Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The flotilla fiasco

First, let me say, that I object to the blockade on Gaza. I don't think it ever had a chance to achieve its goal (whatever that was), it did not do anything to free Gilad Shalit, to destabilize the Hamas or to prevent smuggling of weapons into the Gaza strip.

Second, it is now clear (to me at least) that the flotilla was highjacked by 50-100 jihadists who between them and the words "humanitarian" and "civil rights" there is no common ground. These are people who set out to clash, as violently as possible with any Israeli intervention, which they did. I don't mourn their death. This is something that honest leftist and peace activist should deal with and consider for future such actions.

Third, my main anger (not disappointment as I never had any expectations) is from the Israeli goverment. There is a saying in Hebrew that a wise person does not enter places that a clever person knows how to get out of. Israel does not have the privilage of being only clever. The neighbourhood is too rough, volatile, nervous and dangerous for the Israeli government not to be smart. Sadly, this one has proved that it is not even clever but darn right stupid.

The blockade, imposed for months by Israel and by Egypt, the breaking of which was the declared goal of the flotilla, has all but ended yesterday when Egype announced and then acted by opening the Rafah crossing for 12 hours and saying that it will remin open for the unforeseeable future.

Israel's situation is significatnly worse off than before the interception on all fronts. Yesterday, in the Knesset Committee for Foreign and Security Affairs, Meir Dagan, the head of the Mossad, said that Israel is becoming an liability for the US, instead of being an asset. Israel is quickly finding itself isolated, ostracised, condemned its allies.

These are all things that a wise government, which had all the time in the world to prepare for the foltilla, should have considered, deliberated and finally reached a decision. If it did consider all the possibilities and decided to act as it did it is a dangerous government that is weakening instead of strengthening Israel. If it did not consider these then it is incompetant and dangerous as well. In both cases it should be replaced. In fact, no one will pay any personal price (except for some soldiers who got injured) and things will continue to get worse.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

ERROCA Eyeware

What can you say when this Israeli sun glass company produces this tasteless ad?? What is the message? What are they trying to convey to their customers? Do their customers understand this message? Do they care?

Nothing in it really surprises me. Green issues carry far less weight in Israel than in other developed and developing countries. The "Matzav" (Situation), the Israeli - Palestinian/Arab/rest of the world/anyone who is not Jewish, conflict has always been the key argument against doing anything that can improve the standard of living of Israelis. Thus environment is very far on the agenda of Israelis as is consumer protection, education, social network etc. This is also very convenient for successive Israeli governments who keep instilling an existential fear in their citizens. Sadly, FDR's quote: "the only thing to fear is fear itself", is not taught in Israeli schools.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Introducing Soap Concepts LLC - Click here

Something about the story that I picked off a Tweet about Soap Concepts caught my attention. Its a story and a business that combines so many things I like and support. BioDiesel from used cooking oil (rather than cultivated crops), using a byproduct of the process (glycerin), sustainability, entrepreneurialship, as well as some semi-concpiratorial facts about why our commercial soaps don't contain glycerin any more (but do contain some nasty chemicals).

The quality is far from perfect but it's my first attempt and it will improve (intro and outro included).

I'd like to thank Telly Concepcion and Eric Layton for their availability and want to wish them a super success in launching the Gator Glyss soap.

Feedback is welcome.

There is no time to lose - there is everything to win!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My first podcast...

is facing some problems. Yesterday, Sunday, January 2nd, 2010, I interviewed Eric Layton and Telly Concepcion, founders of Soap Concepts LLC. Soap Concepts produces soap made of glycerin that is a byproduct in the biodiesel industry. Using used cooking oil from the University of Florida eateries and essential oils produced from citrus peels used to make juice on campus for 60,000 students, this sustabinable soap is raising awarness to the importance of biodiesel, contributes to the revenue stream of biodiesel plants, is wholly natural without chemicals and promotes sustainable thought and living.

