ST Dec. Mtg: The Economic Imperative of Energy Efficiency: Leading Tucson to More Jobs and a Robust Economy While Mitigating Climate Change

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At Joel D. Valdez Main Library, Lower Level Meeting Room,

101 N. Stone, Downtown (free lower level parking off Alameda St)

 

Sustainable Tucson December Meeting: The Economic Imperative of Energy Efficiency: Leading Tucson to More Jobs and a Robust Economy While Mitigating Climate Change

This month, Sustainable Tucson brings international expertise and vision to our community to understand how our region can move to a much more energy-efficient economy while enabling a 100% renewable-energy-powered, and a more vibrant economy.

A recently leaked portion of the upcoming (March 2014) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report endorses a CEILING ON GLOBAL GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS. A September 28, 2013 New York Times article describes the Panel’s endorsement:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/28/science/global-climate-change-report.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

Tucson’s regional power system and economy can be planned to produce a vibrant economy AND mitigate the worst effects of climate change. In fact the components that can make this happen work in concert.
Sustainable Tucson is proud to present two speakers with backgrounds and experience in transitioning from a carbon-intensive economy to one anchored by energy efficiency and powered by renewable energy.

John A. “Skip” Laitner is a resource economist who leads a team of consultants with his own group, Economic and Human Dimensions Research Associates based in Tucson, Arizona. He served nearly 10 years as a senior economist for technology policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He won EPA’s Gold Medal award for his contributions to economic impact assessments evaluating climate change policies. More recently, he led the Economic and Social Analysis Program for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a well-known think tank based in Washington, D.C. He has just returned from France where he works as the senior economist for a regional initiative that proposes to reduce energy requirements by half with renewable energy technologies powering all remaining energy needs.
Matthew T. McDonnell, J.D. is a regulatory and policy analyst with Economic and Human Dimensions Research Associates. He has previous experience in the renewable energy finance industry and the utility regulatory process. He has worked with former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Paul Newman, providing policy analysis; and he has given testimony before the ACC. As a consultant, Mr. McDonnell has advised clients on a variety of energy projects including independent review of generation options analysis, prospects for municipalization, as well as, regulatory issues involved with the transmission and sale of electricity–in both FERC and ACC jurisdictions. Mr. McDonnell’s clients have ranged from municipalities and energy firms, to public utilities and stakeholder groups.

Doors open at 5:30 pm. The meeting will begin promptly at 6:00 pm.

Will the real International Energy Agency please stand up?

Will the real International Energy Agency please stand up?

Published by Resource Insights on 2013-11-16
Original article: http://resourceinsights.blogspot.com/2013/11/will-real-international-energy-agency.html by Kurt Cobb

It was as if the International Energy Agency were appearing on the old American television game show To Tell the Truth last week as it offered a third contradictory forecast in the space of a year.

You may recall that on To Tell the Truth the host would begin by reading a statement from a person with an unusual story or profession. Then, a celebrity panel would question three contestants who claimed to be that person. Afterwards, the panelists would vote on whom they believed was the real person. Finally, the host would say, “Will the real [name of person] please stand up?” (Some episodes are still available here on YouTube.)

The difference is that the contestants on To Tell the Truth would try to tell similar, plausible stories so as to stump the panel. In the non-game-show world of energy forecasting, the IEA–a consortium of 28 countries, all net oil importers except for Canada and Norway–plays all three contestants and does not even attempt to be consistent. So, it’s possible that the agency is just a collective mental case with multiple personality disorder.

However, one has to allow for the fact that the IEA is not just one person or one voice. Still, if the agency were a single person, what it has released over the last year as official pronouncements would likely have a psychiatrist reaching for the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition).

Last November in its 2012 World Energy Outlook (WEO), the agency noted rising U.S. oil production and even predicted that the United States would become energy self-sufficient by 2035 (a doubtful call, in my view). It also noted that growing oil demand in the Asia has more than outweighed declines in European and U.S. consumption, keeping upward pressure on prices. It said that growth in Iraq’s oil exports was not a sure thing. While the 2012 WEO is really a rather optimistic document on supply, it did not paint an especially rosy picture, indicating that obtaining the supplies of oil necessary to meet projected demand was not a foregone conclusion.

