Energy. What are the options?

Solar, wind, nuclear, biomass, fusion are these possible solutions to our energy crisis. Will we be able to rely on them in the future.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Crooked Trails is a nonprofit travel organization based out of Seattle, WA. They provide group trips to different countries such as India, Thailand, Peru and many more. “Crooked Trails is a non-profit, community-based travel organization helping people broaden their understanding of the planet and its diverse cultures through education, community development and responsible travel.” I have traveled through this company and it was amazing. They set up stay with local community members bring in a steady income, without exploiting them and polluting their environment. For a closer look watch this video.

Coors has a zero waste policy. They believe all pollution and all waste are lost profits. In order to reuse the resources it had extracted it developed a closed loop policy. Coors developed the first biological water treatment plant to so it could reuse it’s liquid waste and offered to treat all sewage of the city of Golden as well. They eliminated solvent based ink from there cans. Most of all Bill Coors, is known as the grandfather of recycling. He began collecting cans for a penny, then forced his suppliers to use recycled aluminum. This led him to open the world’s first “cash for cans” aluminum recycling center. He has also made many innovations in the production line to reduce polluting emissions and waste.

The last company I want to talk about is Ben & Jerry’s. I know it is probably no surprise to you that they run a socially conscious business, but do you know why. Ben & Jerry’s brownies are baked by homeless people from New York. They created their blueberry ice cream to give the blueberry farms work all year long. They pay farmers above average for milk and other products. This is just a few things they do. Read the caps and you’ll find out more!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

This blog has thus far been dedicated to alternative form of energy, which ultimately stemmed from my interest in the environment. Since we are all business student I would like this blog to be dedicated to our future in the business world. Are goals as business professionals will be to increase shareholders profit, cut costs, and increase profits. Is that really it? Today business and individuals are asking, “Is that all we should care about, and if so what does that entail?” In a previous blog I commented on the environmental and physical damage that Chevron-Texaco did when they decided to cut costs. As a business person we are going to be pressured to cut costs, we will have to make decisions that could be socially and environmentally damaging. Do you know where you will stand? Yesterday GM announced that it will be cutting 30,000 and closing nine factories by 2008. They can no longer afford to have such a large part of their production in the US and still be competitive. This is implying that if you don’t take that cost cutting opportunity and your competitor does, you will lose. There is however another option, and that is to change your companies goals. The triple bottom line is a new form of business thinking that includes more than just increasing shareholders profits. The triple bottom line considers both environmental and social capital as well as the economic profit of the company. It puts value in the community and world in which it operates. To me the triple bottom line makes perfect sense. Businesses use and consume resources from the environment. They should take responsibility for their actions and help to restore what they have taken. They also affect social capital, the workers needed to work in company, and every community in which they are located. I could probably due a an entire blog to this topic, so next time I’ll give you a few examples. Then you’ll be able to see what some companies are doing.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Well I have some good news concerning the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge! The bill concerning the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not going through. It was stripped from the budget on Nov. 9th after intense pressure from active concerned Americans. It was stopped by 25 Republicans who refused to vote for a bill that contained drilling provisions. This is not the end apparently there is another bill that the senate passed which does…I don’t know all this politics just gets to confusing for me(Click here for more info). All I know is that we still have a chance to keep drilling out of the Arctic.

Anyways back to the energy. You may be asking yourself by now…well Samantha what should we do. Well there are more elaborate, educated and all around better answers but I will provide you with mine. I think that at the moment given the forms of energy I discussed, a combination between wind, solar and oil/coal/natural gas should be used. I think a combination of these energies will be the most practical and possible solutions for the current state of the world. Along with constant innovations in energy efficient products, we will be heading in the right direction.

