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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

New Zealand Commits to 90% Renewable Electricity by 2025

September 26, 2007
New Zealand Commits to 90% Renewable Electricity by 2025
Wellington, New Zealand [;jsessionid=63144CD70B2015DBA47C8FF68A3C1E2E?id=50075]

In a speech this week, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarke announced New Zealand's intention to commit to 90% renewable electricity by 2025, according to a press release issued by the New Zealand government.

The country already uses 70% renewable electricity, primarily hydro- and geothermal power and will continue to increase its use of renewables over the next 20 years.

Eventually, the Prime Minister would like to see the country carbon-neutral. “I have set out the challenge to our nation to become the first truly sustainable nation on earth…to dare to aspire to be carbon neutral," Prime Minister Clarke said.

The Prime Minister also gave a brief outline of further goals, which included a 2040 target of reducing by half per capita emissions from transport and widely introducing electric vehicles. She also stated the goal of achieving a net increase in forest area of 250,000 hectares (617,000 acres) by 2020.

“The long-term benefits of becoming a sustainable nation will spread beyond our national reputation and success in business to benefit all New Zealanders,” Prime Minister Clarke added.

Further announcements will be made in the coming weeks as the government releases the New Zealand Energy Strategy, the New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy and the Transport Strategy Implementation Plan. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The planet is not at risk. We are.

The planet is not at risk. We are
By Vaclav Havel

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Over the past few years questions have been asked ever more forcefully whether global climate changes occur in natural cycles or not, to what degree we human beings contribute to them, what threats stem from them and what can be done to prevent them.

Scientific studies demonstrate that any changes in temperature and energy cycles on a planetary scale could mean a generalized danger to all people on all continents.

It is also obvious from published research that human activity is a cause of change; we just don't know how big its specific contribution is.

Is it really necessary to know that to the last percentage point, though? By waiting for incontrovertible precision, aren't we simply wasting time when we could be taking measures that are relatively painless compared to those we would have to adopt after further delays?

Maybe we should start considering our sojourn on Earth as a loan. There can be no doubt that for past hundred years at least, the Euro-American world has been running up a debt, and now other parts of the world are following its example.

Nature is now issuing warnings and demanding that we not only stop the debt growing but start to pay it back. There is little point in asking whether we have borrowed too much or what would happen if we postponed the repayments. Anyone with a mortgage or a bank loan can easily imagine the answer.

The effects of possible climate changes are hard to estimate. Our planet has never been in a state of balance from which it could deviate through human or other influence and then, in time, return to its original state.

The climate is not like some kind of pendulum that will return to its original position after a certain period. It has evolved turbulently over billions of years into a gigantic complex of networks, and of networks within networks, where everything is interlinked in diverse ways.

Its structures will never return to precisely the same state they were 50 or 5,000 years ago. They will only change into a new state, which, so long as the change is slight, need not mean any threat to life.

Larger changes, however, could have unforeseeable effects within the global ecosystem. In that case, we would have to ask ourselves whether human life would be possible. Because so much uncertainty still reigns, a great deal of humility and circumspection is called for.

We can't go on endlessly fooling ourselves that nothing is wrong and that we can go on cheerfully pursuing our consumer lifestyles, ignoring the climate threats and postponing a solution. Maybe there is no danger of any major catastrophe in the coming years or decades. Who knows? But that doesn't relieve us of responsibility toward future generations.

I don't agree with those whose reaction to the possible threats is to warn against the restrictions on civil freedoms. Were the forecasts of certain climatologists to be fulfilled, our freedoms would be tantamount to the freedom of someone hanging from a 20th-story parapet.

We live in a world ringed by a single global civilization comprising various areas of civilization. Most of them these days share one thing in common: technocracy. Priority is given to everything that is calculable, quantifiable or ratable. That is a very materialistic concept, however, and one that is drawing us toward an important crossroads for our civilization.

Whenever I reflect on the problems of today's world, whether they concern the economy, society, culture, security, ecology or civilization in general, I always end up confronting the moral question: what action is responsible or acceptable? The moral order, our conscience and human rights - these are the most important issues at the beginning of the third millennium.

We must return again and again to the roots of human existence and consider our prospects in centuries to come. We must analyze everything open-mindedly, soberly, unideologically and unobsessively, and project our knowledge into practical policies.

Maybe it is no longer a matter of simply promoting energy-saving technologies, but chiefly of introducing ecologically clean technologies, of diversifying resources and of not relying on just one invention as a panacea.

I'm also skeptical that a problem as complex as climate change can be solved by any single branch of science. Technological measures and regulations are important, but equally important is support for education, ecological training and ethics - a consciousness of the commonality of all living beings and an emphasis on shared responsibility.

We will either achieve an awareness of our place in the living and life-giving organism of our planet, or we will face the threat that our evolutionary journey may be set back thousands or even millions of years. That is why we must take this issue very seriously and see it as a challenge to behave responsibly and not as a harbinger of the end of the world.

The end of the world has been anticipated many times in the course of history and has never come, of course. And it won't come this time either. We need not fear for our planet. It was here before us and most likely will be here after us. But that doesn't mean that the human race is not at serious risk.

As a result of our endeavors and our irresponsibility our climate system might leave no place for us. If we drag our feet, the scope for decision-making - and hence for our individual freedom - could be considerably reduced.

Vaclav Havel is the former president of Czechoslovakia. Translated from the Czech by Gerald Turner.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Coming Great Flood

Rising Seas Likely to Flood U.S. History
Sep 22 01:21 PM US/Eastern
AP Science Writer

Ultimately, rising seas will likely swamp the first American settlement in Jamestown, Va., as well as the Florida launch pad that sent the first American into orbit, many climate scientists are predicting.

In about a century, some of the places that make America what it is may be slowly erased.

Global warming—through a combination of melting glaciers, disappearing ice sheets and warmer waters expanding—is expected to cause oceans to rise by one meter, or about 39 inches. It will happen regardless of any future actions to curb greenhouse gases, several leading scientists say. And it will reshape the nation.

Rising waters will lap at the foundations of old money Wall Street and the new money towers of Silicon Valley. They will swamp the locations of big city airports and major interstate highways.

Storm surges worsened by sea level rise will flood the waterfront getaways of rich politicians—the Bushes' Kennebunkport and John Edwards' place on the Outer Banks. And gone will be many of the beaches in Texas and Florida favored by budget-conscious students on Spring Break.

That's the troubling outlook projected by coastal maps reviewed by The Associated Press. The maps, created by scientists at the University of Arizona, are based on data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Few of the more than two dozen climate experts interviewed disagree with the one-meter projection. Some believe it could happen in 50 years, others say 100, and still others say 150.

Sea level rise is "the thing that I'm most concerned about as a scientist," says Benjamin Santer, a climate physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

"We're going to get a meter and there's nothing we can do about it," said University of Victoria climatologist Andrew Weaver, a lead author of the February report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Paris. "It's going to happen no matter what—the question is when."

Sea level rise "has consequences about where people live and what they care about," said Donald Boesch, a University of Maryland scientist who has studied the issue. "We're going to be into this big national debate about what we protect and at what cost."

This week, beginning with a meeting at the United Nations on Monday, world leaders will convene to talk about fighting global warming. At week's end, leaders will gather in Washington with President Bush.

Experts say that protecting America's coastlines would run well into the billions and not all spots could be saved.

And it's not just a rising ocean that is the problem. With it comes an even greater danger of storm surge, from hurricanes, winter storms and regular coastal storms, Boesch said. Sea level rise means higher and more frequent flooding from these extreme events, he said.

All told, one meter of sea level rise in just the lower 48 states would put about 25,000 square miles under water, according to Jonathan Overpeck, director of the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth at the University of Arizona. That's an area the size of West Virginia.

The amount of lost land is even greater when Hawaii and Alaska are included, Overpeck said.

The Environmental Protection Agency's calculation projects a land loss of about 22,000 square miles. The EPA, which studied only the Eastern and Gulf coasts, found that Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and South Carolina would lose the most land. But even inland areas like Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia also have slivers of at-risk land, according to the EPA.

This past summer's flooding of subways in New York could become far more regular, even an everyday occurrence, with the projected sea rise, other scientists said. And New Orleans' Katrina experience and the daily loss of Louisiana wetlands—which serve as a barrier that weakens hurricanes—are previews of what's to come there.

Florida faces a serious public health risk from rising salt water tainting drinking water wells, said Joel Scheraga, the EPA's director of global change research. And the farm-rich San Joaquin Delta in California faces serious salt water flooding problems, other experts said.

