31 January 2007

My HTML color

you are olivedrab

Your dominant hues are green and yellow. There's no doubt about the fact that you think with your head, but you don't want to be seen as boring and want people to know about your adventurous streak now and again.

Your saturation level is higher than average - You know what you want, but sometimes know not to tell everyone. You value accomplishments and know you can get the job done, so don't be afraid to run out and make things happen.

Your outlook on life can be bright or dark, depending on the situation. You are flexible and see things objectively.
the spacefem.com html color quiz

Harpoon - what a maroon

Harper's letter dismisses Kyoto as 'socialist scheme'
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 | 10:15 PM ET
CBC News

Prime Minister Stephen Harper once called the Kyoto accord a "socialist scheme" designed to suck money out of rich countries, according to a letter leaked Tuesday by the Liberals.

The letter, posted on the federal Liberal party website, was apparently written by Harper in 2002, when he was leader of the now-defunct Canadian Alliance party.

He was writing to party supporters, asking for money as he prepared to fight then-prime minister Jean Chrétien on the proposed Kyoto accord.

"We're gearing up now for the biggest struggle our party has faced since you entrusted me with the leadership," Harper's letter says.

"I'm talking about the 'battle of Kyoto' — our campaign to block the job-killing, economy-destroying Kyoto accord."

The accord is an international environmental pact that sets targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Canada officially ratified the accord Dec. 17, 2002, under Chrétien's Liberal government. Harper's Conservative government, which took power January 2006, has since been accused of ignoring the accord.

Harper's letter goes on to outline why he's against the agreement.

Accord based on 'contradictory' data: Harper

He writes that it's based on "tentative and contradictory scientific evidence" and it focuses on carbon dioxide, which is "essential to life."

He says Kyoto requires that Canada make significant cuts in emissions, while countries like Russia, India and China face less of a burden.

Under Kyoto, Canada was required to reduce emissions by six per cent by 2012, while economies in transition, like Russia, were allowed to choose different base years.

"Kyoto is essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations," Harper's letter reads.

He said the accord would cripple the oil and gas industries, which are essential to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

He wrote in the letter that he would do everything he could to stop Chrétien from passing the Kyoto agreement.

"We will do everything we can to stop him there, but he might get it passed with the help of the socialists in the NDP and the separatists in the BQ [Bloc Québécois]."

The Prime Minister's Office refused to comment about the letter on the record.

In recent weeks, Harper has spoken strongly about the environment, saying he will dramatically revamp his minority government's much-criticized clean air act.

His comments come as public-opinion polls indicate the environment has become the number one issue among Canadians.

Liberal MP Mark Holland told the Canadian Press on Tuesday that the leaked letter shows that Harper isn't actually committed to climate change.

"Now, suddenly, because he has seen the polls and realized the political opportunism of going green, the prime minister has launched a new campaign — that of trying to convince Canadians that he actually cares about the environment," Holland said.

"But no one is buying it."

The Kyoto Protocol went into effect Feb. 16, 2005, with 141 countries signing on, including every major industrialized country, except the United States, Australia and Monaco.

Mass amnesia is a wonderful thing. People forget how screwed up the Alliance were and that Harper was once their leader. Now he is leader of the Conservatives. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

30 January 2007

Dealing with Fucktards in Power

Bush's ethanol plan getting cold shoulder

If US President Bush thought he had the remedy for his country's oil woes when he proposed an increase in ethanol production, he's getting no support in the boardroom of the world's biggest energy company and no respect in the stock market, where producers of the corn-based fuel are among the biggest losers. The State of the Union address last week made ethanol the centrepiece of a plan to reduce gasoline consumption 20% in 10 years by raising the federal mandate for renewable fuel use almost fivefold to 35 billion gallons a year by 2017. Shares of ethanol producers Archer-Daniels-Midland, Pacific Ethanol and Xethanol have lost between 25% and 63% of their value since July 14, when oil peaked at US$78.40 a barrel. Pacific Ethanol fell another 3% since Bush's speech.

Exxon Mobil, the world's largest publicly traded energy company, considers ethanol irrelevant as a solution to an addiction that forces the US to import two-thirds of its oil. No “viable, meaningful business proposition” exists for Exxon in ethanol, svp Stuart McGill told investors at a Jan. 17 conference arranged by Goldman Sachs Group. “The nature of the science as it stands today and the technology involved requires significant forms of subsidies and mandates to make a lot of sense,” McGill said. Ethanol, after almost doubling in price in five years, is falling as prices for corn, the main raw material for the fuel in the US, reach the highest in a decade. Crude oil has tumbled 31% from its July record to $54.01 a barrel, cutting gasoline prices. Oil must be above $70 for ethanol to be profitable, according to research by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. “The gold rush is over,” said Michael Liebreich, ceo of London-based New Energy Finance, which advises investors in clean energy. “Many of the new plants that have been announced will never see the light of the day.”
(Globe and Mail 070130)

...and the price isn't going to go up again? Cheeses! What are they thinking? This is why the current state of corporate mentality is dangerous and will end up killing us all. They are only interested in what the price is today and how that's going to affect the bottom line. If they could only pull their head out of their asses and look more than six months into the future they would see that the urgency to start diversifying is growing by the day and the more days we postpone this, the more painful the transition is going to be. Like I've said, the corporations control everything, and their way of doing things are anti-human. Their decisions are dangerous to our well-being as individuals, communities, nations yet we let them grow progressively more greedy and short-sighted. Holy shit.

Tories' oil sands estimates exceed industry's

The promise of production from Alberta's oil sands appears to grow exponentially the farther Conservative cabinet ministers get from Ottawa. And by the time they reach China, all caution is lost. In the House of Commons yesterday, Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn rejected concerns that a breakneck development in the oil sands would swamp the Conservative government's climate change strategy. He suggested production there is unlikely to exceed 3.1 million barrels a day within the next 10 years, although that's still triple what companies now pump out of the high-cost, heavily polluting oil sands. Still, his lowball estimate doesn't square with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's effort to tout the country's potential as an energy superpower. In New York this fall, the Prime Minister said oil sands production was expected to hit four million barrels a day by 2015. But on a recent trip to China, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty played a little Texas hold 'em with the oil sands estimates, seeing Harper's four-million-barrel forecast and raising it another 600,000. Flaherty told Chinese business people they are missing an enormous opportunity. “Between now and 2015, energy investment in Canada is projected to be about $400-billion,” he boasted. “Production from Alberta's oil sands stands at about 2.5 million barrels a day now, and is on its way to 4.6 million barrels per day by 2015.” In fact, oil sands production now stands at about 1.1 million barrels a day, and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers says its most optimistic forecast has it growing to 3.5 million by 2015.
(Globe and Mail 070130)

...and then there's the Canadian politicians. Holy crap. These guys are a piece of work. So much for concern over Kyoto and such, as long as they can fill their coffers with foreign investment dollars, they don't give a flying fuck about anything else. Their reaction is a strong indication of what is wrong in Ottawa and how much they really care about wanting what is best for the Canadian public. What a bunch of losers.

Don't expect ‘energy independence' to clear the air on climate change

Column - US politicians, environmentalists and business leaders have finally found a green banner under which they can all proudly stand: energy independence. It's one of those phrases that sounds good, but can mean different things to different folks. And no one should confuse policies that promote energy independence with ones designed to combat climate change. And yet that's precisely what US President Bush did last week in his State of the Union speech. Yes, it's true that the US is more dependent than ever on imported oil. At the time of the first Middle East oil shock in 1973, the US imported 34.8% of its oil. Today, the figure is 60.3%. And while that figure seems ominous, it's worth breaking down where those imports come from. The three largest suppliers of crude to the US - Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia - are countries the US considers reliable allies. Those three suppliers alone represent about 40% of the roughly 12.5 million barrels a day that the US imports. Add in other friendly exporters, and more than half of US imports are from secure sources. The US also produces 40% of its own oil. So, arguably, roughly 70% of the US supply is already in safe hands. Like all imported oil, the rest is bought on the open market, from sometimes dodgy places such as Venezuela, Iraq and Nigeria that desperately need to sell their oil. Even those figures may not tell the whole story. Large oil multinationals, many based in the US, or heavily invested here, control the search, development and flow of oil - even in the most unsavoury countries. It makes sense that the world would be a safer place if more oil was in unthreatening hands. But what level of independence would make Americans feel less vulnerable? 80%? 100%? And what price are Americans willing to pay for independence? Would energy independence lower energy prices? Would it curb greenhouse gas emissions? Not likely. Maybe someone is framing the debate all wrong. If the US is serious about climate change and energy diversity, it should tackle those issues head on, and then craft policies to achieve those ends. But striving for energy independence may have just the opposite effect. Shifting to more coal or drilling for more oil in Alaska would accelerate climate change and do nothing to diversify US supply. Likewise, ramping up production of corn-based ethanol would undeniably boost energy independence, but would almost certainly produce more greenhouse gas emissions. Corn requires vast amounts of fertilizer, which in turn depends on natural gas. The electricity used to power ethanol plants must come from somewhere - coal, gas or oil. Pushing energy independence is a diversion that could make it less likely the US embraces conservation.
(Globe and Mail 070130)

So, let me get this straight. The US can't afford to import 60% or more of their oil for security reasons, but to drill domestically doesn't diversify the supply. Ethanol production is energy-intensive to produce and also pollutes in the process. If the supply suddenly dropped even 5%, prices would skyrocket and stuff would start falling apart. What I get out of this is that there are no easy solutions, not even close. Up shit creek without a paddle anyone? The 'easiest' solutions -- conservation and contraction -- are smacking the politicians and corporate hacks square in the face but they don't dare utter one of the c-words to the American public (we'll deal with Jevon's paradox another day)...

