Building the World

October 13, 2018
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Eyes on the Prize

Nobel Prize in Economics 2018 goes to carbon tax advocates: William Nordhaus and Paul Romer. Image: wikimedia.

The Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded this week to William D. Nordhaus and Paul M. Romer, followed last week’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warning of urgent and dire effects if the world does not limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). Nordhaus advocated carbon pricing and taxation, stating “When I talk to people about how to design a carbon price, I think the model is British Columbia. You raise electricity prizes by $100 a year, but then the government gives back a dividend that lowers internet prices by $100 a year. You’re raising the price of carbon goods but lowering the prices of non-carbon-intensive goods.”

Co-laureate Paul Romer stated at a press conference following the announcement: “It’s entirely possible for humans to produce less carbon. There will be some tradeoffs, but once we begin to produce fewer carbon emissions we’ll be surprised that it wasn’t as hard as it was anticipated. Romer advocated supporting and encouraging innovation, while at the same time starting with a very low tax on emissions that will rise over time, if required. Outcome? “Innovators will start investing now in ways for people to get what they want without paying the tax. They will stop investing in ways to extract more fossil fuels that will be subject to the tax.” Recent pessimistic environmental warnings might be true, but bad news is not always motivating, and can even cause avoidance and apathy. Romer continued: “Optimism is part of what helps motivate people attack a hard problem,” hoping that the Nobel award “will help everyone see that humans are capable of amazing accomplishments when we set about trying to do something.”

Davenport, Coral. “After Nobel in Economics, William Nordhaus Talks About Who’s Getting Pollution-Tax Ideas Right: A few governments – notably parts of Canada and South Korea – have adapted the the ideas in ways that frame them as a financial windfall for taxpayers.” 13 October 2018. The New York Times.

http://www.nber.org/chapters/c7620.pdf

Nordhaus, William. https://economics.yale.edu/people/william-d-nordhaus

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “Few countries are pricing carbon high enough to meet climate targets.” 18 September 2018. http://www.oecd.org/tax/few-countries-are-pricing-carbon-high-enough-to-meet-climate-targets.htm.

Rathi, Akshat. “Why the newest Nobel laureate is optimistic about beating climate change.” 8 October 2018. Quartz Media. https://qz.com/1417222/why-new-nobel-laureate-paul-romer-is-optimistic-about-beating-climate-change/.

Romer, Paul. https://paulromer.net/about-paul-romer/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

 

September 13, 2018
by buildingtheworld
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Food for Thought about Climate

Food from plant sources may be healthy for you, and for the planet. Image: wikimedia

Even if you’re not in California for the Global Climate Action Summit, you might participate in affiliate events around the globe including “Food and Climate Strategy Session: Building Solidarity with Demand-side Solutions” in Brooklyn, NY on September 13. With Brighter Green, Loyola Marymount University, Mediterranean City Climate Change Consortium (MC-4), ProVeg International, Friends of the Earth, and members of the Food and Climate Alliance. Another example of urban food and climate innovations: City Farm Fish in the creative shadow of the  Brooklyn Bridge.

David H. Marks and Edward Spang are among those who find the Energy – Food – Water nexus may determine the future of global climate. It takes energy and water to grow the world’s food: some aliments require more allotments. Sir Paul McCartney is among the artists who raise voices and awareness in support of sustainable food.

Do you know the water, energy, and environmental aspects of your favorite foods?

Global Climate Action Summit: https://www.globalclimateactionsummit.org/about-the-summit/

Spang, E S, W R Moomaw, K S Gallagher, P H Kirshen, D H Marks. “Multiple metrics for quantifying the intensity of water consumption of energy production.” Environ. Res. Lett. 9 (2014. 105003. http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/9/10/105003/pdf

Webber, Michael E. “More efficient foods, less waste.” 29 December 2011. Scientific Americanhttps://www.scientificamerican.com/article/webber-more-efficient-foods-less-waste/

Why is an Orange Like a Light Bulb? Building the World Bloghttp://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2017/04/14/why-is-an-orange-like-a-light-bulb/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

August 10, 2018
by buildingtheworld
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Powering the Future

“Brain Power.” How will we power the future? Image credit: aboutmodafinil.com, Allan Ajifo, 2005. Credit: wikimedia.

