Is Green Growth the Way to Go?


Bill McKibben, well known environmental activist. Photo Source: Eco-Buzz

Is growing the economy in a green way the best way to save the planet? While environmentalists agree that spewing carbon emissions into the atmosphere faster than Usain Bolt running the 100m dash at the Olympics is never a good thing, the debate about growing an economy often divides. Currently levels are at 392 parts per million (ppm), far above the 350 ppm level that is considered safe by analysts, yet lower than previous levels this year, according to co2now.org.

One one side of the debate, you have bright green environmentalists. These in this group I consider some economists, venture capitalists helping to support clean technology and renewable energy initiatives, the entrepreneurs who are innovating clean-tech products, advocates, and those who work in the industry. They believe the concerns of climate change, reinventing manufacturing, how we get our energy, and how we do business will solve our problems. Examples of people in this group include: Al Gore, economist Nicholas Stern, Elon Musk and author Ron Pernick. Often people within this group have a background in the information technology sector and have a firm grasp of not only how technology works, but how the dot-com boom laid the foundation for the rise in clean technology within the past 15 years.

On the other hand, there is the dark green group. They are not keen on economic growth. They believe that all of the concerning environmental problems of the day are all related to consumption. This group often believes in very simplistic solutions, including more urban density, riding your bike, eating local, not buying from Wal-Mart, etc. Some of the well-known dark green advocates include Bill McKibben, and Ozzie Zehner.

Now don’t get me wrong, dark green advocates are often some of the best when it comes to critiquing the problems with climate change. In fact, Bill McKibben is a guy I respect and admire for his work. His 2010 Earth, which I got a year later in paper back is a great piece of work on the problem. His most recent Rolling Stone article called “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” lays out the stark, terrifying problems that lay ahead.

However, this is where McKibben is often off base with his solutions. His book Eaarth, advocates for more localization, limiting economic growth, and riding your bike, organic farming, etc.

That is just great Bill, just great. However, solutions by Bill McKibben and other dark green environmentalists will only alienate emerging market countries. These countries are finally starting to get themselves out of poverty. Look at the growth rates in China, Brazil , India, who thanks to globalization are starting to see the size of their middle classes increase. That is important. In fact, China leads the way in the global clean energy sector, according to a Znet article in June, 2012.

Emerging markets have grown their economies including; Brazil, China, India and Russia over the past 20 years. Photo Source: Eft Trends

With 9 billion people set to be living on this nice round planet by 2050, it’s very highly unlikely people are going to turn off their air conditioners, video games, stop flying in order to save the planet.

Nicholas Stern, while endorsing the need to get Eaarth’s emission’s to 350ppm, criticized McKibben’s hyper-uber local approach two years ago:

“But while McKibben describes how climate change is affecting his home state of Vermont, he misses the opportunity to highlight the fact that those who are being hit hardest and soonest are poor and vulnerable people in developing countries. In this respect, his attack on economic growth, while perhaps having some appeal for those living comfortably in the rich countries, provides no realistic way forward for developing countries. For billions of people, economic development is the only way out of poverty and McKibben will alienate many with his dismissal of the concept of sustainable growth. There is no doubt that economic development must be understood as much more than rising consumption as conventionally measured. At the same time we must see that advances in education, health, environment, and other dimensions of development are, in many circumstances, much easier to realize if consumption and income are growing.”

Stern is bang on with the need for economic development to lift developing nations out of poverty. Renewable energy and clean technologies are the solution. Industries like wind and solar have been a part of China’s economic boom, along investments in electric vehicles. India is slowly putting money into wind and solar also. Brazil has one of the largest biofuel markets in the world and is also advancing their wind market, too.

So,  growing new industries that limit carbon pollution, create new jobs and educational opportunities is our best hope, not just growing local and riding bikes all year long.

Is green growth the solution, the problem, or a combination of both hyper local and economic growth?

A solar panel in China. Photo Source: China.org.cn

Taking Flight: How Aviation Biofuels Is Giving Air Travel a Green Kick In The Butt


Photo source: Green @ Work

Ahhh, airplanes. The quickest, most efficient way of travelling across the globe. You can from Winnipeg, Manitoba from Sao Paulo within one day.