....that would be bad for business. A rough ride is inevitable and they're trying to keep the party going for as long as possible until something sudden and tragic fucks it all up. I can't believe that the well-being of all of us boils down to the decisions made by these delusional sociopaths that are running our dominant institutions and industrial society into the dirt. Something must be done to change things, and fast.

29 January 2007

Four days and counting...

God, I can't wait to get out of here. I am stressed to the max and in dire need of some down time. Work has been insanely busy and I'm a week behind on my deliverables because of some things that went wrong last week. On top of that is the uncertainly about the outsourcing...oh sorry...."best shoring" initiative and who and how many are going to get laid off. In fact, today we were handed over all the surveys on application details for IBM and Infosys that we have to complete for the due diligence part of the deal -- by freaking Thursday! These reports are huge, and our team (read: me) will have to do 30 or so of them covering in detail each application we support. The IS department attitude is in the shitter right now. So is mine. I like the idea of filling out these forms so they can move up the date that they are going to lay me off. How's that for irony? Well, I guess all those high priority projects go on the backburner now until the due diligence stuff is done and I'm freshly back from Texas.

CP's commitment to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and an initiative to re-brand the company just piss me off even more since they're still laying off people but can fork over $15 million to VANOC. I know, I know - not related but still infuriating at the same time.

The OutGames organizing has been taking an inordinate amount of time. I feel that there are only the obligatory five or so people helping to organize that are willing to even think of helping on all the stuff that needs to be done. I've managed to finish off most of the marketing and invitation materials and have already sent most of them out. What's left is the sponsorship stuff, and it's not going very well. The rest of it seems to be though. The Volunteer meeting last Monday finalized the volunteer requirements and schedule, the IFR meeting with Greg Larocque on Friday helped to move along some of the GLISA higher level stuff, the Apollo meeting on Sunday moved ahead some of the promotional events coming up in the next few weeks, and the Equipment meeting tonight helped us to ensure we weren't overlooking too many things. One more FR meeting on Thursday night before I go and I'll have that out of my hair for a couple of weeks. But overall, despite all the late nights getting content written, I think things are overall going pretty well.

We did have a lot of fun on the weekend. Friday night Joe and I went out for dinner with the GLISA group and then met up with his co-workers for a night out at the Drum & Monkey (which means we spent most of the night in the Bamboo Tiki Lounge). Lots of fun. Saturday night was Skybar's birthday. Another fantastic evening with the boys!!! And pretty much everyone was out for the evening either at the Backlot or Twisted Element.

My training has been erratic since New Year's. I'm trying my damnedest to keep on target, but there's so much going on and I'm so tired and bitter and tired. I'm doing a lot of the 'should'ves' these days. I'm pretty psyched for Texas to get me back on track though. Running and gym EVERY morning.

What else? Well, now that I've committed to all these trips in 2007, I'm starting to stress about money if I'm suddenly without a job. I'm hoping to Gob that a pretty severance package will be coming my way, but there's no doubt they will try to screw us out of that (how's that for pessimism?). Reid bought us our tickets to L.A. for the March cycling camp in Newport Beach. It's a nice small group, which I'm happy about -- Reid, Frank, Craig D and his wife Karen. I'm excited for the trip, but already costs are starting to creep up on that trip as well. Oh well, once the flights, condo (on the beach!), and car rentals are looked after, there really won't be a whole lot more to spend until we're down there.

This makes me wonder whether the San Francisco trip in June is going to be viable. I know Joe really won't have the money to go, especially considering we're going to Montreal/Bromont in July for Track Nationals. I'll have to think about that one some more. I guess we could always go next year? I'd still like to go, but the $$$ flashing across my field of vision these days is making me rather dizzy.

Even Joe's giving me the silent treatment today. I'm not sure what I did.

So, like I said before, it appears that the stars are all aligned just right this week for me to pull out and say 'fuck it all'! Is that destiny or what?!?!

I'm off to Weslaco on Friday. I'm still debating taking my scuba equipment. I'm almost feeling like travelling as light as possible and whistling 'the Happy Wanderer' while travelling down to Texas. Nah -- I think I'm going to do some diving while down there.

I already have my book order from Amazon.ca, so I'm ready for some serious poolside and beach time. It's very desperately needed.

McMansions Are For McIdiots

Violent Acres. I love this woman!
November 10th, 2006

Is anyone else as gleefully excited by the housing bubble burst as I am? I mean far be it for me to delight in the misfortune of others, but—

Ah, who am I kidding? I revel in the misfortune of others (especially if those on the receiving end are well deserved morons) and this real estate crash is punishing fiscal idiots left and right. Trends like this are how I know there’s justice in the world.

One of my favorite things to do is to go to open houses for the many, many McMansions in the area. Often, I am the only one to show up and the strained, panicked look on the realtors’ face pleases me to no end. They actually think I’m dumb enough to buy one of those dumps!

When are people going to realize square footage is not indicative of a nice house, but instead, a hindrance? What is the point of a dinette and a formal dining room? How many times a year do you actually use the formal one? Once on Christmas and once on Thanksgiving? What about a den and a great room? I’m sure you get shit tons of use out of that great room, don’t you? How about a four bedroom house when you only have 2 kids? I bet that’s useful, huh? Three and a half baths? How often does everyone in your house need to use the restroom at the same time? Sunroom? Library? Playroom? Two offices? Three car garage and only two cars?

All ridiculous status symbols disguised as sound investments. I hope your neighbors are sucking your dick considering how much you’ve paid for the address, buddy.

If you need further proof that owning a McMansion is financial suicide, try the following experiment. You will need:

Measuring Tape
Debit card

1. First, calculate the total cost of living in a house of your size including mortgage, taxes, electricity, insurance, and gas. This is number A.

2. Using your measuring tape figure out the square footage of all the rooms in your house that are not in use daily. Subtract this from the total square footage of your house.

3. Now, using your telephone, call and find out the total cost to own a house that is the smaller square footage. Include the mortgage, tax, average gas and electric bills. This is number B.

4. Again, use your calculator to subtract number B from number A. Write down the dollar amount.

5. Now, go to an ATM and using your debit card, withdraw the dollar amount you calculated in step 4.

6. Bring the money home and put it in your kitchen sink. Using the lighter, set it all on fire. You heard me right. Set all that money on fire.

Oh. You don’t want to do that? Why not? You’re doing it now every fucking month.

Don’t stop there; you’re not finished yet! Now you’ve got to calculate the cost of furniture to put in all those rooms you never use. Go ahead and set that money on fire, please. Oh, and the pictures on the walls and the window fucking treatments? That’s right, into the fire pit with that money, too.

Feel good about that McMansion yet? I guess now is not a good time to remind you that even rooms that you never use still need periodically cleaned, dusted and vacuumed. I’ll let you just calculate that little inconvenience all on your own.

The icing on cake is that people who didn’t calculate the full cost of their status symbol before putting themselves into debt are now forced to sell in a market where houses like theirs are sitting empty because savvy homeowners want no part of them.

I guess the neighbors don’t give good enough head after all.
Whoa, now that's a big freaking house...

A greener diet

Here is a microeconomic action that all of us can act on today:

Last year researchers at the University of Chicago took the Prius down a peg when they turned their attention to another gas guzzling consumer purchase. They noted that feeding animals for meat, dairy, and egg production requires growing some ten times as much crops as we'd need if we just ate pasta primavera, faux chicken nuggets, and other plant foods. On top of that, we have to transport the animals to slaughterhouses, slaughter them, refrigerate their carcasses, and distribute their flesh all across the country. Producing a calorie of meat protein means burning more than ten times as much fossil fuels--and spewing more than ten times as much heat-trapping carbon dioxide--as does a calorie of plant protein. The researchers found that, when it's all added up, the average American does more to reduce global warming emissions by going vegetarian than by switching to a Prius.