"Sea level rise is going to have more general impact to the population and the infrastructure than almost anything else that I can think of," said S. Jeffress Williams, a U.S. Geological Survey coastal geologist in Woods Hole, Mass.

Even John Christy at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a scientist often quoted by global warming skeptics, said he figures the seas will rise at least 16 inches by the end of the century. But he tells people to prepare for a rise of about three feet just in case.

Williams says it's "not unreasonable at all" to expect that much in 100 years. "We've had a third of a meter in the last century."

The change will be a gradual process, one that is so slow it will be easy to ignore for a while.

"It's like sticking your finger in a pot of water on a burner and you turn the heat on, Williams said. "You kind of get used to it."


On the Net:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on sea level:

The U.S. Geological Survey on sea level rise and global warming:

University of Arizona's interactive maps on sea level rise:

Architecture 2030 study on one-meter sea level rise and cities:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Science and Art of Change

The Creative Process
The Science and Art of Change
By Jonathan R. Cole
Copyright 1997


What humans call matter is actually just a subset of the dynamic flows that we call energy. Energy and matter are only distinguishable because they exhibit different space-time geometries. Our senses are able to differentiate between these energy forms. This is helpful since we exist in a continuum between energy and matter. Einstein figured this out when he informed the human race that E=MC2. This means there is energy and there is mass. They are proportional and even very roughly equivalent, because if you multiply one unit of mass by the speed of light squared (thirty four billion five hundred and ninety six million miles per second) you get one unit of energy. That's what E=MC2 means among other things. Maybe we should choose bigger units of mass? Anyway...........
Interestingly it also means that the difference between energy and mass is relative to what other quantity you compare it with. In fact mass is energy. Mass is a small subset of energy. How can we know this? Space is mostly filled with non mass forms of energy, such as photons, rays and other energetic emanations. The mass that makes the rest of the cosmos is lonely indeed. In any case it is itself a dense form of energy twisting in on itself in convoluted vortices. So to get the whole scope of it we need to add the mass/energy to the free energy of interstellar space. Amazingly, our senses, so conveniently attuned to the force fields of mass boundary layers, are actually missing most of the cosmos. We get a good sense of the solid, a tenuous sense of the liquid, and nearly no sense of the gas, the plasma and the free energy of interstellar space. But we sure are working on enriching that inadequate and unsatisfying version of existence.
The free energy of space comes mostly from the great energy emitters such as the stars including the sun. The emitted energy is absorbed by other masses such as planets, where some of it is transmuted to a lower frequency and re-emitted. The major emitters are minor absorbers, as the major absorbers are minor emitters. Waves and back waves, intersecting creating secondary waves, tertiary waves, ad infinitum. The energy absorbing/emitting capabilities of mass can be enormously large as in a so called black hole or relatively small as in a so called atom. Energy is emitted from mass and absorbed by it. Energy is focussed by mass. The free energy of space is constantly being absorbed, channelled through mass and reemitted. Energy transcends scale. It is present everywhere.
Every energy absorber has what can be called an event horizon. That is, a layer behind which the attracted energy/mass (E=MC2) is strongly held and cannot escape without a disruption of the attractor by a larger force. Since there is far more energy than mass in the universe, there is sufficient force available to disrupt any event horizon, irrespective of the mass of the attractor/absorber. In other words, there is enough force of energy to overpower the attractive force field of the largest mass.
When incoming energy intersects an event horizon, energy can be emitted or radiated. This occurs whether the absorber is as powerful as a black hole or as small as an atom. It must occur because all mass can be reduced to an energy state equation. E=MC2 . When the balance of energy and mass is disrupted, energy emission is the means by which equilibrium is re-established. Matter is energy. It is a form of energy vortexing within extremely tight spatial geometries and intricate convoluted topologies.
At the event horizon the energy states do not change abruptly. Instead they can be represented as stationary wave fronts which can be visualized as striations which are parallel to the event horizon surface and quantized. In other words, there are distinguishable energy densifications like bands or shells which surround the attractor. This is evident on the planetary level by phenomena such as the Van Allen radiation belts and other distinct bands of ionized energy. At the molecular level, phenomena such as the so called electrical double layer represent the same quantized stationary wave fronts. At the atomic level the layers of electrons are the quantized wave fronts. All of these are examples of the way nature provides for changes from one energy state to another. At these interfaces, no matter what the scale, these layers of energy trapped in a stationary wave front appear to exist.
As humans we live at the interface of mass and energy. In other words we live at the event horizon of the planet Earth. The sun streams photonic energy which intersects with the surface of the planet. Much of this light energy is transmuted to lower frequency infrared and re-emitted. We live in this rich, bi-directional energy environment. We are in fact animated by this energy. The energy in the infrared, commonly referred to as heat, is indisputably essential to our survival. Without it our entire bio mechanism would be frozen, with too much it would be toasted. This is why we tend to sleep when it is dark - the night represents a diminishing of both infrared and photonic energies, which constitute major components of our animating force.
The patterns of energy surrounding and imbuing us are the direct effect of the design of what we call the universe. The creative force which drives this whole system can be perceived by fine atunement to both the gross and the subtle fluctuations of these energy patterns. We can perceive some of these patterns directly with our senses. A more complete form of perception becomes possible by developing capabilities beyond our five senses. We cannot directly detect many of these energy fluctuations. We can get beyond the limits of our five senses using the vision of sensors and computer enhancement. We can expand our vision into every realm that we can discover. Vision in every spectrum of electromagnetic energy and beyond electromagnetics, are within our grasp. We can use our sixth sense, thought, to watch patterns develop across time. This broader vision can result in a greater understanding of cause and effect (a necessary by-product of sequential time) than we now comprehend.
These patterns of the creation are the language of the creator. The many highly specific forms of order that exist make it improbable that the information we receive from the feedback of the senses is simply cosmic noise. It appears that we may expand our capabilities of understanding by practicing receiving and interpreting the message that these ordered forms contain. We may then use this to build a new understanding, a model or map and thereby to become powerful instruments of this creative unfolding. Any map or model must be internally self consistent to be very useful. It needs to be self predictive across time - to be predictive of the quantities and qualities that unfold as we observe them. When we find and utilize this map/model, the blur enveloping the nature of existence falls away before our eyes.
As we refine our abilities in this realm the number and quality of possibilities arising from our creations can be truly astounding. For example, at one time, only one human comprehended the wheel. That human, at that time, was on the leading edge of instrumentality in the unfolding of the creation. The rest of the humans of the time probably did not get it at first. Now most of the six billion plus people take the wheel for granted. The creations of our time drawn from the same creative spirit may seem fantastic today, but someday will be considered common knowledge and common sense. By then, other generations of humanity or its heirs will be at the leading edge of the Creative Process as it relentlessly sweeps across history and all time. What a ride!


