Uplifting Info

There is a vast, untapped solar potential in New York City’s roofs

Fast Company

Photo courtesy of Fast Company.

New York City seems like it would be a difficult place to build a solar installation. But with so many buildings packed into a small area, the rooftops offer seemingly limitless potential.

A startup called Mapdwell, previously a Fast Company Innovation By Design award winner, has calculated how much.

Using its 3-D modeling and visualization technology combined with aerial data, it looks at more than one million buildings in New York City and identifies 11 gigawatts of “high yield photovoltaic potential” that could deliver over 13 million megawatt-hours per year. For those unfamiliar with energy terms like those, that’s equal to powering 1.2 million homes while offsetting the carbon emissions equivalent to planting more than 185 million trees, or $40 billion in business potential.

Mapdwell, a company that spun out of MIT, has launched Solar System so far in nine cities, including Boston, Washington, DC, and Boulder, Colorado.

Read the full article in Fast Company.

*Mapdwell has just launched in San Francisco, as well. You can read more about Mapdwell in the Autumn 2013 issue of Energy Futures.

Arizona Regulators to Utilities: Get Your Money Out of State Politics : Greentech Media

Here are some of the stories we’re reading this morning.

Arizona Daily Sun: Regulators Want Utilities to Keep Money Out of Campaigns

Two state utility regulators want the Arizona Corporation Commission to adopt a formal policy urging utilities to stay out of future races for the panel.

And if the request doesn’t stop the money, they may seek an audit of affected companies to find out exactly how they’re spending their money on politics.

In pushing the plan, Chairwoman Susan Bitter Smith and member Bob Burns cited media reports of the apparent involvement of Arizona Public Service and Pinnacle West Capital Corp., its parent, in trying to elect two specific Republicans in the 2014 race by funneling money through outside groups.

SF Gate: PG&E Plan Would Hit Solar Homes Harder Than Previously Thought

California’s utility companies have proposed making solar power less financially attractive to homeowners, now that so many are generating their own electricity and cutting their monthly bills. Now it appears that for customers of Pacific Gas and Electric Co., those changes could have a bigger impact than initially thought.

On Aug. 3, PG&E and the state’s other big utility companies proposed changing the state’s financial incentives for people who install solar panels on their roofs. On Thursday, however, the San Francisco utility refined its estimates. Some solar homeowners who take aggressive steps to cut their energy use and install batteries connected to their solar arrays would end up paying $13 more per month than they would under today’s rules.

Financial Times: Eni Discovers ‘Supergiant’ Gasfield Near Egypt

Italian energy group Eni has discovered what it says is a “supergiant” gasfield off the coast of Egypt, the largest ever found in the Mediterranean Sea and which could provide a much-needed boost for the country’s economy.

Eni, one of Europe’s biggest oil and gas companies, said on Sunday that the Zohr discovery “could become one of the world’s largest natural-gas finds” and would play a “major” role in meeting Egypt’s natural gas demand for decades once fully developed.

Mint: WTO Rules Against India in Solar Panels Dispute With the U.S.

A World Trade Organization panel has ruled against India in a dispute raised by the U.S. over the country’s solar power program, requiring the government to offer a level playing field to both foreign and domestic manufacturers of solar panels.

India is likely to appeal against the dispute settlement panel’s ruling, which could give it a two-year breather to implement the program.

The commerce ministry received the ruling last week, a ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

Boulder Weekly: U.S. and India Compete to Have the Largest Solar Power Field in the World

The U.S. Navy is investing in what will be the largest solar farm in the world in order to provide power for 14 of its bases.

In the same week that the U.S. Navy disclosed its plans, the central Indian state of Madya Pradesh announced it was to construct a 750-megawatt plant (1 megawatt is roughly enough to supply 1,000 typical British homes) on barren, government-owned land in the country’s Rewa district.

It is claimed that it would be the world’s largest solar plant, and the state’s energy minister, Rajendra Shukla, says the plan is to have the plant up and running by March 2017.

Tags: arizona, arizona corporation commission, editors news feed, politics

World’s largest fully solar-powered airport will reduce 300,000 tons of carbon emissions in India


It seems India is as sick as we are of hearing about its pollution. Recent studies have linked their pollution to scary health effects and mounting death tolls. While their environmental policies are well overdue, the recent attempts at going clean shows they are heading in the right direction.