The popularity of flying to other destinations is will continue to advance as the increasing middle class across emerging market countries is set to expand.

However, despite all the positives of air travel, there is one big concern that flying produces is the amount of carbon emissions it producers. Estimates have flying producing anywhere from 2% to 3% of total emissions. Meanwhile, the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) notes that aviation is responsible for 12% of carbon emissions from all transportation sources. The aviation industry also produces an astonishing 676 million tonnes of carbon in 2011, according to the ATAG. Some analysts predict carbon emissions produced from aviation sources could be as high as 15% by 2050. Frightening thought.

While aviation may have a high carbon footprint and is not the stuff of many environmentalists, there is increasing hope sustainable air travel will take flight

Take for example, a few recent developments that lean this way.

One, Boeing, announced last month they are partnering up with the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) in hopes to boost aviation biofuels in China. The project will look at improving energy efficiency, and creating biofuels within the emerging market. Not bad, considering, according to the Cleantechnica article last month that 300 million Chinese will take the skies in 2012 and 1.5 billion by 2030.

Meanwhile, United Airlines also at the same time last month signed up with the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group. United Airlines in recent years has grabbed the sustainability headlines as the first major air carrier in the US to successfully fly a commercial flight in 2011 with biofuels. United also plans to buy 50 million gallons worth of biofuels, according to Cleantechnica.

Last but not least, the US military has pumped lots into developing aviation biofuel, thanks to support from the US government pumping US$510 million, according to a Globe and Mail article. And trust me, if there is any one that can bring down the cost of technology at a mass scale, it’s the US military, who honesty has a better chance of saving the environment than most granola munching hippies from Wolseley riding their bikes.

What may be the impact of aviation biofuels as we head down the road?

First it would help alleviate the dependency on fossil fuels to power flights especially for the military. US Navy secretary Ray Maybus echoed the importance of getting off of fossil fuels in a February interview with Biofuels Digest (reposted as noted by renewableenergyworld.com).

“We are too dependent on either potentially or actually volatile places on earth to get our energy. Now we’re susceptible to supply shocks and even if we’ve got enough, we’re susceptible to price shocks. I mean when the Libya situation started and the price of oil went up $40 a barrel, that was almost a billion dollars additional fuel bill for the U.S. Navy.”

Second, the idea of the aviation industry pushing towards cleaner fuels is important, given the popularity of air travel. With the population increasing and income levels of people in emerging markets growing, their demands will want higher end items like flying across the world. Flying is not going to stop overnight, despite it’s harsh impacts on the environment. Until there is an electric airplane that, aviation biofuels are the best hope of pushing towards environmental sustainability in the flying industry. Check this video out for example.

Third, new Markets for aviation biofuels. While is not considered the best biofuels, the rise of other types of biofuels, including cooking grease and algae, have recently gotten a lot of attention. In fact, the algae biofuel market is expected by 2014 to be at US$100 billion. That shows you a lot of potential.

There is a lot of hope with aviation biofuels in terms of getting us off oil, battling climate change, and creating new markets. With the world not set to back off flying in order to save the planet, perhaps this new flight path of aviation biofuels is our strongest plan, for now in terms of sustainable transcontinental travel.

2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Roundup: Oh Canada, Whoa USA, and Italy’s Euro 2012 Hangover


A full slate of games were on tap across the globe as 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying started up again after the summer. Now while qualifying for CONCACAF has been going on since last summer, This weekend sees UEFA join the fold. And after today, there was some cracking shockers. Here are some off the results:

Photo Source: Canada.com

Canada 1- Panama 0

Dwayne DeRosario scored in the 77th minute at BMO field in Toronto, Ontario as Canada, ranked 73rd in the world, knocked off 50th ranked Panama.

Canada, who last qualified for a FIFA World Cup in 1986, when I was in Kindergarten, may actually have a legitimate shot of making out of the group, and getting into the final round of CONCACAF (or sometimes I call it CONCACRAP) 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying.

