Let’s not panic about oil prices

Every time the price of oil drops dramatically people get into a tizzy. They think it will hurt the economy. They shouldn’t. Environmentalists think it will threaten the growth of alternative energy. They shouldn’t worry either.

crude price hist 5 yrs 333

First, for my fellow oil-loving Canadians who think they have all kinds of problems; well you do, but the oil price drop isn’t really serious. If you look at this chart you can see that the price of oil has grown steadily over the past 5 years. Sure it’s had its ups and downs -like in 2011- when it went for a big swing. That’s probably all that’s happening right now.

Second for my fellow environmentalists, we worry when the oil price goes up because it makes it more profitable for oil people, who seem to care more about profits than public safety and environmental damage. We also worry when the oil price goes down because we think it threatens the current march to cost parity (see map) that is taking place worldwide for solar.


Similar maps can be drawn now for wind, geothermal and other clean technologies by the way; so quit worrying. The game is basically ending for oil. It’s like participating in a game of monopoly and knowing you just don’t have a way to win, but it would be rude to stop playing.

So the oil people are quietly investing in wind power in Texas, trying to figure a way out of unprofitable fracking, and hiring fewer lobbyists to try to attack climate science. The USA, UK, Canada and Australia are the only four countries left in the world where the media is gullible enough to take these lobbyists seriously anyway. That will completely end soon.

Environmentalists should look at the big picture. When oil goes way up or way down it demonstrates to homeowners and businesses how volatile and unpredictable oil is and how conservation technologies and clean energy technologies are starting to look pretty good by comparison.

This whole mythology about wind and solar being somehow less reliable because they are a little intermittent is now being reviewed by serious players in less inflamed tones, with new smart grid technologies and new electricity storage solutions now helping to dispel one of the few arguments oil and coal people have left.

Nonetheless, having said all of this about the arguments for clean tech, the transformation challenge is huge. Clean tech investment is easily kicking butt everywhere and growth of solar and other renewables is staggering compared with past growth; but it is not staggering when measured against the world scenario. Non-hydro renewables are well under 10% of the worldwide energy scene. So we have a long way to go. But at least the argument is over.

All that’s left to do is to worry about the volatility of oil and start changing all our systems to clean, reliable renewables.

Seven New Developments that Reveal a Quickly Changing World Energy Economy

There is a perfect global economic storm developing for accelerated renewables growth led by the solar industry. Please consider these  7 developments.

1. The most recent Chinese parliament session opened with the announcement that pollution is the country’s number one challenge; and the determination to solve it. According to the Economist Magazine an inordinate degree of emphasis and time was spent on the topic.

2. Solar is no longer seen as unproven by mainstream America. About 200,000 U.S. homes and businesses added rooftop solar in the past two years alone –equivalent to four or five conventionally-sized coal plants.

3. Despite reductions worldwide in incentives, solar growth will be in double digits every year for the next few decades and renewables will power half of North America within about 25 years.

4. In 43 states, governments and utilities are struggling to sort out the solar net metering mess, with utilities usually resisting at first, then planning strategies to redefine themselves. The courts help this process with judgements against any gouging grid charges, so the utilities have no choice but to invest in new-world grid upgrades and highly profitable roles as installer/financiers.

An administrative law judge in Minnesota ruled recently that distributed solar arrays were a more cost-effective resource than natural gas to meet Xcel Energy’s peak power needs. According to cleantechnica.com, “If solar trumps gas for peaking power in Minnesota, there’s little reason to be building new natural gas peaking capacity anywhere in the country (See link below for complete detail on this new reality).“

tesla gigafactory

5. Apple and Tesla are planning the largest battery factory in the world, to be built on American soil and to manufacture batteries for cars, phones and electronics on an unprecedented scale (the plant is to be accompanied by a solar farm and largely powered by it).

6. The journal Nature is reporting that Harvard researchers have now proven a design for a flow battery using organic molecules instead of metals at $27 per kilowatt hour compared with $81+ for the best vanadium-based system. Because it is organic it offers unprecedented flexibility for designing each battery ideally to its application and also offers the real likelihood of further cost reductions.

7. The carbon industry’s last great hope, the politically manufactured shale gas miracle, is a bust, with increasing evidence that the wells’ peak production comes within a few years, disproving their business cases, and verifying that actual lifecycle costs and environmental costs of natural gas will keep it from competing with renewables in the very near future.

Once digital cameras were commercialized, the experts in the photo business expected the transition to take 20 years, but the tipping point was reached in a few years and the total transition took about  6 years. This kind of momentum is now about to happen in solar/renewables.

The Russia/Ukraine/Europe economic gas squabble is just one more example of the stupidity of extractive dependence. Carbon fuels are being battered worldwide. Extreme weather is too obvious now. Lobbying cannot defeat economics/pragmatics/the will of the internet-connected people. The carbon fuel industry is quickly becoming a dinosaur. Please click here and read this important article about solar vs. natural gas. Solar wins on immediate cost, future cost stability, job creation, infrastructure and reliability.

Extreme Weather Alert for the Next…100 Years?

Last week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago, Jennifer Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University said Arctic ice is disappearing because of too much greenhouse gas, weakening the jet stream and creating more extreme weather.

Acrtic sea ice 333 melts 1984-2012av temp since 1881 & hottest yearsMore hurricanes, floods, severe ice storms, droughts that threaten the food supply; windier, hotter, colder, wetter, dryer. Extremes. The atmosphere around our planet that keeps us alive is razor thin and the ecological balance is very fragile. We are screwing with these and the trouble is apparently only beginning. Statistics point to alarming increases in ocean and air temperatures in the past three decades especially, and spikes in all extreme weather events. Just ask any insurance company how quickly the earth is becoming uninsurable.


David Titley, a former admiral with the U.S. Navy and director for the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk was at the meeting and was quoted as saying “It’s about people, not polar bears.” He questioned whether we will be able to adapt in time to the accelerating pace of extreme climate change and extreme weather events. There are already hundreds of millions of ‘climate refugees’ on earth.


A lab director at the U.S. National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment noted that most of our food crops and cattle are produced in mid-lattitudes that our now experiencing recurring droughts, or at the other extreme, floods. In 2003 Europe suffered a drought that claimed 70,000 lives. Maize production decreased by 30%. The fruit harvest was reduced by 25%. Grains and hay to feed animals dropped 30%. Wine production was the lowest in 10 years. For the money people out there, the total loss was 4 billion Euros. As the photos below show, Europe is far from being an isolated case.

Drought France, Brazil, Swiss, SpainDrought USA 2012 chartDrought China 2011 chart & photo

On top of droughts; fires, hurricanes, tsunamis and floods are increasing, because of imbalances like the the jet stream, as mentioned. And because thicker, polluted air now holds more moisture longer, then like a water balloon springing a leak, dumps a lot more precipitation over a smaller area, all of a sudden.