Check out their website and I hope to have the podcast up and running within a day or two.

There is no time to lose - there is everything to win!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An Energy mix

Let's have a look to world energy consumption, with a focus on electricity.

According to the Energy Information Administration's International Energy Outlook 2009, the world's electricity generation is expected to increase by 77% from 2006-2030. Much of this is going to take place in the developing countries where increases of per-capita income and a general rise in the standard of living is going to push up the demand for power in developing countries the world over.

Now, let's breakdown the sources/fuels from which this electricity is produced and will produce this expected, staggering increase:

Todate and in the foreseeable future, coal continues to fuel the largest share of worldwide electric power generation. In 2006 coal accounted for 41% of world electricity supply whereas in 2030 it is expected to increase to 43%(!) if the business as usual policy towards coal continues. This is disasterous news for the environment as coal fired generation emits the highest levels of carbon to the atmosphere and are a major contributor to global warming. The good news is that with using the right tools (cabon taxes) as there are tremendous opportunites for reducting CO2 and all we need is for a true price on carbon to be imposed the world over to bring into play some attractive no or low emission technologies for making coal cleaner.

Gas powered generation - natural gas is equal to only about one half the total production of coal. There are many advantages for using natural gas to produce electricity. Its efficiency, operating flexibility, short planning and construction time and relatively low capital costs. Only a few days ago, Powermag reported huge new natural gas finds in the US which should push gas powered generation in the short and mid term in the US.

Liquid fuel and petroleum - one of the least efficient, most polluting and most expensive ways to produce electric power. The expected rising price of petroleum and peak oil is going to cause a significant fall in electricity produced from petroleum both in percentage wise and in absolute numbers.

Nuclear power - nuclear power being carbon neutral (if we don't count the emissions involved in mining uranium) is going to increase in use over the coming 20 years. Development in N-power technology are showing higher capacity utilization. On the other hand, issues of plant safety, radioactive wast disposal and nuclear weapons concerns. It should be noted that the same peak oil idea that Hubbert developed for oil is also relevant for all minerals and though not often considered as such, Uranium is also a finite resource.

And now to renewables: there is little doubt that this is the fastest growing source of electricity. Therefore, the 2009 Outlook expects the share of renewables (Hydro, wind, geothermal, and other) to grow also in the percentage of the global production from 19% in 2006 (mainly large hydro) to 21% in 2030.

But, the EIA concludes with the following position which, as I discussed in the Linkedin Discussion, is fully mistaken:

"Although renewable energy sources have positive environmental and energy security properties, most renewable technologies other than hydroelectricity are not able to compete economically with fossil fuels during the projection period outside a few regions. Solar power, for instance, is currently a “niche” source of renewable energy but can be economical where electricity prices are especially high or government incentives are available."

As long as the US and other goverments do not understand the issue of negative external costs we are pretty much in a tangle. Until governments the world over do not accept the fact that current fossil fuel energy cannot continue to be subsadized by the tax payer as a way of keeping fossil fuel energy prices down and renewable energy prices high, we are not going to see a change in the numbers outlined above. Only by imposing strict emission taxes on emitters is there any hope for leveling the playing field and tipping it in favor for low emission energy.

It is time for all of us to get more involved. We must tweet, blog, e-mail, network, communicate, petition, discuss, convince, write, open support groups in facebook and elsewhere and speak to our friends, neighbours, co-workers, representatives and anyone willing to listen. It is time for us, citizens of the planet, to demand from our goverments and Parliaments to do what it takes to reduce CO2 emissions. If they don't know what to do we must propose. If they don't listen, we must replace them with those who do.

To end on a positive note, NY Times reported on 30th of December that the French Constitutional Council turned down a proposed carbon tax due to it being too lax on emitters and with too many exemptions on polluters and sent it back to goverment for revision.