The works of Picasso, Einstein, Galileo, DaVinci, Darwin and Tesla although spanning a wide range of material and intellectual endeavour, have as their common basis, a process. It is the process which is at the root of all accomplishment, the creative process.
From the most mundane of all tasks to the most far reaching result, nothing is actualized without a process. With the acceleration of change in recent years, in some cases for the best and in many cases for the worse, there is a growing need for the people of the world to increase their ability to not only accommodate change, but to effect it, through the conscious use of the time tested pathway to new manifested realities - the creative process.
So what stands in the way, if anything? Asking the man on the street, we find that great works of change are attributed to “genius”, a mysterious quality that only those blessed with an accident of birth or circumstance are ever likely to experience. The ability to create, that is, to follow the pathway from conception of ideas to their manifestation is as dimly by most people understood as mathematics would be to a chimpanzee. Yet the process used by those considered geniuses is used instinctively by everyone at some level. What separates the “genius” from ordinary people is the ability to effect purposeful change through a conscious process.
So why do we acknowledge so few as having genius? Perhaps it is simply because those who exhibit “genius” come to their extraordinary abilities by an unusual combination of experiences coupled with an unusual amount of education, encouragement and/or self confidence. If this is the case, then this so-called “genius” would by sheer probability have to arise in some very small percentage of the population. Perhaps those deemed to have genius have been individuals who found an instinctive rather than a conscious path to the creative process. If this instinctive way is indeed possible it may be buried in an incalculably complex course of events, impossible to trace and therefore outside the realm of language and pedagogy.
On the other hand, what if we were to study and describe the creative process, with the goal of clarifying its structure and making it consciously knowable? Would we thereby be providing a map as well as the tools for purposeful change? Might we raise the effective results which flow from human potential and in doing so raise the standards of life on this planet? The answer is yes! And to those who might protest that to put such a powerful tool in the hands of the ignorant risks damage to the user and the surroundings, fear not! Since consciousness is about being fully aware of what is going on, the conscious creative process is itself a filter separating ignorance from knowledge and screening out all but the able.
It can be demonstrated, to be sure, that all manifestations of our desire do not necessarily prove to be beneficial. However, as the conscious awareness of the creative process arises it must lead to a much higher quality of resulting creations which are more harmoniously integrated into the world that surrounds us. This is the inevitable outcome of a growing comfort and facility with a conscious creative process. In order to achieve this harmonious integration of ideas with the world, we must bring the process out of the shadowy world of such vague concepts as “inspiration”, “genius” and “art” and into the light of conscious understanding, making possible conscious evolution and purposeful change.
It is inevitable that benefits or defects accompany evolution of any sort, but always, ultimately, movement is in the direction of a strengthened and more suitable adaptation to circumstance. The rewards of the development of a conscious understanding of the process by which we may purposefully manifest change should be sufficient to drive us through fear, past cynicism, to an eager engagement to the task.
The process popularly referred to as “trial and error” must become trial, error, trial, success, but above all, trial, because unless we overcome cynicism and doubt and try to create, degeneration and entropy are sure to follow. This is exactly why resisting the complacency of cynicism is in fact enlightened self interest, while also in the interest of society as a whole.
The fear of creations which are degenerate is an important issue and one which is often overlooked by creative people. However, if the creator reflects sufficiently on a concept, inherent defects can be foreseen. This process of penetrating thought and reflection leads to creations which are largely unblemished by undesired and unforeseen influences.
In other words the realization of a defect or unwanted effect of a concept should not necessarily result in the abandonment of the concept. Instead, all efforts should become focussed in order to diminish any undesirable aspects of the concept thus allowing the brainchild to survive. Though it is true that throughout the creative process we shall encounter obstacles in many forms, it will be found that it is a rare obstacle which does not contain within it the potential to give a concept new direction, new depth - new life.
These writings are meant to be a description or map of the creative process. The reader will notice how the terms used as the chapter headings could just as easily be describing the process which leads to the birth of a child. The reason for this natural fit is that the creative process is one of the forces of nature. When nature's map is followed it leads to nature's treasures. What are these treasures? Among others they include:
• An acceleration of the evolution of human society and culture;
• An increased realization of human potential;
• The empowerment of humanity to seek, find and make a better world.

The desire to create a world which is more to our liking than the one we perceive to exist is at the core of our nature. What ways and methods do we need to understand and cultivate in order to shape this world in ways which are of benefit to ourselves, our families, our communities and even the world?
We are now facing unbelievably rapid change, which presses us to be active participants in the unfolding which we are witness to. If we sit back, we are passed by while those active participants in change are creating a world in which we must live. With the scale of change larger than ever before, newly manifested concepts set into motion large effects, which color the future and shape the lives of us all. How can we participate?
What is needed is a clearer understanding of how we may produce positive change - A set of guiding principles to measure our dreams, visions and concepts and at the same time to light the path of the creative process. What we need is neither dogmatic ideology, nor a substitute for our own intuitive perception, but rather, a description of the process of creation and its foundations.
To create means to bring into being. The intention of these writings is to bring into being a map to a better world.

Table of Contents

1) Penetration - Exploring the Omniverse
2) Conception - The Brainchild
3) Gestation - Reflection and the Mind's Eye
4) Motion - The Convergence of Mind and Matter
5) Expansion - Development toward Viability
6) Emergence - Form, Function, Focus
7) Embrace - Acknowledgment and Acceptance
8) Manifestation - A Life of Its Own

1) Penetration - Exploring the Omniverse

We live in a world whose boundaries have traditionally been determined by our sensory capabilities. These are our senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. These capabilities seem to present us with a compelling sense of what is “real”. This reality is incomplete however. In response to this realization, scientists, engineers, and inventors have developed technologies which overcome some of our sensory deficits. Some examples are, x-ray photography, cat scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasonic imaging, night (infrared) vision, scanning-tunnelling microscopy, interferometry, cloud chambers - the list goes on and on and continues to expand at a rapid pace. These machines are allowing us to view parts of reality which are beyond our direct sensing abilities. Our minds are opening up to whole new aspects of the universe.
The word “universe” is derived from the Greek words meaning “one truth”. Yet it is becoming increasingly clear that this “truth” is evolving and expanding. At least our idea of it is. Our larger perspective is being driven, in part, by the aforementioned examples, in which we use machine sensors and computer graphic enhancement to translate what the machine “sees” to something that we can see. Like using infrared detection to gain night vision. This technological achievement is direct evidence that there is a wider reality than has previously been assumed to exist, at least by most people.
Once we humans begin to realize the potential of expanded consciousness, it is only natural for us to try to grasp a wider world view leading to new realizations of what is actually going on around us and within us. It was not too long ago that large numbers of people were absolutely certain that the earth was flat and that it stood still as the sun and the heavens revolved around it. So as our consciousness of the world's nature increases, and the old conventional wisdom is found to be wanting, we cross over into new territory which continues to beckon us. Now we can call upon every ability we possess to try and find more complete knowledge of this new frontier.
It is now certain that the rich diversity of creation goes beyond our five senses. “Science” is leading the way by validating truths which were previously considered the realm of metaphysics, mysticism and religion. Unseen energies which flow through everything, action at a distance without physical connection, postulations of a “conscious” universe, the impossibility of separating the observer from the observed, the demonstrable design inherent in chaos - the list is long.
This evolution of understanding is leading us to a picture of reality which goes beyond the “one truth” of the universe to the knowledge that the whole picture is related to the “all truth”, we can call it the omniverse. This omniverse contains the sources of all of our sensory perceptions. These sources can be described as structures of energy in space. The domain of our existence is the space-time continuum - space and its energy structures cannot be separated from time. Therefore the omniverse must include everything in the past and that which is yet to come. Every action has a reaction. One thing leads to another. The evidence of our senses and the analysis taking place in our thought suggest the apparent truth that “reality” is founded on cause and effect.
Penetrating deeper into this concept, it becomes clear that the five senses alone, which respond only to the stimuli of the present, are insufficient to an understanding of cause and effect which must by definition include the element of time. The element of time must be included since cause must precede effect.
If not by means of the five senses, how then have we sensed the stream of cause and effect? It is clear we have another sensing ability. We can think of it as a sixth sense. It is the time sense. It responds to, or senses that which is held in the mind. This ability to sense what is held in the mind is a tool more powerful than anything else in our human inventory of capabilities. It enables us to become explorers in the realm of all cause and effect, including all possibilities and impossibilities
The speed at which we traverse this realm is limited only by our understanding of its simple truth. That is, in all possibilities, cause must precede effect. Armed with this knowledge we may penetrate the causal pathways of both the past and the future and draw from this experience to lay out the way to the best of all possible worlds. This is the reward of mastery of the process of purposeful change through a conscious creative process.
No concept is purposefully manifested without some understanding, through penetrating thought, of the tools, actions and methods by which an idea becomes a material representation of itself. This is obvious in all endeavour, regardless of whether the manifestation is of solid material such as a machine or intangible such as a musical composition. Anything which begins its existence as a concept and results in a manifestation which can be discerned and perhaps used by someone, results from a process which begins with thought.
It is also possible to point to any aspect of such a creation and trace its benefits or defects back to the pathway of thought that preceded it. If this ability is put to conscious use it becomes a highly useful means of examining manifested reality. The idea of conscious use is stressed here. Although most of us are constantly analyzing what comes before us, we tend to do so in a semiconscious or unconscious way. As a result, our analysis remains inaccessible or at best partially accessible through an intuitive path. Remember the unknowable, unpredictable intuitive path of the “genius”? That is no longer sufficient. We need “genius” on demand.
While our five senses may only provide us with a partial version of reality, that version is indispensable to our survival. This is because the five senses can be depended upon for immediate feedback. These senses also allow for the gathering of direct experience which is the basis for penetrating thought. You might say that the five senses are the foundation of the sixth. These five senses which many see as our only means to determine reality are merely narrow windows onto a larger reality which encompasses all causes and all effects.
Perhaps we can never come to comprehend all causes and effects, but as many persons throughout history have demonstrated, we can pass beyond a world view which is limited by the five senses and pass into a domain of applied intelligence or penetrating thought. By applying our intelligence through study and direct experience, we can come to see how cause leads to effect. We can then begin to select and implement the causes which create the desired effect. This may seem obvious - and it is. Yet only when we consciously apply this obvious truth do we develop, through practice, the means to make a world more to our liking.
Everything which is manifested in the material world can be responded to by one or more senses. For example, the paper on which this is written. Most people asked to describe the paper would use information derived from the five senses as a complete basis for the description. This type of description, however, is limited to what the paper is in the present time - describing an effect which is only the current manifestation of a long series of previous causes and which itself is a cause of future effects. In other words if we describe the paper in the stream of time, we begin to penetrate beyond the surface of the thing. Now the paper is no longer merely a white, two dimensional, smooth object with marks on it, but rather, it is understood to be one stage of a process of evolving existence.
If we start with what the paper is now we can penetrate backwards in time to a fuller understanding of its nature. We can trace the human creative process which has lead to the paper as a manifested effect. This is a simple demonstration of the concept of penetrating thought:
The oldest conceptual precursor of this paper may be the cave walls that our early ancestors used to illustrate their world. Later soft stone and clay tablets added portability to this ability to record the world. Leather and papyrus scrolls reduced weight allowing more information to be transported. Parchment and paper continued this trend while making the medium more uniform, less costly and available to be manufactured from a wide range of readily available plant materials. The uniformity of paper allowed the development of printing, widespread dispersion of printed material and in fact was the precursor of all the machines that are today used to record, manipulate and archive information. The computer that this essay is being composed on is a good example. It evolved from those cave walls. What I have described here is of course a longer term picture in the course of paper's development. We can also delve into the more recent causes of this effect that we call paper.
In order for this paper to be here now trees and other fibrous materials had to be gathered. The materials had to be processed with binders, bleaches and fillers. The finished product had to be dried, pressed, and cut. The paper then had to be packaged, shipped, stored, inventoried and sold. These operations involve packaging equipment, trucks, planes, ships, trains, warehouses, ledgers, computers, mail, telephones, publications, and stores. This paper is manifested through geochemistry, biochemistry, photosynthesis, and many other natural processes. In addition, thousands of people such as package designers, chemists, foresters, truck drivers, pilots, engineers, merchant sailors, train operators, clerks, construction workers, managers, labourers, factory workers, accountants, programmers, postal workers, writers, editors, publishers, and countless others are all part of the process and are the causes of which this simple paper is an effect. In the future when the paper has finished its life it must be discarded, recycled, composted or burned. These actions will involve countless others such as public workers, paper manufacturers, farmers and gardeners and so on in a circle of creation. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is destroyed. In its due time all material creation changes.
We now can begin to see the paper as a part of a large interconnected process encompassing the life, work and resources of tens of thousands of people across hundreds of generations and eons of evolving processes of the Earth and beyond. These are the causes, this paper is the effect. Each point in the causal pathway which has lead to the resultant paper may be followed back through time as well as forward into the future. We can penetrate the process to as detailed a picture as we may deem useful. This is how the creative process is accessed through penetrating thought.
What we are doing here is using thought processes to follow the path of cause and effect (causal pathways) through time. This mind travel through the causal pathways makes it clear that each cause and each effect is part of a process, the creative process, the process by which our world is created.
The potentials of humanity will only be fully realized when can freely enter the domain of cause and effect of the already manifested world, extracting an understanding of its causal pathways. We can then apply this knowledge to purposefully create the world that we want, the world that is yet to come.