According to the UN report, it gets even worse when we include the vast quantities of land needed to give us our steak and pork chops. Animal agriculture takes up an incredible 70% of all agricultural land, and 30% of the total land surface of the planet. As a result, farmed animals are probably the biggest cause of slashing and burning the world's forests. Today, 70% of former Amazon rainforest is used for pastureland, and feed crops cover much of the remainder. These forests serve as "sinks," absorbing carbon dioxide from the air, and burning these forests releases all the stored carbon dioxide, quantities that exceed by far the fossil fuel emission of animal agriculture.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the real kicker comes when looking at gases besides carbon dioxide--gases like methane and nitrous oxide, enormously effective greenhouse gases with 23 and 296 times the warming power of carbon dioxide, respectively. If carbon dioxide is responsible for about one-half of human-related greenhouse gas warming since the industrial revolution, methane and nitrous oxide are responsible for another one-third. These super-strong gases come primarily from farmed animals' digestive processes, and from their manure. In fact, while animal agriculture accounts for 9% of our carbon dioxide emissions, it emits 37% of our methane, and a whopping 65% of our nitrous oxide.

It's a little hard to take in when thinking of a small chick hatching from her fragile egg. How can an animal, so seemingly insignificant against the vastness of the earth, give off so much greenhouse gas as to change the global climate? The answer is in their sheer numbers. The United States alone slaughters more than 10 billion land animals every year, all to sustain a meat-ravenous culture that can barely conceive of a time not long ago when "a chicken in every pot" was considered a luxury. Land animals raised for food make up a staggering 20% of the entire land animal biomass of the earth. We are eating our planet to death.

What we're seeing is just the beginning, too. Meat consumption has increased five-fold in the past fifty years, and is expected to double again in the next fifty.

It sounds like a lot of bad news, but in fact it's quite the opposite. It means we have a powerful new weapon to use in addressing the most serious environmental crisis ever to face humanity. The Prius was an important step forward, but how often are people in the market for a new car? Now that we know a greener diet is even more effective than a greener car, we can make a difference at every single meal, simply by leaving the animals off of our plates. Who would have thought: what's good for our health is also good for the health of the planet!

I love my meat as much as the next person, but it is still a choice, not a necessity in our diets. In the near future, when the problems of overpopulation and resource depletion are palpable and requiring sacrifices from us all for the sake of the planet, going vegetarian might become the accepted and expected norm and not the exception. Or at least a modified diet with a lot less meat protein. What really would be the big deal with switching all the fast food joints over to soy products? It's not like the food could taste any worse or provide any less food value. What do you think? Soylent Green for/from everyone!

25 January 2007

Ooh! I Heart (Bar and Pie) Charts!

A good question from the last post prompts me to show some data that demonstrates the breakdown of GHG emissions.

This information is readily available on the internet, in scientific journals, and government reports. I would like to do some comparisons of numbers to ensure neutrality, however for the sake of brevity I'll let you do the comparisons on your own and use the information below as a guide.

There is no argument by anyone that the rate of our GHG emissions is rising, fast. The argument stands on where to best start tackling the issue, thus the question of whether a focus on reducing emissions from the transportation sector is necessarily the most effective way to reduce overall GHG emissions.

Personally I believe that the POTUS (good ol' Shrub) targeted transportation because it is the sector most dependent on foreign sources, thus the one exposing the most vulnerability and threats to our security as the world map continues to destabilize.

We can generate electricity from a variety of different sources that we have a relatively large amount of domestically to consume (which of course, changes rapidly depending on ones usage rate of said sources), however our domestic sources of oil and gas are on the decline for which we will become more dependent on foreign sources for going forward if we continue to rely so heavily on these particular liquid fossil fuels.

I will use Environment Canada data to start...benign enough?

Canada Greenhouse Gas Data

In 2004, Canadians contributed about 758 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) of GHGs to the atmosphere, an increase of 0.6% over the 754 Mt recorded in the year 2003.1 This is considerably less than the 3.9% increase that occurred between 2002 and 2003. Canada's economic GHG intensity - the amount of GHGs emitted per unit of economic activity, or total GHG emissions divided by gross domestic product (GDP) - was 2.6% lower in 2004 than in 2003.

Between 2003 and 2004, there were increases in some sectors (notably Industrial Processes and Agriculture), but the overall growth was minor due mainly to significantly reduced emissions from electricity production (less coal and more nuclear generation) and, to a lesser extent, a reduced demand for heating fuel because of a warmer winter.

Between 1990 and 2004, Canada's total GHG emissions rose by approximately 27%. This increase in GHG emissions during the 14-year period outpaced increases in population (which totalled 15%) and approximately equalled the increase in energy use (which was 26%). However, the growth in total emissions was well short of the 47% growth in GDP between 1990 and 2004. As a result, economic GHG intensity has decreased by a total of 14% over the period, an average of 1% per year.

In addition:

Approximately 73% of total GHG emissions in 2004 resulted from the combustion of fossil fuels. Another 9% were from fugitive sources, with the result that 82% of emissions were from the Energy Sector.

On an individual GHG basis, CO2 contributed the largest share of 2004 emissions, at 78% (about 593 Mt), while CH4 accounted for 15% (110 Mt). N2O accounted for 6% of the emissions (44 Mt), while PFCs, SF6, and HFCs constituted the remaining 1% (11 Mt).

The greatest contributions to emissions in 2004 were from the Electricity & Fossil Fuel Industries, which accounted for 38% of total national emissions (285 Mt), and the Transportation sector, which contributed 22% (169 Mt). These sectors are also responsible for nearly all of the growth in Canadian emissions since 1990 (Figure 1). This growth is mainly the result of an increase in fossil fuel consumption for electricity generation, a rise in transportation energy consumption, and growth in fossil fuel production (largely for export).

For the Mining and Manufacturing Industries sector, there has been an overall emissions growth of 7.5 Mt between 1990 and 2004. This growth is the net effect of emission increases and decreases of various subsectors. For instance, there has been a progressive replacement of CFCs by HFCs and a growing use of fossil fuels for non-energy purposes, both of which contributed to emission increases. Despite the overall sectoral emission increase, some industries have shown significant emission reductions. Between 1990 and 2004, aluminium producers reduced their PFC emissions using emission control technologies. Also, the installation of an emission abatement system in Canada's only adipic acid plant resulted in considerable decreases in N2O emissions.

Other sectors, such as the Residential, Commercial & Institutional, Agriculture, and Waste sectors, contributed 16% to total emissions growth over the period.

Net emissions in the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry Sector amounted to 81 Mt in 2004; note that these emissions are not currently included in the national inventory totals.
FIGURE 1: Canadian GHG Emissions and Removals, 1990, 2003 and 2004
Figure 2 compares the trends in GHG emissions, GDP, and GHG intensity for Canada and the United States between 1990 and 2004. Both countries experienced a reduction in GHG intensity over the period. For example, Canada's GHG emissions per unit of GDP decreased by 13.8%, while the United States registered a 20.1% reduction. It must be noted that a reduction in GHG intensity does not necessarily reflect a reduction in emissions; it can also indicate changes in the structure of the economy. A closer examination of the trends in emissions and GDP for the two countries reveals that Canada's emissions are growing faster and our GDP is growing at a slower pace than those of the United States.
FIGURE 2: Trends in GHG Emissions, GDP, and GHG Intensity for Canada and the United States, 1990-2004
1 Canadian GHG: Environment Canada (2006), National Inventory Report - Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada: 1990-2004.
2 Canadian GDP: Informetrica Limited (2006), Gross Domestic Product (Million 1997 Chained Dollars), January 11, 2006.
3 U.S. GHG: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2006), The U.S. Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2004.
4 U.S. GDP: U.S. Department of Commerce (2006), Real Gross Domestic Product Billions of Chained (2000) Dollars, Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Factors that affected Canadian emissions growth included increases in fossil fuel consumption for electricity generation, increased energy consumption in the transportation sector, and growth in fossil fuel production (largely for export).

In fact, growth in oil and gas exports (primarily to the United States) contributed significantly to emissions growth between 1990 and 2004 (Table 2). In this period, net oil exports (exports minus imports) grew by 513% to 1572 petajoules (PJ) (almost 10 times the rate of growth of oil production), while net exports of natural gas increased 138% to 3600 PJ (almost twice the rate of growth of natural gas production). Over the period, the sum total of net oil and gas energy exports increased by 192%. The portion of emissions from all oil and gas production, processing, and transmission activities that is attributable to net exports rose from about 22 Mt in 1990 to 48 Mt in 2004 (a 123% increase).

A closer examination of the trends in emissions and GDP for the two countries reveals that Canada's emissions are growing faster and our GDP is growing at a slower pace than those of the United States.

Next, I will use USG EPA data to continue (which Canada will be very similar to)...still neutral enough?

United States Greenhouse Gas Data
U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Gas

The figure above illustrates the relative contribution of the direct greenhouse gases to total U.S. emissions for the period 1990-2004. The primary greenhouse gas emitted by human activities in the United States was carbon dioxide (CO2), representing approximately 85 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. The largest source of CO2 was from the combustion of fossil fuels. Methane emissions, which have steadily declined since 1990, resulted primarily from decomposition of wastes in landfills, natural gas systems and activities associated with domestic livestock. Agricultural soil management and mobile source fossil fuel combustion were the major sources of nitrous oxide emissions. The emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, which are substitutes for ozone depleting substances, were the primary component of fluorinated gas emissions.