The Cochin International Airport (CIAL) is the first airport in the world to run on 100 per cent solar power. The 45 acre facility – the size of about 25 soccer fields – is equipped with 46,000 solar panels and has full energy independence by generating about 52,000 units of electricity daily. The project cost $9.5 million to build.

“When we had realized that the power bill is on the higher side, we contemplated possibilities,” said V.J.Kurian, the energy facility’s managing director, in a recent press release. And numbers show that India will be saving more than just money on its electricity bill. The project is set to reduce 300,000 tons of carbon emissions over the next 25 years, which the report says is akin to planting three million trees.

According to The Telegraph, the airport is the third largest in the country by passengers, and received 6.8 million passengers in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

India is quickly becoming a leader in harnessing solar energy. Its 750 mega-watt (MW) solar power facility in Madhya Pradesh will become the world’s largest, far exceeding the current 392 MW facility set up in California. For perspective, that is a little more than 60 times the power generated by the CIAL.

Sources: tiozambia.com, ecowanderlust.com, wordlypost.in, archivi.diariodelweb.it

Latin America Green News: 100% renewables in Chile would save lives; climate change costly for agriculture in Colombia and Mexico

Posted September 1, 2015

Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.

Latin America Green News will be taking a break and resume after the Labor Day Holiday. August 22nd – September 1, 2015 Climate Change

A strong climate action plan that puts Chile on a trajectory toward 100% renewables by 2050 would save the country billions of dollars, create jobs and reduce pollution-related deaths, according to a new study launched by the Citizen’s Committee on Climate Change, a coalition of Chilean environmental groups. The new study, prepared by the NewClimate Institute, found that switching to 100% renewable energy would help Chile avoid spending $5.3 billion a year on fossil fuels, create 11,000 green jobs and prevent 1,500 premature deaths from outdoor air pollution in Santiago. Chile released a draft climate action plan, or Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), for public comment late last year, but according to the Citizen’s Committee on Climate Change the proposal does not go far enough. The Committee is urging the government to increase the ambition of its climate action plan to achieve the needed transition toward cleaner and low impact energy sources. (Futaleufú Riverkeeper 09/1/2015)

At a roundtable on financial innovation models held this week by Colombia’s Department of National Planning (DNP), Director Simón Gaviria Muñoz, discussed results of a study conducted by DNP, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and advised the country is in danger of losing 0.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP) annually through 2100 unless it implements actions to mitigate the effects of climate change. The loss would cost the country approximately USD $1.2 billion annually and wreak havoc on several sectors of the economy as well as the poorest 20 percent of the population. Financially, the agricultural sector will be hit hardest with an estimated 7.4 percent decrease in productivity annually. Transportation, fishing and livestock also follow closely behind with similar negative productivity rates. (Departamento Nacional de Planeacion 8/28/2015)

Rising temperatures caused by climate change and increased industrialization of rural areas in Mexico have forced the country to have to import 80 percent of its legumes. Agricultural areas are becoming unsuitable for production and some are being encroached by growing urban areas leaving only three million of the twenty five million available hectares for legume production. Experts from the International Research Network on Sociourban, Regional and Environmental Problems warn that federal, state and local governments are not doing enough to contain urban sprawl and protect the agricultural sector from the effects of climate change putting in danger food supplies for communities. (El Occidental 8/26/2016)

A new giant has risen in the middle of the Amazon jungle in Brazil seeking to study the effects of climate change in a region that has been dubbed “the earth’s lungs.” The USD $7.4 million, 325 meter-tall orange and white tower, referred to by some as the “Eiffel Tower” of the Amazon, is the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory (ATTO) and it has the unique mission of saving the world. Scientists hope that by closely studying this incredible region which produces half of the world’s oxygen and stabilizes the planet’s climate through carbon capture, they can solve a key piece of the global warming puzzle. Though it won’t start collecting data until later in the year, its strategic location far from civilization is expected to produce relatively pure data. (La Nacion 8/23/2015)


Peru and Chile are joining forces against the trafficking of flora and fauna between the two countries. This new collaboration stems from meetings prompted by commitments made during the third meeting of the Committee on Frontier Integration and Development between Peru and Chile last year. Representatives from both countries discussed areas of potential collaboration to protect trafficked wildlife on the border, particularly as they relate to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). (Andina 8/24/2015)