Then, only six months later came the agency’s so-called Medium-Term Oil Market Report which read like an ad for the North American oil and gas industry. The agency touted a “supply shock” in oil from American tight oil fields unleashed by a new kind of hydraulic fracturing–a shock that would send “ripples throughout the world.” Unlike six months earlier, worldwide supply was supposed to take flight on the wings of fracking.

This enthusiasm didn’t last long. In its latest report, the just-issued 2013 World Energy Outlook, the agency sounded like a group of Gloomy Guses noting that “Brent crude oil has averaged $110 per barrel in real terms since 2011, a sustained period of high oil prices that is without parallel in oil market history.”

The report goes on to say, “The capacity of technologies to unlock new types of resources, such as light tight oil (LTO) and ultra-deepwater fields, and to improve recovery rates in existing fields is pushing up estimates of the amount of oil that remains to be produced. But this does not mean that the world is on the cusp of a new era of oil abundance.” The most recent forecast calls for rising oil prices in real terms through 2035. This is in part because the agency expects that “no country replicates the level of success with LTO” that we are seeing in the United States today.

What’s really happening here? Is the IEA getting better at seeing the future? Not really. What’s happening is that the IEA is being asked to do something which it cannot possibly do: accurately predict oil supplies 22 years into the future. So, given this impossible task, the agency responds by following current trends (and industry hype) and then extrapolating them.

Now that the IEA has had a chance to re-examine the industry’s claims in light of more experience with tight oil development, it is backing off its previous assessment in its Medium-Term Oil Market Report from May. Fatih Birol, chief economist for the IEA, told the Financial Times that he would now characterize rising oil production in the United States as “a surge, rather than a revolution.” He expects OPEC to become dominant once again in oil markets early in the next decade. The Financial Times characterized the report as predicting an oil supply crunch.

But, will the IEA have a change of heart once again? It might, depending on what it hears from industry sources and what it chooses to believe. But, the takeaway from the last year of IEA projections is not that the agency is suffering some sort of breakdown, but that it has been given an impossible task that in the volatile world of oil supplies has it casting about for a coherent story. In short, it is trying to tell the truth without knowing the truth for the simple reason that in this case the truth cannot known. That has made it a poor contestant in its own real-life episode of To Tell the Truth stretched out over the past year.

It is a fool’s errand to try to predict the future of world energy supplies. But, it is even more foolish to base our public policy, business and personal decisions on such predictions.

P. S. There is a minor acknowledgement that such forecasts are exercises in futility in a disclaimer at the end of the 2013 World Energy Outlook summary. The disclaimer reads: “The IEA makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, in respect of the publication’s contents (including its completeness or accuracy) and shall not be responsible for any use of, or reliance on, the publication.” This is standard boilerplate, I know. But, it is not the kind of language that inspires confidence.

 

Editor: the thumbnail image, of course, is the logo from The Oil Drum website, whose work lives on.


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Loss and Damage @Warsaw: Climate change Conference of Parties 19

Loss and Damage @Warsaw

Published by Daily Kos on 2013-11-15
Original article: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/11/15/1255756/-Loss-and-Damage-Warsaw by Deborah Phelan

The issue of ‘loss and damage’, which at long last mainstreamed at last year’s COP18, is vying for center stage in Warsaw as COP19 participants wrestle with the problems of effectively addressing and financing the irreparable impacts of climate change, those impacts already beyond the options of mitigation or adaptation.

The World Wildlife Fund pounced yesterday on the urgent need for an international mechanism to address this problem with the publication of Tackling The Climate Reality: A Framework For Establishing An International Mechanism To Address Loss And Damage At COP19.

The report was co-authored by WWF, ActionAid and CARE.
© WWF, ActionAide and CARE
“The experience of the Philippines with Super Typhoon Haiyan is surely evidence that we are in the throes of an impending crisis,” said Sven Harmeling, climate change advocacy coordinator at CARE International. “Thousands of people died and still suffer, despite the Philippines investing a lot in disaster preparedness and adaptation. The lack of serious attention to both mitigation and adaptation is pushing the world into the third era of climate governance, where the two pillars of adaptation and mitigation are no longer sufficient to respond to the challenge of climate change.”
From the report’s Executive Summary:

Climate change loss and damage is resulting from insufficient mitigation efforts. If emissions continue to be pumped into the atmosphere at current levels, the long-held goal of keeping average global temperature rises to below 2°C will be exceeded. In fact, the world is currently on a pathway towards an altogether much warmer world; average global temperature rises of well over 4°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century are looking increasingly likely with a business-as-usual approach to mitigation.