2) Conception - The Brainchild

What is conception? It is the formulation of an idea, a spark of life. It is often assumed that concepts and ideas are inventions of specially gifted and creative minds. Those experienced, however, in wide ranging conceptualizing come to know that ideas are not the invention of a person. Rather they are the discovery of possibilities which have always existed. That is, they pre-exist in the large reservoir of all possibilities and are there to be retrieved by whoever explores the omniverse in penetrating thought. This is why in many cases, groups of people or more than one person at the same time discovers similar ideas. This occurs in part because the pathways to manifestable ideas are natural outcomes of knowable preconditions. In other words, by understanding what has gone before, we can come to understand what causes lead to what results. With this knowledge we can then project into the future and find out what results can potentially be realized from today's causes or from any result of the past. Therefore, anyone studying the same causal pathways which have already unfolded are likely to discover the same or similar future results.
Although in western culture we give ownership or exclusive rights to these discovered ideas, in fact they come from a reservoir of thought which belongs to anyone who desires to explore it. This reservoir is limitless and embodies the ideas which are a part of all manifested realities and all realities yet to come. This domain holds not only all possibilities but all impossibilities as well.
The creative process is not only about penetrating the pathways of thought which lead to conception, but also determining which thoughts and ideas are manifestable or realizable with the resources at hand. These resources are time, energy, motivation, tools and materials. If after having conceived of an idea, it is found that there is a shortage of any of these things, then we must follow the causal pathways to those levels of available time, material, resources and tools in order to zero in on the viable concept. When the necessary resources are found, what was previously “impossible” becomes “possible”.
It is heard from many sources that “ideas are a dime a dozen”, meaning that ideas themselves have little value. This is true. For an idea without the follow through of the creative process remains in the reservoir of all concepts and unmanifested. In western culture we tend to scoff at “dreamers” while at the same time romanticizing them. Yet the dreamer who actually manifests the dream becomes a hero.
The belief that ideas are a dime a dozen represents in popular thought the truth that it is not difficult to tap into the reservoir of all ideas. In fact we all do it, all the time. You might say that we cannot help but do it. However, bringing ideas to a manifested reality, demonstrating their viability in material form is something that requires greater finesse than merely dipping into the well of ideas. For every manifested reality that we see, every product, every work of art, every business, every mechanism and treatise, there are billions upon billions of others which have been conceived of by mankind and never manifested. Many of these have, no doubt been worthy of manifestation. This suggests that much of the unfulfilled potential of humanity can be realized with greater use of a conscious creative process.
How can we make more of our ability to explore the well of thought and the reservoir of ideas? We must learn to take concepts from the reservoir and bring them into being. We must use this ability to shape a world more to our liking. After penetrating the reservoir of all ideas we must choose what is viable. We must penetrate the limitless possibilities of all of Creation leading to the conception of the brainchild. We must watch over, guide and nurture it until it is able to take its place in the manifested world as a healthy and positive addition to the ongoing works of creation.
The time must come when such abilities will be taught as a part of the basic curriculum in institutions of learning. This will pave the way for a world of possibilities which now only exist in our hopes and dreams. An exciting, immensely inspiring world where the unlimited scope of possibilities is common knowledge.