A new monitoring study by the World Wildlife Fund Mexico (WWF) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) revealed that illegal logging degraded 19.9 hectares in Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, the highest figure since 2009. According to the study, 96 percent of the illegal logging occurred in the community of San Felipe de los Alzati, one of the 33 communities located within the reserve. Omar Vidal, director of WWF in Mexico, urged the government to work with the community to address the illegal activity and noted the need to increase strategic investments to improve conservation in the area. (Milenio 08/26/2015)

Data from Colombia’s Department of National Planning (DNP) raised concerns over the increase in illegal mining in the country, one of the biggest contributors to the country’s deforestation rate. The practice of illegal mining in the country has become so lucrative that it rakes in profits 3.5 times higher than drug trafficking. The federal government has committed to reducing deforestation form illegal mining from 120 thousand hectares a year to 90 thousand hectares by 2018, a plan which they revealed in their National Development Plan 2014-2018. The Ministry of the Environment has also pledged to crack down on the illicit activity by joining forces with prosecutors and police. (Caracol 08/25/2015)

This Dad Found a Wonderful Use for Restaurants’ Leftover Crayons

In 2011, Bryan Ware was enjoying his birthday dinner at a restaurant with his wife and two sons. He was watching his kids draw on the paper tablecloth with crayons their server had given them. A thought struck him.

“I wondered, ‘What happens to these crayons after we leave if we don’t take them with us?'” Ware, who lives in the San Francisco area, told The Mighty.

He later questioned a restaurant employee and was dismayed to learn that every crayon put out on the table had to be thrown away after the table’s customers left – whether it’d been used down to a nub or left completely untouched. Convinced the crayons’ lives didn’t have to end so early, Ware started taking restaurant crayons with him. He made it his mission to come up with a way to get the unwanted crayons into as many children’s hands as possible.

Two years later in 2013, Ware founded The Crayon Initiative, a nonprofit organization that repurposes old unusable crayon wax into new crayons and distributes them to children’s hospitals across California.

Photo from The Crayon Initiative Facebook page

First, Ware collects old crayons from restaurants, schools and acquaintances. He separates them by color, melts down the wax and molds the melted wax into new crayons.

Photo of the crayon melting process via The Crayon Initiative Facebook page
Photo of the melted crayon wax via The Crayon Initiative Facebook page

Next, Ware puts the melted wax into a one-of-a-kind crayon mold. The mold, which is large and triangular rather than small and circular, was specifically designed with help from an occupational therapist to be easier to grip for small children and kids with special needs.

Photo of the crayon mold via The Crayon Initiative Facebook page

The company then puts the new crayons in boxes and delivers them to children of all ages who are in the hospital for any reason.

Photo from The Crayon Initiative Facebook page

So far, The Crayon Initiative has donated more than 2,000 boxes of crayons to children’s hospitals. In September 2015, Ware will make his first out-of-state delivery to a hospital in New York City. He hopes The Crayon Initiative can continue to expand and bring crayons to kids in hospitals all over the country.

Ware also hopes these crayons can help children in hospitals express themselves artistically, continue normal childhood development and communicate through drawing what they may not be able to say verbally. But more than anything, he hopes he can play some part in making their hospital stays a little easier.

“From my perspective, the biggest goal is to give them an escape,” Ware told The Mighty. “I can’t even fathom what these kids are going through. If these crayons give them an escape from that hospital room for ten minutes, we did our job.”

Photo courtesy of Bryan Ware
Photo courtesy of Bryan Ware
Photo courtesy of Bryan Ware

To learn more about The Crayon Initiative, visit the organization’s website and Facebook page.

Showerhead Utilizing Aerospace Technology Uses 70% Less Water

The average person in the U.S. uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water per day, with the largest uses of household water occurring in the toilet and the shower. Even though showers are one of the highest wasters of water, however, they are probably one of the personal experiences people would be willing to make the least compromises with. Nebia is a company that promises to not only improve your showering experience, but also help you use 70 percent less water.

After raising more than $2.5 million on Kickstarter, 17 days before the end of the campaign, the team is ready to start manufacturing, with the first showerheads expected to ship in May, 2016.