Here is hoping they somehow qualify. I would trade in a heartbeat the men’s Olympic hockey team winning the 2014 Winter Olympic hockey gold medal to see our Canadian men’s national team have the HONOR of playing in the greatest soccer tournament on the planet in 2014. I can only hope and dream of celebrating at Portage and Main in the fall of 2013 when they qualify!!!

Canada now sits on top of the group C with seven points, one ahead of Panama with six. The top two teams from each group qualify for the final round of CONCACAF World 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying starting early in 2013.

Photo Source: ESPN Soccernet

Jamaica 1- USA 0

Meanwhile, The USA, already stinging after not qualifying for the men’s Olympic tournament, was bounced by Jamaica, 1-0. WOW! Shocking result. While it’s likely the USA will probably get out of this group,  nothing is certain, not even a hard-core Winnipeg winter anymore.

Photo Source: SB Nation

Colombia 4- Uruguay 0

The biggest thumping award of the day goes to Colombia, who thumped Uruguay 4-0 in South American World Cup qualifying.  Not good for the 2011 Copa America champions. Where is Diego Forlan when you need him???!!! Uruguay is in fourth in South American qualifying. Colombia is in fifth. Argentina leads the group.

Photo Source: Sportsnet.ca

Bulgaria 2- Italy 2

And lastly, the Italians are suffering some Euro 2012 hangover from their surprise second place finish after a disappointing result against Bulgaria, a 2-2 draw.

The Climate Energy Era Round 2: Arctic Sea Ice Continues To Melt As Formula E Is Created


Last week two stories that may have gotten little coverage in the mainstream media, yet are equally just as important in the climate energy era.

If you did not know, Arctic sea ice levels continue to melt away National Geographic noted, the new level dropped to 1.58 million square miles.

The new levels even surpassed those of they’re previous level in 2007, which was 1.61 million square meters.

The article noted that climate change played a considerable role in the loss of Arctic Sea ice, as noted below:

Her team determined that human activity can be blamed for some 60 percent of the observed rate of decline since 1979, with the rest due to natural climate variability.

“If you run these climate models and you don’t put in the observed record of greenhouse gases, none of them show the ice declining,” Stroeve said. “None of them are able to capture what’s happening today without including greenhouse gases.”

As the Arctic sea ice melts, there is a greater possibility, the weather will may get more wonkier, than what has been going on the past few years, as Jennifer Francis, a Climatologist with Rutgers University clearly mentions in this following exerpt from the article:

Since jet streams generate and steer storms, she added, their slowing meander can prolong fall and winter weather patterns across the entire Northern Hemisphere.

“Many extreme weather events are associated with weather patterns that are stuck or moving very slowly … including droughts, cold spells, heat waves,” Francis said. (See a graphic of extreme-weather trends.)

“I would not be at all surprised to see another unusual winter around the Northern Hemisphere” this year or next.

So either get your rain coat for an increased chance of a February rainstorm, or dig deep and pull out six layers of winter clothing.

Meanwhile, the Federation Internationale de l’ Automobile (FIA) announced the creation of an electric vehicle racing series called Formula E. The circuit is backed by various investors and it is set to start up in 2014. Rio De Janeiro is already been confirmed to host one of the first races on the championship circuit.

The president of the FIA Jean Todt believes this is the wave of the future for auto racing. He was quoted of saying:

“We are pleased with this agreement with Formula E Holdings as they bring a very strong experience in motor sport. This spectacular series will offer both entertainment and a new opportunity to share the FIA values and objectives of clean energy, mobility and sustainability with a wider and younger audience as well.”

Burkhard Goeschel, President of the FIA Electric and New Energies Championships Commission also gave some excellent context on the importance of digital technology, a beacon, perhaps of moving towards a more environmentally sustainable universe for car racing:

“Formula E will be a milestone for the future of motorsports, driven by the FIA. It follows the global megatrends of our world like sustainability, the growth of the megacities and the digital world of connectivity. I would like to say thanks to all partners, who supported us in creating this new project and also to the partners who will accompany us to a successful launch of Formula E.”

