June 2, 2017: Dark Days and Bright Spots

The Leader of the Free World

The Leader of the Free World

Well, it’s a dark day here at the Greeny Flat. We learned this morning that Donald Trump has decided to back out of the Paris Climate Accord complaining that it is ‘very unfair to the US‘. I wonder if anyone has pointed out to him that the US, with 5% of the world’s population, produces something like 18% of its greenhouse gas emissions. Hardly seems fair to everyone else, does it?

I also wonder sometimes about Elon Musk’s motives so I was pleased to see he had the decency to quit his role as an advisor to the White House over the Paris debacle. Even the president of Goldman Sachs stepped down in protest saying, ‘Today’s decision is a setback for the environment and for the US’s leadership position in the world.’

That is undoubtedly true but it’s hard to see how we’re going to stop this insanity. And it’s particularly depressing to reflect that Trump is due to hold the most powerful office in the world for at least another three-and-a-half years.

Meanwhile our own Prime Minister, Malcolm Turncoat, has stated uncategorically that Australia will remain in the Paris deal. Personally, I don’t believe a word he says and, in the meantime, his government wants to allow the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to fund coal-fired power projects as long as they include ‘carbon capture’. This is where some of the carbon dioxide is pulled out of the smoke stack and pumped underground for ‘storage’. What a ridiculous concept to think that pressurised carbon-dioxide is going to stay in the ground for more than about five minutes.

‘The technology depends on local geology, and has proven prohibitively expensive. A $2.4 billion carbon capture and storage flagship program announced by the Rudd government in 2009 yielded little and was gradually wound back before being discontinued under the Coalition.’

But that isn’t stopping Turncoat from trying to divert millions of dollars of taxpayer’s money (that has been set aside to foster renewable energy projects via the CEFC) and use it to promote more fossil-fuel development. I can just hear Tony Abbott whispering in his ear, ‘Coal is the future mate.

The puppet master.

The puppet master.

Enough of that depressing stuff. Here are some of the bright spots for this week.

Computational Wizzardry

Have a look at the video below and consider the computational speed and accuracy required for this little drone to calculate the trajectory of the ball, consider all the possible routes to catch it, choose the best, get there, catch the ball, bring it back and drop it in the guy’s hand. It’s astounding. But bear in mind that most humans can do this without even thinking about it.

Sign of The Times

I read this week on RenewEconomy that there are plans to build a 1,021MW (ten times bigger than Australia’s largest) solar plant in the oilfields of Oman. This will be the world’s biggest solar power installation. Unfortunately it will be used for ‘generating 6,000 tons of steam per day to coax viscous oil from Oman’s Amal oil field’ but I suppose it’s better than burning fossil fuels in order to extract more fossil fuels.

Canberra’s Solar Suburb

A solar suburb in the states.

A solar suburb in the states.

In a move that will hopefully be copied throughout Australia, the new Canberra suburb of Denman Prospect will require all new homes to have at least 3kW of solar on their roof. As reported in this article from SERREE (the South East Region for Renewable Energy Excellence), ‘every house … will have a minimum 3kW solar system that will generate around 4146kWh of electricity annually, reducing yearly carbon emissions from fossil-fuelled generation by about 3.7 tonnes for each house. ActewAGL began installing the first round of solar systems on the first 350 homes in the suburb in December last year… collectively, they will generate electricity equivalent to a 1.05MW solar farm.’

It’s a bit frustrating living so close to Canberra. It’s only two hours drive but it is so far ahead of NSW in terms of its Renewable Energy policies that it might as well be on a different planet. Of course, it’s important to remember that adding solar is the last step in making a house more sustainable. Firstly you should do everything you can to reduce the amount of energy required by applying the principles of Passive Solar Design and then using the highest efficiency appliances and equipment you can find. Once you’ve got your energy use down to a minimum it’s much easier to meet you requirements with a solar power system.

Plastic Bottle House

Plastic bottle house in the Sahara

Plastic bottle house in the Sahara. (Source: UNHCR)

The picture above is from a refugee camp in Algeria where a Sahrawi refugee named Tateh Lehbib Breica is putting a serious waste problem to good use. As described in this article from Huffington Post, most of the plastic bottles that find their way to these refugee camps are not recycled. By filling them with sand and using them as a building material, Breica is not only keeping them out of landfill but also making more durable and comfortable homes than were previously being built in this camp.

Personally, I’d be interested to see what would happen if they used empty bottles. I’m sure the insulation (and therefore the comfort levels) would be better but the light weight might cause durability problems. Anyway, it’s an interesting idea and hopefully brings a little comfort and relief to the poor people who have lived in this camp for over 40 years.

Which is yet another reminder of how incredibly blessed and lucky we are to live in this cozy little house in this beautiful, peaceful and prosperous place.

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