3) Gestation - Reflection and the Mind's Eye

The brainchild is conceived. Now it must go through a process of gestation. In this biological metaphor gestation is the time during which the mother and child are connected in a feedback loop. The mother provides biochemical and other responses to cues from the life that grows within her. When this connection is prematurely broken the life of the child ceases. The same is true with the brainchild. However since we are talking of the process of growing a concept, we can usefully substitute the word reflection for gestation. Reflection after all is the ultimate feedback loop.
Inward reflection is deep consideration in search of direction and validation. The concept must stand up to real life conditions. To find out if it does, we draw from within on our experiences, measuring and comparing our concepts with what we believe to be true to life. We compare our ideas with those that have already been brought into being.
We can also draw upon the experience and perceptions of others by discussing the concept and then evaluating the feedback, particularly looking for responses which strike a resonance indicating a wider validation than personal experience alone can offer.
This kind of resonance is particularly applicable to issues of timing. “For everything there is a season”. A viable concept should be in its time, not too late and never ahead of its time. Unfortunate timing can cause an idea that could be “earth-shaking” in its influence to be merely a footnote. Although, if a concept is manifested in an untimely manner, that footnote may be resurrected later to new life. Leonardo da Vinci was way ahead of his time on the concept of the helicopter. It was hundreds of years before the timing was right. Now the reality of the helicopter is embedded in the annals of the creative unfolding, itself a cause of future effects.
Reflection is setting a new concept in sharp relief to the already manifested world in order to both refine the concept and to clarify the pathway to its realization. A concept arises from the reservoir of all ideas but in order to be manifested it must not remain there. Reflection is a calculating process on many levels. We are calculating the probabilities of an idea's manifestability while searching for the means to open the pathways and remove obstacles to its realization.
This is a stage of the creative process in which the ego is best put aside. What is required is not arrogance, but openness so that when the doors to the pathways of manifestation are opened, we will not miss them. Reflection is a process of dialogue, a dialogue within oneself and with others. It is organized around and based upon that spark of life which is inherent in the concept. It is a part of the process in which scrupulous self-honesty, character and integrity pay high dividends. In reflection we try to eliminate the emotional bias either for or against a concept being realized. The clearer the reflection, the more valuable insight that it holds.
We must penetrate beyond our own and other people's biases about what can or cannot be done, while realizing that these biases represent a resistance to manifestation which must not be ignored. An important part of the creative process is learning to assess the nature of these kinds of resistance and to find ways around it, over it, under it or through it. To do this, it helps to acknowledge the resistance and to know its roots.
Reflection by discussion with others has a unique value in that often the key(s) to insight come(s) up in conversation, bringing forth aspects outside the realms of previous consideration. Even seemingly irrelevant issues can contain the key that opens the door to manifestation. It is very important to be receptive to everything that is thought or said in this part of the process. The more detailed the reflection, the more valuable insight that it holds.
Reflection is both the examination of a concept and its development through new input and stimulus. Sometimes research is called for, bringing new knowledge about related subjects. As this comes in, further reflection creates a deeper and more refined picture of the possible forms a concept can take. The deeper the reflection, the more valuable insight that it holds.
The eye is a sensor for receiving light energy and transmitting its form to our cognitive centers. The mind's eye is both a receiver and transmitter which can involve itself in two way communication. The concept or idea is the focus of this communication. Ideas take form in the minds eye. We visualize the concept in a way that is constantly responsive to new input. Because these pictures are of the mind they can change, develop and evolve at the speed of light when conditions are supportive. This is why creative people describe “eureka” moments when sophisticated fully formed ideas seem to jump into the mind's eye.
This idea of the mind's eye is central to the process of reflection. We must use reflection to remove the impediments and obstacles which obscure the vision of the mind's eye. Some of these are ego, arrogance, fear and cynicism which are, in fact, variations of the same disabling doubt and negativity. These things are illusions which cloud the mind's eye. Those involved in the creative process do well to understand that it is possible for us to be the master of our illusions and that the positive illusion is more productive and certainly far more pleasant in this life than the negative one. We are free to choose the nature of our illusion. If we choose the positive illusion we are free to try to create a world more to our liking. If we choose the negative illusion we suffer and doubt the existence of a better world. This is when the first law of creativity is especially appropriate. Watch out what you want, because you're gonna get it!
The mind's eye is the womb of concept. Developing concepts are nourished by the light of inner and outer reflection.

4) Motion - The Convergence of Mind and Matter
Motion is action. Motion begins when the mental preparations of penetration, conception and reflection are at the stage where further progress demands action. Motion is the first transformation of the world of dreams and concepts into material reality. Movement in the realm of thought can be much faster than motion in the material realm. Therefore, when we transfer from thought to action the creative process may seem to slow. As a result of this slowing, this transition is often the most difficult part of the creative process. The difficulty can be partly ascribed to fear and partly to motivation. When fear is the inhibiting factor it may be fear of failure, inadequacy to the task, or insufficient mental preparation. When the inhibition is based on motivation, this notifies us that key elements in preparing for action may not yet be in place. Until we can answer the questions “why do I want to do this?”, “what do I hope to accomplish?” and “am I the one to do it?”, the motivation to engage in action may be weak.
Knowing in advance that these issues may arise at the interface of thought and action, they can be dealt with on a conscious level and not defeat the creative process.
Action is taken to affirm what has been done in the realm of thought and to expand the basis of the conception. It involves interaction with tools, resources, other people, organizations and institutions. It is a search for supporting evidence of a creation's viability. As the evidence is found it validates the concept, or becomes the basis for a more highly evolved concept.
When motion begins it carries with it, penetration, conception, and reflection. In other words, these stages of the creative process, once begun, continue to be important tools to the creator. At any place in the process, all previous stages continue to be used as a means of continuing the development of the concept.
Motion is the preliminary assembling of information upon which to base the selection of tools and human and material resources. As this proceeds, a process of assessment takes place in which some tools and resources are validated and others put aside as inappropriate, at least for now. Once assessed, however, all are mentally catalogued to be drawn upon, perhaps later at a more appropriate time. It is a serious error to become locked into an unchangeable judgment on the value of any resource. What is inappropriate today may be just the thing next week.
Entering into motion constitutes action in the material world as was said previously. This begins the research and development phase. Action in this realm comprises time, energy and material resources. These are expended to provide a material foundation for the emerging concept. Since they are finite, all efforts must be brought to bear to avoid wasting these resources. This is accomplished by a process of conscious and thoughtful engagement and careful selection of the resources that are gathered to oneself. The wasting of precious and limited resources can be the undoing of an otherwise sound concept.
Motion means to change position. Before motion commences we are at ground zero. Soaring in from the omniverse we have landed and are ready to move through the material world. In the world of thought we have been weightless and without impediments (except those of our own manufacture) and now we find our movements restricted by the limitations (also to some degree of our own manufacture) of a world in which the many players have often conflicting agendas and motivations. In this world emotion is often encountered such as fear, envy, hate, and jealousy. Motion must be pure action, uncomplicated by negative feelings (coming from ourselves or others) which hold us back by introducing doubt and sapping our determination.
Motion is action which leads to the conscious development of concepts drawn from the reservoir of ideas. This development results in the maturation of the brainchild. Remember, the purpose of motion is to allow the brainchild to grow into a refined and highly evolved entity!

5) Expansion - Development Toward Viability

Action leads to expansion of the possibilities inherent in a concept. These expanded possibilities arise out of new knowledge and perception gained through new experience. These experiences are the natural consequence of action. As this new information, experience and knowledge comes in, it enhances and modifies the concept which previous to action was purely an exercise of the mind. Action leading to expanded perception puts the concept to the test of material reality. Concepts can stray from realistically manifestable forms. The experience gained from trying things out can return the creator to the most direct pathways to manifestation. These new experiences give the concept greater weight, momentum and acceleration. The brainchild is growing. This is expansion.
To help clarify these ideas, imagine standing at the top of a snow covered hill. In your mind you conceive of a large snowball and pick up a handful of snow and shape it into a snowball. Think of this snowball as the concept. You think about the way to create the large snowball of your dreams out of this handful of snow (inner reflection). You ask all your friends about their experiences with snow and snowballs (outer reflection). Now you actually pick up some snow, shape it into a small ball and try to roll it down the hill (action). At first it is difficult to get it to roll on its own because it is small and without sufficient momentum. So give it help in the form of additional pushes (action). Gradually more and more snow will stick to the original until it has gathered to itself the critical mass which allows it to continue rolling on its own (expansion). As it does so it expands into a shape and size dictated by the temperature and consistency of the snow on the hillside (material reality) and the direction you have chosen to roll it (resulting from penetrating thought and reflection). If it's not taking the shape of that gigantic snowball of your dreams, you can change its direction, rolling it toward that patch of deeper wetter snow. As it picks up more snow (expansion) it also accelerates. This is where great care is necessary. It could become so large and unwieldy and accelerate at such a rate that you will not be able to keep up with it. And even if you can keep pace with it you might not have the strength to divert it from that large tree that it's heading for. Or even worse you might not be able to stop it from burying the town in the valley below.
But hold on! If your creation has been properly founded on penetrating thought and reflection, you will have foreseen this possibility before action was commenced. You would know the possible outcomes of rolling snowballs. You will have seen to it that the pathway of your expanding concept is one that does not threaten the destruction of itself or cause any other undesired outcome. So let's assume you are using a process of conscious creation and that you are prepared to direct the expansion phase.
Directed action is the means by which we keep the expanding concept from taking undesirable turns and forms. Later when we arrive at the point where we focus, everything that has been done to avoid the accretion of undesirable or unnecessary expansion will be rewarded by the fewer layers we then have to strip away in order to finely tune the creation.
In addition to effecting the scope and pathway of the concept, the expansion phase also widens the field on which to apply penetrating thought. Therefore, as the concept expands it simultaneously expands the pathways in the mind, leading to a refining process (education & experience) which is exponential. This mind-material feedback loop can be used to maximize a harmonious fit of the concept with the “real” world.
Everything that is gathered as the concept expands will not necessarily be used. Excess resources may have been gathered. This may seem to be wasted effort and of course skilled practitioners of the creative process will keep wasted effort to a minimum. It must be understood, however, that sufficient feedback must be gathered in order to have enough material and resources to choose from. So don't lament this surplus as waste. What is learned may well be useful in some subsequent project. On the other hand, the less efficient the process, the greater the cost in time and material. This can smother the concept in excessive expenditures. Energy, time, materials, and cash are all finite treasures that must be thoughtfully expended.
In the creative process, as in so many other aspects of life, balance is the goal, an approximation of balance will suffice and practice results in skill and efficiency.

