Day: November 7, 2012

Energy and Water Linkage: Challenge to a Sustainable Future

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Needs for affordable and clean energy, for water in adequate quantity and quality, and for food security will increasingly be the central challenges for humanity: these needs are strongly linked. In some regions, the increasing demands for water in support of energy development and use pose challenges to its availability for food and other human needs and for important ecological systems. It is critically important that planning and investment in energy and water infrastructure and associated policies take into account the deep interaction between water and energy. A systems approach based on specific regional circumstances and long-term planning is essential. Viewing each factor separately will lead to inefficiencies, added stress on water availability for food production and for critical ecosystems, and a higher risk of major failures or shortages in energy supply. In almost all regions of the world, innovative ways of achieving higher efficiency in use of energy and water will be the key factors that determine whether these linked challenges can be met.

The Power of Curiosity: How Linking Inquisitiveness to Innovation Could Help to Address Our Energy Challenges

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Almost every country in the world will face massive energy challenges over the next few decades. In the UK we are already faced with an energy ‘trilemma’ – three important goals that are pulling us in different directions. We need to aggressively reduce carbon emissions, while ensuring that a varied energy supply can reliably meet our energy needs, and we need to achieve this without exacerbating fuel poverty, by keeping energy bills at affordable levels.

In this context, we need fresh insight into energy supply, demand, and efficiency. The challenge is that innovative solutions will need to engage with the complex interplay of technology and behaviour, suggesting that the traditionally technology-led energy sector needs to become more curious about the foibles of human nature, and customers need to become more curious about their interaction with the energy technologies they rely on every day.

Unfortunately, most people are not particularly interested in their relationship to ‘energy’ as such, and a variety of attitude surveys suggest growing levels of ‘green fatigue’. We may think about the issue of ‘energy’ when we notice our gas and electricity bills are getting higher, but our curiosity is rarely piqued while turning up the heating or leaving the lights on.

Perhaps if we better understand the nature of curiosity in general, we might find ways to cultivate curiosity about our shared energy needs, both in the energy industry and the population at large. If we can do that, it may help us spur the kinds of social and technical innovation that are now political, economic and ecological imperatives.

Open Access Geoscience Data Journal Launched by Wiley

John Wiley & Sons, Inc., has partnered with the Royal Meteorological Society to launch the Geoscience Data Journal as part of the Wiley Open Access publishing program. The new online-only journal will publish short, earth science data papers cross-linked to datasets that have been deposited in approved data centres and awarded DOIs. To cover publication costs, the Journal charges article publication fees of $1,500 / €1,200 / £1,000.

A data article describes a dataset, giving details of its collection, processing, software, file formats etc, without the requirement of novel analyses or ground breaking conclusions. It allows the reader to understand the when, how and why data was collected and what the data-product is.

If you’re interested in submitting a paper to the journal, take a look at the Author FAQs.

Through its OnlineOpen program, Wiley also provides a hybrid open access option for over 1240 of their journals. Through OnlineOpen, the author’s funding agency, or the author’s institution pays a fee to ensure that the article is made available to non-subscribers upon publication via Wiley Online Library, as well as deposited in the funding agency’s preferred archive.

In addition to publication online via Wiley Online Library, authors of OnlineOpen articles are permitted to post the final, published PDF of their article on a website, institutional repository or other free public server, immediately on publication. The OnlineOpen fee is fixed at US$3000 for most journals.

Food Security and Climate Change

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Rising food prices point to a potential crisis later this year as poor communities across the world find themselves unable to afford basic foodstuffs. The crisis now unfolding has some similarities to the major problems that occurred in 2008 that led to food riots in many countries. It also has echoes of the much more severe World Food Crisis in 1973/74. This time, though, there is mounting evidence that climate change is playing a role.

Uncertainties about the GHG Emissions Saving of Rapeseed Biodiesel

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During the last years, the renewable energy strategy of the European Union (EU) and the proposed policies and regulations, namely the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), have been heavily discussed among scientific circles and various interest groups. The sustainability of different biofuels and their contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the whole renewable strategy has become one of the most controversial issues.