The photos in this blog are courtesy of the Climate Reality Project and also have attributions printed on them. They were mostly taken in the past 3 or 4 years, showing the catastrophic consequences of increasing extreme weather events. Is this just cyclical bad weather that will calm down soon?  No. Nothing in the data suggests that. Quite the opposite. This is the beginning of a continuously growing worldwide disaster.

Fires Vegas & Colorado 222Fires russia, brazil, australia copyCalifornia 333 copyPortugal & Spain copyPakistanIndia floodsChina & RussiaGermany 333Czech, Slovak, HungaryAustria & GreeceNA Cities 2012-13Philippines & ArgentinaHRRICANES 222Ice_Storm_by_NOAA_jpg_475x310_q85EXTREME SNOWWe’re all responsible for this: Governments who are stuck on oil and coal, and pretending natural gas will save us; the media that can’t distinguish between bogus science and real science, industry when it prefers the green photo op to real long term energy planning, you and I when we imagine we are powerless and continue to buy gas guzzling cars, oil furnaces and continue voting for governments that claim they are ‘managing the economy.’ In reality they permit the uncompensated destruction of  the only real resource on which any economy can be based, our planet.

You can do something about it. It’s never too late to start. Click here for solutions you can implement personally. It’s not someone else’s problem. It’s ours. It’s the defining issue of our era. Let’s not let anyone distract us with other priorities. Climate change is at the top of the list. Just look at the weather forecast. Outlook: Extreme.

Consumer decisions are very important

PriusBelow is  a link to two Globe and Mail reporters talking on video at the auto show about hybrid vehicles vs. conventional gas engines. They agree that hybrid cars are still priced $5000 or $6000 higher (although this gap is closing), but that they save fuel.

The more traditional reporter claims it will take up to 10 years to recover the differential in fuel savings and he’d rather bank the cash and avoid the hybrid. Short term thinking. Our society is still ruled by it.

The slightly more progressive gent says four years to recover the savings, so buy a hybrid or electric if you plan to keep the car 4-5 years because its economically smarter; plus he’s not really a tree hugger, ‘but there’s that too.”

You see even for progressive journalists it’s out of fashion in just four of the world’s countries for the media to talk about a problem that 100% of the world’s credible, science-journal-published scientists agree is the biggest crisis in the planet’s history, and the defining issue of our era. The reason it’s out of fashion is because in these four countries (USA, UK, Canada, Australia) the profession of carbon-lobbyist pays well. Out of work journalists can work as freelancers, sowing just enough doubt to cause their colleagues in the media to continue to use the assinine phrase: “the climate debate.” In fact, there is no debate; hasn’t been for years. Only out-of-step, sloppy, aging journalists still use this phrase.

National governments, who have never been known to lead, but rather to follow; take their cues from bad journalists because national governments are led by politicians who only read briefings, and the media is able to simplify the language of scientists for them, like a briefing. So national governments drag their feet, making our progression to the new energy age slow and, ironically, damaging the future-readiness of our economies.

This discussion between the Globe reporters epitomizes the issues facing the mainstream consumer in this world, relative to the worsening climate change problem and imminent increases in non-renewable energy costs. Make the right decision and vote with our wallets. Buy a Prius or a Leaf or Volt now; or a Tesla if you can afford more. If buying in 2016 or 2017 wait for the new affordable Tesla sedan. Within about 3 years, there won’t even be a ‘debate’ about which car to buy. Just like the ‘debate’ about solar energy is now over.

Here’s the link: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/car-life/drive-video/video-faceoff-are-hybrids-worth-the-price/article16895892/#dashboard/follows/

The Sun and the Moon

jfk 3300px-Barack_Obama_speaks_at_Nellis_AFB_2009-05-27_2Google and its CEO Larry Page are promoting an exciting concept about growing businesses and advancing societies called “moonshot thinking.” It is named in part for the inspirational moment when John F. Kennedy said that America would shoot for the moon, even though it had no idea how it would get there. Page says this is the only way to change the world. In business it means don’t create a strategy to improve by 10%, build one to improve by 1000%, or to expand by 10 times.

According to renewablenergy.com the solar industry is doing something along these lines. The site reports that solar jobs are being added in the USA ten times faster than average national employment growth. These are local jobs. These are jobs in a business that has a trajectory clearly indicating a promising future.

Many of our top decision-makers are business leaders or the politicians who listen to them. It’s time for those decision-makers to recognize that the future is here already. If you truly care about building tomorrow’s economy, it’s time to recognize what that really means. Click here to read more about this.

Take New York City and Multiply it by 6 Times – That’s the Size of the Tar Sands Disaster

Neil Young is fighting with the tar sands people about a music tour he gave with David Suzuki to draw attention to the mess near neil_young & David SuzukiFortMcMurray. The celebrities and the oil industry each accuse one another of misinformation. The photos below tell some of the story. At full capacity there will be about 40 or 50 mines near Fort McMurray, occupying an area about 6 times the size of New York. Except for the first two photos, each photo below generally shows operations at just one of these mines.

According to the Post Carbon Institute the tar sands produce 475 million gallons of toxic waste each day, (which is nine times as much oil as they produce). Unlined tailings ponds are said to leak 3 million gallons of toxic waste each and every day. An accident at Suncor on March 25, 2013, caused 350,000 litres in 10 hours of ‘process-affected’ water to leak into the Athabasca River. The company said its test showed a ‘negligible effect’ on the water.

The government didn’t buy it and conducted its own tests. According to FortMcMurray.com, during the experiment, rainbow trout are placed in a tank with the untreated solution. If 50% of the fish die, it is considered a failure. Although the province did not release how many rainbow trout died, a government blog post did confirm that the water had failed the test. The tests found traces of arsenic, chloride, ammonia and several other toxic chemicals at levels exceeding acceptable limits in Alberta’s Surface Water Guidelines. This led to the revelation that there are bigger problems in this regard. Suncor reportedly failed a government toxicity test 39 times since the 2011 and in 2013 was told to clean up its act with Athabaca leaks immediately.

Overview SyncrudeoverviewSuncor at AthabascaOverview with lake

The yellow stuff shown in these photos is sulphur, which creates acid rain. Syncrude piles it up into ‘mountains’ or plateaus as shown. Each plateau is about twice the size of a soccer field. One of Syncrude’s mines has four of these plateaus. A Syncrude sulphur mountain smaller2Tar sands deforestation2
Tailing pond tar sands2Tailings pond2Arkansas ruptureYoung and Suzuki pointed out that the tar sands violates native treaty rights and that cancer levels have zoomed up in the area. For a while the oil lobby brought in it’s own ‘medical experts’ to try to complicate the findings about cancer, until government undertook studies to clarify and verify.

One of the photos here is not of the tar sands, but instead, of a residential community in Arkansas where a pipeline ruptured last year causing the evacuation of 22 homes. It was carrying tar sands crude oil to the Texas coast.

I’m an environmentalist, but I’m also a pragmatist. It’s unhelpful to think oil will disappear overnight, but it’s way more unhelpful to pretend we don’t have a problem or even aggressively spread misinformation about it. Change is difficult and slow enough. Oil people should be willing to shut up when they are being legitimately attacked.

