Archive for March, 2008

gore to candidates on climate change: in your face

we cant wait ad campaign

Who knew we'd be this far into silly season without the candidates acknowledging our climate change elephant.

Hard to believe that, of the 2,275 questions candidates have fielded so far, only 3 mentioned global warming (via treehugger).

As much as anyone, Al Gore is distressed about this and intends to fix it with in-your-face TV/Web ads that will inject the campaign with a sense of urgency around global warming.

The first ad from Gore's new campaign features William Macy in "we didn't wait", which together With his earlier 'black ballons' ad featuring Tommy Lee Jones certainly pushes the state of debate.

Published by Ken on March 31st, 2008 tagged Climate Change | Comment now »

heading our way: climate change in Hawaii

climate change in hawaii

The science confab last Wednesday yielded several new clues to Hawaii’s future in a field of study that is advancing rapidly.

Climate modeling is providing more fine-grained understanding of relationships between air, ocean and land systems, as well as deeper appreciation of Hawaii's climate system complexities.

Precision is clouded (heh) by different effects over land than over the ocean, and Hawaii is a little of the former in a lot of the latter.

Here's a quick summary of highlights from the day's presentations, after host Stephen Miller outlined an innovative 3-day learning process that includes a strategy session with stakeholder groups.

Published by Ken on March 30th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Ecosystems Research, HI-specific | Comment now »

who said hydro’s too hot? on nexgen power w/o dams

helical turbine

We know that hydro has potentially the smallest footprint of any green energy technology, yet the idea of damming rivers has fallen out of fashion.

Now, a new generation of free-standing turbines is offering an alternative to dam-centric hydroelectric energy generation, according to David Schaller of the Federal Network for Sustainability (via sustainable practices).

Schaller notes that one design, the Gorlov Helical Turbine, works in any stream and with whatever direction of water flow exists (via economist).

Gorlov won the Edison patent award for his invention and the turbines have been commercialized by Lucid Energy Technologies.

Published by Ken on March 30th, 2008 tagged Energy | Comment now »

wisdom + technology = sustainability: on blue planet summit

blue planet foundation logo

Gotta another excuse to spew carbon to attend the Blue Planet Summit (BPS) next week on Oahu.

That's if I can get invited (no word yet) to this gathering of 80-plus "luminaries who will share lessons learned and find new actionable ideas to create energy that is clean, inexpensive, efficient, and abundant."

Founder Henk Rogers announced BPS in early February, calling for a "global dialogue on clean energy with all of us working in partnership.” Yeah!

So far, local 'luminaries' like Jeff Mikulina, Kelly King, Mawae Morton, Ramsay Taum, Maurice Kaya, Mina Morita, and Kanu's Andrew Aoki are on the list,.

Published by Ken on March 29th, 2008 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities | Comment now »

on wot happens when climate scientists share learning

steve miller organized HI climate change confab

No earth shattering science was on the agenda, which may explain why the Hawaii media ignored the gathering on climate change yesterday at Manoa's East-West Center.

Well, KGMB did do a 1-minute clip on "Hawaii's coral reef in jeapordy" featuring Ken Caldeira of Stanford's Carnegie Institution.

Still, I'm glad I decided to spew some carbon to fly over for the day. Why? About 100 of us got to hear the latest scientific findings by the wizards who are doing the research.

My favorite? Kevin Hamilton, and not just because he's wrapped tightly around the art of climate modeling.

Published by Ken on March 27th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, HI-specific | Comment now »

mood ring to track footprints? wot a concept!

footprint mood ring

John Tierney riffs on the behavioral economics behind the "Nudge" factor to suggest that "people need extra guidance" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (via nytimes).

Tierney proposes "a new green fad for electronic jewelry with real-time displays of carbon footprints."

Borrowing from Nudge’s behavioral economics, Tierney notes that "with the right prompting, we’ll make sacrifices for the common good and reform our behavior strikingly to conform with social norms...if we get simple, clear feedback." Says Tierney, "that’s why cars come with idiot lights."

Tierney wants to see mood rings that “change color depending on how much electricity or gas you use, or how much you travel."

Published by Ken on March 25th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Ecological Footprint | 2 Comments »

sprawl as native right? on DHHL’s Wailua project

DHHL project site at Wailua river

Whatever else might be said about proposed development south of Wailua river, it is sprawl...pure and simple.

Never mind that DHHL (Hawaiian Homelands) need NOT heed Kauai County zoning, and that this 'devil's bargain' aligns would-be Hawaiian homeowners with resort developers.

The prior question is whether this project fits our vision for Kauai...stipulating that Hawaiians are part of that "our".