Climate change loss and damage is also resulting from insufficient support for adaptation. In fact, increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events are already providing ample evidence of how adaptation limits are being breached, overwhelming the ability of countries, people and ecosystems to cope with damage which, in turn, undermines people’s adaptive capacity and eats away at their resilience.

Announcing “a new era” of climate change, where rapidly rising sea waters, desertification, the acidification of the oceans and glacial melt overwhelm the world’s most vulnerable communities, the report implies a shift in focus to climate justice: poverty, lack of infrastructure and vulnerability of geographic locale cripple inadequately funded adaptation and mitigation policies and elevate the severity of the problems. The authors suggest an over reliance on flawed adaptation schemes will result in severe devastation to lives and livelihoods, ecosystems, and food and fisheries in many countries.

The proposed international mechanism would provide global oversight and coordination of actions related to loss and damage and “enhance cooperation, oversight and coordination of action and linkages with regional and global institutions.” Operationally, the mechanism would be a part of the UNFCCC’s current loss and damage program while creating a new Standing Body on Loss and Damage, also under UNFCCC auspices.

Additional functions would include:

•Knowledge development and exchange.
•Support for the implementation of a wide range of approaches identified to address loss and damage.
•Facilitate and catalyse the development of innovative financial measures, including measures for rehabilitation of damage, compensation for loss, and reparations for non-economic impacts.

ActionAid International Coordinator Harjeet Singh says developing nations must accept their “moral duty and legal obligation” to fast track support for the most climate vulnerable nations.

“We need to establish the international mechanism here in Warsaw to deal with the unprecedented challenges we are facing,” he said. “The mechanism is not just about providing finance to recover from climate change impacts that cannot be adapted to. It is also about generating knowledge and finding new ways to deal with non-economic losses such as loss of biodiversity, indigenous knowledge, human mobility, cultural heritage, ancestral burial sites and so on.”

With loss and damage front and center this week after the unparalleled devastation from Typhoon Haiyan (read The Brisbane Times article Typhoon Haiyan and a year of weird weather), all 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) yesterday engineered a strategic intervention by jointly presenting the UNFCCC Secretariat with their National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs).
True to the course, lead negotiators from industrialized nations are expected to shy away from any “formalised mechanism” to address loss and damage, focusing instead on attracting investors to navigate their way towards profit via long-term clean tech development through contributions towards $100bn annual Green Fund commitments.
The application of this ‘antiquated’ and seemingly unsustainable model of development was evidenced yesterday at the US Center where USAID hosted the panel “Concept to Reality: Mobilizing Private Investment for Clean Energy in Africa.”
In a case study detailing a six year project to bring a 5MW biomass grid online in South Africa, CTI PFAN advisor Michale Feldner (Inspire South Africa) painting a disturbing picture of huge financial costs (primarily legal fees), delays in permit applications, difficulties in luring and holding onto investors, and the dismal ratio between project identification and actual funding and development.
Wake up, Warsaw. We don’t have six years to waste.
Speaking at this year’s Social Good Summit, Al Gore  suggested that without a ‘sea change’ in political and social consciousness, “Civilization might not survive the next 100 years.”
So, Get Real, Warsaw. Maybe it truly is now or never.

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Resilience is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities.


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Three things you shouldn’t miss this week: Energy Crunch: the global picture

Energy Crunch: the global picture

Published by New Economics Foundation on 2013-11-15
Original article: http://www.neweconomics.org/blog/entry/energy-round-up-the-global-picture by Energy Crunch staff