To compare and combine emissions of different greenhouse gases into a national total, EPA uses global warming potentials (GWPs). GWPs compare the radiative forcing or ability to trap heat of one metric ton of a greenhouse gas to a metric ton of CO2.

The U.S. greenhouse gas inventory also presents emissions by more commonly used economic categories: agriculture, commercial, electricity generation, industry, residential and transportation. Using this categorization, emissions from electricity generation accounted for the largest portion of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2004. Transportation activities accounted for the second largest portion and emissions from industry comprised the third largest portion. The agriculture, commercial and residential economic sectors, listed in descending order of their contribution, together account for the remaining U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Allocated to Economic Sectors

Electricity, though produced at power plants, is ultimately consumed in the other economic sectors. When emissions from electricity are distributed among these sectors, the industrial sector accounts for the largest share of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation remains the second largest contributor to emissions. Emissions from the residential and commercial sectors increase substantially due to their relatively large share of electricity consumption (e.g., lighting, appliances, etc.), with agriculture consuming little electricity.
U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions with Electricity Distributed to Economic Sectors

Carbon dioxide can be removed from the atmosphere through activities such as planting trees, improving existing forests and soil management. As shown below, total carbon sequestration in the U.S. in 2004 removed approximately 11 percent of total U.S. emissions.
Estimates of Net Annual Changes in Carbon Stocks for Major Carbon Pools

Reference: Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks:
1990-2004, USEPA #430-R-06-002

Global Greenhouse Gas Data
Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are affected by the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted to and removed from the atmosphere around the world over time. Figure 1 shows a breakdown of global greenhouse gas emissions by each gas.
Figure 2 presents data on the major global sources of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by country, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to the present.
Figure 3 provides a projection of future greenhouse gas emissions of developed and developing countries. Total emissions from the developing world are expected to exceed those from the developed world by 2015.
Reference(Figure1): EPA, Methane to Markets Partnership Fact Sheet Brochure.
Reference(Figure2): Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center
Reference(Figure3): (1) SGM Energy Modeling Forum EMF-21 Projections, Energy Journal Special Issue, in press, reference case CO2 projections. (2) Non-CO2 emissions are from EPA's Global Anthropogenic Emissions of Non-CO2 Greenhouse Gases 1990-2020.

And here is the Canadian breakdown of GHG emissions in the transportation sector, specifically:
Canada's GHG Emissions from Transportation Sources in 2004

So, in Canada anyways, the transportation sector (excluding pipelines and industrial off-road emissions) represents one of the largest sources of emissions in Canada, accounting for 22.3% of Canada's total emissions in 2004 (169 Mt). Off-road emissions associated with oil sands mining, forestry, and agriculture are included in the Fossil Fuel Industries and the Mining and Manufacturing Industries sectors.

Emissions increased 31% (40 Mt) between 1990 and 2004. On-road transportation was the largest contributor to emissions in this sector, at 85.9% in 2004. Nearly all emissions growth can be attributed to light-duty gasoline trucks, or LDGTs (these include sport utility vehicles, or SUVs, and minivans), which contributed 55% or 22 Mt of this sector's growth, and heavy-duty diesel vehicles, which accounted for 51% or 20.4 Mt of the growth. The sum is greater than 100%, as emissions decreased for Light-Duty Gasoline Vehicles (LDGVs), or cars, Propane & Natural Gas Vehicles, Railways, and Off-Road Gasoline. Figure 3 provides a breakdown of emissions from the different modes of transportation for 2004.

The long-term trend (1990-2004) shows an increase in emissions from LDGTs, while emissions from LDGVs are decreasing. This can be explained by the increase in purchases of LDGTs (SUVs, minivans) instead of cars for personal transportation.

So, even if it may be the most difficult sector to possibly get buy-in from its citizens, the transportation sector is the one seeing unceasing growth rates in the amount of GHGs produced. That, on top of the reliance on foreign energy sources may be the main reasons why the government leaders are 'picking' on this sector first. There are many experts arguing that this is futile and that regulation should be preferred over legislation, but as I've said before, the automotive industry is the last group you will ever see to push for mileage, fuel-efficiency and emissions standards on their own. Historically, they have complied to government intervention only after years of litigation and political maneouvers. If the market is to dictate the trend for emissions standards, it will only come if the public changes their tastes in vehicles - permanently - from huge, powerful guzzlers to small, efficient sippers, and also where they decide to buy their consumables and food from. We really have to reconsider our 3,000 mile salads and onions imported from China as well.

Can Bush's oil plan work?

A sweeping proposal by President Bush to dramatically cut US gasoline consumption over the next decade -- and perhaps change US car culture -- was greeted with widespread skepticism from automakers, environmentalists and political experts yesterday. Greenpeace called the plan, unveiled in Bush's State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday evening, "delusional," while the automobile industry insisted it was already going down the environmental green road and did not need new legislation to reduce fuel consumption. Some long-time presidential watchers noted every president since Richard Nixon has pledged to cut US dependence on foreign oil, only to see the plans ultimately fail when subsequent Congresses fail to take up the cause. "When you see legislation full of wonderful promises, think of it like a New Year's Resolution," said Jerry Taylor, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a Washington think-tank. "Easy to make but rarely kept."

The proposals outlined in Bush's second last State of the Union Address call for a 20% cut in gasoline use over 10 years. That could mean a radical change in how Americans use cars every day -- there are about 140 million cars in the US and 17 million new ones are sold every year --by forcing them to drive less or use public transport. Americans burn 385 million gallons of gasoline each day. David Sandalow, an energy expert at Washington's Brookings Institute, is skeptical there can be any quick fixes on that front since more than 97% of the fuel for American transportation fleets -- consumer and freight -- is based on oil. That is only barely different than a generation ago and not expected to change anytime soon. As well, Mr. Sandalow noted, it is unlikely US voters would tolerate a substantial change in their way of life, especially now that oil prices have sunk. Rather than try to wean Americans from their cars, Bush wants to cut US gasoline consumption through technological means, largely by increasing ethanol use and forcing automakers to make their cars more efficient. But this approach, too, has its skeptics. "Even if you take all of America's corn production and put it into ethanol, it would only reduce gasoline consumption by 12%," said Taylor. Charlie Territo, with the Washington-based Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said the auto industry has already put nine million alternative-fuel cars on US roads and is working hard to increase that. But he said that any move to increase fuel efficiencies should only be done after a careful review by the US National Highway Transportation Administration, which looks at other issues, including safety, costs and impact on jobs. "It should be done through regulations, not legislation," said Territo whose organization represents BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Ford and Toyota among others.

Bush is not alone in promising policies that would slash oil demand - the European Union and China have also set ambitious efficiency targets. And that concerted action by the world's three leading energy consumers could put a damper on demand for crude oil and downward pressure on prices over the long term. While Bush talks about ending dependency on imported oil from the Middle East, Canada is the largest single supplier to the US - exporting as much crude to the US as the Persian Gulf countries combined. And it is the high-cost producers, such as Alberta's oil sands companies, that would be hit hardest by weak demand and soft prices. “If I was a producer, I would be really, really concerned,” said Paul Ting, a long-time Wall Street energy analyst who now runs his own consultancy. “There's not going to be demand destruction, but there will be erosion, and that is going to be a big problem for them.”

Producers have been getting a clear-eyed view of what can happen to crude prices when demand softens, as it has since mid-2006, sending prices to a recent low of $50 per barrel. The International Energy Agency - the developed world's energy watchdog - reported last week that oil consumption among its members fell 0.6% in 2006, the first significant decline since the 1980s. Spurred by high pump prices and warm weather, US oil demand was 0.9% lower in December compared with the previous year. While high prices and weather take their toll, governments are entering the marketplace in a fashion not seen since the oil crisis of 1970s. Ting noted that China has set a target of improving the energy efficiency of its economy by 20% over five years, with further improvements after that. He said growth in Chinese oil demand slowed from double-digit rates at the beginning of last year to about 4% by the end of the year - and that's in an economy where product prices are controlled and did not experience the runups that North America did. The European Union is even more aggressive, pledging to reduce its energy consumption by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020. European governments are more committed to meeting greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol than are their North American counterparts. They are also increasingly uncomfortable about their reliance on Russia and the Middle East for their energy security. Energy economist Peter Tertzakian of Calgary-based ARC Financial said Bush's speech marked an important milepost in the long-term decline in the fossil fuel economy to a system that is both more efficient and more varied in supply sources. “This is more validation that we are in the early phase of energy transition,” Tertzakian said. “We're approaching the breaking point at which the way energy is supplied and the way energy is demanded is no longer sustainable.” He said crude markets will still experience short-term swings, and prices could spike sharply higher if there is further geopolitical instability in the Mideast. But over the longer term, he said, the world is going to wean itself off its oil addiction.
(Globe and Mail, Globe and Mail 070125)

This is all so freakin' complicated. Yeesh.

23 January 2007

It's here! It's finally here!