And here we run right up against the challenge of preserving our island's 'greenbelts.

Recall that an earlier Hanamaulu development down the road was rejected, in part because the County's General Plan declared that ag land should stay ag. Just so in Wailua.

Published by Ken on March 25th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Community Initiatives | Comment now »

dontcha Lovins?! this much he knows about sustainability

amory lovins one-liners

Personally, I aspire to the one-liners' craft that Amory Lovins has perfected. Lovins snaps off sound bites with the best of 'em.

Want proof? Checkout Lovin's interview in yesterday's Guardian (via treehugger).

For example, Lovin's way of dealing with doom-mongers is to let the person talk for a while and then ask, gently: “Does feeling this way make you more effective?” Righteous!

Most important, Lovin parses the complexities of energy conversion into simple statements of fact that foment dramatic rethinking of our most cherished beliefs.

For example: “The markets make a good servant but a bad master, and a worse religion.” There’s more.

Published by Ken on March 24th, 2008 tagged Island Ecosystems | Comment now »

BOP’n around the islands: on community energy strategy

bottom of the pyramid energy strategy

Who was it that said "if ya can't join 'em, beat 'em"? (OK, so I flipped that phrase...heh)

"Beat 'em" might be used advisedly here to describe an alternative strategy-- more of a 'bottom-of-the-pyramid' (BOP) approach-- for moving our islands' renewable energy conversion along a lot faster...Now that I won't be sitting on the KIUC Board.

Turns out, there's a burgeoning alternative energy movement across the islands that poses both great opportunities and significant challenges for electric utilities and for communities now switching away from fossil fuels.

The opportunity is to integrate many different green energy generation sources within a distributed system.

Published by Ken on March 24th, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Energy | Comment now »

not ready for prime time: KIUC re-elects incumbents

KIUC election retults

Whew! Ben Sullivan and I actually came fairly close to getting elected to the KIUC Board...with just over 3,000 votes. Yeah!

And, as Susan promised, we're celebrating the near miss...Ben and I and others in the green energy choir...tomorrow evening (email if ya wanna know where).

At 42% of the ballots cast, we were within a coupla hundred votes of the 3rd-place incumbent...who got just over 3,200 votes. Still, we were well behind the front-runners who got over 3,800 votes.

And, not many more voted this year (7,341) than last (7,202). Guess you'd have to say these results are underwhelming.

Published by Ken on March 22nd, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Energy | 1 Comment »

on KIUC choices: the conversation so far…

conversdation about KIUC

My recent SusHI retrospective had links to a series of posts I've written over the months that relate to Kauai's energy choices.

Then I set out to cover in greater depth a series of KIUC-specific issues. These are linked below.

Hopefully, one outcome of this year's Board race is broader awareness of crucial strategic decisions Kauaians face regarding our urgent need to switch away from fossil fuels as an energy source.

And, hopefully, more KIUC members are more engaged and committed to participate in the tough decisions we must now make. We all have so much to learn. The conversation continues. Read on...

Published by Ken on March 22nd, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, Energy | 1 Comment »

KIUC balloting closes today: on waiting for results

waiting for KIUC balloting

Hopefully, all attentive and concerned KIUC members will have long since cast their ballots for the 3 Board seats, since the deadline is Noon today.

This race is impossible to call, not least because it's an odd form of democratic process...wot with a 3-week window to submit your mailed-out paper ballot.

Either way, it's been an interesting exercise in broadening our community conversation about green energy.

Sure, most folks wanna grumble about the rates, yet virtually everyone seems genuinely caught up in the discussion around going green.

Published by Ken on March 22nd, 2008 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comment now »

this just up: new footprint calculator from GFN

footprint calculator from GFN

How many planets does it take to support your lifestyle?

That's the question posed by this much-anticipated new tool from Global Footprint Network.

Now you can answer this question with some precision in the initial version of their new ecological footprint calculator, which provides a graphic representation of your impact on the planet.

Better yet, the calculator is hugely graphic and interactive, thanks to GFN's collaboration with Free Range Studios...the same folks who brought us Meatrix and The Story of Stuff.

The rollout of this vital resource begins with an Australian version, and the US and Canadian versions are promised shortly.

Published by Ken on March 21st, 2008 tagged Ecological Footprint | 1 Comment »

some trees are less huggable: on conditional love

CAT scan of native forest with invasives

Not all trees are created equal nor do they treat each other equally well. So, some trees we don't love quite so much, no matter how much carbon they suck up.

Take the infamous albizia tree in Hawaii, for example, and it's incursion into our native forests. Hard to love this trend, no?