On the other hand, we’re all hypocrites. More than 90% of our homes and cars still run on fossil fuels. So if we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem. Just because change is slow or the problem seems distant from our everyday world, does not make it someone else’s problem. More than ever, each of us needs to proactively focus on solutions and help bring our world into a new energy age. Please click here to see what you could be doing.

Clean Tech Matures

solar grauatesClint Wilder, writing in renewableenergyworld.com says:

Solar power’s maturation has clearly reached the “fight” stage; it’s big enough to be taken seriously. There’s a wealth of statistics to choose from to show solar’s growth in the boom year of 2013. In the first 10 months of the year, utility-scale solar accounted for 21 percent of all new generation capacity in the U.S.; in the month of October, it was 72 percent. And in an unprecedented court decision in the first week of 2014, a Minnesota judge ruled that utility-scale solar is a better investment for Xcel Energy’s expansion plan than new natural gas capacity.

Wind power, of course, has been big enough to be taken seriously for quite a while. The U.S. wind industry now finds itself in a new stage of its maturation: life without the federal production tax credit (PTC), which expired at the end of 2013. The industry has been there before, with disastrous results, but this time is different from the past boom-and-bust cycles of the 1990s and 2000s. I don’t think the PTC will ever return in its previous form; the industry will likely lobby for some type of tax subsidy as part of a more comprehensive federal tax reform package. Hopefully, that will include the long-overdue opening of master limited partnerships to investments in renewable energy projects, which would most likely be wind farms. Rather than its own PTC, that would allow wind power to enjoy at least some of the same treatment as fossil-fuel energy sources, which is just as it should be.

It’s easy to be part of the solution -just share this photo everywhere

Keep it SimplePlease share this photo broadly. Each of us is responsible. Climate change is not someone else’s problem. But it’s easy to overcome, because it’s only politics now, nothing else.

Be vocal. Vote wisely. Start now.

Paul Ruzycki & Alexandre Paul Coming Home from Russia


As a young man Paul Ruzycki dreamed of being a sailor and was ecstatic when he finally landed a job on one of the big ships on the Great Lakes. But he was horrified when his captain ordered him to dump garbage and toxins overboard. Paul refused and was fired. He later joined a GreenPeace ship and for the past couple of decades has fought courageously against those who unconscionably exploit and destroy our earth and waterways.

This year Paul Ruzycki, Alexandre Paul of Montreal and 28 other crew members were arrested following a peaceful protest near a Russian oil rig in the North Sea. They were jailed for months and later confined to St. Petersberg facing a ‘Hooliganism’charge, that could have seen them sentenced to 7 years in prison. (Two members of an all-girl pop band are now doing 2 years under the same law for making fun of Putin and the church).

Thanks to Audrey Depault with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, and also to Mike Schreiner of the Green Party of Ontario for helping GreenPeace to mobilize public support to try to get them both (and 28 others) home to their families for Christmas. Reports say charges have now been dropped and Alex will be home tomorrow and Paul a couple of days later.

Prediction: The Smart Money Avoids the Corporate Carbon Bubble


Shareholders will demand future-readiness

Shareholders will demand that executive teams begin listening to their insurance companies and consultants regarding fuel costs, wacky weather and the Carbon Bubble that will burst and create obsolete business models. Without a climate change corporate strategy and an exit strategy from carbon-based fuels, many companies are vulnerable to quickly becoming dinosaurs. Everything happens faster in the stock market these days. You can lose value overnight that took years to build. Shareholders will demand strategic readiness to prevent this.

Natural gas denial will end

Energy companies are still pretending that they can cut fracking costs enough to justify the low cost of natural gas; but shareholders will soon catch on and say,“These wells are overhyped and drying up early. They’re hurting profits.” Acceptance will take place quietly because the whole reason for the magical fracking boom was that Washington and T. Boone Pickens needed a PR program to wipe the smirk off the faces of OPEC, and rationalize a cutback on Middle East war budgets; while creating the badly needed time window for the shift to renewables. As natural gas prices and other carbon fuels rise to reflect reality; solar, wind, geo, biomass and district solutions will enjoy even more explosive growth.

Longer-term corporate view

New corporate strategies will be accompanied by changes to executive compensation, which will begin to move away from the mirage of very short-term achievement bonuses. Boards of Directors will begin to look at 5 and 10-year strategies again. Companies with a lot of brick and mortar facilities will be forced to look at the costs of carbon fuels vs. renewables over the medium term. They will be pleasantly surprised to find they can save a great deal of money with relatively minor capital reallocations towards clean tech in building systems.

Walmart and big courier companies are laughing all the way to the bank with clean tech

With all the courier companies already saving loads of cash on greener fleets and the Walmarts and Empire State Buildings of the world saving a ton on building energy, it will no longer be possible to create doubt and rail against the future with any credibility. There will still be thousands of career climate-denier lobbyists in the four denier countries (USA, UK, Canada, Australia); but fossil fuel companies who want to have a future will be forced to start eliminating these lobbyist careers, investing less in BS propaganda, and more in strategic readiness.

Insurance companies will put the hammer down on companies ignoring the Carbon Bubble

As more companies acknowledge that fuel costs and wacky weather are just too dangerous, we will move towards a tipping point. Like they did with corporate health programs, insurance companies will take advantage of the timing and try to recover their losses on weather events, by further penalizing those who refuse to add a climate change strategy to their corporate strategies.

After share values are pummelled and silver-haired executive teams are embarrassed for their irrational energy and insurance costs, they will be forced to retire or incorporate climate change strategy. They will hire more young people to move their building energy systems and transport fleets towards clean tech.

Investors will complete the shift to clean tech

The investment shift towards clean tech has been undeniable. It hiccupped a bit recently with the last gasp of the climate damage denier lobbyists cranking up the fake science, and with the natural gas sham storyline. Once the truth manifests itself, investors will wake up and realize that the more future-oriented among them like Vesta, GE, and Tesla-Toyota have already made loads of cash. They will have no choice but to invest in the future too, rather than in the past.

More and bigger class action lawsuits against unethical corps

Those who peddle carbon, unhealthy food (and tobacco in the East), will face tougher and better-organized foes, that will sue them into the stone-age for the havoc they are wreaking on the planet and our health. With the rise of the internet there is no place to hide.

Bigger governments will finally catch up

Follow the money. Where corporations and investors go, national and regional governments eventually follow at a politically safe distance. They will acknowledge that corps and big pension plans have now joined local governments, small businesses and private citizens; who are all way ahead of the bigger governments on climate change solutions. Bigger governments will finally enact simple polluters-pay legislation, and/or continue to level the playing field between fossil fuels and renewables when it comes to government strategic investment and incentives.