California may build a regional power grid, but environmentalists worry the very existence of a cleaner system might encourage partner Wyoming to continue to rely on coal. Moving from 38 separate grid management companies to one could streamline the regional power system. What are the precedents for effective consolidation and management of disparate, separate, divergent power systems? Would privatization be a strategic option?

United Kingdom, Image: wikimedia.

A possible precedent study might be PowerGen, one of three companies formed by the British government from the former CEGB (Central Electricity Generating Board). The three were: Nuclear Electric, comprised of all the nuclear stations in t \he UK; National Power, 70% fossil fuel; and PowerGen whose mission was to generate electricity in a free market. In addition to the three new entities, the government spun out twelve electricity distribution companies, led together through National Grid, owned by the twelve. While power resources grew, human resources reduced: the organization went from 1,800 to 400. Two years later, PowerGen and National Power privatized. As nations and regions develop their future energy strategies, will PowerGen’s experience suggest approaches? Another option for a regional strategy of power generation and revenue sharing might be the experience of Brazil and Paraguay with Itaipú. What forms of energy – coal, hydro, nuclear, renewables like wind and solar – will power the future? Should energy be public or private, or both? Where will future leaders emerge? Appointed chief executive just before the transformation of PowerGen, later Ed Wallis became chair of the Natural Environment Research Council.  A life motto: Every private should have a field marshal’s baton in knapsack, just in case. How might the UK further develop an effective energy strategy in light of Brexit? Are there lessons – in PowerGen or Itaipú – for the United States? What can California, and the western region, do to generate, distribute,  preserve, renew, and share energy? How do you think we should power the future?

Green, E.J. “On the emergence of parliamentary government: the role of private information.” Federal Reserve of Minneapolis Quarterly Review 17 (1), 1993, pp. 2-16.

Gribben, Roland. “Ed Wallis: the power man turns himself green.” 9 July 2009. The Telegraphhttps://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/profiles/5779034/Ed-Wallis-the-power-man-turns-himself-green.html

Litwin, George H., John J. Bray, Kathleen Lusk Brooke. “The Privatization of PowerGen.” Mobilizing the Organization: Bringing Strategy to Life. ISBN: 0131488910. Prentice-Hall: 1996, pp. 95-105.

National Environment Research Council (NERC). https://nerc.ukri.org/search-results/?keywords=ed+wallis&siteid=nerc

Penn, Ivan. “California Wants to Reinvent the Power Grid – So What Could Go Wrong?” 20 July 2018. New York Timeshttps://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/20/business/energy-environment/california-energy-grid-jerry-brown-plan.html

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

July 14, 2018
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Ghost of a Chance

Image: NASA

Space research just opened a new chapter: the “ghost particle” neutrino was found on earth, having come from a blazar galaxy to the left of Orion, 3.7 billion light years away. Ghost particles can pass through any kind of matter without changing. The team that found the neutrino is based at the University of Wisconsin, joined by 49 collaborating institutions worldwide, including NASA‘s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The detector, called the IceCube, is located in Antarctica’s South Pole. The long-sought neutrino gives evidence of cosmic rays, and accelerators, opening a new view of space and energy. Summing up the discovery, Naoko Kurahashi Neilson of Drexel University stated: All of astronomy is light.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

January 13, 2018
by buildingtheworld
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Statues as Exchanges