Both the stories of the recent loss in Arctic sea ice and the creation of a new electric car racing circuit provide excellent contrast and hope of where we are headed in the climate-energy era in the following aspects:

  1. The idea that losing Arctic sea ice, thanks to the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped up the air can, increasing the chances of extreme weather events is not something we should be taking lightly. Sea ice loss just does not affect polar bears or Santa Clause at the North Pole. It could have impacts on a) How much precipitation an area like Winnipeg gets in the winter b) If we get more or less precipitation; c) Will are winters be extremely cold or extremely warm; d) If it is warmer, what form of precipitation does it come down in winter time (snow, sleet, freezing rain or rain); e) Could it cause infrastructure problems in Winnipeg should a freakish rain storm occur in January or February; and lastly f) Is Winnipeg prepared for something like this?
  2. Would a Canadian city like the one I live in now, Winnipeg, need to seriously look at making upgrading infrastructure to deal with further deluges of torrential rain we would not normally get?
  3. Are insurance agencies ready to consider the potential of higher costs for their premiums should more vile extreme weather events occur? Will they eat up more costs, or eventually have to change some of their packages, or make customers eat the cost?
  4. On the flip side, the forming of Formula E shows that electric vehicles, can give auto racing an extreme make over. Auto racing has been often an enemy of many within the environmental community due to it’s high carbon footprint. However, this announcement shows that thanks to the advances in technology, auto racing could seriously have a healthy environmentally sustainable future.
  5. Also, the Formula E announcement will provide a defy the naysayers who say professional sports cannot be environmentally sustainable.
  6. Formula E may prove to the general public that electric vehicles are the real deal and can be just as good as normal vehicles.

What are everyone’s thoughts about the climate-energy era? Can you think of other examples of how climate and energy have been connected lately or will be in the near future?

With a changing climate and melting Arctic ice potentially creating more bizarre weather, will cities like Winnipeg Manitoba Canada see more freezing rain fall events in the winter in the future? Photo source: Zimbio- http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/-lYvXoOnRDI/Freezing+Rain+Storm+Creates+Icy+Commute+New/x_tHRUEc22Y

Message to Fringe Enviro Activists: Work With Renewable Energy Sector Rather Then Complain!!


With Labour Day pretty much done in the books, fall is fast approaching. That means here in Canada, trade show season for the renewable energy sector.  All three major industries are having their trade shows within a span of two months (see below).

Meanwhile, Powershift Canada, similar to the one in the US is having their conference October 26 to 29 in the Ottawa, Ontario/Gatineau Quebec region.

While many environmental activists are brilliant at derailing the wrongs of climate change and global warming, some often are not has keen to work with the solutions that are currently provided in the renewable energy and clean technology sectors. In fact, some oppose those solutions

Take for example Ozzie Zehner’s book, Green Illusions. His book is a sharp critique of the renewable energy and clean technology sector. He believes that these are not solutions to today’s warming planet (trust me, I will give a full review of this book within a few weeks). However, he would prefer simplistic solutions like riding your bike, denser metropolitans, etc.

Great, fine and dandy, but it’s not as simplistic as riding a two-wheel bike all the time  in a globalized world, Mr. Zehner. Maybe we will power our own energy by bicycling all the way home!!

Or how about this excerpt from an ABC news website about environmentalists opposing solar projects in the Mojave desert:

At a conference in Los Angeles, Brown vowed to crush efforts to block renewable energy projects in California, helping them overcome permitting and environmental challenges. He signed a law earlier this year mandating the state get 33 percent of its energy from alternative sources by 2020, including solar energy.

“The sun in California is like the oil in Texas, it’s fabulous wealth waiting to be developed,” said Brown. “And those who would resist that have to offer a pretty darn good argument for me to give up on solar energy.”

Putting money where his mouth is, the governor filed a brief with the federal court asking a judge to deny a request by an environmental group to stop a solar thermal power project in the Mojave Desert. BrightSource Energy and Bechtel want to put up 347,000 heliostat mirrors around three power towers. But the Western Watersheds Project says it’ll harm the endangered desert tortoise by destroying its habitat. The environmental group Defenders of Wildlife agrees. The tortoise population is already declining. 

“We don’t really know, actually, when you clear 10 square miles of desert, how it’s going to respond in 30 to 50 years,” said Kim Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife. “Likely it’s probably not going to go back to the way it used to be and the species that were there, the tortoises and whatever, probably won’t go back.” The Mojave solar project is just one example of how tough it is to get green projects off the ground. The delays often mean thousands of jobs are on hold.