Citizens must ramp up their support for future-readiness

The shift will not be completed if we don’t keep up the pressure. Remember it’s not someone else’s problem. It’s up to each of us as individuals to make the world a better place. Thankfully it’s not that hard and it’s not as complicated as some would have you believe. You can take that from me. I’ve spent the past dozen years studying world-wide clean tech viability and renewables economics, and publishing detailed technical articles on both, in respected journals.

7 Ways We Make the World Green in 2014

Click here to learn the 7 simple things you can do to make the world a better place next year and beyond. Make it a resolution to save money now and improve the lives of your children and grandchildren. And have a Happy and Green 2014.



Happy Holidays


Be vocal. Vote wisely. Start now.Earth modified SMALLER

It’s not difficult and it’s not complicated. Let’s not be confused about how to solve climate change. We need governments to act. We don’t need better inventions. We’ve already got most of the tech we’ll need. We don’t need complex laws either. Just some honesty.

1. Governments: Forget all the crap and trade, carbon credit mumbo jumbo. It’s very simple. Polluters pay. They’re destroying our home. They must pay. Tell  government leaders they’ll pay too (in the next election)  if they don’t tackle this now. Be vocal. Vote wisely. Start now.

2. Conservation in Buildings: Save a lot of money by insulating your building to the max. Google “passive house” and learn the truth about heating & cooling. You don’t even need a furnace, or air conditioning.

3. Heating & Cooling in Buildings: Install solar tech, geothermal, distict heating & cooling. Insist that banks and utilities finance it. They work for you. Tell governments to either stop giving your tax dollars to fossil fuel companies, or give more to you for clean tech. They also work for you.

4. Energy: Tell your governments to move away from fossil fuel based electricity generation. Quit wasting vast quantities of public money on highly dangerous nuke budget overruns. We can build a cheaper, clean energy solar farm in 24 months, instead of 16 years. Stop whining about windmills. Oil spills are uglier. This is the new reality!

5. Transportation: Stop making excuses and buy an electric car. Put two panels on your garage roof to power it. You’ll save thousands every year on gas. These vehicles are no more problematic than any car. Don’t believe the crap you read.

6. Public Transit: It’s easy to understand that a train carries a lot more people with less energy than a bunch of cars congested together. Transit investment should be near the top of your city’s priority list. Insanely, it’s not. Why not?

7. Business: Do you know what is the fastest growing business in the world? Duh, It’s clean tech. Make money. Click here. Is your pension plan investing in clean tech? What’s the world’s biggest looming financial risk for businesses? Insurers say, not planning for climate change.

Don’t be confused. Recycling and cycling and organic food are all great. Lots of emerging inventions will become helpful. But serious change demands action now on the 7 items above.


The weather has gone completely wacky. The North Pole and Greenland are melting. Glaciers that feed rivers for hundreds of millions of us are vapourizing. What’s complicated about this? Wake up! It’s time to get serious about climate change. It’s time to act. Take individual responsibility. It’s not someone else’s problem.

Be vocal. Vote wisely. Start now.

How NOT to be an environmentalist

eric denhoffI read about a hydrogen bus program in Whistler being scrapped by the city there. I personally think this is one of those technologies where the hype has sometimes outpaced the reality. I’m not close enough to the technology to say whether development has been too slow, but it seems like many years of waiting for the breakthrough, despite loads of money. In this case they studied the buses for several years, didn’t get the hydrogen network promised and had to ship it in, creating a 300% cost compared to diesel. They also had plenty of breakdowns. Pretty bad execution for a new tech demo; but the worst, by far, is the comment reportedly made by Eric Denhoff, president of the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association to the Globe and Mail.

Instead of quietly accepting that they were given a decent chance to show off their advances, instead of acknowledging they screwed up, instead of quietly valuing the the lessons they learned; he lashed out against his partners with rhetoric. This is not the way to advance change and it gives environmentalists a bad name. The city is struggling and they simply can’t continue to spend triple the budget. Lots of environmental initiatives are highly cost effective. We should expect a preference for these and just a dabbling in the more risky ones. Denhoff should expect the same, be thankful for what he got and be quiet.

You can read what he should NOT have said here:


This is hilarious from Bill Maher

Please take a few minutes to review the inimitable logic of one of the world’s wisest wisecrackers.

Please World, Wake up to the Futility of Nuclear Energy


Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has admitted that things are much more serious at their damaged nuclear facility than they have revealed in the past. Around 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water has leaked from a storage tank; and there are 1,000 similar tanks on site. These 1,000 tanks are believed to be at around 85% of their capacity and every day an extra 400 tonnes of radioactive water are being produced by the ailing plant and added to the tanks.


In addition 270,000 litres per day are leaking into ground water beneath the site and then into the ocean.

The BBC quoted a reputable independent consultant as saying that radioactive water is also leaking out of basements and cracks all over the site and there are no accurate figures for radiation levels.

Japan’s nuclear regulation chief Shunichi Tanaka says he fears there will be further leaks. Japan needs help from the international community, but apparently it does not like to ask for it.


Once a nuclear plant is built it supposedly provides a lot of power very inexpensively, but the truth is coming out. The USA Congressional Budget Office says the actual cost of building 75 nuclear power plants in the U.S. exceeded industry quoted estimates by more than 300 percent (actual cost about $3000 per kW not including waste storage).

In 2007 Moody’s Investor Service increased estimates to $5,000-$6,000 per kW and Keystone Center researchers found surprisingly high operating costs of 30 cents per kW. A proposed new Florida project was quoted at $8000 per kW in 2008.

It takes something like 16 years from conception to operation, allowing costs to mushroom and making the whole exercise a bit moot in today’s accelerating energy innovation environment. Waste-to-energy, biomass CHP, big wind and huge solar farms are all more competitive and much quicker to build. Due to chronic overruns, investors stopped taking cost estimates for new nuke plants seriously around 1980.

Is this Photoshop?



Photographer Zak Noyle from Honolulu’s Surfer Magazine travelled more than 40 hours        –8 hours by boat, 12 hours driving and nearly 24 hours flying– to reach what he was told was a pristine surfer’s paradise. He and his crew then shot these photos of surfer Dede Suryana (pictured) and of the shoreline area without Dede. Apparently Indonesian cities don’t have very advanced garbage collection and a lot of it just goes straight into the river. Noyle described it as a ‘wake-up call for us all.’ D’ya think?


Al Gore Adds 1250 Team Members & More Resources

ag_aboutSome 1250 high quality communicators from 70+ countries and all 50 USA States attended training in Chicago this week for Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project (CRP). I was privileged to be among them. We will join an existing team of more than 5,000 Climate Leaders worldwide.


Gore announced that the international Climate Reality Project will significantly boost resources in the coming months behind campaigns designed to:

• Maintain the momentum of the world majority who want climate action

• Counter what Gore referred to as the state of paralysis in some areas created by the ‘Deniers  Industry” (lobbyists) which now exists in just 4 countries: Canada, USA, UK and Australia.