“William Whitner extends a hand.” Image: hmdb.org

Need a winter coat? Hat? Check the statue. Anderson, South Carolina, residents hang a spare coat or hat upon the extended arm of a statue of William Whitner. The South Carolinian is known to energy historians: after conferring with Nicola Tesla, Whitner harnessed power in nearby Rocky River shoals, soon expanding to the Portman Shoals of the Seneca River. The Portman Shoals Power Plant became Duke Energy. Whitner sided with alternating current champions Tesla and Westinghouse (and against direct current advocate Edison) in the “current war.” As a result, Anderson, SC, became known as “The Electric City” becoming the first urban center in the United States with a continuous supply of power. Later, the TVA would do so on a broader basis. Whitner is immortalized with a statue in the center of Anderson (other monuments in town could also serve). When Carey Jones, Main Street Program, saw homeless people lacking winter gear, he extended a hand by hanging a coat on Whitner’s bronze arm. Soon, town residents emulated the practice, making warm clothing readily available to all. Cities have an opportunity to combine public art with sharing outreach. Is there an extra coat in your closet? Maybe a statue near you might extend a hand? In Boston, could sculptor Nancy Shön’s “Make Way for Ducklings” serve as an exchange for children’s clothing?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

December 8, 2017
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Electricentric MWay

Monterrey to Memphis to Montreal: Electricentric MWay? Image: Khaled, Wikimedia Commons.

Ford Motor Company is taking a right turn. The Michigan automotive manufacturer reversed a decision: instead of closing a plant in Mexico, they’ll dedicate an assembly line to build electric vehicles in Cuautitlán, near Mexico City. The EVs were originally slated to be built in Michigan, but now the Flat Rock plant in Detroit will build driverless vehicles, for sale in 2021. Nafta explorations are in progress: should a macro plan for a North American network of charging stations from Monterrey to Memphis to Montreal be sketched, and inked? Call it the MWay? Ionity set an example in Europe. What would the charging stations look like? When the United States Federal Highway was built, gas stations were planned. In fact, a Bostonian named Howard Deering Johnson made a fortune selling ice-cream at service stops and plazas on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Turnpikes. Would McDonalds be the sponsor of the MWay? Nafta now has a singular opportunity for a strategic system of electric and autonomous vehicles, using regional advantage to rebuild a continent.

Boudette, Neal E. “Ford Will Build Electric Cars in Mexico, Shifting Its Plan.” 7 December 2017. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/07/business/ford-plant-electric.html

Colias, Mike and Tim Higgins. “Production to Mexico, Tags U.S. Plant for Driverless Car. 6 December 2017. Wall Street Journal.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

December 1, 2017
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100 Days to Power

Stone sculpture, Vancouver, Canada. Photo: wikimedia commons.

A promise, a bet, a race: Tesla founder Elon Musk made a deal. In 100 days, Tesla would build a 100-megawatt battery or turn it over to South Australian state if the deadline were missed even by a day. The battery, world’s biggest to date, is due to be on time for December 1. Why that date? It’s the start of Australia’s summer, the season of air-conditioning and power outages. French partner Neoen helped build the powerhouse that will store energy generated by its Hornsdale Wind Farm. Expected power? Enough to bring electricity to 30,000 homes. Australia, location of Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric, experienced an energy crisis earlier this year, as a result of exporting so much liquefied natural gas (LNG) that a heat wave challenged air conditioners. After Qatar, Australia is the largest exporter of LNG. Australia just closed a major coal power plant in Victoria.  Australia’s race to the future with partners Neoen and Tesla may mark a milestone for renewable power, especially energy storage.

Mcguire, Rod. “World’s biggest battery to be ready this week in Australia.” 28 November 2017. Associated Presshttps://apnews.com/a6cd45c5b5f141cf80f2bad43755295c

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

November 10, 2017
by buildingtheworld
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Charging the future

Image: Devin sportscar, 1962. Will 2062 see a new model at one of Ionity’s charging stations? Image: wikimedia.org

Automakers BMW, Daimler, Ford, and Volkswagen will share equity in a new venture, building a network of charging stations for electric cars. Ionity, the joint venture, plans to install 400 units across Europe by 2020. Why? Most drivers charge their electric vehicles at home, using a 7-kilowatt-hour plug suitable for overnight charging. Ionity’s network, located along highways, will be faster: 350 kilowatts per hour. When cars catch up (presently, 50 kilowatts per hour is max capability), Ionity’s network will power up autos in ten minutes, while drivers stop for coffee. Another benefit? One plug fits all vehicles. When the U. S. Federal Highway was built, gas stations and related services expanded the economic value of the route. Similarly, Ionity will install their equipment in existing gasoline stations. Headquartered in Munich, and building the first stations in Austria, Germany, and Norway, Ionity opens for business in 2018. Electric cars are still a small segment of the vehicle sector: improving energy infrastructure will expand market share, charging the future.