'Smoking gun' report to say global warming here
POSTED: 10:27 a.m. EST, January 23, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Human-caused global warming is here -- visible in the air, water and melting ice -- and is destined to get much worse in the future, an authoritative global scientific report will warn next week.

"The smoking gun is definitely lying on the table as we speak," said top U.S. climate scientist Jerry Mahlman, who reviewed all 1,600 pages of the first segment of a giant four-part report. "The evidence ... is compelling."

Andrew Weaver, a Canadian climate scientist and study co-author, went even further: "This isn't a smoking gun; climate is a batallion of intergalactic smoking missiles."

The first phase of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is being released in Paris next week.

This segment, written by more than 600 scientists and reviewed by another 600 experts and edited by bureaucrats from 154 countries, includes "a significantly expanded discussion of observation on the climate," said co-chair Susan Solomon a senior scientist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

She and other scientists held a telephone briefing on the report Monday.

That report will feature an "explosion of new data" on observations of current global warming, Solomon said.

Solomon and others wouldn't go into specifics about what the report says.

They said that the 12-page summary for policymakers will be edited in secret word-by-word by governments officials for several days next week and released to the public on February 2. The rest of that first report from scientists will come out months later.

The full report will be issued in four phases over the year, as was the case with the last IPCC report, issued in 2001.

Global warming is "happening now, it's very obvious," said Mahlman, a former director of NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab. "When you look at the temperature of the Earth, it's pretty much a no-brainer."

Look for an "iconic statement" -- a simple but strong and unequivocal summary -- on how global warming is now occurring, said one of the authors, Kevin Trenberth, director of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, also in Boulder.

The February report will have "much stronger evidence now of human actions on the change in climate that's taken place," Rajendra K. Pachauri told the AP in November. Pachauri, an Indian climatologist, is the head of the international climate change panel.

An early version of the ever-changing draft report said "observations of coherent warming in the global atmosphere, in the ocean, and in snow and ice now provide stronger joint evidence of warming."

And the early draft adds: "An increasing body of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on other aspects of climate including sea ice, heat waves and other extremes, circulation, storm tracks and precipitation."

The world's global average temperature has risen about 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit from 1901 to 2005. The two warmest years on record for the world were 2005 and 1998. Last year was the hottest year on record for the United States.

The report will draw on already published peer-review science. Some recent scientific studies show that temperatures are the hottest in thousands of years, especially during the last 30 years; ice sheets in Greenland in the past couple years have shown a dramatic melting; and sea levels are rising and doing so at a faster rate in the past decade.

Also, the second part of the international climate panel's report -- to be released in April -- will for the first time feature a blockbuster chapter on how global warming is already changing health, species, engineering and food production, said NASA scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig, author of that chapter.

As confident as scientists are about the global warming effects that they've already documented, they are as gloomy about the future and even hotter weather and higher sea level rises.

Predictions for the future of global warming in the report are based on 19 computer models, about twice as many as in the past, Solomon said.

In 2001, the panel said the world's average temperature would increase somewhere between 2.5 and 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit and the sea level would rise between 4 inches and 35 inches by the year 2100. The 2007 report will likely have a smaller range of numbers for both predictions, Pachauri and other scientists said.

The future is bleak, scientists said.

"We have barely started down this path," said chapter co-author Richard Alley of Penn State University.

Whew! Well, it's a relief that it's only taken ten years to decide whether there is a problem or not to begin with. That's surely indication that action to solve the problem will come that much more quickly. Hell, even Dubya's pleading with Americans to curb their petroleum consumption by 20% by 2017. Didn't Harpoon and Rona Ambrose want to start making an effort to curtail GHG emissions by 2030 or something? Isn't that doing enough? Oh my cheeses, haven't we sacrificed enough already?

22 January 2007

Happy Answer Your Cat's Question Day!

January 22nd is Answer Your Cat's Question Day!
Have you ever noticed your cat looking at you quizzically?
Have you ever considered the possibility that they have a question?
Take a moment today to figure out what they are asking you
and do your best to answer their question!

Consequences, always consequences

Even cleanest biofuel includes a dirty underbelly

Biofuels have the potential to lessen the impact of human civilization on the environment, but even the greenest of renewable-fuels production is not without its dirty underbelly, experts say. Although global warming is a growing concern among policy-makers, the current trend to substitute fossil fuels with renewables is in part motivated by countries' efforts to reduce their dependence on oil from politically volatile regions. Brazil's cane ethanol distillers, with three decades of experience in nationwide production and distribution, have compiled data demonstrating the fuel's advantage over fossil counterparts in the reduction of greenhouse gases. Ethanol accounts for 40% of total fuels used by non-diesel powered vehicles in Brazil and represents a 30% reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions from the transport sector, the Cane Industry Association (Unica) said. But not even the global stars of renewable fuels are free of critics who fear that increased ethanol use worldwide will hasten deforestation in the Amazon and other tropical rain forests in order to produce sugar cane. "In 20 years, I doubt there will be a gasoline car on the Brazilian market. They will all be powered by ethanol," Unica president Eduardo Pereira Carvalho said during the Reuters Global Biofuel Summit last week.

During its growth to maturity, the cane stalk absorbs the same amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as is eventually emitted during combustion of the ethanol distilled from its juices. But this is not so for ethanol made from corn in the US or wheat in Europe. These primary materials must first be turned into sugars before fermentation, which requires the use of extra fossil fuels and adds to carbon gasses emitted in the production process. Brazilian cane mills are also powered by leftover cane stalks that heat caldrons to generate steam and electric energy, an extra advantage that corn and wheat don't have. Unica estimates that Brazilian cane ethanol on average yields more than eight times more energy than is used in the production process, compared with US corn ethanol production that yields between 1.1 and 1.7 times as much energy. The European Union, which just proposed the use of 10% biofuels for transport by 2020, signalled it will demand proof from suppliers that the product was made in a sustainable manner, a requirement that may rule out US ethanol. Environmentalists have already begun to warn that the expansion of biofuel use currently underway will represent increased use of land for planting, which could stimulate deforestation or the use of more reserve lands.
(National Post 070122)

I find it interesting that Brazil might come out in the best shape because they have been working on this phase-out of fossil fuels with sugar cane for several decades now. I'm surprised that sugar cane has such a better EROEI than corn. The big concern from an environmental perspective is if razing the rainforest in order for Brazil to run 100 million cars or so is an acceptable decision and whether the consequences of that decision are manageable.

Nuclear-powered oilsands would take at least a decade

The Conservative government's plan to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from oilsands production through nuclear power would take at least a decade to deliver, according to the head of an Alberta company with exclusive rights on selling nuclear reactors in the province. Federal Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn has said there is "great promise" for introducing nuclear power for a fivefold expansion in the Alberta oilpatch to reach four or five million barrels a day. The National Energy Board has also estimated an increase of up to three million barrels a day by 2015, but Wayne Henuset, president of Energy Alberta, says his company would not likely be able to deliver a nuclear reactor for the oilsands industry before 2017. "That is the biggest issue," Henuset said in a phone interview. "It's how long it takes to facilitate one of these reactors." Environmentalists said the timeline guarantees the government is giving up on its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas pollution linked to global warming over the next five years as required by international law, in order to feed America's growing appetite for Canadian oil. Emilie Moorhouse, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club of Canada, added there are additional risks of nuclear waste leaking into ground or water. For example, she said, the Chalk River site in Ontario is still leaking about 800 litres of contaminated water per day into the Ottawa River. "If they really want to make the oilsands a complete and utter environmental disaster, then adding nuclear to the mix would do so," said Moorhouse. "At the same, nuclear in Ontario has proven to be a complete economic disaster and it's proven to unreliable." But Henuset said there is no comparison between new technology that could be used in the oilsands, at a cost of about $4.5 billion, and the Chalk River site. "That was their experimental site and that goes back 50 years or 60 years, when people didn't understand the radioactive problems," he said. "Today, we don't have any radioactive waste going anywhere and they haven't for 30 years. So things have definitely evolved, and all for the better."
(Calgary Herald 070120)

Hmmm....this is certainly going to become a contentious provincial and regional issue in the near future. Even if things were committed to today, a nuclear reactor in Alberta is still a decade away, and I'm sure the commitment won't be coming in the near future. There will be too many hurdles to jump through, although I'm sure the oilsands players will be throwing enough money at the situation to by-pass a few of the checks and balances, including public consultation.

19 January 2007

Delusions of grandeur?