Canadians returned Friday with renewed determination to turn up the heat on politicians, corporations and anyone else who chooses to ignore what scientists and other experts have been saying for years about

  • Climate change
  • Health
  • The fossil fuel economy
  • Extreme weather events

CRP ballroom


Gore also said a coming massive media blitz will focus on the true cost of carbon in our economy in dollars and cents. He pointed out the danger to companies who refuse to recognize this cost. When governments move to punish polluters these companies will be seriously devalued and their shareholders and directors will suffer. Share prices will drop and insurance companies are already urging companies to include climate change in their operating strategies or face coverage gaps.

CPR CEO Maggie Fox announced that the organization will widely promote campaigns to pressure deniers on numerous media and social media fronts; and will establish a new set of awards ‘recognizing’ the leaders in the climate change denial business. “We will name and shame,” any organization that engages in creating doubt about a reality that is accepted by 98% of the world’s scientists,” she said.

Trying to speak the language of business

Please share these 3 videoclips with as many business people, shareholders and investors as you can. Trying to speak the language of people in different groups who can help accelerate change.

Shareholders  http://youtu.be/XqaHWML8u4s

Venture Capital Investors  http://youtu.be/jxjnp8G3ioo

Business people  http://youtu.be/91X4Dr1Xn_0


Germany: Proof of Concept

If anyone is waiting to see whether it’s feasible for a country to depend heavily on clean renewables for its energy needs, the German model is now undeniably successful.


According to renewable energy world.com 22% of Germany’s electricity supply is supplied by renewables. The government estimates this will increase to 40% within 7 years. As impressive as this projection may be, some describe it as conservative. On sunny and windy days, wind and solar meet more than 85% of the country’s mid-day electricity needs.

By 2015, the report suggests, the total cost for power produced by wind and solar will be roughly 7–10 euro cents per kilowatt hour, about the same as electricity generated by new gas and coal powered plants.

Germany’s economy is the strongest in Europe, it exports electricity to France, and it shut down 1/3 of its nuclear reactors during 2011.

Germany’s renewables sector provides 386,000 domestic jobs, and a recent independent poll showed 93% of Germans support the clean energy switch. High levels of windmill nimby-based resistance have apparently been easing in most regions. See the full report at Germany.

On the other hand, the government has attempted to allow solar to survive on its own merits and reduced feed-in tariffs at perhaps an inopportune time. China has been flooding world markets with cheap panels, making it difficult for manufacturers elsewhere to compete. Solon, one of Germany’s biggest producers was forced to file for bankruptcy.

Webisode Comedy About Green People

I hope you will agree this experimental (3 minute webisodes) online comedy about green people and sustainability is cool. Here are the first three webisodes of The World is Flat; about sustainable living at the Provincial Environment Ministry. Enjoy!

new pic

Please show your support by liking it, re-tweeting it or even crowd funding it at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-world-is-flat/x/293907

Twitter: @BFNagy

Day of reckoning for shale believers is finally here

President Obama believed him, wealthy international investors believed him, even Wall Street believed him for a little while, but the house of cards built by the high priest of shale gas is all tumbling down now. A few weeks ago the poster boy for the USA shale gas miracle, Aubrey McClendon, was forced to retire as head of Chesapeake Energy; the fracking behemoth he founded, but could never make profitable.

aubrey mcclendon

His retirement was not likely caused by Matt Damon’s movie Promised Land, or numerous scientists questioning the environmental negatives of shale gas fracking. McClendon was skewered instead by his own industry. It turns out fracking cannot provide 100 more years of shale gas, but instead perhaps 20. But that will only be true if the industry can find a way to make itself profitable and thus keep its sugar daddy investors content.

These revelations made by energy experts and money people began a few years ago, but the Chesapeake PR machine seemed to achieve some success by discrediting decent people like Deborah Rogers and Arthur Berman. More recently Forbes and the Rolling Stone did highly detailed exploratories, which were followed by SEC investigations into borrowing practices at over-leveraged Chesapeake.

I’m an environmentalist, but equally a pragmatist. Fracking is almost certainly bad for chemistry in water and methane all over the place; and it might even be wrong to say natural gas is some kind of lesser evil than coal, but the most unfortunate sin Aubrey committed is pretending that fracking makes money, when it doesn’t. This has done, and will eventually do an incredible amount of damage to the increasingly battered fossil fuel industry. Sadly McClendon has hurt the rest of us too.

It’s a fiasco. Like the ethanol fiasco. Like some of the mistakes the wind industry keeps making. Because of the nature of change and innovation and free enterprise, these fiascos are to some extent unavoidable. But we need to work very hard to avoid them. They discourage investors and governments from trying ‘new’ things. They create a deadly state of paralysis.

Changing our energy landscape is hard enough without people letting excessive greed and pride and fear cloud the issues. We all know that in the long run our energy mix will change. The question from an environmentalist point of view is will it change in time to preserve some of the beauty and health that is still offered by our planet? The question from a capitalist point of view is can I make money while helping the planet?

In my world, both of these are reasonable questions from valued players. I’m a realist. It’s the people who know how to put money together, that really make things happen in this world. So environmentalists need to cool the rhetoric and guide our money people in the right directions, by speaking their language. Remind them over and over that clean tech will be a 4 trillion dollar industry in about 6 or 7 years (Pembina said recently 3 trillion -still big); that it has already outperformed almost everything else during the downturn. There is money to be made from the sun and the wind.

Remind them that their existing businesses can experience share price growth and bigger dividends in the short term, 3 years or less, just by hiring someone to look at corporate energy conservation. The savings are massive and it’s low hanging fruit!

Money people need our guidance and they are often as powerful or more powerful than governments in shaping change. Let’s steer them away from the fiascos, toward better investments. Let’s work on this together.

Green is a Conservative Idea

Not Enough Tories and Republicans Are Paying Attention

Bruce Nagy


I just do not understand today’s conservatives. Why are many of you ignoring the modern way to make money? Clean tech represents one of the few guaranteed investment gold mines for capitalists, and conservation makes this a double whammy of Tory goodness.

Clean Tech will be $4.4 trillion in about 6-1/2 years

There are a whole pack of people quietly raking it in with clean tech, which is a $2.2 trillion business worldwide right now, and is expected to mushroom to about twice that during the next seven years. Its growth has outpaced almost everything during the downturn, on average 12% since 2007.

According to Bloomberg and the United Nations, global investment in renewable power and fuels increased 17% to a new record of $257 billion last year. USA investment leapt 57% to $51 billion. In 2010 China was the leader, investing $48 billion.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says global wind power capacity increased by an average annual growth rate of more than 25% over the past five years. Photovoltaic solar has grown more than 50% each year since 2006. The IEA’s 2012 World Energy Outlook projects a 300%-400% increase in electricity from renewables by 2035, based on information from oil companies and its member states, the largest countries in the world. Eventually renewables are expected to provide half the world’s energy or more.

The Tree-Huggers Are Now the Fat Cats

The world’s largest producer of wind energy, Spain-based Iberdrola SA, blew way analysts’ expectations last year with a whopping $4 billion in profits. Year over year investment growth for solar in Canada was 65% from 2005-2010. In the USA, solar employed more than 100,000 people in 2010-2011 compared with 82,500 for the coal industry.

