28 September 2010

Google's $10mln giveaway, arctic shipping, uaine power, P&G's long-term plan and other sustainability news for business

Top Stories

"Melting of Arctic Ice Opening up New Routes to Asia"reliability high.
Der Spiegel story says "Shipping via the polar route is gradually becoming routine. This brings Asia closer to Europe. The route of the MV Nordic Barents, for instance, from the Norwegian port of Kirkenes to China, was shortened by roughly 50 percent." Experts say biggest impact may be increased extraction of raw materials from the formerly-icebound arctic coasts of Russia, Norway and adjacent islands. Ships are being designed which will be able to  operate without the help of expensive icebreaker escorts. See Der Spiegel OnLine.

"Japan to drill for controversial [methane hydrates]"reliability high.
The Guardian reports that Japan will drill for deep-sea methane hydrates. "A consortium led by the Japanese government and the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (Jogmec) will be sinking several wells off the south-eastern coast of Japan to assess the commercial viability of extracting gas from frozen methane deep beneath local waters. Surveys suggest Japan has enough methane hydrate for 100 years at the current rate of usage." From The Guardian.

"Scotland to get 100 pct green energy by 2025"reliability high.
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said, "Scotland has unrivalled green energy resources and our new national target to generate 80 percent of electricity needs from renewables by 2020 will be exceeded by delivering current plans for wind, wave and tidal generation. I'm confident that by 2025 we will produce at least 100 percent of our electricity needs from renewables alone." Reuters says, "Last week, Scotland raised its 2020 renewable electricity target from 50 to 80 percent of total demand, much of which is expected to be met by offshore wind despite costs soaring over the last few years." See Reuters story.

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

"$10 million for Project 10^100 winners"reliability high.
Lorraine Twohill, Google VP of Marketing, posts: "Two years ago today, we began Project 10^100  by asking you to share your ideas for changing the world by helping as many people as possible. ... We selected 16 big ideas  and asked the public to vote for their favorites. The five ideas that received the most votes are the winners of Project 10^100." The winners include Khan Academy, several other education and information access projects, and Shweeb.  "Shweeb is a concept for short to medium distance, urban personal transport, using human-powered vehicles on a monorail. We are providing $1 million to fund research and development to test Shweeb’s technology for an urban setting." With video. See official Google blog. [Check out the Shweeb system here. Coming soon to a campus near you?]

"South Korea to push firms to meet greenhouse gas cut goals"reliability high.
South Korea plans to set specific energy-saving and emission reduction goals for 374 companies for 2012. The goals will be agreed by September 2011. South Korea has promulgated a goal of  greenhouse gas emissions 30% below 2020 business-as-usual projections. See Reuters.

"Procter & Gamble packages up a new green vision"reliability high.
Procter & Gamble has announced a new "long-term environmental sustainability vision." It has established goals such as zero waste to landfill, 100% renewable energy at factories, and 100% renewable or recycled materials for products and other goals. It says, "These end-points are long-term in nature because some of them will take decades to come to fruition." "It won't be achieved in 10 years or perhaps 30 or 40 years, but we will hold ourselves accountable for continually moving toward it," CEO Bob McDonald said. "The first set of 10-year goals, to be achieved by 2020, include replacing 25 per cent of petroleum-derived raw materials with sustainably sourced, renewable materials; reducing packaging by 20 per cent per consumer use; powering company operations with 30 per cent renewable energy; and reducing waste from manufacturing to less than 0.5 per cent." From BusinessGreen. More at this P&G page.

"How To Cut Energy Use 50% in Commercial Buildings"reliability high.
The U.S. Department of Energy and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory have published two reports outlining how large commercial buildings can reduce energy use 50% in most parts of the U.S. "Technical Support Document: Strategies for 50% Energy Savings in Large Office Buildings" tells how offices can achieve such savings, and "Large Hospital 50% Energy Savings: Technical Support Document" does the same for hospitals. See Sustainable Business. PDFs of NREL documents here (offices) and here (hospitals).

Government and Regulation

"US Senators aim to keep renewable power bill 'clean'"reliability high.
Reuters reports that "U.S. Senators backing a bi-partisan bill that would make big utilities begin embracing renewable electricity believe they can get enough votes to pass it without having to add oil or nuclear incentives to the measure, a Congressional aide said on Friday. ... The bill ... would require big utilities to generate 15 percent renewable power such as solar, wind, geothermal, and some hydroelectric, by 2021." The bill may possibly come up during the lame duck session. See Reuters. [The 15% target is much lower than some state renewable energy standards (33% in California), which perhaps explains why it has any chance of passage.]

Science and Economics

"Electric car use beats wind to cut oil use: study"reliability high.
A study from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy says that "Widespread adoption of electric cars could reduce U.S. oil demand and the need for imported oil more than creation of a national mandate for renewable power such as wind and solar ... . ... A 30-percent electric fleet would reduce U.S. oil use by 2.5 million barrels a day above the projected reduction from increased fuel efficiency standards." See Reuters article. Access the study here. [Duh. Electricity plants don't run on oil, so alternative electricity generation technologies don't cut oil imports. But unless we are going to just switch transportation from oil to coal we need non-coal generation technologies to power all those EVs.]