The six-person team behind Nebia, which includes several thermal fluid experts, has spent the last five years doing research, solving equations, and building prototypes in order to arrive at a new type of nozzle that, according to them, brings the first innovation in the industry in over 50 years. Meanwhile, the company has attracted investments from Tim Cook of Apple and Eric Schmidt of Alphabet.

The result is impressive. On average, Americans take about eight minutes to shower, which results in using 20 gallons of water. With Nebia, for the same amount of time, one will use up only six gallons, or 70 percent less water. With an initial price of $299, for the average U.S. home, Nebia pays for itself in less than two years.

CEO and co-founder Philip Winter told TechCrunch that “If everyone in California were to switch over to this showerhead, we think we could reduce the state water’s use by 1.5 percent.” In the future, the company also wants to make the technology cheaper and available to developing countries where water is scarce.

“The last half century of nozzle technology has completely changed what we can do with droplet size and distribution, however this technology has only been applied to very specialized fields, like rocket engines and medical devices. We used these same tools and technology to develop Nebia. What we do is atomize streams of water into millions of tiny droplets. By doing this we can achieve 10 times the surface area of water compared to a regular shower and use a fraction of the volume,” says co-founder and CTO Gabriel Parisi-Amon.

According to the creators, Nebia is easy to install – users simply unscrew their existing shower and screw on Nebia with a wrench, plumbers tape, and an included adhesive, without the need to break tiles or call the plumber. The showerhead can slide up and down, pivot at an angle, and includes a portable wand.

Utility Companies on Edge As Solar Gets Cheaper

Over the last five years, the cost of large-scale utility solar projects has dropped by 67 percent.

Americans have taken note: between 2010 and 2014, U.S. solar capacity increased 418 percent. More than half of that increase came from home and business owners installing solar technology.

Late last month, President Obama, along with leaders from China, Brazil and a number of other countries, pledged that the United States would get at least 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. That goal will require even more Americans to sign on to solar and the Obama administration hopes to speed that transition with a new program, designed to bring solar power to more low-income Americans.

But as Amit Ronen, director of the George Washington University Solar Institute, explains, utility companies aren’t necessarily on board. Ronen, a former policy analyst with the U.S. Department of Energy, says that many utilities see solar as a threat to their traditional business model, rather than an opportunity — a possible hurdle for President Obama’s energy goals.

Peru to Provide Free Solar Power to its 2 Million Poorest Citizens

The country of Peru is looking to provide free electricity to over 2 million of its poorest citizens by harvesting energy from the sun. Energy and Mining Minister Jorge Merino said that the National Photovoltaic Household Electrification Program will provide electricity to poor households through the installation of photovoltaic panels.

The first part of the program aims to provide solar systems to 500,000 extremely poor households in areas that lack even basic access to the power grid. Unsurprisingly, it is a massive opportunity for domestic solar installers, and Merino has said that bidding for the contract will open later this year to fix the rest of the panels.

The project was first started in Contumaza, a province in the northeastern region of Cajamarca, where 1,601 solar panels were installed. The energy minister has said that when the project is finished, the scheme will allow 95% of Peru to have access to electricity by the end of 2016.

Speaking to the Latin America Herald Tribune, Merino said: “This program is aimed at the poorest people, those who lack access to electric lighting and still use oil lamps, spending their own resources to pay for fuels that harm their health.”

If Peru can do this for its people, it makes you wonder why more prosperous countries can’t do the same.

via CleanTechnica/Planet Save

Costa Rica Becomes The FIRST Nation To Ban Hunting!

After Congress unanimously voted to ban hunting in 2012, it became illegal to poach wildlife in Costa Rica.

Do animals feel pain? Should they have rights like humans? These questions and others have been asked before on TrueActivist, and increasingly the response is that an individual should be honored – no matter their species – for who they are and what they might offer to the world.

We also recently reported that in the wake of controversy over the poaching of endangered animals, a number of airlines are now also refusing to ship hunting trophies.

Which is why we highly suspect you’re going to love the news – albeit a few years old – of Costa Rica becoming the first country to ban hunting!

As The Huffington Post reports, in December of 2012, Congress unanimously voted to ban hunting as a sport in the Latin American country. It was in 2010 that the popular initiative was proposed to Congress, with an accumulated 177,000 signatures calling for a ban on hunting.