Renewables technologies are increasingly profitable. In 2011 PV module prices fell by close to 50%, and onshore wind turbine prices dropped by 10%. Through district heating and cooling projects, geothermal capital costs are dropping, making levelized costs for geo more attractive.

Conservation and Building Efficiency

Analysts all agree that mechanical system retrofits in existing buildings will be a huge business for the next 10 years at least. According to the UK’s Grantham Research Institute, increasing insulation, draft-proofing, installing good-quality double-glazed windows and switching to more efficient appliances and lighting will save at least 10% on energy in residential retrofits and 25% in non-residential retrofits.

This is very real, big money. The Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada can provide years of perfectly documented case studies showing millions in savings. If you want a piece of the action, conservatives need to first recognize that this is the new business era we live in.

Nuclear Should be Frightening for Conservatives

It’s time to tell the truth. Nukes just make the richest labour unions richer. The USA Congressional Budget Office says the cost of building the last 75 nuclear plants in the U.S. exceeded estimates by more than 300%. So, actual cost was about $3000 per kW not including waste storage. Basically, business cases for nukes are not what thinking capitalists should admire.

In 2007 Moody’s Investor Service increased estimates to $5,000-$6,000 per kW and Keystone Center researchers found surprisingly high operating costs of 30 cents per kW. A proposed new Florida project was quoted at $8000 per kW in 2008. It takes something like 16 years from conception to operation, allowing costs to mushroom, and making the whole exercise a bit moot in today’s accelerating energy innovation environment. There are a lot of options that conservatives should look at instead, which are now very proven, all more competitive and much quicker to build.

In Canada in the Province of Ontario, one study showed that for 50% of the cost of a new nuclear reactor we could instead retrofit 1.6 million homes and save the same amount of energy. How can a conservative ignore a saving of half the cost? The study also showed it would create 90 times more modern-skilled jobs for our young people.

Mayor Ford and the Best Business in the World

I worked as chief of staff for a Toronto city councillor and got to know the now famous or infamous Mayor Ford. I won’t comment on his political missteps, but I will say that some of his ideas are not bad. One day his chief strategist asked for a meeting, I guess because he heard we had some green cred. The strategist told me in the meeting that green is a conservative concept, because it saves so much money and it will continue to be the best business in the world for the next few decades. He’s absolutely right.

Toronto is in the Province of Ontario. Last year I was talking to the President of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, Allan O’Dette. You would probably have to describe him as a conservative. He agreed that the best strategy to revive the suffering Ontario manufacturing sector is to encourage development of clean tech.

It’s time for the rest of the conservatives out there to wake up and get in on the clean tech gold mine.

What the Pentagon Says About Climate Change



Climate change humor

Click here for a laugh. Then remember, it shouldn’t be.



It’s a wake-up call. Let’s wake up.

“There are no innocent bystanders.” --William S. Burroughs

The new normal: It’s 13oC in Toronto in mid January, it’s 53oC in Australia, and it’s snowing in Jerusalem, for the first time in 21 years.


2012 was the hottest year, ever, in the United States. In Brazil a heat wave killed 32 people in two days. Temperatures hit 43oC, the highest temperature since 1915. In Eastern Russia and in China temperatures hit -45oC, for China the coldest winter in 28 years. Sicily and southern Italy had snow storms for the first time since World War II. Four hundred people died in unexpected flooding in Pakistan. Britain’s weather service declared 2012 the wettest year in England.



Snow in Jerusalem

According to the New York Times, the first eight days of 2013 were among the 20 hottest on record in Australia. “Every decade since the 1950s has been hotter in Australia than the one before, said Mark Stafford Smith, science director of the Climate Adaptation Flagship at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.” See http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/heat-flood-or-icy-cold-extreme-weather-rages-worldwide-316370


Eerie dust storm off the west coast of Australia

“It’s unusual to have so many extreme events around the world at once,” said Omar Baddour, chief of the data management applications division at the World Meteorological Association, in Geneva.

Amazing new house proves that green doesn’t have to mean expensive


By Jared Green

Cross-posted from The Dirt, also appeared in Grist

Lakiya Culley and her sons
Martin Seck
Lakiya Culley and her sons

Lakiya Culley, an administrative assistant at the U.S. State Department and mother of three, just moved into one of the most innovative, energy-efficient houses in the U.S. – in a rather unlikely location.

Culley lives in Deanwood, a working class, primarily African American neighborhood of Washington, D.C., that has recently struggled with foreclosures. She is now the proud owner of an Empowerhouse, a home that produces all of its own energy, a feat made simpler by the fact that it consumes 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than a conventional home.

Empowerhouse, which uses “passive house” technologies, was designed by students at the New School and Stevens Institute of Technology as part of the Solar Decathlon design competition, which was held on the National Mall in 2011. Developed in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, the house marks the first time in the Solar Decathlon’s history that a team partnered with civic and government organizations to make a house a reality in the District.

Martin Seck

Solar Decathlon organizers added a new category so that teams could earn points for affordability after some criticism that homes were getting out-of-control-pricey and therefore weren’t realistic real-world models. A home from Germany, for example, cost upwards of $2 million. Each unit of the actual Empowerhouse in Deanwood (there are two apartments in the mini-complex), cost just $250,000, making it affordable in that neighborhood, according to a spokesperson at New School. The model, which was built by Habitat for Humanity volunteers, has been such a hit that six more are being planned for Ivy City, another inner-city neighborhood in the District.

The “net-zero” home is a marvel. The bright, bold exterior lights up the whole block. The healthy, light-filled interior is built out of sustainable, recycled materials. And the landscape architecture was integrated into the project from the beginning, said Professor Laura Briggs, faculty lead of the project at the New School. The result is stormwater management solutions that address the truly local environmental problems: the heavy runoff that impacts the already polluted rivers.

Each unit has terraces with green roofs and small plots for urban agriculture that are designed to capture some water. In the rear of each building is a rain garden that captures any rainwater that escapes from the roof gardens. Each unit also has its own underground cistern, where rainwater is collected and then used to water the property.

At the sides of the house, the parking space is made of permeable pavers that allow stormwater to sink into the underlying soils. And out front, there’s the District’s first residential green street, a deep trough filled with dirt and plants designed to soak up street runoff and deal with the oily pollutants that collect on streets. The landscape work was done with a the local organizations Groundwork Anacostia and D.C. Greenworks.

Both the homes and landscape were co-designed with the community. Students met with community members, local organizations, and Culley, the owner, in a series of design charrettes. The result of all that outreach and collaboration will be more projects in the neighborhood, including a new community “learning garden.” The designers say this was all part of creating social sustainability, a piece often left out of the puzzle.

Empowerhouse is a powerful model for how to bring sustainable, affordable, community-based housing to inner city neighborhoods, and there’s this: Habitat for Humanity now knows how to build these uber green homes in a low-cost way. No doubt we’ll be seeing more of them in unlikely locations in the future.

