Category: Global Warming

Shai Agassi's Better Place project explained

In my post about the DLD conference yesterday I showed the video of Shai Agassi’s presentation because I thought it was an amazingly good idea, well explained.

However, when I checked out Shai’s blog I found the following video of kids doing a far better job getting Shai’s idea across (sorry Shai!).

It is a three minute video. Watch it. You’ll be glad you did!

Then head over to Project Better Place, check it out and get involved.

My Web 2.0 Expo Keynote presentation on reducing our carbon footprint

I’m back in Cork after giving one of the keynote addresses at the Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin on Wednesday and speaking on a blogging panel at Microsoft’s TechEd in Barcelona on Thursday.

I didn’t create any formal presentation for the blogging panel in Barcelona but for anyone who might be interested, I uploaded my Web 2.0 Expo Keynote presentation to SlideShare:

Support the US Energy Bill

Chris Abraham emailed me overnight asking me to

blog about the Energy Bill issue as discussed in http://www.energybill2007.org

The Energy Bill is a US environmental focussed bill and the energybill2007.org site Chris links to, urges US politicians to:

protect America’s energy, environmental, and economic security by ensuring that the final Energy Bill that goes to the president includes the Senate-passed 35 mile per gallon fuel economy standard AND the House-passed 15 percent renewable electricity standard.

The 35 mile per gallon fuel economy standard referred to is an aspiration to have a 35 mile-per-gallon fuel economy target by 2020!

Good God, my current car, which is a standard ’02 Renault Megane Scenic typically gets 35mpg today. By 2020 I want cars to be achieving at least 100mpg!

As for 15% renewables, the Irish government, which has an appalling environmental record, has committed to 33% renewables by 2025!

Yesterday, the United Nations Environment Programme released its fourth Global Environment Outlook report. The report says

climate change is a “global priority”, demanding political will and leadership. Yet it finds “a remarkable lack of urgency”, and a “woefully inadequate” global response.

Several highly-polluting countries have refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. GEO-4 says: “… some industrial sectors that were unfavourable to the… Protocol managed successfully to undermine the political will to ratify it.” It says: “Fundamental changes in social and economic structures, including lifestyle changes, are crucial if rapid progress is to be achieved.

No prizes for guessing what it is referring to there.

If you are US-based, by all means head over to http://www.energybill2007.org. Agitate to get those first steps in place but believe me when I say you will be re-visiting those targets sooner than you think to get them revised upwards.

Al Gore and IPCC jointly win Nobel Peace prize

I see Reuters are reporting that Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have jointly been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The winners were chosen from 181 entries.

This adds even more weight and credibility to the fantastic work being done by the IPCC and the long crusade Al Gore has waged on this very important topic.

New battery technology imminent?

I was reading a report on Ars Technica today about an emerging battery technology which could totally change how we use batteries today.

The breakthrough comes from using capacitors as batteries. Up until now this has not been feasible because there hasn’t been a strong enough insulator to make this approach compelling. However, EEstor, the company who have made the breakthrough have applied for a patent for a highly insulated capacitor.

In their patent application, it suggests that:

the charge storage is much higher than anything achieved in an academic lab: 52 kilowatt-hours in a 2,000 cubic inch capacitor array. A rough conversion calculation suggests that this is over 10 times the power density of standard lead-acid batteries.

The Ars Technica article goes on to note that:

the Associated Press is reporting that the ZENN Motor Company, which makes compact electric cars, plans to start using the capacitors before the year is out. The company has invested in EEStar in return for production goals being met and so is in a position to know how realistic its claims are

If this has any basis in fact, it could have incredible consequences for the reduction of carbon emissions from transport and from the environment in general with the reduction in the use of the particularly nasty chemicals which currently go to make up batteries.

Climate change

They had snow the other day in Buenos Aires.

Texas has had one of the wettest June’s on record with Marble Falls getting 18″ of rain overnight!

