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 the great news that carboNZero Holdings has secured Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) approval for its CEMARS™ greenhouse gas verification system. carboNZero joins a select group of providers in being approved by CDP – which collects data on behalf of 551 institutional investors, holding $71 trillion in assets.

Energy and Technical Services (ETSL) is also pleased to announce that it is walking the talk and has become carboNZero certified. If you are interested -

This week we examine how renewable energy is continuing to make inroads. However before we do, we open with comments from Warren Buffet - the international poster boy for shrewd investments. He is of the view that taking short-cuts with the environment is not the pathway to achieving sustainable competitive advantage, nor is it an avenue toward satisfying customers. Something we all really know, just as there is no such thing as a free lunch or a money tree. Except for the latter in the eyes of many adolescents.

The same is true for the production of energy. Using fossil fuels as the source of energy is calling down on Earth’s natural capital and therefore unsustainable. Our next series of articles examines, with a world population exceeding 7 billion, how we can meet all of our energy requirements. The answer has to be a future where renewable sources such as solar, hydro, geothermal and wind increasingly provide for us.

This is certainly the opinion of the New Zealand Wind Energy Association, which is forecasting that wind will provide 20% of all NZ’s electricity by 2030, up from around 5% at present.

The next question is whether fossil fuels could ever be replaced by renewables? A recent paper by University of Oregan sociologist – Richard York, based on electricity used in 130 countries over the past 50 years concluded that building renewable generation will never in itself be enough to displace fossil fuelled electricity generation, while they continue to receive their $409 billion annual subsidies.

Indeed, the International Energy Agency has demanded an end to these subsidies, warning that they could rise by more than 33% to $660 billion by 2020 if action is not taken to curtail the increases. Interestingly, over half the subsidies went to the oil industry ($193 billion) and a further $91 billion to the natural gas sector. Of the top 20 most profitable companies worldwide in 2009, 7 were oil companies and their cumulative profit was equal to the profit of the other 13 companies combined. So why are we subsidising them? The IEA also estimates that eliminating fossil fuel subsidies by the end of the decade will cut global energy demand by 5% and reduce carbon emissions by nearly 6%.

Next up is an article containing six surprising sustainability facts, which include simple ways to solve the US dependency on foreign oil, oil subsidies that use different figures to the IEA (how is this?…), how cutting carbon can be profitable and how Dell saved $1.8 million by simply shutting down its computers at night.

Following on, we next consider whether our climate may have already changed. The first of these uses the example of the traditional Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC – and how the cherry blossom is coming and going weeks before the festival. In short, the conclusion is that climate change is no longer abstract or theoretical; it is real, along with the many unwanted extreme weather events such as deluges, drought, tornados and even earthquakes (as ice melts, the balance of the Earth mass shifts).

To further support the linkage between man-made or anthropogenic factors contributing to climate change, is new research that has drawn parallels between spikes in carbon dioxide levels in the air and sudden shifts in the climate. As the study lead author Jeremy Shankun of Harvard University says “This to me, seems like pretty powerful proof of theory of the connection between greenhouse gases and global warming”.

Others agree that the scientific case is proven and only corporate greed and purposeful manipulation of the media and suppression of the facts is stopping politicians from taking positive action to aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This next article by David Rothkopf is at the very least a thought provoking one and for me, so very true.

Our final article looks at how we might be able to construct more effective programmes to encourage positive action on addressing climate change by adopting different tactics. Instead of relying on facts and reason to convince people, use the same tactics as the deniers, with emotion and visions of what the results of inaction might look like. For example in the USA, proponents of hydraulic fracking want the EPA is but-out and leave it unregulated. The article suggests countering this by painting a picture of polluted water and toxic spills as the cost of no regulations.

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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