Jared Green is editor of The Dirt, the blog of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). The Dirt covers news on the built and natural environments.

College Asks for Alternative Energy Update

Alt energy education

I received a request recently from one of Ontario’s top colleges asking if they could distribute a version of the energy story below to their students. These excerpts appeared originally in Canada’s oldest and perhaps most conservative plumbing & heating magazine, Plumbing & HVAC. Both its publication and the college’s request are achievements for the alternative version of the truth about global energy economics.

The Changing World of Energy Economics

By Bruce Nagy

Today: As of now about 80% of homes and businesses in the world are heated by oil & gas. About 67% of the world’s electricity comes from coal, oil and gas. But even the most optimistic prophets don’t predict more than 100 years supply of any of these fuels, and most admit it’s more like 30-50 years at affordable prices. That likely includes the current shale gas celebration in the USA, which investors are now seeing as a bit of a sham. Consumption of fossil fuels is still increasing. If Asia keeps growing at the current pace, the energy landscape will have to change a lot in the next 20-30 years. What will take the place of oil and coal?

Tomorrow: For install trends of mechanical equipment used to heat and cool North American buildings in the next few decades, a lot will depend on natural gas. Natural gas powered equipment continues to improve its efficiencies, and given most of the current load requirements, the capital cost for gas appliances has not yet been matched by renewables. Affordability of natural gas and building efficiencies will be the key factors.

Shale Gas Realities

Forget about Matt Damon’s movie the true fiction related to fracking may be its business model. American politicians would rather not create panic by talking about shrinking oil reserves, and they have used trouble in the Middle East as a rationale for discovering new USA energy sources. So it’s not surprising that something like shale gas might suddenly become a miracle cure. The shale gas revolution is based on newish technology that right now creates a higher cost model than traditional extraction. American investors jumped in because they were told it was profitable, but according to several petroleum industry analysts, the business cases that were used to prove this made questionable assumptions about gas field yields.

Now many shale projects are reaching peak production after just a few years, with dramatic fall-offs after that. This is a serious problem for investors, unless extraction becomes more effective and costs go down. If mistakes have been made then the statement ‘100 years of cheap natural gas’ contains two inaccuracies. It might not be cheap and there might not be a 100-year supply.

Nuclear Disaster

No. The economics of nuclear energy are in even worse shape. Once a plant is built it supposedly provides a lot of power very inexpensively, but the truth is coming out. Due to chronic overruns, investors stopped taking cost estimates for new nuke plants seriously around 1980. The USA Congressional Budget Office says the actual cost of building 75 nuclear power plants in the U.S. exceeded industry quoted estimates by more than 300 percent (actual cost about $3000 per kW not including waste storage).

In 2007 Moody’s Investor Service increased estimates to $5,000-$6,000 per kW and Keystone Center researchers found surprisingly high operating costs of 30 cents per kW. A proposed new Florida project was quoted at $8000 per kW in 2008. It takes something like 16 years from conception to operation, allowing costs to mushroom and making the whole exercise a bit moot in today’s accelerating energy innovation environment. Waste-to-energy, biomass CHP, big wind and huge solar farms are all more competitive and much quicker to build.

Thorium Nuclear

In the 1960s and 1970s the USA and Germany tested another kind of nuclear that uses thorium rather than uranium as a fuel. There has been some recent interest in resurrecting its possibilities. India has some reactors under construction and continues to conduct research. China has started a program. Thorium is less expensive, much more efficient and safe, and more abundant, especially in the USA, India, Australia, Turkey and Canada.

There are some who say that thorium nuclear is far better than uranium nuclear because it leaves very little radioactive waste behind that must be stored for thousands of years, and might even be able to burn up the stockpiles of waste we have now. With thorium reactor designs available, meltdowns are reportedly easy to avoid and the likelihood of a terrorist (or country) using the technology to make a bomb is almost zero. Thorium reactors might even be less expensive. The problem is, we don’t know. We are just starting detailed, costly research. We could have started in the 1940s when R&D was affordable. Why didn’t we? Because you could make a bomb with plutonium and power a nuclear submarine for war efforts, so that’s where the research dollars went.


Several kinds of wood products, waste products and agricultural biomass are making a huge impact on the generation of electricity and are also gaining in popularity as fuels for heating buildings. Theoretically biomass is one of the only base load renewable energy sources with widespread availability, considered by some as inexhaustible. It currently supplies about 14% of global primary energy with technologies now spreading from Europe to every corner of the world. Traditional biomass products like firewood, charcoal, manure, and crop residues provide the main source of household energy use for 2-3 billion people worldwide. It now involves grasses and woody plants, leaves, wood, wood chips, rice husks, peanut shells, sugarcane fiber, garbage, and waste. It is also now much more common as a fuel in many kinds of electric power plants (and large institutional or district heating plants). According to Pike Research, worldwide biomass power generation capacity will grow to at least 86 GW by 2021, from 58 GW in 2011. That represents a total investment of $104 billion. The main ecological concern is greed and breaking rules. For example making wood pellets from beetle kill lumber or from  forest slash that would normally be burnt wastefully in the open air by foresters are both environmentally sensible, but clear-cutting forests is not.


Ethanol received a lot of attention a few years ago as a transportation fuel until it was realized that the energy input coefficient didn’t make much sense and neither did displacing USA food crops to make it. Nonetheless it’s still big business in some areas. In Brazil where it is made from sugar cane it is very successful, but sadly they reportedly clear-cut boreal forest so they can have room to grow the cane.


Investors now are excited about the prospects for algae. Algae absorbs CO2 while growing, can be generated pretty quickly using comparatively little acreage in controlled circumstances, and converted to a relatively clean burning transportation fuel. The economics and energy coefficients are all good; and although the process requires large amounts of water, the water is recycled, re-used and not polluted by the process. There is a lot of secrecy around this currently, but there are two key technologies still being taken seriously by investors. At least one of them is likely to succeed, primarily because the military is investing very heavily in its commercialization and it is a natural fit for their operations. It is expected to save a huge amount on air and ground transportation fuel costs. There are other possible applications, but we’re still four or five years from significant implementation.


Tipping point: Investors are now really committing to electricity from renewables. According to Bloomberg and the United Nations, global investment in renewable power and fuels increased 17% to a new record of $257 billion last year. USA investment leapt 57% to $51 billion. In 2010 China was the leader, investing $48 billion, while rooftop projects in Germany and Italy together reached $60 billion-worth of investment, up more than 90% from 2009.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) global wind power capacity was 238 Gigawatts (GW) at the end of 2011, up from 18 GW at the end of 2000, including an average growth rate of more than 25% over the past five years. PV was roughly 67 GW at the end of 2011, compared with just 1.5 GW in 2000, growing more than 50% each year since 2006. The IEA’s 2012 World Energy Outlook projects a 300%-400% increase in electricity from renewables by 2035, based on information from its member states, (the largest countries in the world). Eventually renewables are expected to provide half the world’s energy or more.