McHugh, David and Geir Moulson. “Carmakers join forces in Europe to make electrics widespread.” Associated Press/Chicago Tribune, 5 November 2017. http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sns-bc-eu–germany-electric-cars-20171103-story.html. 

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

October 7, 2017
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Sign of Peace

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). It was the nuclear threat that resulted in the design, by Gerald Holtom, of the peace symbol; in 1958, the artist was commissioned by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), led by Bertrand Russell. Holtom recalled: “I was in despair. I drew myself, an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards. I formalized the drawing into a line, and put a circle round it.” The elements spelled out ND for nuclear disarmament.

Peace symbol, designed by Gerald Holtom. In 2017, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). Image: wikimedia commons.

During World War II, science and technology had advanced to a level of power that threatened not just the present but the future. After the Manhattan Project, the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 developed a safeguard for control of fissionable materials with international scope for “all forms of energy released in the course of or as a result of nuclear fission or nuclear transformation.” In 2017, the peace symbol drew 15,000 people together, at the Glastonbury music festival, to set the world record for the greatest number of participants forming the peace sign. The symbol was never copyrighted; instead the iconic symbol was offered to the world, in the spirit of peace.

ICAN:http://www.icanw.org

Nobel Peace Prize: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/

Atomic Energy Act: https://science.energy.gov/~/media/bes/pdf/Atomic_Energy_Act_of_1946.pdf

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

September 30, 2017
by buildingtheworld
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Canals: building the future

Caño Martín Peña  may offer a vision for the future. Help Puerto Rico now. Image: wikipedia.

Caño Martín Peña stretches 3.75 miles linking wetlands and canals to rivers meeting the sea of San Juan Bay, Puerto Rico. In 2004, eight communities along the canal incorporated to protect the canal, and dredge the channel; in 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Urban Waters Federal Partnership issued a nueva vida – new life- vision for the canal. Rebuilding Puerto Rico, after recent hurricane destruction, may increase awareness of canals in flood mitigation. According to Inland Waterways International, canals create economic and environmental benefits, as well as locally-generated electric power. The World Canal Cities Organization recently met in Shaobo, China to explore the Grand Canal, busiest in the world, and building block of the Belt and Road InitiativePanama and Suez are also notable. The Erie Canal opened the United States to a new era of development; the New York Canal Corporation worked with the World Canals Conference to host the 2017 conference on the Erie Canal in Syracuse, New York. What should the future hold for the world’s canals? How might Puerto Rico lead the way? Enlace and the Caño Martín Peña Ecosystem Restoration Project aim to improve 6,600 acres of the San Juan Bay, and the lives of those near its waters. In the future, canals may help coastal cities weather rising seas, allowing the water in as in Rotterdam. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico looks for help now, and leadership in the future, perhaps including a new vision of canals.

To help Puerto Rico:https://www.consumerreports.org/charitable-donations/how-you-can-help-hurricane-victims-in-puerto-rico/ and http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/can-help-hurricane-victims-puerto-rico/

Urban Waters Federal Partnership, “New Life for the Martín Peña Channel.”https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/documents/martinpenabackgrounder_0.pdf

Building the World, “A River Runs Through It.” http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2017/06/16/a-river-runs-through-it/

Kimmelman, Michael. “Going With the Flow.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/arts/design/flood-control-in-the-netherlands-now-allows-sea-water-in.html?mcubz=3

Inland Waterways International, “World Wide Waterways.” http://inlandwaterwaysinternational.org/blog/

New York Canal Corporation, http://www.canals.ny.gov

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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