Under the new law, those caught hunting will face up to four months in prison or fines of up to $3,000. Smaller penalties were also included in the reform for hunters who steal wild animals or keep them as pets. Among Costa Rica’s most treasured and sought-after species are jaguars, pumas, and sea turtles; but thanks to the new legislation, they are now much safer.


With a population of 4.5 million people and an ecosystem that boasts more than 500,000 species, the diversity of Costa Rica is what attracts tourists from all over the world. In fact, tourism is the country’s number one industry.

Said environmental activist Diego Marin, who campaigned for the reform, to local radio:

“We’re not just hoping to save the animals but we’re hoping to save the country’s economy, because if we destroy the wildlife there, tourists are not going to come anymore.”

However, not all foreigners are interested in catching some waves or taking a leisurely stroll through the country’s gorgeous parks. Some are most interested in capturing exotic felines to sell on the black market, or are in pursuit of securing rare and colorful parrots to sell as pets elsewhere.

It is to be noted that there are limits on the ban. The legislation does not apply to hunting by some indigenous groups for survival, or to scientific research.

Still, as a very environmentally conscious country, Costa Rica’s initiative will likely boost conservation efforts and maintain its diversity for years to come.

“Costa Ricans think of themselves as “people who are in a very good relation with the environment,” said Alonso Villalobos, a political scientist at the University of Costa Rica. “And in that way, we have made a lot of progress. We have a stronger environmental consciousness.”

What are your thoughts on this news?  Share your comments below.

Germany is turning 62 military bases into wildlife sanctuaries

The German government has announced plans to convert 62 disused military bases just west of the Iron Curtain into nature reserves for eagles, woodpeckers, bats, and beetles.

Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said: “We are seizing a historic opportunity with this conversion – many areas that were once no-go zones are no longer needed for military purposes.

“We are fortunate that we can now give these places back to nature.”

Together the bases are 31,000 hectares – that’s equivalent to 40,000 football pitches. The conversion will see Germany’s total area of protected wildlife increase by a quarter.

After toying with the idea of selling the land off as real estate, the government opted instead to make a grand environmental gesture. It will become another addition to what is now known as the European Green Belt.

A spokesperson from The European Green Belt told The Independent: “In the remoteness of the inhuman border fortifications of the Iron Curtain nature was able to develop nearly undisturbed.

“Today the European Green Belt is an ecological network and memorial landscape running from the Barents to the Black Sea.”

The Architect of Germany’s Third Industrial Revolution: an Interview with Jeremy Rifkin

On May 11 of this year, 74% of Germany’s electricity was produced from a combination of solar and wind power, driving electricity prices into the negative for much of the afternoon.

Meanwhile, in the United States, fossil fuels accounted for 67% of this country’s electricity. In the US, the chief arguments against renewable energy include: a) green energy is bad for the economy; b) green energy kills jobs; and c) green energy is expensive compared with fossil fuels.

Despite its apparent green energy handicap, Germany’s economy is still standing. With a quarter of the US population, Germany’s economy is the world’s fourth largest in terms of GDP.

The architect of Germany’s energy revolution, economist Jeremy Rifkin, argues that green energy critics have it backwards when it comes to the impact of renewable energy on economic growth. Far from annihilating the German economy, Mr. Rifkin argues that renewable energy is an essential component of a third industrial revolution that will potentially triple productivity, while slashing marginal costs. According to Mr. Rifkin, the resulting “Internet of Things” and “Collaborative Commons” that emerges from the German third industrial revolution will propel Germany’s economy well beyond countries like the United States that rely on sunset fossil fuel energies and reject investment in modern communications, energy and logistics infrastructure.

Jeremy Rifkin is the bestselling author of twenty books on the impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, the workforce, society, and the environment. His books include the New York Times bestseller The Third Industrial Revolution, and his latest, The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism.

Mr. Rifkin is the principle architect of the European Union’s Third Industrial Revolution long-term economic sustainability plan to address the triple challenge of the global economic crisis, energy security, and climate change. The Third Industrial Revolution was formally endorsed by the European Parliament in 2007 and is now being implemented by various agencies within the European Commission as well as in the 27 member-states.

