Saturday, December 11, 2010

Swedish Town Uses Waste Instead of Fossil Fuels for Most Public Energy Consumption

The New York Times has this article to brighten the Saturday morning news for everyone who - like this blogger - believes that there is a strong need to use less oil and coal: Link. By converting all of its kitchen waste into biogas and using this gas to heat homes as well as in public transport, the town has not only reduced public consumption of oil and coal to almost zero, it has also managed to slash its energy bills per year by almost half.

Cities with vastly larger populations - and there are many such around the world - could take note of this very successful experiment. More people means more kitchen waste and therefore more raw material to work with in order to extract biogas. Use the Terrabon Link catalytic system to convert sewage into fuel or use an alternative method that extracts gas from sewage, or an algae based system, and there is a strong possibility that far larger cities could be weaned off oil and coal. An ambitious way forward, no doubt, but the good people of Kristianstad started to work on a fossil fuel free future some years ago and successfully got there. It is time the rest of the world learns from their pioneering effort.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Canada's Globe and Mail reviews the Nissan Leaf and Gives Insights into Electricity Generation in the Country

As someone who always enjoys visiting Canada (and not just because he happens to have very close friends there) this blogger finds that our neighbors to the North have a lot of very interesting and eminently sensible ways of doing things that we overlook even over here in the USA. This article on the about to be launched for sale Nissan Leaf electric car talks about the anxieties that Canadians share with us Americans - range issues and fears over charges depleting faster in the winter. But then, there is a hugely positive fact that the review casually tosses out as if it were not even worth mentioning - 70% of Canada's electricity is generated from renewable sources. In three provinces - Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia, that figure is 100%.

Why is this important? The Canadians have oil - a lot of it - and they make a lot of money sending it South to us. In a sense this is a good thing - it makes the USA less dependent on rogue nations like Saudi Arabia or Venezuela for one thing - it makes money for Canada selling a mineral resource overseas. The Canadians, themselves, use their earnings from the export of their oil to prepare themselves for more renewable energy to be locally used. Smart? You bet!

A powerful and wealthy nation like the USA with a host of problems might sometimes be too absorbed with its own issues to look at solutions in other countries. That said, I do think that it would be a mistake to ignore the Canadian example. Several experts have shown that it is well possible to generate 20% of the electricity that the USA uses from onshore wind. Use offshore wind and combined wind and tidal power both in the sea and off the Great Lakes and this percentage could rise even more. I've said this before and I'll keep repeating this as long as I can - everytime I walk along Lake Michigan, I am amazed at how violently the water heaves up and down several feet even on relatively calm days. All of that energy could keep the lights, HVAC systems and office equipment and home appliances running in most of the cities that dot the lake. In cities like Chicago and Milwaukee to name just two, it could also run cars.