There is no time to lose and there is everything to win!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Compulsory green energy purchases - a discussion I joined on LinkedIn

The following discussion was started in the Renewable Energy Business Network/Clean Economy Network on LinkedIn:

"What is your opinion regarding compulsory green energy purchases?
China's top legislature Tuesday discussed a legal amendment to require
electricity grid companies to buy all the power produced by renewable energy
generators. "

One of the participants posted the following comment:

"I believe in democracy and capitalism. I do not want more government and more
mandates for anyone! In my opinion, compulsory green energy purchases is a bad
idea. Instead of mandates, green energy must stand on its own because of the
value it brings to the individual, the business and the world."

This is my answer: democracy and capitalism are great. However, equal opportunity and a level playing field is just as important and the field has not been levelled for years. When businesses make millions of dollars in profit while dumping their solid, liquid and gaseous waste without accounting for it into landfills, rivers and the air, that is not capitalism. It is abuse of opportunity. It is wrong. It is injustice. This took place and in many cases is still taking place in the US and in many other places. Energy companies, large industry, utilities, are polluting, and transferring negative external costs to you and all of us. Their pollution costs money, it is a heavy burden on the health system that is financed not by the polluter but by the public. These costs have NEVER been calculated into any tax as far as I know.

We must change this and yes, compulsory purchasing of clean energy, incentives for clean energy, carbon taxes, cap and trade, polluter pays taxes and any other tool will do just this. It will force industry that uses a lot of energy or produces a lot of waste, to invest in industry that has a positive impact on the environment, i.e. renewable energy, and it will make doing business that is bad for the environment much more expensive, as it should be.

Capitalism does have room in this environment, it just needs some guidance, governmental and, more importantly, public demand from government do implement this guidance.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Hubbert's Peak Oil - 4th post

Still working on my first podcast. I was supposed to have my first interview yesterday but it didn't work out. I am happy to report that I will be interviewing the CEO of Sovna on Sunday so stay tuned.

I am going to try to be a bit shorter in my posts. This time, about Peak Oil.

It is thought by most that the drive behind renewable energy is global warming. This is only partially true. An additional major driver of the search for renewable and alternative energies is what is know as peak oil or the end of the cheap oil era.

The idea of Peak Oil was first put forward by M. King Hubbert, an American geologist. Hubbert's thesis is that for any given geographical area, from an individual oil-producing region to the planet as a whole, the rate of oil production tends to follow a bell-shaped curve.

The idea he put forward is simple, intuative and well proven and established in practice; and yet it has been contended by so many - particulary oil companies and producers. It basically says that oil is finite (no argument here - but I can expand this point if asked). That when extracting oil, we first extract the oil that is easiest to extract, i.e. close to the surface and close by (still pretty logical). It goes on to say that about half the oil, in any given area - small or global - is shallow, near and relatively easy (and therefore cheap) to extract while the other half is deep, located in remote areas (or very deep underground) and, as a result, difficult to extract (and expensive).

This has been supported by reality. Whereas the great oil wells of Saudi Arabi (Gawahr field which is actually dying) and Texas started off as very shallow, recent finds of very large petroleum deposits, as recently reported off the coast of Brazil by PetroBras, are 10 km deep and will cost an estimated $250 billion to extract.

For years, Hubbert's Peak Oil theory was completely ignored by decision makers. No real consideration was given to how OPEC members determined their oil reserves and the numbers they gave were rarely contended. This has just very recently changed. On the 10th of December, the Economist reports that the IEA now puts peak oil at 2020!!! This does not mean that oil will run out in 2020. It does mean, however, that the price of oil will start climbing at a growing pace. This will not be the same speculation driven rise in oil prices that we saw 3 years ago. This is going to be steady, sharp and rapid as more and more citizens in developing countries will want to drive cars.

2020, to remind us all, is only 10 years away(!) and just as good a reason as global warming to incentivize, pour billions of dollars and whatever else to produce renewable energy.

Now there are two strong argument for renewable energy incentives. What will the climate change conspiracy theorists say to that...