Mr. Rifkin has served as an adviser to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Prime Minister Jose Socrates of Portugal, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain, and Prime Minister Janez Janša of Slovenia, during their respective European Council Presidencies, on issues related to the economy, climate change, and energy security. He currently advises the European Commission, the European Parliament, and several EU and Asian heads of state.

So, my question for you is, why hasn’t Germany’s economy crashed? One of the principal arguments against renewable energy is that it kills jobs and has catastrophic effects on the economy. But Germany still seems to be standing – why is that?

Well, let me go back and give a little bit of history to this. When Chancellor Merkel became chancellor, she asked me to come to Berlin to address the question, “How do we grow the German economy and create new business opportunities and jobs?” And when I got to Berlin, the first question I asked the new chancellor was, “How do you grow the Germany economy, or the EU economy, or the global economy in the last stages of a great energy era?”

If you look at every economic paradigm in history, they all have a similar signature: when an economic paradigm shift occurs, three technology revolutions emerge, and converge to create a general purpose technology platform. New forms of communication to manage economic activity. New forms of energy to power economic activity. New forms of transport and logistics to move economic activity.

When they come together in a general purpose technology platform or infrastructure that’s seamless, it changes temporal-spatial relationships. It allows economic activity to play over a larger field in time-space, and to create a more integrated economic society.

For example in the 19th century, printing and the telegraph emerged as a communication media, and it congealed with cheap coal and the steam engine for energy and power, and the locomotive and national rail systems, which allowed us to go from local to national markets. It was a change to our economic core, and it allowed us to create vertically integrated shareholding companies to create economies to scale, put out mass consumer products, hire a lot of people, and move the economic agenda.

In the 20th century, the telephone, and, later, radio and television became a communication media to manage and market a cheap oil-powered society. And the new transport and logistics system was the internal combustion engine and national road systems.

So, the first industrial revolution gave us an urban economic environment. The second industrial revolution gave us an urban-to-suburban dispersed economic environment, and it led to the beginning of modern globalization.

Now, let me explain what this means in terms of the first question you raised about Germany. There’s a big misunderstanding among my colleagues about the nature of productivity. There is a dirty little secret in economics, which the economists don’t want to talk about because it goes right to the hub of their unsuccessful economic theories, which is, “What is the nature of productivity growth?”

All classic/neoclassic economic theory has said there are two factors that create productivity growth: better machines, better workers. But when Robert Solow won the Nobel Prize for economic growth theory back in the ’80s, he let the secret out. He said, “We’ve got a problem.” When we track every single year of the industrial revolution, these two factors account for about 14 percent of productivity and growth. So, where does the other 86 percent come from? They don’t know. It’s called the Solow residual.

And a guy named Moses Abramovitz, former head of the American Economic Association, said, “This is a measure of our ignorance.”

Now, most people say, “How can economists not know? How can they actually not know what’s the nature of productivity growth? That’s the whole basis of economics.”

When economic theory was developed in the 1700s, the big rage was still in physics. So, all the economics philosophers used Newton’s metaphors to make their new discipline seem scientific, so, Newton’s Law, that for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. So, Adam Smith borrowed that metaphor for his supply and demand curve.

The only problem with basing an entire economic theory on Newton’s physics is Newton’s physics don’t have anything to do with economics. Nothing. It’s the law of gravity. Economics are based on the laws of energy – the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

The first law of thermodynamics: you cannot create or destroy energy. All the energy in the universe has been there since the beginning. That’s the conservation law.

The second law is energy does change form, but only from hot to cold, from available to unavailable, from order to disorder. So, if you take a piece of coal, it has bounded energy. When you burn it, and it moves into gases, none of the energy’s lost. But now it’s not a hunk of coal. It’s dispersed gases. It can do useful work for you. You can recycle it, but then you have to use energy to recycle it. There’s always an energy loss; that’s called “entropy,” – the amount of energy lost in using energy.

So this is what economics is about. We take low entropy available energy in nature. It can be a metallic ore, a rare earth, natural gas, whatever it is. But everything is bound energy, not just oil. Everything. Every material is.

So, we take those natural resources out of nature, which has bounded energy, and every step of moving it across the value chain – the conversion, the logistics, the distribution, the warehousing – every time we convert that to the next stage in the value chain, there’s energy that’s embedded into the product versus the actual energy wasted that never goes into it just because we have low efficiencies.

