PART TWO: USING SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGIES TO REDUCE OUR CARBON FOOTPRINT
Sackville Tribune-Post :: 26 March 2014
The world economy is turning, increasingly, to renewable resources to address our energy needs. With rising energy prices and ever shrinking fossil fuel reserves, sustainable growth is essential to ensure a clean environment, long term employment (emphasizing a local work force) and better, safer living conditions for residents everywhere. The so called green revolution is central to cities, towns and municipalities unlike the huge oil and gas corporatocracy which over time has become national and multinational in nature.
The oil and gas producers who maintain control over our energy choices and consumption still believe that we can continue to extract and burn the remaining $20 trillion in stranded assets of oil and gas, despite the threat of catastrophic climate change, but increasing numbers of ordinary citizens around the world disagree.
Biomass, solar and wind are three of the clean energy alternatives that have been successfully integrated, respectively, in the European Union and Australia and will be up and running in Cape Cod, Massachusetts by 2016.
The EU is planning to turn up to 25% of its annual waste products into sustainable biofuels. Biomass, organic and inorganic garbage from the farming and forestry industries and municipal solid waste, can be converted to biofuels that are anticipated to supply 16% of the EU's road transportation needs by 2030. The advantage of making fuel from "feedstock" derived from these waste materials is three-fold:
- biofuels don't compete with food crops for precious agricultural land.
- biofuels that rely on waste don't increase demand for economic activities that drive up carbon emissions.
- biofuels, unlike ethanol which gasifies the feedstock and converts it to gas or diesel fuel, are created with an alternative form of gasification using wheat straw from farming, sawdust from forestry and municipal solid waste, avoiding anywhere from 60-300% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Material residues from agriculture and forestry that aren't used for biofuels can be accumulated in large carbon sinks. In this way nutrients can be returned to the soil through decomposition and carbon that is absorbed is carbon that is kept out of the atmosphere. Similarly, this technology avoids dumping increasing amounts of waste products into landfills which ultimately produce and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
In Australia a national policy push for energy efficiency has resulted in a rise in rooftop solar. In fact, energy consumption in Australia peaked in 2009 and despite extreme weather patterns has been dropping ever since.
Instead of cutting the price of electricity at the point of generation, solar allows consumers to generate their own power. Buying less power from the market eases stress on the grid. The heat waves that hit the country during the last two seasons have been more severe than those in 2009, yet peak demand for electricity in South Australia and Victoria continued to fall despite a 7% increase in populations since 2009.
The prices for electricity in the wholesale and retail markets are now at remarkable lows. So low, in fact, that Energy Australia and other suppliers are closing down power plants because of a glut in supply. The suppliers don't like it and suggest that continuing down this road could threaten energy stability, but as long as solar and wind power are successfully competitive in driving down costs and increasing the supple of sustainable energy, both the government and the public will remain supporters of renewable resources. And why wouldn't they be?
Europe has long been the world leader in energy generation from offshore wind turbines. The EU countries, with Denmark leading the pack in terms of dedication to renewables and reducing fossil fuel dependence, have the highest wind power capacity in the world with 2,080 turbines that yield 6,562 megawatts for 11 countries.
An offshore wind farm off Cape Cod has been in the planning stages since 2001, but has encountered major setbacks since its inception. American oil and gas magnate, billionaire and climate change denier Bill Koch, who owns waterfront
property in the area, has done everything in his power to prevent the "visual pollution" of turbines popping up in the Cape. Despite significant legal opposition for more than a decade, Cape Wind is now moving forward. The EPA and other government departments have approved the project which would include 130 wind turbines installed in Nantucket Sound and would produce 75% of the regions power needs under average winds. The clincher to the deal may have been a Danish investment in the form of a $600 million loan to help finance the Cape Wind Project.
Several other wind projects have been gaining ground in the U.S. as well. Along the east coast 80,000 acres of land off the coast of Maryland are preparing to be auctioned off to accommodate future wind energy plans.
Next up, what Canadians are doing to move towards the establishment of renewable technologies. Although the Federal Government has, as yet, shown little interest in pursuing renewables or soft carbon taxation, legislation has been passed in several provinces to encourage a reduction in fossil fuel dependence and commercial projects involving new technologies will, hopefully move us into sustainable territory in the future.
Donna Mclellan for the
Tantramar Alliance Against Hydrofracking