Monday, May 31, 2010

A Tale Of Two Provinces

My Canadian friend recently passed me an article from her local paper 'back home' - figuring i'd be interested in the climate change coverage.

The piece covered the views of a political party leader in Alberta. I could say a lot of negative stuff about it, but one positive was that it gave a good example of how a province (or country) can choose its own destiny.

The other half of the example is provided by Ontario - who seem to be enthusiastically moving forward into the new energy economy. Solar energy in south east Ontario has the potential to match all the USA's nuclear generators combined. So the province is offering a generous feed-in tariff to encourage rooftop solar, and has announced 2500 MW of projects. Meanwhile, the Ontario Solar Academy has had to move to a larger facility to meet demand, as it triples its training capacity.

Meanwhile Alberta, despite huge potential for geothermal energy, appears to show little interest in changing its ways.
Update: 8000 MW of Solar Applications

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

DIY Home Energy Audits

In the USA, they don't have the free home sustainability assessments that we have in Australia. So David Findley has written this guide for doing your own home energy audit.

During the book he lists 140 tips for saving energy and increasing efficiency. A lot of them are to do with heating and cooling (because that's a huge percentage of energy use in North America). It's a reasonable book, but if you're in Australia, i'd still recommended the free home sustainability assessments funded by the government.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Carbon-Friendly Coach

Very good friend of mine is planning a trip by coach, and tells me that greyhound will offset the travel emissions for just $1 extra on the ticket. So i checked it out.

I was impressed by the offsets because it takes the form of emission prevention - which i think is even better that tree-planting. But also, the greyhound buses run on the cleanest diesel available in Australia, and have upgraded their fleet of buses for fuel efficiency (which i'm sure also saves them buckets of money in fuel costs). I was suitably impressed.

Of course, all of this comes on top of the stat that coach travel is already 80% less polluting than car travel.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Creating Jobs - Cutting Pollution

I see that the report Creating Jobs - Cutting Pollution has been released. Some still think these are opposites, but the report shows differently. It compares 'weak action' (just an emissions trading scheme) to 'strong action' - an ETS plus initiatives like energy efficiency, investment in renewable energy, fuel efficiency and public transport.

Strong action increases GDP by 3.2% per year (weak action 2.8%) and strong action creates 770,000 more jobs than weak action (which creates more jobs than taking no action). Strong action also means less imported oil ($181 billion) and efficiency savings ($53 billion for households alone).

Don Henry remarked that Australia’s transition to a cleaner economy was being held back by government policies. "In this election year Australians want our leaders to show they have got a serious plan to shift us to a cleaner economy with new industries and better jobs."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Blocks Of Ice

Recently i linked to a Catalyst report - which mentioned the increase in Antarctic ice melt from 75 to 150 billion tonnes per year. Sometimes it's hard to imagine what that much ice looks like. Fortunately, John Cook's visualisation of the Greenland ice melt helps us get the picture.

With the Empire State Building for scale, this is 1 billion tonnes of ice.

Greenland ice melt 2002-03: 139 billion tonnes
Greenland ice melt 2008-09: 286 billion tonnes

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Plastic Bags

3.92 billion of them. That's how many Australia used in a year. Enough to circle the earth 24 times. And only 3% of them were recycled. It's such a waste, because making each 8.7 bags consumes the same energy as driving a car a kilometre.

The better alternative is to use (and reuse) the 'green bags' - which now come in a variety of colours - even those of your favourite football team. :)

If you do forget your re-usable bag(s), at least recycle the plastic one - or get another re-usable one and give it to a friend when you're done with it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Origin's Solar Deal

Last month i posted some solar prices i had found. Today, I though i'd let you know about Origin's latest deal on solar electricity.

They're offering 1.5kW systems for $2,990 - and there's even a interest-free payment plan of $299 up-front and 112.12 a month for 2 years. Oh, and there's a 25-year warranty on the panels.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Is There Any Difference?