Hey, at least we're getting better at spotting the invaders. Greg Asner reports that an aircraft with remote sensing tech can survey the invasive species' impact on our tropical rainforest (via treehugger).

Right: they're spreading fast, in part because they alter soil fertility, according to Asner.

Published by Ken on March 20th, 2008 tagged Island Ecosystems, Island Vulnerabilities | 2 Comments »

ZED or else: on fixing global warming

zero emissions required to avert major warming

Averting a dangerous rise in global temperatures would require the world to cease carbon emissions altogether within a few decades, says one of the speakers coming to the Honolulu climate change confab next week.

Ken Caldeira just published the results of advanced computer models that factor in all the aspects of the carbon cycle, include deep-sea warming, that naturally creates and removes CO2 (via washpost).

According to Caldeira, we're gonna need "a much more radical change to our energy system if we don't want Earth to warm anymore".

Sheesh! Zero emissions development? I tho't that was a pipe dream for the distant future...

Published by Ken on March 19th, 2008 tagged Climate Change, Island Vulnerabilities | 1 Comment »

going green with big orange: Home Depot and eco-options

home depot eco options

Sure, Home Depot wants folks to know about "Eco-Options", and has made a fairly big deal about this in its advertising.

Still, didja ever try to find "eco-Options" when ya go shopping? Try Hawaii.

Why? Turns out, Home depot leaves its store marketing to the employees, and Hawaii has their 'greenest' workers.

So notes Ron Jarvis, HD's SVP of Environmental Innovation (via foodshedplanet).

According to Jarvis, the 2,000 Home Depot stores have had varying success embracing the Eco-Options communications.

Turns out, HD had an internal contest, called 'Scream If You're Green', to identify the most environmentally-savvy team associates in the company.

Published by Ken on March 19th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, HI-specific | Comment now »

wot’s socially, environmentally sustainable? not economics

econ as if people matter

"A lot of people are intimidated by the vocabulary and complexity of economics", says Dave Pollard, "so when many of the dangerous myths of traditional economics are espoused, they have no basis to counter them” (via howtosavetheworld).

Forget about economies of scale, ‘free’ markets, 'free' trade, and 'trickle down' , says Pollard, and he offers links to the thought leaders in green economics.

Says Pollard, "there are several economists who have debunked the nonsense of traditional economics and sketched out alternative economic principles and methodologies that actually work to the benefit of people and the environment."

Published by Ken on March 18th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Systems Thinking | Comment now »

intermittent sources: on renewable energy capacity factors

kauai energy demand by hour

Most electric utility discussions of renewables focus on potential brownouts-- like when the sun goes behind a cloud or the wind suddenly dies-- as if this was a show stopper.

They use the term "capacity factor" to downgrade each intermittent energy source to wotever level of power can reasonably be expected most of the time.

Recent research at Carnegie Mellon, for example, found that wind was more reliable than sun, and assigned a capacity factor of 40% to the former and 20% to the latter (via treehugger).

Yet, wot does this mean for investors and consumers? Mebbe not wot ya think…

OK, so the CM study suggests that wind is the better buy...because it's likely to be a steadier source of energy supply.

Published by Ken on March 18th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Energy | Comment now »

e-cars give back: talk about distributed energy!

ecars integrate with power grid

How much more electricity capacity would we need if we switched to electric vehicles?

Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) looked into this and came back with a surprising answer: Potentially, none.

As long as we charge our e-cars at nite, we can use the surplus electricity that our utilities maintain for peak loads. Yeah!

Think of e-cars as mobile energy storage, too. ORNL is looking into smart inverters and chargers that regulate the voltage at the source.

Says ORNL, "we think distributed energy resources can be controlled by local, independent, autonomous, adaptable controllers that function independently without causing problems to the others.”

Published by Ken on March 17th, 2008 tagged Energy, Systems Thinking, Transport | Comment now »

creating markets from the bottom up: on BOP design

biomass going to BOP power generator in rural india

Serious investment in bottom-of-the-pyramid (BOP) markets is still the exception...but that's changing fast, says Joshua Weissburg (via Stanford Social Innovation Review).

"Mass markets are fragmenting everywhere, and firms that learn to design up from local circumstances will compete better wherever they operate", says Weissburg.

"Take a step back and do what entrepreneurs have always done", says Weissburg: ask questions like “What do people need?” “Why don’t they have it?” and “How do they get it?”

India's community-based DESI Power, for example, builds biomass generators that run on weeds and provide clean electricity for rural villages to pump water and charge batteries.

Published by Ken on March 13th, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Community Initiatives | Comment now »