Now where do we start, how do we convince individuals, business and government to start along this path? Making people not only change their ways, but asking them to spend money while doing it is extremely difficult. The only way for this to really work is for the government to get involved. Individuals and business may help to push them to do this by voicing their concerns, but for a mass movement the government needs to commit and invest. “Most of the modern technology that has been driving the U.S. economy did not come spontaneously from market forces," NYU's Martin Hoffert says "The Internet was supported for 20 years by the military and for 10 more years by the National Science Foundation before Wall Street found it." This is true for many technological advances in NASA, jet planes, satellite communications and computers were all supported and invested in by the government.
I don’t know what it will take for our government to begin it’s investment in alternative forms of energy. It may be increases in oil costs, pressure from other countries, pressure from within our country or increases in pollution that take more economical toll than just causing environmental damages. I just hope the change comes before it’s too late.
This is a photo graph of surf power I did not discuss this form of energy but it basically uses the movement of water to generate power. This powers 14 homes in Hawaii.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Off the topic of energy for a moment I would like to talk about Sustainability. All of the energy forms that I have talked about are promising, because they offer sustainable solutions for energy. Sustainability is a concept of meeting the needs of individuals, businesses and governments without depleting the earth’s resources, more than they can be replenished. Its focus is the long-term. It is the idea to operate in an efficient manner and to use/reuse/replenish resources, making them for the survival of future generations. Paul Hawken said, “To look at the world with heart and recognize all of it’s parts as inseparably complex.” We are ignorant to the fact that our actions have effects on the environment or society. Simply by eating a banana in the morning, you have contributed to polluting the water and topsoil in Ecuador, as well as exposing workers to highly dangerous chemicals and low wages (approx. 80 cents an hour). But don’t get down on yourself just yet, I am going to provide you with 9 simply steps that will improve your impact on the world, helping us to become more sustainable. These steps are a part of a movement called Turn the Tide that an organization called New American Dream put together.
1. Skip one car trip each week. Combine errands, ride a bike or walk, by cutting out 20 miles of driving you’ll save 1000 lbs of CO2
2. Eat one less beef meal a week. If a 1000 of us did this we would save 70,000 lbs of grain, 70,000 lbs of topsoil and 40 million gallons of water.
3. Shift your shrimp consumption. For every 1000 of us 12,000 lbs of sea life. (Why? Shrimp boats scrap the bottom of the ocean floor collecting shrimp. What about farmed shrimp? Shrimp farms destroy mangroves and chemicals are used, which pollute local ground water.)
4. Stop receiving Junk Mail. Simply go online and get your name off the lists. For every 1000 of us that do this we will save 170 trees, 46,000 lbs of CO2 and 70,000 gallons of water
5. Replace four standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs. This will save you $100 dollars over the life of the light bulbs and nearly 5,000 lbs of CO2.
6. Move the thermostat 3F up in the summer and down in the winter. This will save 1,100 lbs of CO2.
7. Eliminate lawn and garden pesticides. Every year Americans apply 70 million pounds of pesticides on their lawn polluting the environment and killing wildlife.
8. Install an efficient showerhead and low flow aerator faucets. For every thousand of us this will save 8 million gallons of water and 450,000 lbs of CO2.

Just take one minute out of your day and consider your impacts. Where was the computer you’re presently sitting at manufactured? Where did its parts come from? What resources were used to make these parts? Where will it go when you are done with it? Computers end up in Chinese villages, where every scrap of metal is salvaged. The acid needed to strip the tiny pieces of copper and so forth is extremely toxic.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Nulear fusion

The last form of energy that I will be introducing is nuclear fusion. Fusion occurs when two small nuclei of an atom (hydrogen) fuse together. There are two types of fusion cold fusion and hot fusion. It is not certain at the present time whether cold fusion truly exists. Fusion would be labeled Cold fusion if the reaction took place at room temperature. Some experiments have presented the possibility that it might exist, but many point to the fact that it is physically impossible. Hot fusion however is possible, but its practicality is still limited, much more research and experimentation needs to be done. In order for hot fusion to occur however the atoms need to be heated to at least 100 million degrees Celsius. At this temperature the hydrogen atoms form a chaotic vapor of electrically charged particles called, plasma. Although it is the most common matter in the universe it has been nearly impossible to create and contain. Thus far no experiments have yet to yield enough energy to make up for the energy it took to create and contain it, the highest return being 65%. Right now however scientists are working on a process that they refer to as “igniting the plasma.” They are 100% certain that the process will work and yield energy, the hard part will be transferring the plasma to the outside world. This process does not come without a price; the test site called, ITER, will cost 6 billion dollars. The location of ITER has been in debate and is now narrowed between France and Japan.

Fusion is so attractive because it would supply energy that would last millennia. It produces no radio active waste. It would also be of no threat to national security.