Even some environmentalists oppose smart grids. Yep. The same people oppose the idea of transforming a grid to make our energy system more efficient.

Perhaps, maybe, just maybe environmentalists need to work with the renewable energy and clean technology sectors in order to have a realistic chance for make our planet more sustainable, while addressing the societies economic and energy needs.

I don’t see why some environmental activists needs to be the wrench in renewable energies back sometimes. I wonder if sometimes, if some of these activists are hindering progress in environmental sustainability, rather helping it. I bet you those at Exxon Mobile and Enbridge executives are in glee when situations like this occur.

Fringe activists needs to stop complaining about every fine little detail and work with the sector on the big picture. Lets get some real action going here. There is some possible hope.  Take for example the US Department of Interior who recently allotted solar energy development zones, with feedback from the environmental community.

If we ever are going to promote a way to protect our planet, without jeopardizing the positives of modern society, the small majority of environmental activists who dislike anything related to renewable energy, and clean technology should work with green industrialists, rather than have signs that say “Smash the Capitalist system.”

Down with Fringe Activism.

My question to you all? Is this what needs to be done to move environmental sustainability forward??

Protests over a proposed Mojave Desert Solar Farm. Photo Source: KQED News- http://blogs.kqed.org/climatewatch/2011/05/18/protesters-shell-mojave-solar-plant/

Notes

The Canadian Wind Energy Association is having their annual conference and exhibition from October 14 to 17, while the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association is having their conference from December 3 to 5, and the Canadian Solar Industries Association is having theirs from December 3 to 4.

Generation Screwed And The Downward Spiral of Canadian Labour Unions: MMMMMMMM


University of Winnipeg in Winnipeg, Manitoba. University grads are having a difficult time keeping up with the Jonses, while Canadian labour unions are in decline

I don’t write about labour issues a lot. In fact, on this blog, I have not touched on the issue at all. However, since it’s Labour Day weekend, along within university and college students heading back to hit the books, I’d figure I would weigh in on the relationship between labour and Generation Y.

If you read today’s Winnipeg Free Press, lots of coverage was devoted to the topics of Generation Y (or Generation Screwed as they are often called), and the changing dynamics of labour relations 21st century Canada.

Mia Robson’s piece first talked about the rising debt levels, and stagnant income levels graduates face.

For example, the article points out that the average cost for a four-year university degree is $60,000! That is right folks, C$60,000. Now, to make it more insane, the average student debt for students is $27,000! That is almost the equivalent of a mortgage for a very modest house back in the 1980’s or 1990’s. I call this the mini-me of mortgages now.

Now add to this stagnated wages, as the income gap has grown between Generation Screwed and baby boomers, according to the article.

What is even more disheartening is youth unemployment is scary, as the recession hit youth workers harder than a ton of bricks. Consider this excerpt on how bad it is:

Jacques Marcil, a senior economist at TD Economics, said the economic downturn hit young Canadians the hardest. A TD Economics report earlier this year found workers between 15 and 24 were not only hurt the most by the recession, they have yet to see any recovery.

Since 2008, 250,000 jobs employing workers aged 15 to 19 have disappeared, including 70,000 since the economic recovery began.

The unemployment rate for Canadians under 25 in May 2008, before the recession hit, was 13.5. A year later, during the height of the recession, it was 17.3. In May 2012 it was 16.3.

That is more than twice the overall unemployment rate of 7.4.

“For youth, it’s always harder on the job market,” said Marcil. “They are the last in and the first out.”

Marcil said one of the issues hurting young graduates is that older workers are staying in their jobs longer.

He said the need for older people to work longer is driven by the low interest rates affecting their investments. Not only are jobs more difficult to find for graduates with specific skills, they are also hard to find for students trying to put themselves through school in the first place.

“Just think about retailers. It’s not a kid welcoming you at the door, it’s a senior,” he said. “There’s a more limited choice of jobs for youth.”