Three things you shouldn’t miss this week

  1. The dwindling emissions budget if we are to limit global warming to no more than 2°C.

    Graphic: International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook 2013
  2. Article: Shale’s Effect on Oil Supply Is Not Expected to Last –  According to a report released Tuesday by the International Energy Agency, production of such oil in the United States and worldwide will provide only a temporary respite from reliance on the Middle East.
  3. Commentary: Want an energy revolution? Think beyond the big six –  When you own a stake in the energy you use, you use less of it. Solar Schools, part of the 10:10 carbon reduction project, has been a striking example of this.
Everything is changing on energy, and yet everything remains the same. This is the message from the latest World Energy Outlook by the International Energy Agency. The report shows shifting global demand and supply patterns, but the overall picture remains one of rising carbon emissions, fossil fuel domination and tight oil markets.
Emissions from the energy sector will increase 20% by 2035 based on current policies, putting the world on target for 3.6 degree warming. The urgency of the issue surely couldn’t be more obvious as climate negotiators meet in Warsaw. Typhoon Haiyan can’t be directly linked to climate change, but increasingly powerful storms are one likely predicted effect, and the UN expects 2013 to be the 7th warmest year on record.
Fossil fuels still provide 82% of world energy according to the report – the same as 25 years ago. The agency predicts this will have fallen to 76% by 2035, but 76% of a much larger pie. This dominance of fossil fuels is supported by record subsidies of $544 billion in 2012. A new report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) shows that fossil fuel subsidies aren’t just a developing world phenomenon. It estimates that OECD countries spend up to $90 billion in fossil fuel support measures, often via tax cuts or exemptions, and calls for G20 governments to phase out all subsidies by 2020 – or 2015 for wealthier nations – while protecting vulnerable groups from the impacts.
Not much has changed in the UK energy debate over the past couple of weeks either, but the focus is renewable rather than fossil fuel subsidies, as the government and the Big Six slug it out over ‘green taxes’. It looks increasingly likely that funding for the Energy Company Obligation (ECO), under which energy companies carry out domestic efficiency measures, will move from bills to general taxation as the utilities want. How much relief that would provide, and for how long, is another question entirely.

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Who knew that Seoul was a leader in the sharing economy?