Was sent this in an email. Watch for the subtle morphing ;)

All quotes are actually from Kevin Rudd. Only the very last quote was doctored (and the original version of that quote is at the start of the video).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Coffee Video - The Big Picture

Sometimes it can be quite daunting to think of the size of the climate change problem. Sometimes our efforts seem small in comparison. Then a heart-warming video like this one comes along.

In one morning, Starbucks encouraged 5000 people to switch from disposable cups to re-usable tumblers. And in the process made this extraordinary mural. I found it quite an inspiring little video.

Coffee drinkers can join the global pledge at the big picture

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

e2 Design

Similar to e2 Energy, the e2 Design DVD is a series of six 25-minute episodes (narrated by Brad Pitt) about designing buildings to work with nature rather than against it.

Reducing a building's energy use by 80%, making homes from recycled materials, China's efforts to avoid the wastefulness of America, students building energy-efficient homes in Mexico ... for one city building, the power company even replaced the meters, because they couldn't believe the building's low energy usage.
I'm certainly daunted by the condition that the planet is in, but I'm extrememly optimistic about what we can do.
Episodes are also available as webcasts from the e2 website.
Adopting sustainable alternatives is not only a matter of progress - it's a matter of survival.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Friday Funnies - TV Weatherman

Look, i appreciate that sometimes you have to emit greenhouse gases in order to save greenhouse gases. For instance, when you get solar panels, you don't expect the installer to bring them around on a bicycle, or on public transport.

However, I did get a giggle when i read the following in a press release about a new initiative involving one of the tv weather presenters:
After landing on the oval in Channel Nine’s helicopter, he’ll talk to students about the impact of climate change on weather patterns, and encourage young people to be conscious of their carbon footprint.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Ice-melting is often mentioned as one of the big signs of climate change already happening. ABC's Catalyst team recently did a special report on Antarctica, and the melting.

In summing up, reporter Paul Willis said "the ice is melting from above and below. When it comes to sea level rise, Antarctica the sleeping giant is waking up." But the most shocking quote came from NASA's Dr James Hansen.
Antarctica was losing mass at about 75 cubic kilometres per year, well that's now doubled to about 150 cubic kilometres a year. So that's beginning to worry glaciologists.

I can tell you it also worries a few people who aren't glaciologists - such as yours truly.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Inconvenient Problems

Ok, 'inconvenient' is probably not strong enough a word. But if climate change wasn't enough reason to move to renewable energy, surely America's Oil spill is another. Again, spill is hardly strong enough to describe something that is now almost as large as the Exxon Valdez disaster of the 80s.

This animation (courtesy NOLA) shows the spread of the oil spill over the last couple of weeks. Oh, and for scale, across the top of the map are the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Living Green

Living Green (the missing manual) certainly lives up to its name. It provides a whole bunch of tips and instructions on a range of green issues.

Not all of the chapters relate directly to climate change, but those that do are quite helpful, although american. There are chapters on Reusing and Recycling, Transport, Renewable Energy, and Saving Energy.

In the Save Energy chapter, one of the tips is to get an energy audit, similar to the Free Home Assesments that I do (funded by the federal government).

Monday, May 03, 2010

Solar Earnings

Last week, i showed you current prices of solar electricity panels. Today we'll look at how much they'll save you.

This graph shows yearly savings with a 1.5kW system here in Queensland. Across the bottom is how much electricity you have 'left over' - which depends on how much your house uses during the day.

Even if just 10% of the solar power is sent to the grid, you still save about $500 by making your own energy instead of paying for it. Houses that consume less energy can sell more energy into the grid, which pays at the bonus rate, earning up to about $1000 a year.

And Origin, are offering an even higher bonus rate (50c rather than 44c) so that adds about another 10%.

(Oh, and if you're wondering about the 'zones' on the graph, most of Queensland's population is in zone 3. Zones 2 and 1 are in the southwest corner of the state, where there's even more sunshine)