US dreams of five-fold jump in oilsands output

Talks between the US and Canadian governments to quintuple oilsands production came as no surprise to corporate Calgary. The big question is how a lofty goal of five million barrels per day could be accomplished given Alberta's already overheated market, industry observers said Thursday. The CBC on Wednesday reported details of meetings between Canadian and American industry representatives and their government counterparts that took place in Houston shortly after Stephen Harper's Conservatives came to power last January. According to the network, the Americans were keen to increase the pace of oilsands development to more than five million barrels per day. Days after the meeting, on Jan. 31, US President George Bush gave his state of the union address where he said: "America is addicted to oil." But Greg Stringham, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers' vp of markets and fiscal policy, said CAPP representatives who were at the meeting described it as a "blue-sky" session of regular consultations between Canadian, Mexican and American officials, adding that the five million bpd number actually came from the Alberta government's technology roadmap target for 2030. By contrast, CAPP's "base-case" scenario sees a range of 3.3 million to four million bpd by 2020, a mark Stringham conceded could be out of reach given the cost pressures and shortages of labour and materials in Alberta. Bush will be giving this year's state of the union address next Wednesday and Stringham doesn't expect energy issues will get the same play as last year. "With oil prices coming down, it doesn't have as much ring with the public."

Nonetheless, Bob Ebel, who heads up the energy chair of Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said energy security remains "a huge issue" south of the border. Craig Stevens, a spokesman with the US Department of Energy, noted that Samuel

Bodman was the first American energy secretary to visit the oilsands when he came through Calgary last summer, underscoring the importance of the energy relationship between the two countries. "Energy security is one of the issues that affects every American," he said. "We import more oil from Canada than anyone else, we're the logical market given our proximity." Environmentalists were outraged. "This move severely impacts Canada's boreal forests and water supplies and further damages Canada's already soiled international reputation on climate change," said Dan Woynillowicz, a senior policy analyst with the Pembina Institute. Meanwhile, Premier Ed Stelmach told a Calgary Chamber of Commerce gathering he's confident Alberta will be able to maintain environmental and public safety standards in the face of rapid oilsands expansion.
(Calgary Herald 070119)

Better get those nuclear power plants fired up along the shores of Lake Athabasca, since there's no way we'll be able to handle the processing of five million bpd on current natural gas and water feedstocks. Unless the idea is that the entire western half of North America goes cold and thirsty as a sacrifice for our free-wheeling, free-spending lifestyles. It wouldn't be a surprise that the powers that be would rather let people freeze than consider restricting the number of cars on the road, for starters.

18 January 2007

If we must keep the personal vehicle, here is some positive news...

The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan (just between you and me)
by Elon Musk
Chairman of the Board

published Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

Backgrounder: My day job is running a space transportation company called SpaceX, but on the side I am the chairman of Tesla Motors and help formulate the business and product strategy with Martin and the rest of the team. I have also been Tesla Motor’s primary funding source from when the company was just three people and a business plan.

As you know, the initial product of Tesla Motors is a high performance electric sports car called the Tesla Roadster. However, some readers may not be aware of the fact that our long term plan is to build a wide range of models, including affordably priced family cars. This is because the overarching purpose of Tesla Motors (and the reason I am funding the company) is to help expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy, which I believe to be the primary, but not exclusive, sustainable solution.

Critical to making that happen is an electric car without compromises, which is why the Tesla Roadster is designed to beat a gasoline sports car like a Porsche or Ferrari in a head to head showdown. Then, over and above that fact, it has twice the energy efficiency of a Prius. Even so, some may question whether this actually does any good for the world. Are we really in need of another high performance sports car? Will it actually make a difference to global carbon emissions?

Well, the answers are no and not much. However, that misses the point, unless you understand the secret master plan alluded to above. Almost any new technology initially has high unit cost before it can be optimized and this is no less true for electric cars. The strategy of Tesla is to enter at the high end of the market, where customers are prepared to pay a premium, and then drive down market as fast as possible to higher unit volume and lower prices with each successive model.

Without giving away too much, I can say that the second model will be a sporty four door family car at roughly half the $89k price point of the Tesla Roadster and the third model will be even more affordable. In keeping with a fast growing technology company, all free cash flow is plowed back into R&D to drive down the costs and bring the follow on products to market as fast as possible. When someone buys the Tesla Roadster sports car, they are actually helping pay for development of the low cost family car.

Now I’d like to address two repeated arguments against electric vehicles — battery disposal and power plant emissions. The answer to the first is short and simple, the second requires a bit of math:

Batteries that are not toxic to the environment!
I wouldn’t recommend them as a dessert topping, but the Tesla Motors Lithium-Ion cells are not classified as hazardous and are landfill safe. However, dumping them in the trash would be throwing money away, since the battery pack can be sold to recycling companies (unsubsidized) at the end of its greater than 100,000-mile design life. Moreover, the battery isn’t dead at that point, it just has less range.

Power Plant Emissions aka “The Long Tailpipe”
(For a more detailed version of this argument, please see the white paper written by Martin and Marc.)

A common rebuttal to electric vehicles as a solution to carbon emissions is that they simply transfer the CO2 emissions to the power plant. The obvious counter is that one can develop grid electric power from a variety of means, many of which, like hydro, wind, geothermal, nuclear, solar, etc. involve no CO2 emissions. However, let’s assume for the moment that the electricity is generated from a hydrocarbon source like natural gas, the most popular fuel for new US power plants in recent years.

The H-System Combined Cycle Generator from General Electric is 60% efficient in turning natural gas into electricity. “Combined Cycle” is where the natural gas is burned to generate electricity and then the waste heat is used to create steam that powers a second generator. Natural gas recovery is 97.5% efficient, processing is also 97.5% efficient and then transmission efficiency over the electric grid is 92% on average. This gives us a well-to-electric-outlet efficiency of 97.5% x 97.5% x 60% x 92% = 52.5%.

Despite a body shape, tires and gearing aimed at high performance rather than peak efficiency, the Tesla Roadster requires 0.4 MJ per kilometer or, stated another way, will travel 2.53 km per mega-joule of electricity. The full cycle charge and discharge efficiency of the Tesla Roadster is 86%, which means that for every 100 MJ of electricity used to charge the battery, about 86 MJ reaches the motor.

Bringing the math together, we get the final figure of merit of 2.53 km/MJ x 86% x 52.5% = 1.14 km/MJ. Let’s compare that to the Prius and a few other options normally considered energy efficient.

The fully considered well-to-wheel efficiency of a gasoline powered car is equal to the energy content of gasoline (34.3 MJ/liter) minus the refinement & transportation losses (18.3%), multiplied by the miles per gallon or km per liter. The Prius at an EPA rated 55 mpg therefore has an energy efficiency of 0.56 km/MJ. This is actually an excellent number compared with a “normal” car like the Toyota Camry at 0.28 km/MJ.

Note the term hybrid as applied to cars currently on the road is a misnomer. They are really just gasoline powered cars with a little battery assistance and, unless you are one of the handful who have an aftermarket hack, the little battery has to be charged from the gasoline engine. Therefore, they can be considered simply as slightly more efficient gasoline powered cars. If the EPA certified mileage is 55 mpg, then it is indistinguishable from a non-hybrid that achieves 55 mpg. As a friend of mine says, a world 100% full of Prius drivers is still 100% addicted to oil.

The CO2 content of any given source fuel is well understood. Natural gas is 14.4 grams of carbon per mega-joule and oil is 19.9 grams of carbon per mega-joule. Applying those carbon content levels to the vehicle efficiencies, including as a reference the Honda combusted natural gas and Honda fuel cell natural gas vehicles, the hands down winner is pure electric:

Car Energy Source CO2 Content Efficiency CO2 Emissions
Honda CNG Natural Gas 14.4 g/MJ 0.32 km/MJ 45.0 g/km
Honda FCX Nat Gas-Fuel Cell 14.4 g/MJ 0.35 km/MJ 41.1 g/km
Toyota Prius Oil 19.9 g/MJ 0.56 km/MJ 35.8 g/km
Tesla Roadster Nat Gas-Electric 14.4 g/MJ 1.14 km/MJ 12.6 g/km

The Tesla Roadster still wins by a hefty margin if you assume the average CO2 per joule of US power production. The higher CO2 content of coal compared to natural gas is offset by the negligible CO2 content of hydro, nuclear, geothermal, wind, solar, etc. The exact power production mixture varies from one part of the country to another and is changing over time, so natural gas is used here as a fixed yardstick.

Becoming Energy Positive
I should mention that Tesla Motors will be co-marketing sustainable energy products from other companies along with the car. For example, among other choices, we will be offering a modestly sized and priced solar panel from SolarCity, a photovoltaics company (where I am also the principal financier). This system can be installed on your roof in an out of the way location, because of its small size, or set up as a carport and will generate about 50 miles per day of electricity.

If you travel less than 350 miles per week, you will therefore be “energy positive” with respect to your personal transportation. This is a step beyond conserving or even nullifying your use of energy for transport – you will actually be putting more energy back into the system than you consume in transportation!

So, in short, the master plan is:

Build sports car
Use that money to build an affordable car
Use that money to build an even more affordable car
While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options
Don’t tell anyone.

Mileage from Megawatts: Enough Grid Capacity to Charge Plug-In Vehicles
Source: GreenBiz.com

RICHLAND, Wash., Dec. 12, 2006 - If all the cars and light trucks in the nation switched from oil to electrons, idle capacity in the existing electric power system could generate most of the electricity consumed by plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

A new study for the Department of Energy finds that "off-peak" electricity production and transmission capacity could fuel 84 percent of the country's 220 million vehicles if they were plug-in hybrid electrics.