RED requires that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with production and use of biofuels are at least 35% lower than those associated with the production and use of conventional fuels to be classified as ‘sustainable’ and therefore eligible for the mandatory blending scheme applied within the EU.

In a recent working paper, we analyze the GHG emissions savings potential of rapeseed biodiesel. For this purpose, the we ran a life cycle assessment of rapeseed biodiesel using the same basic methodology and background data contained in RED by considering the whole production chain from cultivation of the feedstock up to use of the biofuels. Unlike other studies, we refer only to publicly available and published data in our calculations. In order to ensure full transparency – again contrary to the vast majority of other studies – we provide a detailed documentation of all data. We follow a rather conservative approach by using average values and assuming common conditions along the supply chain in their scenarios….

To summarize, we are not able to reproduce the GHG emissions saving values published in the annex of RED. Therefore, the GHG emissions saving values of rapeseed biodiesel stated by the EU are more than questionable.

Attention USA Today: Green buildings need to make financial sense

Read the full post at GreenBiz.

Last week, USA Today ran a couple of “man bites dog” stories about the LEED Green Building Rating System. The first article questioned whether LEED is too easy; the second article implied that “green” buildings are about making money, rather than advancing sustainability.

Although some might argue that any publicity is good publicity, overall, I thought the USA Today articles were confused, contradictory and rife with mischaracterizations.

What ants, termites and bees can teach us about traffic control

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Transportation is now the second most expensive consumer item in the United States, behind housing, and takes up nearly 18 percent of the average household budget. Moreover, the 13 million gallons of oil consumed every day, at a cost of about $1 billion, are largely wasted, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute. Less than 0.5 percent of the energy in the fuel of the typical automobile actually moves the driver. The rest is busy heating up the road and tires and moving the mass of metal that is the car.

Many innovations are being developed to address these issues: alternative fuels, lighter and stronger vehicle bodies, new drivetrains and recharging systems. One solution set that has not gotten as much attention, but could yield real short-term dividends, has been inspired directly by nature.

It’s called swarm intelligence, and is the phenomenon that you might see in a flock of birds or school of fish or swarm of bees. Despite twists and turns and dives, the collection of animals seems to move as one, and no one individual collides with another. The same mechanisms at work in the swarm could someday eliminate the accidents and lost time that currently cost the United States nearly $400 billion a year.

Keeping cool: Supermarkets reduce emissions from refrigerators

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Thanks to a government partnership, some of the nation’s largest supermarket owners have been taking a bite out of the millions of pounds of refrigerant that leak into the air each year.

Direct expansion systems, which are used by 70 percent of food retail stores, often leak more than 20 percent of the 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of refrigerant they use, on average, per year. That leakage has significant environmental impacts considering that the most common refrigerants are made of ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorcarbons (HFC), meaning they contain harmful greenhouse gases.

Five years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency created the GreenChill partnership to help solve the problem. It works with food retailers to help them transition to greener refrigerants and less-leaky refrigeration systems, and offers certification — and awards — for individual stores and corporate chains alike.

EPA Webcast: Resource Conservation and Recovery Strategies for GHG Reductions – Nov. 15, 2:30-4:00 PM (EST)

U.S. EPA Local Climate and Energy Program Webcast
Resource Conservation and Recovery Strategies for Greenhouse Gas Reductions
November 15, 2:30-4:00 PM (EST)

The extraction, production, use, and disposal of goods and materials are responsible for an estimated 42 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This webcast will demonstrate how local governments can work with residents, private companies, and other groups to cost-effectively reduce these emissions through resource conservation and recovery strategies that reduce waste generation and divert waste from landfills. Join us to hear how Alameda County, California, and Kansas City, Missouri, are successfully implementing innovative resource conservation and recovery strategies to reduce GHG emissions, waste disposal costs, and related energy use. Also learn about EPA tools and resources available to help you design and implement resource conservation and recovery programs that are right for your community.

Salt Marshes May Slow Climate Warming . . . For A While

Read the full story from USGS Science Features.

Salt marshes may help slow the rate of climate change in the future, as rising and warmer oceans will enable them to more quickly capture and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to a study published in the journal Nature this week.

Carbon dioxide is the predominant “greenhouse gas” that traps heat and warms the atmosphere.