This blog has so far has exposed the main options that are out there. Which do find to be the most appealing or the most practical option? Which one will “empower” our future?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


At the moment 16% of the planet’s electric power is generated by nuclear fission. Nuclear fission creates an abundant amount of energy, no CO2 emissions, and takes very little space. It is cheaper than solar power but more expensive than other forms. In the past it seemed it nuclear power would become a serious contender to oil, coal and natural gas. The problem with nuclear power is disposing of the radioactive waste, the potential for accidents, the poor economics compared to oil, coal and gas, and that the uranium fuel won’t last much longer than 50 years. Nowadays however countries are redeveloping nuclear power. China and Japan are currently building reactors and believe in the promising future of nuclear fission. Nuclear fission also already produces 78% of France’s electricity. Japan is currently working to find ways to prolong the life of Uranium. They have developed a way to reprocess spent fuel and collect the plutonian and uranium from it. Nuclear power still has many opponents though because of the national and international security threats it poses. The Japanese have built buildings for UN inspectors, to ensure to the world that the use of the power plant will remain always peaceful.

If nuclear fission was used to generate 60% of New York City, 2 sq. miles would be needed and 4 reactors.

I believe that nuclear power is dangerous in this day and age, especially with terrorism. I also don’t think that it will ever be a safe enough alternative to have in my back yard. The other negative aspect is that it creates waste that we have no way of dealing with yet.

Plants Providing Power?

What does biomass mean? It is ethanol,biogas and biodiesal made from plants. Biomass can easily take the place of our existing full systems, in fact ethanol produced from corn is already added into the gasoline in the US. Biomass however is much less efficient than other energy forms. For example to power all of the world's vehicles with biofuels it would be necessary to double the amount of current farming land. However progress in biomass research is making it more efficient. Most biomass is now made from starches, oil, and sugar. Scientists are testing organisms that digest the cellulose in wood which in turn would easily yield a liquid fuel. Switchgrass also seems to be promising it grows a lot faster than corn, is less susceptible to disease and uses less fertilizer. Thomas Foust of the National Bioenergy Center stated, "If you increase automobile efficiency to the level of hybrid and go with the switchgrass crop you could meet 2/3 of the US transportation fuel demand with no additional land."

Personally I do not think biomass is the best alternative energy. Farm land would need to be increased for crops which would cause more deforestation, and add to an increase in pollution due to the unsustainable methods used in agriculture. Crops such as corn would be genetically engineered, which is also a another problem.

Monday, October 10, 2005

In the wake of hurricane Katrina it has become apparent to Americans of our reliance on oil. The gulf supplies 28 % of our oil production so the need to diversify, so as not to succumb to a national crisis is becoming more apparent and crucial. One would think that the government would want to relieve us from our dependency on oil by diversifying our sources of energy, but instead they just want to drill in new places for oil. The new drilling site is the 19 million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which lies in the northeast corner of Alaska. . The refuge is a nursery and haven to caribou, polar bears, walruses, shorebirds and waterfowl
In a September 15 2005 letter to Congressional leaders, Canadian Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew said, "it has come to our attention that this disaster (Katrina) is being used by some to promote the development of petroleum resources in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, using energy security as their rationale." He also wrote that, "The minimal oil resources in the Arctic Refuge will not make a timely or significant contribution to U.S. energy supplies." To my dismay the bill allowing for the drilling was passed on September 28, 2005.
Although the drilling and oil production will have many environmental restrictions, it will still cause destruction and pollution to the surrounding areas. The transportation of the oil to the US will cause even more pollution. Then the sites of drilling will run dry and are only option will to be to drill in another part of the refuge. There are better solutions to this problem.

Currently Chevron-Texaco is in a lawsuit for the environmental and health damages they caused when drilling in Ecuador from 1971-1992. The amount of damages is estimated at 6 billion dollars. The picture is one of theoile pits they left behind. The amount of oil extracted from that site in two decades would be consumed by American cars in 13 days? Was it worth it? Is it worth is to drill in Alaska?

In a side note since there is a new hype about hybrid cars…Hybrid cars are great in the effect that they emit 30-50% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional cars and that they use less gas, but once again they are not a solution. The energy source is still derived from coal- so where is that really getting us?