6) Emergence - Form, Function, Focus

Eventually the analysis, research and development, planning, organizing, visualizing, and rethinking must come to an end. It is time for the concept to be born, to be manifested in the material world. For this to happen, the form and function are the guiding issues. The creator must focus on the final form that the concept is to take. The functional aspects of the concept most often determine, at least in part, the final form. Form follows function.
For many people, this stage of the creative process is the most difficult. Considerable effort may have accompanied the development of the concept giving momentum to the project which can be difficult to rein in. It is, after all, enlightening, educational, interesting and even fun to be in the process. For many artists it can seem as if the process is the art. Which is true. However, if the concept never takes form it remains in the reservoir of all ideas and is unlikely to become the cause of subsequent effects. This is what distinguishes creativity from creation. Creativity is the ability to come up with ideas. Creation, the result of the creative process we are discussing, is the ability to not only have the idea, but also bring it into being .This is what makes the creative process the science and art of change.
Taking material form is like the period at the end of the sentence. It may seem small compared to all that has lead up to it. Yet it is not necessarily an ending. It is likely to herald the beginning of a subsequent concept built upon what came before. Allowing the concept to be born in the material world is just one step in the creative process, a link in the chain, but one which links concept to concept across time. Thus the manifested concept becomes a step on the path to the future.
So allow the concept to be born. It may become an important link in the chain of creation or maybe just an interesting footnote. Either way, the rewards for the creator that come from developing the skills of the creative process will endure regardless of the life and durability of the manifested concept. In other words the skills developed while engaging in the creative process add up. The practitioner becomes skilled in the science and art of change.
That is, if he/she can master one last challenge.

7) Embrace - Acknowledgment and Acceptance

Technical issues are not the only issues we, as human beings, face. At every step of the creative process even the most optimistic individual, encounters resistance tugging at the edges of the mind. This resistance is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of the rejection of the brainchild by others. Fear of wasted time. Fear of wasted resources. Fear of disappointment. Fear of ridicule. Fear, fear and more fear.
Within the most primal reaches of ourselves is a mechanism resulting from billions of years of material evolution. It is the fear mechanism. The fear mechanism is a powerful survival tool which pushes us to instinctively flee or do battle in the face of threat or harm. It is activated by the biochemical secretion of certain substances into the nervous system. So powerful are these substances that they dominate our behaviour when activated. They have the ability to overcome limitations of physical strength or to overcome conscious action placing us in highly evolved intuitive and instinctual state. The purpose of this evolved trait is survival. But the means of its activation is no different than infusion of the system with very powerful drugs. For many people it is addictive. In essence it is an addiction to fear.
This tendency to be in a state of fear is not helpful to the creative process.
Can the problem of fear be mitigated? Let's consider that. For individuals, what percentage of the time, on average, do the events of life actually justify the “fight or flight” syndrome? One percent of experience? Five percent? Ten? Think of the minutes of an average day. How many minutes of each day are we likely to encounter situations which justify this fear mediated response? For most people, it is clear, that this justified fear response occurs only a very small percentage of the time. Yet how much of our lives do we find effected by fear which is not based on survival pressures?
If this residual fear is only an artefact of the biochemistry of our survival mechanism, can its effects be controlled? If there is a means of mitigating unwarranted fear response, how can it be accomplished so that the benefits of this time tested human response are not diminished? For in addition to being an inhibiting factor, fear is often a valid warning which we ignore at our peril.
In the creative process, fear must be brought out of the instinctive and subconscious realm and into the light of conscious awareness and reason. It then becomes a valid tool or indicator which points to insufficient preparation and unanswered questions.
Embrace is the willing acceptance of the viability of the concept - in the full acknowledgment of the doubts and fears which may pull at us. When we acknowledge these feelings they are brought into the full light of conscious awareness where their validity may be ascertained through penetrating thought and reflection. If, through this process, it becomes evident that the fear is not supported in a clear headed evaluation, we become free to embrace the concept despite initial misgivings. If, on the other hand, we find some validity at the source of our fears, then the fears are a tool, an indicator of adjustments being required in order to establish a firm foundation for the emergent brainchild.

8) Manifestation - A Life of Its Own

Manifestation is the establishment of the concept in material form. At this point the conception has matured through the application of the creative process and is an expressed reality which now can have a life of its own. Other people can see it, know it, evaluate it and adapt it. It now has become a potential cause of future effects. The creator(s) may or may not continue to be involved in its evolution to an even more highly refined creation. Nonetheless, whether through the efforts of its originators or by a new person or group interested in its potential, further refinements and new forms may result from an ongoing application of all phases of the creative process.
Just as the first person to carve signs and symbols into a slab of stone or clay tablet was the progenitor to a host of subsequent creations such as papyrus scrolls, paper and even computers, so all creations contain within themselves, the seeds of their descendants.
This continuing development of a manifested concept becomes possible as soon as even one person sees previously unexpressed potential in the creation. It now becomes suggestive of future creations, future effects. Once this potential is acted upon, the creation can become embedded in human culture and experience. If we look around us, we can see thousands of examples of this evolutionary force at work. As a mental exercise we can create a family tree of objects, technologies, philosophies and even purely artful expressions.
We sit atop a massive pinnacle of creation. Just as we are free to draw upon as much of it as we can know, so will others in the future utilize the foundations that we now build. It is clear that we ourselves are embedded in a creative human process started long ago and one which stretches unlimited into the future. Since the fate of the world as we know it as well as the existence of the human race seems to hinge upon what we create, it is incumbent upon us to concentrate our efforts in order to create rich, thoughtful and refined expressions as our own contribution to the evolving fate of humanity.

Small, green and local

Heidelberg, 20 September 2007

Power switch

Study says the best energy strategies to meet the world’s growing demand for electricity are green, small and local

The wisest energy strategy for the United States, and indeed other countries facing similar challenges, is to move away from their reliance on large-scale centralized coal and nuclear plants, and instead, invest in renewable energy systems and small scale decentralized generation technologies. According to Benjamin Sovacool from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, these alternative technologies are simultaneously feasible, affordable, environmentally friendly, reliable and secure. His analysis (1) and recommendations are published in Springer’s journal Policy Sciences.

The electricity sector as it currently operates is at the mercy of natural disasters, price fluctuations, terrorist attacks and blackouts. Coupled with other, more long-standing problems such as increasing levels of pollution, growing vulnerability and inefficiency of transmission and distribution networks, and rising electricity prices related to disruptions and interruptions in fuel supply, these challenges add to the need for an evaluation of alternative energy technologies.

Sovacool studies in detail the current technological composition of, and challenges faced by, the American electric utility industry. He then evaluates the broad portfolio of energy technologies available to American electricity policy makers, against five criteria: technical feasibility, cost, negative externalities (or impact on human health and the environment), reliability and security.

Sovacool’s detailed analysis shows that three other sets of technologies – energy efficiency practices (like more efficient appliances), renewable energy systems (such as generators that create electricity from sunlight, wind, and falling water), and small-scale distributed generation technologies (such as generators that produce decentralized and modular power close to its point of consumption) – appear to offer many advantages over large and centralized nuclear and fossil fueled generators.

Sovacool’s paper shows how these alternative approaches can offer policy makers solutions to curb electricity demand, minimize the risk of fuel interruptions and shortages, help improve the fragile transmission network, and reduce environmental harm. He concludes that “it is these miniature generators – not mammoth and capital-intensive nuclear and fossil fuel plants – that offer the best strategy for diversifying electrical generation in a competitive energy environment.”

1. Sovacool BK (2007). Coal and nuclear technologies: creating a false dichotomy for American energy policy. Policy Sciences; 40:101-122 (DOI 10.1007/s11077-007-9038-7).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Oil wars vs. Natural Prosperity

No War, No Warming, Rise Up!
By Ted Glick
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Wednesday 19 September 2007

For months a movement has been developing that consciously and intentionally links the related issues of the war in Iraq and the heating up of the earth that is disrupting the world's climate. On Monday morning, October 22, in Washington, DC, on Capitol Hill and elsewhere around the country, that movement will become visible as large numbers of people engage in nonviolent direct action to disrupt business as usual. We will be calling for an end to this criminal war and strong action to slow, stop and reverse global warming.

These issues are connected, of course, by oil. Everyone who's got their head screwed on straight knows that the reason for the invasion of Iraq was oil. The US government is occupying Iraq both for its oil and to try to turn it into a US-friendly military base from which it can better control the entire region.

Why? It's not just because Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz and the neocons are motivated by we're-the-rulers-of-the-world ideology. There is actually a perverse logic to what they're doing, particularly given their personal connections to the oil industry.