Researchers at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory also evaluated the impact of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs, on foreign oil imports, the environment, electric utilities and the consumer.

"This is the first review of what the impacts would be of very high market penetrations of PHEVs, said Eric Lightner, of DOE's Office of Electric Delivery and Energy Reliability. "It’s important to have this baseline knowledge as consumers are looking for more efficient vehicles, automakers are evaluating the market for PHEVs and battery manufacturers are working to improve battery life and performance."

Current batteries for these cars can easily store the energy for driving the national average commute - about 33 miles round trip a day, so the study presumes that drivers would charge up overnight when demand for electricity is much lower.

Researchers found, in the Midwest and East, there is sufficient off-peak generation, transmission and distribution capacity to provide for all of today’s vehicles if they ran on batteries. However, in the West, and specifically the Pacific Northwest, there is limited extra electricity because of the large amount of hydroelectric generation that is already heavily utilized. Since more rain and snow can’t be ordered, it’s difficult to increase electricity production from the hydroelectric plants.

“We were very conservative in looking at the idle capacity of power generation assets," said PNNL scientist Michael Kintner-Meyer. “The estimates didn’t include hydro, renewables or nuclear plants. It also didn’t include plants designed to meet peak demand because they don’t operate continuously. We still found that across the country 84 percent of the additional electricity demand created by PHEVs could be met by idle generation capacity."

“Since gasoline consumption accounts for 73 percent of imported oil, it is intriguing to think of the trade and national security benefits if our vehicles switched from oil to electrons,” added PNNL energy researcher Rob Pratt. “Plus, since the utilities would be selling more electricity without having to build more plants or power lines, electricity prices could go down for everyone.”

Lightner noted that “the study suggests the idle capacity of the electric power grid is an underutilized national asset that could be tapped to vastly reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

The study also looked at the impact on the environment of an all-out move to PHEVs. The added electricity would come from a combination of coal-fired and natural gas-fired plants. Even with today’s power plants emitting greenhouse gases, the overall levels would be reduced because the entire process of moving a car one mile is more efficient using electricity than producing gasoline and burning it in a car’s engine.

Total sulfur dioxide emissions would increase in the near term due to sulfur content in coal. However, urban air quality would actually improve since the pollutants are emitted from power plants that are generally located outside cities. In the long run, according to the report, the steady demand for electricity is likely to result in investments in much cleaner power plants, even if coal remains the dominant fuel for our electricity production.

“With cars charging overnight, the utilities would get a new market for their product. PHEVs would increase residential consumption of electricity by about 30 - 40 percent. The increased generation could lead to replacing aging coal-fired plants sooner with newer, more environmentally friendly versions,” said Kintner-Meyer.

“The potential for lowering greenhouse gases further is quite substantial because it is far less expensive to capture emissions at the smokestack than the tailpipe. Vehicles are one of the most intractable problems facing policymakers seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Pratt.

Finally, the study looked at the economic impact on consumers. Since, PHEVs are expected to cost about $6,000 to $10,000 more than existing vehicles - mostly due to the cost of batteries -- researchers evaluated how long it might take owners to break even on fuel costs. Depending on the price of gas and the cost of electricity, estimates range from five to eight years - about the current lifespan of a battery. Pratt notes that utilities could offer a lower price per kilowatt hour on off-peak power, making PHEVs even more attractive to consumers.

Adding “smart grid” communications technology to ensure the vehicles only charge during off-peak periods and to provide immediate, remote disconnect of chargers in event of problems in the power grid would make them attractive to utilities.

Let's say that you do indeed drive 50 miles every day on a solar electric car. How much would it cost vs. a conventional gasoline car?

Assume a $10,000 upfront capital cost for the PV panel with a life of 25 years, plus a 2% annual cost for its maintenance. This means that you produce 50 miles of daily travel for roughly $1.65 in current dollars. That is before you take opportunity cost of funds into account, currently at another $1.40 per day (at 5% interest). Total cost so far, $3.05 per 50 miles. If you have to finance the PV panel with a loan at 10%, the cost jumps to $4.45 per day.

But we are not finished yet. Batteries become exhausted after repeated charge-discharge cycles. Let's say that you need to buy a new battery every 7 years, at $3.000 per set. That adds another $1.17 per day, always in current dollars.

Total goes to $4.22 or $5.62 per day, depending on how you financed your panel purchase. I must immediately tell you that the vast majority of americans cannot pay cash for such a purchase, so the realistic number is indeed the high one - let's say $5.50/day.

Ah, but we are still not finished. The per mile cost increases sharply if there are days you do not drive the full 50 miles per day. In econo-speak, all of that $5.50 cost is sunk-in and fixed. (You have to pay it regardless of use, unlike a tank of gas which you use when you need it.) Let's alter our assumptions a bit and say you use your electro-car at 90% of capacity, or an average of 45 miles per day. The cost now goes to $6.05 per average 45 mile day.

Still not finished...

All of this will buy you just 50 miles per day maximum - no more. What of those days when you want to take a longer trip to the shore, or to visit your mother in law (shudder)? You can't use the electro-car so you take the bus/train/hydrogen rikshaw at $50 roundtrip for the entire family. Assume you do that just 10 times a year. That adds another $1.37 per day. How about that drive-to the Piney Pines Lodge vacation once a year? Bus again, another $200 for the family, or $0.55 per day.

Total $7.42 - let's call it $7.50 bucks even per day. That is just for "fuel" mind you, not including the car purchase, which I assume to cost the same as a regular fossil fuel car.

A new gas car will get 25 mpg. A run of the mill diesel will get to 40-50 mpg, easy. You see the problem? Solar "fuel" costs as much as $7.50/gallon when it replaces an efficient diesel, or a minimum $3/gallon when it replaces a run of the mill gasoline car.

If we want such a system to even START becoming attractive, we need to tax gasoline/diesel prices at least that much more and provide a compensating direct tax credit towards the purchase of the PV system.

Given that people will naturally jump to diesels before going to PV's, a $3/gal price will not do the trick.

A combination $5.25/gal price for gas/diesel (i.e. a $3.25 tax/gal) PLUS all of those proceeds going towards the subsidy of PV installations is the absolute minimum for the process to start, as things stand right now.

How likely is that?...and I haven't even thrown in the higher copper prices ;)...

Posted by: Dumas | January 17, 2007 at 06:03 AM

On top of that Dumas, who's to say that the economy will be strong enough that regular folks will be able to afford any of this?

Still, as PV is still a future promise when it comes to powering the grid, our fleet will still be fossil fuel powered. It will be powered primarily by natural gas and coal.

And soon, mostly coal.

I see it as a solution we'll chase after as we power down. As we run low on oil, our economy will shed jobs as there will be no energy to power their work. The people laid off won't buy electric cars at any price. They'll be more worried about finding shelter from the storm.

As time goes on, it will be ever more likely that those people will be us.

Posted by: Weaseldog | January 17, 2007 at 08:14 AM

The End of Suburbia

JHK's documentary "The End of Suburbia" (short version) is now available on YouTube.

17 January 2007

Nice to see things are getting better...

Doomsday Clock winds closer to Armageddon
Last Updated: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 | 11:20 AM ET
CBC News

The face of the Doomsday Clock shifted two minutes closer to midnight Wednesday, symbolizing the impending destruction of humanity in a "Second Nuclear Age."

Chicago's Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the group that has maintained the timepiece since 1947, wound the minute hand closer to the grim hour for the first time since 2002, when it was frozen at seven minutes to midnight.

The Doomsday Clock had been frozen at seven minutes to midnight since 2002. (courtesy The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists)
Now modern dangers such as global warming and the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea have inched the clock two minutes forward — to five minutes to midnight.

Created in 1947

"The major new step reflects growing concerns about a 'Second Nuclear Age' marked by grave threats," including nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran, as well as continuing "launch-ready status" of some 2,000 to 25,000 warheads held by the U.S. and Russia, the scientists said in a statement Tuesday.

The world has used the Doomsday Clock as a measurable way to reflect the perils facing humanity since it was created in 1947. In its first year, the minute hand perched at seven minutes to midnight, and it has edged closer with each worsening nuclear and climate threat, or backwards to indicate more secure times.

Notably, Doomsday was two minutes to midnight — its closest ever to doom — during the Cold War in 1953, when the U.S. and Soviet Union began testing H bombs.

Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking joined the Chicago-based scientists Wednesday to announce the clock-face change and speak on the nuclear and climate risks facing the world.


The Shuttle Launch, as seen from the International Space Station (ISS).
The Space Station happened to be passing by Cape Canaveral when the Shuttle launched. Two amazing photos.

16 January 2007

Warming of Mass Destruction

Check out the loveable Flamey McGassy's latest 'Warming of Mass Destruction' diatribe here. Flamey's been seen before, with 'The Hottest Hoax Around' here and his debut here. How could someone so cute NOT be telling the truth????

All of Mark Fiore's cartoons are archived here.

