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 macro interest articles. The first of these involves Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of NZ and since 2009, the Head of the United Nations Development Programme, where she warns governments that they will be forced into soon acting sustainably, whether they want to or not. She is citing predictions by scientists who are forecasting that without urgent action, the world will move beyond its ‘planetary boundaries’ and face the risk of irreversible and abrupt environmental change. On that basis governments will have no choice but be forced to act.

Of course many of the reasons governments haven’t acted on climate change already is that the existing economic model and perceived costs associated with action are too high. But what if the economic model and the way we value things were different? Our next article discusses what alternatives to our existing system might be - which uses Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the primary global indicator of wellbeing. For example the country of Bhutan, uses Gross National Happiness (GNP), which measures social and ecological decision-making on par with economic effects.

One thing for sure however, is that changes to our economic model will not occur overnight. For a glimpse of a possible future for us all, we need to look no further than Greece. Already they are adapting to a smaller, more community based economy, where barter is common and food supply/demand better matched. Maybe this will end up ultimately being a positive - as a waiter in a tavern in Volos said “in the years of cheap money and easy credit, we just lost sight of what matters, you know? It’s sad that it’s taken a crisis to do it, but we’re rediscovering our values”. Indeed.

With the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, who better to feature their thoughts on climate change, than the director James Cameron. As he says, “We can see the iceberg ahead of us, but we can’t turn. We can’t turn because of the momentum of the system, the political momentum, the business momentum. There are too many people making money out of the system, the way the system works right now, and those people frankly have their hands on the levers of power are aren’t ready to let ‘em go”.

The really haunting part of the article however, is that it discusses an American author named Morgan Robertson who wrote a book 14 years prior to the sinking of the Titanic titled “Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan”. Yes, the vessel was called the Titan and it was regarded as unsinkable and indestructible, and it too hit an iceberg and went down. It also had a shortage of lifeboats and more than half the 2,500 passengers died (compared to more than half the Titanic’s 2,200 passengers dying). It might have been a work of fiction, but it is still a very spooky coincidence to say the least…

Continuing the theme of macro articles, we examine how the insurance industry has joined environmentalists in highlighting risks of drilling in fragile regions. Lloyds of London, the world’s biggest insurance market, has become the first major business organisation to raise its voice about huge potential environmental damage from oil drilling in the Arctic. Not that the oil industry is likely to pay heed.

Changing tack, we examine a four step plan for cutting value-chain greenhouse gas emissions; being 1) Assess the entire value chain; 2) Move beyond disclosure to set targets and achieve GHG reductions; 3) Increase supply chain engagement and cooperation and 4) Innovation. Of course the first thing to do is to put your own house in order before looking elsewhere. And as the next article shows it is quite possible to aim for zero waste and make it pay as DuPont demonstrates.

Our next group of articles looks at sensors and BIG Data. First up is Intel’s vision for the city of the future with sensors everywhere. These include 1) Motion sensors; 2) Weather sensors; 3) Air quality sensors; 4) Life management sensors and 5) Home energy sensors. Other smart ideas that rely on sensor data is smart street car parking. And knowing where energy is being consumed also gets easier when you have electrical panels that can combine circuit level protection with energy monitoring such as now available through manufacturers such as Schneider Electric.

Of course, having all this data is one thing, but does it translate into real value? Apparently it does according to a recent study undertaken by the University of Notre Dame. The study which compared the performance of 93 LEED rated bank branches with 469 non-rated branches, all owned by the same company – PNC Financial Services Group, found that LEED rated branches significantly out-performed non-rated branches. Furthermore, LEED rated branches increased sales by $461,000 and had $675 lower utility costs per employee.

Our last article this week looks at how it really is possible to have an eco-friendly, super-elite muscle car. Whilst it sounds like a contradiction, car constructor Mick Fabar from Orange, Australia has built ZERO’D; a 7.3 litre powered muscle car, running on B20 and completely built out of second-hand panels and hand-stitched leather interior made from hide cut-offs and seconds that would normally be thrown away. Now for a re-make of American Graffiti – eco style and not a styrofoam cup in sight.

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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