So, the 20th century second industrial revolution started at three percent aggregate energy efficiency in 1905. Now, with the amount of energy in each step of conversion that actually went into the product, 97 percent was wasted just in using it.

We got up to 14 percent aggregate energy efficiency in the 1980s, 14 percent embedded in each stage of the value system, but everything that we used from nature in a society back to nature – 14 percent embedded, 86 percent wasted, lost entropy.

So, per Adam Smith, we believe that we’re adding value during every step along the value chain, when the reality is that we’re actually adding cost?

That’s correct.

Gross domestic product is not a measure of your wealth, it’s really a measure of your debt.

You see, John Locke said, “Everything in nature is waste in the commons. And then when we harness it, we create value and property.” In other words, we take nature’s waste and turn it into valuable wealth.

It’s the exact opposite. From a thermodynamic point of view, everything in nature is valuable energy, and whatever we convert, it can be a rare earth metal, we convert it, and every step we’re losing energy, and then eventually, whatever we actually use, whether it be a good or a service, eventually goes back to nature more degraded. We then can recycle it so we don’t lose it all, but it’s a measure of our debt, not a measure of our wealth.

So, it’s a zero-sum game – GDP is our debt to the Earth?

That’s correct.

There’s a paradox deeply embedded in the heart of capitalist theory and practice that we just never saw before. And the paradox has led to the great success of the invisible hand of the marketplace. Now the irony is that paradox is actually becoming so successful that it is actually creating a new economic system flourishing alongside the capitalist market, which we call the “Collaborative Commons.”

You and I, and everyone else, have already been up on the collaborative commons, where we’ve created the videos on YouTube, a news blog or whatever, and we are bypassing the traditional market exchange economy, and we’re in a shareable economy, not an exchange economy. Capitalism creates an exchange economy. Collaborative commons creates a shareable economy.

Hundreds of millions of people already participate in the sharable economy. So, they’re not only sharing entertainment and video news and ebooks and now massive open online courses, they’re now sharing renewable energy. And there’s zero marginal cost on a collaborative commons.

But the expectation was that the zero marginal cost phenomena would not pass across the firewall from the virtual world of bits to the physical world of atoms. Now that firewall’s been breached, and the agent is this Internet of things.

So now, the communication Internet is beginning to emerge and converge within this nascent energy Internet of renewables and a fledgling transport and logistics Internet to create this Internet of things.

There are now hundreds of thousands of hobbyists producing and sharing their own 3-D printed products made out of materials from recycled materials, with open-source software for the instructions on how to make their products.

We never expected, in our wildest imagination, a technology revolution so extreme in its productivity that it can reduce marginal costs to near zero, potentially making some goods and services actually free and abundant beyond market forces.

That’s what’s going on. That’s the big ticket change happening. And what we’re beginning to see in Germany.

Here’s the bottom line – my global team has run an economic study on how much more aggregate energy efficiency and productivity we could get. Our results show that we can go from about 14 percent aggregate energy efficiency, which is the height of the second industrial revolution in the U.S. in 1980s and 1990s, to 40 percent and maybe even 60 percent aggregate energy efficiency in the third industrial revolution. That’s huge.

How does the US fare relative to countries like Germany in the global economy?

Germany’s the most robust industrial economy per capita in the world.

And the U.S. is nowhere. The energy companies have huge sway. They’ve convinced America that we’re energy independent, and that climate change is a hoax. And so, we’re staying in these old 20th century fuels, whose prices are volatile and going up and down wildly on world markets, because we’re in the sunset for the fossil fuel. It’s not sunrise energy; it’s a sunset energy.

Tar sands in Canada are not competitive under $70.00 a barrel. The only reason they’re on the market is because the price of oil keeps going up. Shale gas is a bubble.

What happened to the U.S. is that companies invested wildly in buying up every shale gas deposit at the same time. And they’re milking the sweet spot. Every shale gas deposit has a little sweet spot, you milk it in 18 months, and then there’s nothing there. So, the price of natural gas has gone down dramatically, because they’re all milking the sweet spots of all the deposits they invested in at the same time. Even our Department of Energy in the U.S. and the International Energy Agency have said that, by 2020, those prices are going to go back up again.