15 January 2007

Children of Men

Joe and I just got back from seeing "Children Of Men". Wow - what a movie. The cinematography was incredible in expressing the despair of the time and events taking place. The story itself was a dark and compelling thriller and centred around the ideas of what would happen in a world without hope. It had your typically British "glimmer of hope" ending (versus a bubblegum, trumpet-fanfare, wave-the-flag Hollywood ending).

I was completely drawn into this film. Its always interesting to see how different directors view the future. Alfonso Cuarón's view is fascinating.

The year is 2027, eighteen years after the last baby was born. Women have mysteriously become sterile and the entire world has fallen into chaos and war due to the despair of a dying species. Britain attempts to maintain a semblance of orderly society with the introduction of martial law in the form of a police state, with a forceful anti-foreigner and anti-immigrant policy. These people are routinely rounded up and either shipped out or sent to interment or refugee camps.

The world's youngest citizen has just been stabbed, he was only 18 years old. The movie focuses on Theo (Clive Owen), and Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), a woman who is miraculously 8 months pregnant. It inadvertently becomes Theo's duty to get her to saftey. Children of Men offers a diverse cast including of course Clive Owen as the hero, Michael Caine as a kinda hippy philosopher confidant of Theo's, Julianne Moore as Theos ex-wife activist turned terrorist, Chiwetel Ejiofor as the rebel leader hunting down Theo and Kee, and of course newcomer Claire-Hope Ashitey as Kee.

The movie was mainly filmed with a hand held camera which only adds to the experience. You may have also heard of some specifics relating to the camera work. Such examples are one of the car chase scenes, and the battlefield at the end. The car chase works so well because it feels like the cameraman is a ghost, and not actually there because the camera gets such wonderful shots. The scene near the end was absolutely amazing in the sense that there was action action action, yet the camera was continually rolling and wasn't edited. To add to the realism, blood spatters on the lens, but it is kept there for sometime afterwards. Children of Men will most certainly not get a Best Editing nomination come Oscar time.

Children of Men is visually and technically perfect. Each scene was brilliantly detailed and thought out, leaving us with plenty to admire. I am still in awe that they were able to pull off the final battle scene in one long unedited take until the jaw-dropping final scene occurs. Fantastic. And yes, the ending is pretty much sad with a glimmer of hope. I won't give away the ending though....

It was a great pick for a movie for us since we haven't been out to the theater in ages due to the quality, screenplay, and cinematography, but the hopelessness and despair throughout most of the movie was quite sobering. Dystopic future worlds seen through the eyes of these directors always fascinate me, but in today's negative collective mood, the ideas seem more foreboding.

The Cheap Oil Mirage

James Howard Kunstler, Clusterfuck Nation
January 15, 2007
The American public is understandably happy to see the bottom fall out of the oil futures market. But temporary circumstances are only sending them another false signal that everything is perfectly okay on the oil scene. And it only reinforces the foolish belief that when prices go up it is solely because corporate finaglers tweak them up on purpose. In fact, these days it's the other way around: often prices go down because corporate finaglers are tweaking the markets, dumping positions, playing shorts rather than acting like real oil users bidding on real contracts for delivery for real purposes like making gasoline. When oil goes up, as it certainly will again, it is primarily because of geology -- what's left in the ground -- and secondarily because of geopolitics -- where it's left in the ground (and what's happening there).

The supernaturally warm winter temperatures have also played a part, keeping inventories high while the home furnaces idle. (Last week it was 70 degrees in Albany, NY.) There is surely some demand destruction in the background. Third World nations are increasingly dropping out of the bidding (meaning their generators quit making electricity and their trucks stop running). And a contracting US economy may also play a part. But even these circumstances may not overcome the supply problems in the real oil world. Here's what's going on:

As a baseline, it helps to understand that the four largest super-giant oil fields of the world are now in decline. They have been responsible for producing 14 percent of the world's oil supply. They are now old and tired (thirty years is old in the oil world) and they are in depletion. These are The Cantarell field of Mexico, the Burgan field of Kuwait, the Daqing field of China, and the granddaddy of them all, the Ghawar field of Saudi Arabia.

The Cantarell field is a horror story. Pemex, the Mexican national oil company, tried to conceal the dire developments, because Cantarell alone is practically the whole Mexican oil industry. But it is now self-evident that Cantarell is crashing, with a 40 percent (accurately, it's actually around 14% - ed.) annual decline rate projected ahead, meaning a couple of years and it's out. Mexico is America's second largest source of oil imports (after No. 1 Canada and before No. 3 Saudi Arabia). When Cantarell crashes, the Mexican oil industry will crash and the US will be out a major source of imported oil. The US will also be out of imports that were so conveniently close they could be shipped by pipeline rather than tanker ships. For its part, Mexico will be out of a major source of export hard currency revenue and as its economy crashes will probably become even more politically unstable -- meaning more Mexican citizens desperately seeking to get out. Guess where?

Burgan is is in decline. The Kuwaitis announced it themselves last year. Daqing has been the major source of China's domestic oil, which is otherwise paltry, meaning Daqing's decline will only make China more desperate for imports. Ghawar remains shrouded in mystery, since Saudi Aramco does not welcome outside audits. But at 50 years old it is well past the mean age of peak production for oil fields and that alone probably tells the story. Beyond that, we know that Ghawar is producing with a (best case) 35 percent "water cut" (and perhaps much higher). They have to pump seawater into the field (a standard practice) to keep the oil coming out under pressure. The trouble is that they are getting this substantial water cut after redeploying their equipment for horizontal drilling -- an ominous sign. Saudi Arabia declared last year that it would increase production to 12 million barrels a day by 2009. By close of 2006, it appeared to have trouble producing 9 million, with prospects for a 4 percent annual decline rate in the years just ahead.

Elsewhere, Iran is not only past peak, but its domestic demand is so high that it cannot maintain its export levels. The North Sea, which saved the West's ass through the 1990s, is now crapping out at a steep decline rate. Iraq is on track to Palookaville, despite substantial reserves, and even if, by some miracle, its tired old oil infrastructure survives the war, the US may lose access to future production for geopolitical reasons that should be obvious.

Venezuela is past peak for conventional liquid crude and hurting badly for technical expertise to work its oil fields since Hugo Chavez purged the state oil company's management. Last year, Venezuela had to import Russian oil to avoid defaulting on contracts. Whatever the true condition of Venezuela's industry, Chavez is not disposed favorably toward the US -- he hosted Iran's president Ahmadinejad last week to signal that both of them were on the same page where the US was concerned.

The situation in US production is grim. We peaked in 1970. East Texas is near total depletion, with a 99 percent water cut (it produces "oil-stained water). Prudhoe Bay in Alaska now has a 75 percent water cut. We're on track to produce under 5 million barrels a day in 2007 (down from a 1970 high of about 10 million), and heading relentlessly further down year-on-year. We burn through more than 20 million barrels a day. Do the math and see above (re: potential imports) for our prospects.

So, for now the US public (here in the East, anyway) is enjoying both a winter-of-no-winter and a season of comfortably lower oil prices. The financial markets are doing a triumphal dance in expectation of soaring equity values. And the news media is lumbering along with its head up its ass.

Last week, however, the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in an extraordinary session, heard testimony that the nation is in grave danger of a permanent oil crisis. Some of these senators affected to be shocked and surprised. What planet have they been living on? What is the nation getting for the hundreds of million of dollars paid to their staffers? Outgoing Republican chair, Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), said to the witnesses that “what you told us today is absolutely startling with reference to the future.” Is it too early for a dumbfuck of the year award?

Perhaps the most valuable message the committee got came from Dr. Flynt Leverett from the New America Foundation, who said: “…there is no economically plausible scenario for a strategically meaningful reduction in the dependence of the United States and its allies on imported hydrocarbons during the next quarter century.” That's the straight dope and we'd better stop pretending otherwise.

We'd also better stop pretending that alt.fuels such as ethanol, bio-diesel, coal liquids, or hydrogen will allow us to keep up the happy motoring. We have to make other arrangements for daily life. We don't have a moment to lose. Our "to do" list is very long. If we waste our time in recrimination or hand wringing we are going to lose the things we value most, including an orderly society. So, don't be fooled by the temporary fall in oil prices. We're in the zone of the long emergency.

What is defined as 'alarmist' by the pundits are those independent researchers that have been saying, at least since the beginning of the Bush Administration, that global Peak Oil would occur sometime between late 2005 and 2009. All the 'experts' have considered these predictions as laughable, while taking the predictions of the EIA and CERA as law, which push their Peak Oil predictions out to 2030 and beyond (keep in mind that these groups are funded wholly by the oil industry and/or the government). None of these groups have full access to the production and reserve records of those countries with nationalized oil companies, in particular Saudi Arabia. So essentially, does anyone really know the truth? With a truth that is so important to our security, economy, and society, why do you think that the powers that be aren't demanding more transparency in the numbers provided by OPEC and nationalized oil companies? They'd better start getting this madness sorted out because the world's economic system depends on what the reality really is.