The US and the world are in a deepening energy crisis. Easily accessible oil and natural gas are getting hard to find, even as the demand for and competition over energy throughout the world accelerate. There is agreement among those who study this issue that we are either right at or very soon will be at "peak oil," a point where as much oil will have been found and used as there is oil still remaining in the ground. And the big problem is that those remaining reserves are getting harder and more expensive to bring out of the ground.

There is a common sense solution to this dilemma. Instead of war in Iraq escalating into war with Iran and who knows where else, the US could lead the world by using its technological know-how and resources to advance a worldwide clean-energy revolution. We could rapidly undercut the appeal of al-Qaeda by withdrawing our troops from the Middle East and promoting, instead, huge solar energy farms in this sun-drenched region of the world. We could help the formerly colonized countries of the Global South who are currently developing their economies by using greenhouse gas emitting coal or dangerous nuclear power. We could help them shift to renewable energy technology to obtain energy via solar panels, wind turbines, the tides or the earth (geothermal).

What kind of world do we face if we don't stand up, if we don't rise up to demand a serious course correction?

A report was put out this spring by the CNA Corporation, a national security think tank, written by six retired admirals and five retired generals, including the former Army chief of staff and George W. Bush's former chief Middle East peace negotiator. In it, in the words of an Associated Press story, they "called upon the US government to make major cuts in emissions of gases that cause global warming."

The report warned that in the next 30 to 40 years there will be wars over water, increased hunger, instability from worsening disease and rising sea levels and global warming-induced refugees. "The chaos that results can be an incubator of civil strife, genocide and the growth of terrorism," the 35-page report predicted.

"Climate change exacerbates already unstable situations," former US Army Chief of Staff Gordon Sullivan told Associated Press Radio.

In a veiled reference to Bush's refusal to join an international treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the report said the US government "must become a more constructive partner" with other nations to fight global warming and cope with its consequences.

The options before us are crystal clear. Down one road, the one we're now on, lies a cascading series of oil and water wars, climate disasters and ecological devastation. Down the other lies a turn toward peaceful resolution of conflicts, energy conservation, efficiency and a clean energy revolution, and social and economic justice.

Another world is possible, but for it to come about another US is necessary, in the words of the recent US Social Forum. It's a world worth fighting for, a world worth sacrificing for. Our children and their children are counting on us to do the right thing, and to do it now. The clock is ticking, and we need to act as if the future of human society depends upon what we do, because it really does.


Ted Glick is a primary organizer of the October 22 nonviolent civil disobedience action on Capitol Hill ( and is currently on an open-ended Climate Emergency Fast ( He can be reached at

Friday, September 14, 2007

Lock up carbon

Simpler Way To Counter Global Warming Explained: Lock Up Carbon In Soil And Use Bioenergy Exhaust Gases For Energy

Science Daily — Writing in the journal Nature, a Cornell biogeochemist describes an economical and efficient way to help offset global warming: Pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by charring, or partially burning, trees, grasses or crop residues without the use of oxygen.

When bioenergy is produced by pyrolysis (low-temperature burning without oxygen), it produces biochar, which has twice as much carbon in its residue than that from other sources. This makes bioenergy carbon-negative and improves soil health. (Credit: Image courtesy of Cornell University)

When bioenergy is produced by pyrolysis (low-temperature burning without oxygen), it produces biochar, which has twice as much carbon in its residue than that from other sources. This makes bioenergy carbon-negative and improves soil health.

This process, he writes, would double the carbon concentration in the residue, which could be returned to the soil as a carbon sink. The exhaust gases from this process and other biofuel production could then be converted into energy.

This so-called biochar sequestration could offset about 10 percent of the annual U.S. fossil-fuel emissions in any of several scenarios, says Johannes Lehmann, associate professor of soil biogeochemistry in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Cornell.

"Biochar sequestration, combined with bioenergy production, does not require a fundamental scientific advance, and the underlying production technology is robust, clean and simple, making it appropriate for many regions of the world," said Lehmann. "It not only reduces emissions but also sequesters carbon, making it an attractive target for energy subsidies and for inclusion in the global carbon market."

Most plants pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and lock it up in their biomass or in soil organic matter. But taking this a step further, Lehmann recommends heating the plant biomass without oxygen in a process known as low-temperature pyrolysis. When returned to the soil, biochar creates a stable, long-term carbon sink.

"Biochar also has been shown to improve the structure and fertility of soils, to enhance the retention and efficiency of fertilizers as well as to improve the productivity of soil," said Lehmann.

Capturing the exhaust gases from the pyrolysis process produces energy in such forms as heat, electricity, bio-oil or hydrogen. By adding the biochar to soil rather than burning it as an energy source (which most companies do), bioenergy can be turned into a carbon-negative industry. Biochar returned to soil not only secures soil health on bioenergy plantations but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 12 to 84 percent.

Compared with ethanol production, pyrolysis that produces biochar and bioenergy from its exhaust gases is much less expensive, Lehmann said, when the feedstock is animal waste, clean municipal waste or forest residues collected for fire prevention.

Lehmann said that as the value of carbon dioxide increases on carbon markets, "we calculate that biochar sequestration in conjunction with bioenergy from pyrolysis becomes economically attractive when the value of avoided carbon dioxide emissions reaches $37 per ton." Currently, the Chicago Climate Exchange is trading carbon dioxide at $4 a ton; it is projected that that the price will rise to $25-$85 a ton in the coming years.

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by Cornell University.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Diamonds and hydrogen storage

Diamond By-product Of Hydrogen Production And Storage Method

There may not be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but there appears to be nanocrystalline diamonds at the end of a process to produce and store hydrogen using anthracite coal.

"The idea we explored was based on ball milling graphite processes found in the hydrogen storage literature," said Angela D. Lueking, assistant professor of energy and geoenvironmental engineering. "We substituted anthracite coal for graphite because it is abundant and inexpensive. Now, with 20/20 hindsight, we are struck by the fact that coal gasification is currently the most economical way to produce hydrogen."

Interest in hydrogen as a vehicular fuel has many researchers investigating ways to create hydrogen inexpensively; other researchers are looking at ways to transport and store hydrogen in a safe manner. Lueking's group was exploring a way to store hydrogen in carbon-based materials, and inadvertently stumbled upon a method that combines production and storage and produces nanocrystalline diamonds as a by-product.

Lueking and colleagues, who included Humberto R. Gutierrez, post doctoral fellow in physics; Dania A Fonseca, post doctoral fellow in the Penn State Energy Institute; Deepa L. Narayanan, Dirk Van Essendelft and Puja Jain, graduate students in energy and geoenvironmental engineering and Caroline E. B. Clifford, research associate, Energy Institute, ball milled powdered anthracite coal with cyclohexene. Ball milling involves mixing a slurry of anthracite powder and cyclohexene with small steel balls and mixing so that the steel balls pound the coal particles and the cyclohexene causing physical and chemical changes. The researchers reported their results in a recent online issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

"Ball milling imparts a lot of energy to the slurry," said Lueking. "There is high pressure and temperature in every impact of the balls on the slurry, but we do not really understand the structural changes in the carbon that occur in the process."

Lueking is puzzled because, unlike the graphite experiments, her anthracite experiment has hydrogen gas evolving from the mixture at room temperature. The hydrogen is either trapped in the material in a tight pore structure or a new carbon structure is being formed. The hydrogen outgassing continued for about a year and increased with addition of moderate heat.

"At first we thought the mass spectrograph was broken because hydrogen was just coming off," said Lueking. "We tried another mass spec and the same thing happened."

Wanting to know the structure of the ball milled product, and looking for carbon nanotubes, the researchers used transmission electron microscopy to investigate the small particles.

"When Gutierrez asked, 'do you know you have diamonds here?' our answer was no – we were not expecting to make diamonds," Lueking said.

What the researchers had were Bucky diamonds, a nanocrystalline diamond surrounded by onion–like layers of graphite. Diamonds are a natural form of pure carbon, but with a differing molecular structure than graphite or the graphite-like coal.

"Bucky diamonds are relatively unexplored in terms of applications," said Lueking. "Nanocrystalline diamonds, however, have major industrial uses as abrasives and in electronics. These nanodiamonds are usually created by exploding TNT in a carbon source."

The ball milling process seems a simpler and gentler way of creating nanodiamonds and especially Bucky diamonds and Lueking's team hopes that once they understand how they are forming, they can increase the yield of diamonds in the process.