Hydro creates 17% of the world’s electricity. Due to long pay back periods, high capital costs, and environmental disruption, development of large-scale hydroelectric facilities has stalled in North America. Small-scale and micro-scale hydropower, however, show great promise for further development and expansion in the coming years. Only 2% of the more than 75,000 dams in the USA are currently used to generate electric power. And researchers are studying advanced turbine technologies that will help maximize the use of hydropower and minimize adverse environmental effects.

Good Business

The German government commissioned a study which reported in September 2012 that even during the horrible years since 2007 while every other business suffered, clean tech has grown consistently, 12% per year, and is projected to double, becoming a 4.4 trillion in the next 7 years.

Are renewables profitable? The world’s largest producer of wind energy, Spain-based Iberdrola SA, blew way analysts’ expectations last year with a whopping $4 billion in profits. Canada’s energy guru and author Tom Rand reports that year over year investment growth for solar was 65% from 2005-2010, (and that in the USA solar employed more than 100,000 people in 2010-2011 compared with 82,500 for the coal industry).

Renewables economics should continue to improve as technologies are refined. In 2011 PV module prices fell by close to 50%, and onshore wind turbine prices dropped by 10%. Through district heating and cooling projects, geothermal capital costs are dropping, making levelized costs for geo increasingly attractive.

Conservation and Building Efficiency

HVAC in general is predicted to enjoy healthy growth in North America for the next few years. Analysts all agree that retrofits will be a huge business for the next 10 years at least. According to the UK’s Grantham Research Institute, increasing insulation, draft proofing, installing good-quality double-glazed windows and switching to more efficient appliances and light bulbs will save a minimum of 10% on energy in residential retrofits and 25% in non-residential retrofits.

As we all know for new construction, current savings are between 30% and 50% with contemporary thermal-bridge-minimized envelopes; except with the Passivhaus standard (now in the code in Germany) which saves about 80%-90%. Needless to say when all buildings are built to the Passivhaus Standard, the HVAC-energy discussion will be much different.

Bruce Nagy writes about sustainability and energy for several national magazines, an online webisodic green TV show, some ethical organizations, the Leader of the Green Party of Ontario and his blog http://NewEnergyAge.wordpress.com. See also @BFNagy on twitter, Bruce Nagy on facebook and http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=169790088&trk=tab_pro

The World is Flat -First 3 episodes

Here are the first three webisodes of The World is Flat; about

sustainable living at the Provincial Environment Ministry Enjoy!


Unapologetic KUDOS for Toronto

The World is Flat is the name of an online comedy TV show of very short webisodes about some funny people working for a fictional environment ministry. It’s in production now and will be released to the public in the coming months. It is primarily entertainment but it also promotes a greener planet.

I worked on it with a wonderful group of people and as I did so, I realized that like many cities, Toronto enjoys a wealth of talented people, capable of producing first-class entertainment. I also realized that unlike other cities, Toronto is uniquely positioned to lead the world in very positive directions in the twenty-first century. This may sound like a grandiose declaration but I assure you I have reached this conclusion based on what I perceive to be factual evidence, while wearing my cynical, skeptical journalist’s hat.


I had my first inkling of this belief a few years ago when I was writing a story about Toronto’s deep water cooling project. It’s a system that brings the cleanest possible water from the deepest depths of Lake Ontario into the city’s drinking water network, while also helping to air condition about 100 downtown office towers. The City pays  theoretically extra to pump from the best available feasible source. But it saves by partnering with the private sector Enwave Corporation, which helps defray the cost of warming this 4oC water enough for domestic use, by extracting its coolness for A/C, in an exemplary feat of modern engineering. Toronto is not the only place in the world where something like this is achieved, but its system is more than twice the size of its nearest rival (Hawaii) and easily the most advanced.

Installing Toronto’s Deep Water Cooling system 200 feet below the surface, several kilometres out, beyond the island.

Why is this important? Because as it was explained to me, the coincidence of the right geographic, technical, financial and political conditions to make this possible are rare indeed. My source laid particular emphasis on the human element. Where in most cities such an achievement would almost certainly be scuttled by bureaucratic or political squabbling during it’s very long development process, it somehow survived and has since thrived in Toronto (Evidence of success -major pension plans own stakes).


When green author and investor Tom Rand decided to build a hostel-hotel near Kensington Market to show off green building technology, he realized that a key goal would depend on a completely new city planning precedent. He wanted geothermal heating and cooling, which means drilling deep wells into the ground to extract warmth in winter and coolness in summer.

Except he couldn’t easily drill because he was renovating an existing building that covered the whole lot. The wells would best be drilled on city land in the alleyway. There were sewers, water lines, gas lines, and communication lines beneath the pavement; a horror show of permits and opportunities for someone to say “NO”. Planning departments in most big cities would have nixed this idea fast, but not in Toronto. Not only was it approved and built, but Toronto created a policy that will allow others to complete similar projects more smoothly in the future.


Coming back to the actors and crew of The World is Flat web TV comedy; this group produced 10 episodes with almost no budget. They agreed to come together and work very long hours with people they didn’t know for no pay on weekends. They borrowed and rented some equipment. Tonya Surman a the Centre for Social Innovation on Bathurst and Rob Angeloni at a small local ad agency (CVC Communications) let them film scenes in their offices for free. There were a lot of sacrifices made. Any one of the 20 or so people involved could have said “NO” or just given up in the middle of the project. But they didn’t. Because this is Toronto.

As one of the continent’s biggest cities, Toronto brings together a lot of talented and intelligent people, like other places do. But the people here are also uncommonly decent and caring. They agree to do things for a higher purpose. They are proud of their moral fibre and they should be. And they are uniquely positioned to lead the world into the best possible directions in the twenty-first century.

Choose the right heat/cool system for your situation


The world is changing the way we heat and cool buildings, but we are all a part of that change. We may say cynically that too many decisions in the world are based on money, but the reality is we have to pay our bills, and we therefore have to choose green technologies that make economic sense. How much is the install (capital) cost? Or more to the point, how much is the financing and resale bump? Most important how much is the utility (operating) cost savings each month?

Lots of inventions turn out to be not as good as others; and although in general green tech is not a new invention and has decades of proof, it is being refined all the time with claimed improvements that might be untested. Heating & cooling is saving a ton of money right now, but every building and its variables are different. Before you commit enthusiastically to a new green heating and cooling system, start with an accurate fuel cost comparison. It’s not just how much the fuel costs per BTU, but also how efficient the mechanics are, both the appliances and the distribution within your building. With your green tech heating and cooling guy sitting next to you go to http://www.BuildingGreen.com/calc/fuel_cost.cfm and get him to honestly estimate some numbers to put into the calculator to make sure you are making a wise decision. (Then get 2 more quotes and do the same exercise with those heating and cooling people) Then go get a good deal from your bank manager on the financing.