The TD report said jobs for the under 20 set have continued to disappear. While the 20 to 24 group has seem some improvement, “it hasn’t been at a break-neck pace.”

What economists are also noticing is the number of Canadians in those age groups who simply stop looking for work has increased, Marcil said.

With the increasing income gap, stagnant wages, and the upward trend in student debt, it’s no wonder this generation is becoming lost, drained and stuck in a pool of hopelessness . While some within Generation Y act like spoiled little brats at their undeserved posh jobs, I think most are having a difficult time, given the climate. Our generation just simply now will not have the living that our parents did. The only reason why maybe the living standard is artificially higher is because of cheap high-tech products coming out of emerging market countries (you know, the same jobs that were shipped out of North America and Europe because corporations are too cheap). Our parents were able to survive on often one income with four people in the household. Our parents had a high living standard, yet did not have the higher standard of education that our generation does. Take for example, this unnamed person who was interviewed in the same article:

One under-40 worker said it is frustrating that, even though he and his girlfriend have degrees and professional employment, they are still drowning in student loans and have to move back in with one of their parents in order to save enough money to buy a house.

“How is it that, for example, my father, the sole breadwinner in a family of five, who had no high school diploma, was able by my age to work and pay for a house, two cars and family expenses by my age and afford luxuries like vacations with his sole income,” the man wondered. “I keep asking myself this and finding no real satisfactory answer.”

Meanwhile, labour unions continue to face incredible downward pressure. In an op-ed in today’s Winnipeg Free Press, called Union Influence Waning (section J1;J6) executive vice-president of the Business Council of British Columbia Jock Finlayson noted that the influence of Canadian labour unions is on the decline. He pointed out only 16% of Canadians hold union membership in the private sector, sharply down from nearly one-third in back in the 1980’s.

Finlayson also expects this trend to continue in the future as shift to service/knowledge based workers, cut-throat business environment, and the increased amount of small businesses as sources of employment will play a role.

He leaves this column with these ominous words:

“This trend spells continuing trouble for unions hoping to expand their clout in the business sector.” (J6).

On the flip side, hope may not be lost for unions. Labour analyst Morna Ballantyne’s op-ed in the same section called Unions Can Regain Lost Ground (J6) said there is some hope, particularly with younger workers. She pointed to her research that 53% of Canadians under 30 where willing to sign up for a labour union card, if asked.

What even may give further hope for unions, according to Ballantyne, was this was the highest amount willing to join a union amongst all demographics was within Generation Y.

While you may scoff at Ballantyne’s research as wonderful PR for labour unions, it should get you thinking about the relationship between the increasing wage disparity between Generation Screwed and older workers. Most workers with a higher education are working in service/knowledge type jobs, where unionization rates are lower.

Perhaps maybe unions could promote employee ownership in smaller based businesses, as a solution to labour’s woes and being more pro-active towards smaller business by promoting employee ownership, rather than signing up union members. Perhaps, maybe unions could further support university/college education, through increased scholarships, and working with business and government on forming future partnerships in order to survive.

Or perhaps, unions, as nutty as it sound given my background in business, could go back and try to unionize as many private sector businesses as much as possible to raise wages in order to combat the wage disparity. Not my first solution at all. In fact, this idea ranks on the lower end of ideas to close Generation Screwed’s ever increasing income gap.

However, it could happen that will break Generation Y’s back. Perhaps some are getting sick of going to school within our generation to increase their income potential for a long period of time, with little results. Maybe, someone is going to have to pay for the baby boomer’s houses when they retire. Someone is going to have to help pay for the healthcare for our parents when they get old. Baby boomers need to care.

Rob Carrick Globe and Mail Report on Business columnist put it very nicely recently:

Looking forward to grandchildren while you’re young enough to enjoy them? It might not happen if student debts delay your kids from getting married, buying a house, banking some money and otherwise settling into the child-rearing phase of life.

And there’s the broader issue of generational compassion. A baby boom generation that shrugs off the difficulties today’s young adults might not get the empathy it expects when it reaches old age.

There is a lot more than meet’s the eye when it comes to the downward trend of Canadian labour unions and the increasing wage gap among younger workers as clearly shown here.

What do you think needs to be done, to bridge this gap?