What’s happened with solar and wind is it’s been on an exponential curve for 20 years. That’s what a lot of folks in America don’t realize, and Europeans do. A solar watt in 1970 cost something like $66.00. This afternoon, a solar watt is $.66 to produce, and it’s going down, down, down. So it’s on a 20-year exponential curve.

Why can’t America build an Internet of Things?

Remember when Obama said, “You didn’t build that” during the campaign?

Everyone went berserk on the right?


What he was saying is, the infrastructure is built by the American people through their tax dollars. If you have the infrastructure, that’s how any business – small, medium, large – plugs into the technology infrastructure. And that’s how you’ll then create your own opportunities. You have to have the telephone lines, and the roads, and the school systems, and the electricity grids, and the pipelines. All of that are underwritten, subsidized, or in some way involved with government laying out infrastructure.

Half the country doesn’t understand that. So, if you eliminate government engagement laying down infrastructure, you’re baked. And what’s happening here is nobody wanted to invest in the third industrial revolution infrastructure.

Nobody wants to invest in the Internet of Things platform. How will we ever be able to move into the next economic era in history and dramatically increase productivity, create a sustainable model?

It almost seems as though we might have to wait until our market collapses and the third industrial revolution rises out of the rubble.

Well, I just don’t know. My hope is the millennial generation will see the opportunities here, because this is really a young person’s revolution. Kids that grew up on the Internet, and they’re now 20, 30, 40, they were empowered in lateral economies of scale. My generation, we thought that – we would say lateral power is an oxymoron. It’s always pyramidal.

But for everyone that grew up on the communication Internet, it is actual lateral power – that their individual entrepreneurial abilities depend on how much they can benefit everyone else in the laterally scaled network.

So, they don’t buy Adam Smith. They read Adam Smith, and they think, “This makes no sense.”

Adam Smith says, “Each person pursues their own self-interest, and by doing so, it optimizes the common good” – which has always been a little dubious. Young people believe by each person benefiting the network, creating social capital by creating things that benefit the network, it increases their social reputation and their social capital allows their social entrepreneurial skills to succeed.

So, what I like about this third industrial revolution is that it borrows the best. This collaborative commons that’s emerging out of capitalism borrows the best from capitalism, the best from socialism. It takes out the bad parts, which means it eliminates the centralization of the market with vertically integrated monopolies, and it eliminates the centralization of command and control from centralized governments in the socialist systems.

But what it does keep is the entrepreneurial spirit of capitalism in each individual. It also keeps the social commitment that we see in socialism that no one’s left behind. So, that’s why our younger generation are social entrepreneurs, and they see themselves as benefiting the world.

Germany turns military bases into rare-bird nature reserves

© AFP/File | Germany wants to turn more than 60 former military bases into nature preserves, with the aim of creating vast new green oases and sanctuaries for rare species of birds

Germany agreed Thursday to turn more than 60 former military bases into nature preserves, with the aim of creating vast new green oases and sanctuaries for rare species of birds.

Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said an ongoing overhaul of the German armed forces had made it possible to set aside more than 31,000 hectares (76,600 acres) of forests, marshes, meadows and moors.

She said the government had opted against selling the land, in some cases, prime pieces of real estate, to investors in favour of creating natural refuges.

“We are seizing a historic opportunity with this conversion — many areas that were once no-go zones are no longer needed for military purposes,” she said.

“We are fortunate that we can now give these places back to nature.”

In recent years, large swathes of land in the former communist east that had been occupied by the military, including the so-called “Green Strip” along the once-fortified heavily border to then West Germany, have been turned into nature reserves for flora and fauna.

The 62 bases and training areas earmarked as nature reserves Thursday by the parliamentary budget committee are mainly in the densely populated former West Germany.

The sites will primarily serve as bioreserves, which the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation said would provide crucial habitats for threatened species such as certain bats, woodpeckers, eagles and beetles.

However many sites will also be open to the public, and bring to 156,000 hectares the amount of federally protected wilderness.

Germany is in the process of reforming its military from a Cold War defensive force into a 21st century institution prepared to counter new threats.

In the process, it is creating a smaller “footprint” of bases in favour of a more efficient and mobile organisation.