and if we are to have a good public health service we will have to be prepared to be taxed more. As the survey concluded “This clearly suggests we’re not willing to pay for the things that are most important to us”.

Continuing our New Zealand theme, we look at three companies and technology that are doing some smart things. First up is Auckland University with HaloIPT who has developed some wireless electric charging technology, which will facilitate the wireless charging of electric vehicles. Second is Aquaflow Bionomic who is converting waste biomass such as algae, wood waste and green municipal waste to biofuels. Third up is LanzaTech which has invented a process for converting a variety of low value gas feed stocks such as waste gas from the steel industry and oil refineries into bioethanol and other platform chemicals.

We next look at the continuing intention of China to dominate the renewable energy market. Through a process of subsidies and long-term interest free loans China is aggressively promoting their manufacturing capability for wind turbines and photovoltaics, which in turn has seen prices falling dramatically on the international market. This is of course good for consumers, but not such good news if you are an existing wind turbine or photovoltaic manufacturer who are quickly finding they cannot compete with the Chinese.

Our final set of articles takes a look at the electronic and wireless world we now live in. First up is the news that the internet represents slightly less than 2% of global energy usage, which is a lot of energy. It does however enable a far greater and smarter range of ways to undertake tasks and communicate, which will collectively dwarf the actually energy consumed. In other words, the internet is an enabler that whilst consuming a lot of energy to do so creates far more value it what it allows us to do.

A good example of this is in teleconferencing which is getting better and cheaper all the time. It is actually getting so good that people who enjoy travelling to physically attend meetings are starting to run out of excuses not to teleconference. And with the development of the ‘Nethead’ they really could be in the same room as the conference. Well virtually anyway. I imagine sitting around a table for the first time with a whole bunch of Netheads could be a bit of a weird experience. I wonder how much time will be spent looking out the window?

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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