Who knew that Seoul was a leader in the sharing economy?
by Richard Heinberg
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Published by Post Carbon Institute on 2013-11-12
Original article: http://www.postcarbon.org/blog-post/1949822-who-knew-that-seoul-was-a
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Did you know that Seoul, South Korea is one of the world’s key sites for post-growth economic re-development? No? Neither did I, until I saw for myself.
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I was pleased to be invited to give the keynote address at a conference titled “Reshaping the Way We Live,” put on by the Seoul Youth Hub, held November 7-8. I had no idea what to expect, and was rather surprised when the event turned out to be one of the most enjoyable and eye-opening in recent memory.
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First, some background on South Korea. The nation has an export-based industrial economy that has expanded rapidly in recent decades; however, its rate of growth has begun to slow and the youth unemployment rate is now north of 22 percent. Korean politics has also taken a worrisome turn: many citizens dispute the legitimacy of the most recent presidential election, which brought to power Park Geun-hye, the daughter of former dictator Park Chung-hee.
Meanwhile Korea’s energy situation could hardly be bleaker: the nation imports essentially all its oil, natural gas, and coal (Korea was once self-sufficient in coal, but production has declined dramatically). It gets some electricity from hydropower, but there is little room for expansion. The country’s 23 nuclear power plants are subject to increasing controversy since the 2011 Fukushima catastrophe in nearby Japan, as many Koreans fear they are now eating radioactive fish.
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The Seoul Youth Hub evidently sees crisis as opportunity. Why else would they ask the author of The End of Growth to address a conference of 18-to-40 year-olds? I came to their attention through a protracted Internet search, but it helped that three of my books have been translated into Korean. Evidently the organizers weren’t shy about conveying a sobering message.
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Lunch with the Youth Hub conference organizers.
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Though I hadn’t visited their country previously, I knew that Koreans have a reputation for being friendly and generous. If my experience is any gauge, the reputation is well deserved. The organizers put me up at a traditional Hanok Korean guesthouse (no chairs or television, just mats on the floor of a beautifully constructed, floor-heated, meticulously scrubbed little pavilion). Nearly all food provided during my stay was also traditional, and included a Buddhist temple meal with multiple courses of artistically crafted vegetarian morsels. Suffice it to say that I felt well taken care of and had a splendid time.
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Now to the conference itself. Except for the opening keynote and a final wrap-up, the sessions were workshops led by eight collaborative groups (including ones from Hong Kong and Japan), each of which is a youth-led organization engaged in social innovation. You can find a list of participating groups at the conference website. The subjects explored ranged from cheese-making to innovations in democratic decision-making; in effect, it amounted to a multi-track laboratory for young people to explore adaptive responses to economic contraction.
Surprisingly, the event was free to the participants. The City of Seoul footed the bill, thanks to Mayor Park Won-soon (more about him in a moment).
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The Seoul Youth Hub is a project of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, and its mandate is to help young people “design a future society” by providing a place where they can share and resolve their problems, experiment with a sharing economy, and “discuss specific policies regarding various agendas such as work-labor, housing, life safety net, business creation, youth politics,” and more. The Hub is also intended as a model and a networking center for similar projects throughout Asia. I highly recommend watching this short video.
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The venue for the conference was the Youth Hub’s headquarters, which features movable walls, furniture made of recycled building materials, open and shared office spaces, informal dormitory nooks, a café, and learning co-laboratories. Altogether, there was far more going on here than I could take in during the two days of the conference, much less describe in a couple of paragraphs.
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On the evening of the first day of the conference I met Mayor Park at his offices in City Hall, a twisty new steel-and-glass structure whose ground floor is devoted to citizen-led social innovation projects.
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Copies of The End of Growth were on the Mayor’s meeting room table. Using an interpreter, we got right to it: he had clearly read the book and asked intelligent questions about it. What would I recommend that he and the City of Seoul do to prepare for the end of economic growth? It was a stunning question, given the circumstances, and he appeared eager to consider whatever suggestions I might offer. I started rattling off a laundry list of ideas—supporting farmers’ markets, community gardens, and other staples of a local food system; discouraging cars while encouraging bicycling and public transport; raising energy building standards to the Passive House level; staging more cultural events to increase the happiness quotient among citizens. When I finished, he recited examples of how he and the City have already begun doing nearly every one of these things. He was saying, in effect, “Check, check, check. Come on, what else have you got? Please tell me, and I’ll see if we can do it!” I suggested he find a way for the City to help bring Transition to Seoul (there are currently two official Transition Initiatives in Japan, none in Korea). He promised to do just that.
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Mayor Park Won-soon
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Whoa, I thought. Who is this guy? I looked up his Wikipedia listing later that night. Before becoming Mayor in 2011, Park Won-soon had a 30-year career as a human rights and social justice activist and spent four months in prison for some of these activities. In recent years he developed a chain of nonprofit “Beautiful Stores,” which collect donations of used items, repair them if needed, and sell them to raise money for the social enterprise movement. There are now over a hundred of these stores throughout Korea.
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Inside a Beautiful Store
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Hard to believe this man is the elected leader of the largest city proper in the world, with a population of over 10 million.
The organizers of the Youth Hub conference think the world of Mayor Park, and I can understand why. I’ve seen a lot of hopeful post-growth initiatives in a lot of places—usually citizen-led and modest in scale; never have I seen such visionary, intelligent leadership at the municipal government level within so large a city.
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This is a country with a hard future ahead. Challenges with energy, the economy, and the environment are lining up (not to mention ever-present tensions with North Korea). Yet if efforts led by Mayor Park and the Seoul Youth Hub manage to flourish, things may go much better than they otherwise would. Perhaps other cities can begin to find inspiration here.
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For a helpful overview of the food sovereignty movement in South Korea, see this article from Foreign Policy in Focus.
Richard Heinberg in front of a Youth Hub garden of Korean cabbage (key ingredient of Kim-Chee)

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Resilience is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities.


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Seeking Water from the Sun: A Quest for Clean Water –A Solar Powered Solution – Where are We Now?”

Gallagher Theater, UA Student Union
This special film presentation during Homecoming Weekend will provide a snapshot of the film design, construction and current status of the solar-energy powered desalination prototype featured in the Arizona Public Media special documentary “Seeking Water From the Sun,” which aired on Earth Day, April 22, 2012. The documentary looks at the drama of science and the reality of life on the Navajo Nation, as it explores the trials and tribulations facing scientists designing and building a solar-powered water distillation prototype, the first step of a plan to purify ground water for easier access to the Navajo people and their livestock.