Australia is suffering from a drought for the last five years which is threatening to destroy 40% of its agricultural output.

The UK has had one of the wettest June’s on record with some people in Hull still unable to return to their homes.

And despite the weather here in Ireland of late, it seems that according to the Met Office, temperatures in Ireland have been gradually climbing for the last 27 years!

Climate Change

And some people still deny that climate change is occurring? Incredible.

Using I.T. to add green power to the network

The problem with wind power is that its production is variable and difficult to predict. From the perspective of a power supply company, such a supplier is unreliable and likely to de-stabilise the power network.

For instance, at 2am in Ireland, when the demand for electricity is near its lowest, if a 40mph wind is blowing across the country, wind can be supplying up to 30% of the demand. However, if the wind picks up to 50mph, the wind farms shut down to protect their mechanisms and suddenly you lose 30% of your supply! The electricity supply companies have to scramble to bring power stations online to meet the sudden fall off.

In CIX, we have come up with a strategy for Data Centre’s to act as a flywheel for electricity supply companies. This will allow the supply companies to greatly increase the amount of green energy they buy. And if the Data Centre’s are burning biodiesel then you are in a win-win situation .

It seems we are not alone in our thinking – Google, no-less, has come up with a similar strategy using cars! Yes cars. You’d think that with all their data centres they’d use them in the way we propose but they have decided to go the ‘vehicle to grid’ route for now.

Google’s strategy is modify hybrid cars so that they can consume power from the grid. These new ‘plug-in hybrids’ achieve 70-100mpg.

These plug-in hybrids take power from the grid overnight at times of low demand, say. Then the batteries in these cars, which store electricity, can ‘sell’ electricity back to the grid at times of high demand.

Check out the Google video on this to see what I mean:

A cute idea but one which would have to achieve massive scale before making a difference, I suspect.

Tax on company cars causes increased carbon emissions!

I was speaking to a sales rep yesterday who was driving a company car. He told me about the Irish government’s scheme to tax people for receipt of company cars. It is called Benefit in Kind (BiK).

Basically, if your employer gives you a company car, you are liable to pay 30% of the original market value of the car in tax (the original market value includes the amount the government already collects in VRT!).

However, if you do more than 15,000 per annum, the amount of BiK you have to pay drops. The more mileage you do, the less BiK you have to pay (up to a ceiling at 30,000 miles).

Sounds fair, you might say. These people are using the cars the company gave them.

Possibly, until you realise that what this law does is incentivise company car owners to use their cars more to drive to meetings (for example) where they might otherwise have taken a more carbon friendly alternative (telecon anyone?). The rep I was talking to said he will preferentially drive anywhere to get his mileage up!

If you want to tax company cars, why not do it on the basis of their carbon footprint (or engine size if that rating isn’t easy to come by). Something like €500 for cars 1.6L and less; €2,500 for 1.6L to 2L; €6,000 for 2L to 3L and €12,000 for 3L and above index linked.

Yahoo! also going for carbon neutrality!

I see Yahoo! has announced that it is going to follow our lead in CIX *cough* and aim for carbon neutrality!

In the announcement David Filo, co-founder of Yahoo! said:

we’re going to invest in greenhouse gas reduction projects around the world to neutralize Yahoo!’s impact on the environment. While doing our homework on this, we measured our carbon footprint and discovered that Yahoo! going carbon neutral is equivalent to shutting off the electricity in all San Francisco homes for a month. Or, pulling nearly 25,000 cars off the road for a year.

While buying carbon credits isn’t the ideal way to go carbon neutral (I can think of a couple of better ways – David, come along to my talk at Barcamp Dublin on Saturday if you want to know more!), it is certainly a step in the right direction and puts a financial imperative on the company to “clean up its act”, from a carbon point of view, at least!

Kudos to Yahoo! for taking this stance and hopefully we’ll see more companies going down this route sooner than later (though I don’t see Halliburton coming on board any time soon).