"At this point, we have not isolated the step that is forming the diamond," says the Penn State researcher. "The crystallization may be hydrogen-induced, it may be a result of the high temperatures and pressures within the mill, it may be a result of the processing we have done to purify the samples for transmission electron microscopy, or, it may be a combination of all of the above."

Lueking and her colleagues currently have a variety of experiments underway including looking at anthracite coal from different mines, looking at different hydrogenating compounds and trying to understand the mechanics of ball milling, the evolution of the hydrogen gas and the formation of the nanocrystalline diamonds and Bucky diamonds.

Penn State's Consortium for Premium Carbon Products from Coal funded this research.

Solar Powered Live-aboard Catamaran

Business Proposal
Seeking Investors

Jonathan R. Cole, MBA
Light On The Earth Systems
Honokaa, Hawaii 96727
Tel. 808 775-9145 Cell/Mobile: 808 640-0127

In 1982, Jonathan Cole founded Light On The Earth Systems to develop products that integrate many renewable energy and electronic technologies to provide a high standard of living with a low impact way of life. “Light on the earth” means little or no pollution and durable products that minimize resource depletion, and at the same time maintain user-friendliness, affordable costs and profitability. These are the kind of products necessary for a healthy society and economy.

In 1996, Mr. Cole began a process of development of a new product category, the Solar Powered Live-aboard Catamaran, which integrates the high technologies of solar energy, electronics, and multi-hull luxury boats. At that time it was becoming clear that the combination of these technologies would enable the creation of products that were never before possible. Our live-aboard boat will be capable of generating all of its energy needs including power for propelling the vessel. This new crossover category of pleasure craft is designed for utilization as a waterfront apartment, as a resort unit, and as a vessel for recreationally exploring the marine environment, safely and without noise, fumes or any pollution, whatsoever. Mr. Cole, having 29 years experience with solar energy technology, has lived in solar powered homes of his own design for many years and has been developing solar products and product concepts since 1984.

Since 1996, Mr. Cole has committed hundreds of thousands of dollars of resources for research and with the assistance of other experts from around the world has developed the engineering proof-of-concept. Now with the outcomes of global warming, and the rapid growth of solar energy products getting increasing attention, the time is right for the manufacture and marketing of this product.

All technical aspects have already been demonstrated so there is no new technology involved. (In 2007 a solar powered catamaran of similar size to our design, successfully crossed the Atlantic at speeds rivaling sailing yachts. and a solar powered catamaran designed by a New Zealander is now circumnavigating the world. ) Our product integrates leading edge, currently existing, mass-produced technology in ways that will yield intellectual property and a successful, durable product. Manufacture of the hulls and cabin components can take place anywhere in the world where the manufacturing expertise and cost factors yield the best value. These components can then be shipped via containers to assembly points world-wide. Local boat-building firms will be contracted to assemble these craft for the end-user.

Requiring a careful engineering analysis, and a business strategy to allow the opening of world-wide markets, a concept has been developed which now has the necessary engineering and manufacturing personnel identified to begin to carry out the business plan. An investment commitment of $10 million is sought. Yielding as much as ten-fold return on investment over five years and up to fifty-fold return over ten years, this business venture will profit from what will likely be the largest product category of the twenty-first century – renewable energy products.

Interested investors may contact Mr. Cole directly.

Executive Summary

The Concept:
A Solar Powered Live-aboard Catamaran

• The ultimate luxurious live-aboard boat designed for low maintenance, total reliability and minimal operating costs.
• Utilizing the most efficient hull-forms to conserve energy allows 50-100 mile daily range at 10 miles per hour.
• Completely powered by renewable energy utilizing photovoltaics, wind, regenerative braking and water current generators
• 16 meters (52.5 feet) long, 7.5 meters (24.6 feet) wide
• 100 square meters (1000 square feet) of living space
• Power system is comprised of a 15 kW Photovoltaic (solar-electric) array, 1500 watts of wind generation, with 30 KwHr of battery storage and two 9.2 kW electric drives.
• Solar hot water, water collection and solar distillation.
• Air-conditioned; all electronics including large screen entertainment system; 5 screen CCTV for total vision of exterior allowing the boat to be piloted by one person; all modern appliances showcasing energy efficiency and conservation; waterless toilets; hydrogen on demand for cooking.
• Designed to be shipped in parts by container and assembled at local boatyards.
• The ultimate houseboat for use in shoreline cruises, inland waterways and short blue water crossings.

Financial objectives
• Estimated sales: 10,000 boats over ten years
• Estimated manufacturing cost per boat: $250,000
• Estimated shipping and assembly cost per boat: $40,000
• Estimated sales price: $500,000
• Estimated reinvestment from earnings over 10 years: $100,000,000
• Estimated 10 year profit before taxes: $2,000,000,000
• Estimated 5 year return of initial $10 million investment

Renewable Energy: Not Just Another Bubble

September 13, 2007
Renewable Energy: Not Just Another Investment Bubble
by Mark Braly, Contributing Writer
Davis, California []

Renewable energies and demand-side technologies have become the third largest investment class for venture capitalists (VC) in the U.S. This was just one of the messages heard by the more than 700 investors and entrepreneurs who convened on the campus of the University of California Davis this week for a three-day conference that showcased the newest in clean energy technologies.

"We have got to be smart about not replacing the old bad guys -- oil and coal -- with new bad guys. If you provide the right incentives you'll find the guys who will cut down all the trees for ethanol."

-- Ray Lane of Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield, and Byers
The event, which ran Sept. 10-12, kicked off with a panel of Silicon Valley venture capitalists in a session entitled "The Green Energy of Tomorrow." The panel agreed that VC pros have expanded their notoriously short exit horizon to as much as seven years in recognition of the complications of getting these green technologies to large scale markets—and not looking for the overnight turn-arounds of the internet bubble era.

It was also apparent that personal concern about global warming was driving a new kind of due diligence among venture investors.

"We have crossed a threshold where we can talk about this differently," said Bill Green of Vantage Point Partners. "Up to now we [the U.S.] have been brain dead, which you know if you've ever traveled in Europe."

"We have got to be smart about not replacing the old bad guys—oil and coal—with new bad guys," cautioned Ray Lane of Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield, and Byers. "If you provide the right incentives you'll find the guys who will cut down all the trees for ethanol."

Samir Kaul of Khosla Ventures said that incentives from the government will be important in the early stage of a clean tech start up, but that $40 to $45 a barrel oil allows a range of technologies to be competitive with oil. (Oil is now hovering at a record $78.)

In addition to sessions, presentations and high-level debates, organizers of Going Green 2007—Always On and KPMG—announced the top 100 green start ups in categories ranging from solar to bioenergy. Over 3,000 companies were nominated by a survey of investors, and the winners were selected by a panel of venture capitalists.

Packy Kelly, who heads KPMG's venture practice in Silicon Valley, said that the companies were judged on the basis of novelty of idea, size of market, value created for investors, potential impact on environment and communities, and media buzz.

Despite the west coast tilt of the winners, the number one company was Grid Point Inc. of Washington, D.C. Grid Point's president and CEO Peter L. Corsell said the company's energy management systems can make "negawatts" (energy efficiency) and distributed energy sources, such as photovoltaics, an integral part of a utility's assets.

Thus, the company is working with utilities, such as Duke Energy, in pilot projects around the country. Distributed energy sources, storage and management could replace costly, dirty peaking generating plants with utility operating rooms able to call up these resources when needed. Meaning a major objection of utility grids to distributed energy sources could be resolved.

A survey of attendees conducted prior to the "GoingGreen 2007" conference showed that three quarters expected to see an increase in funding for greentech in the coming 12 months. Nearly half of those surveyed feel that this will be a sustained investment cycle, not another investment bubble.

According to KPMG's Kelly, when asked where the funding would flow, 75% of those surveyed felt that one area of the U.S. would see a substantial increase, with the western U.S., particularly California, noted most often. Outside the U.S., 57% see the increase focused on a particular region. China, India and southeast Asia were considered the most likely destination for future greentech funding.

Clean Energy: It's All About Scale

August 8, 2007;jsessionid=35752DBA7A50C5ED8EB0F839FA0A06ED?id=49570
Clean Energy: It's All About Scale
by Ron Pernick

The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) likes to say that we are in Phase II of renewable energy development. In this worldview, the past 30 years were about developing core clean-energy technologies, and the next couple of decades will be about focusing the nation's efforts on putting (as ACORE says on its web site) "these new technologies to use in our society, with benefits for energy supply, national security, economic growth, investment, jobs, a cleaner environment, reduced risk of climate change, and improved health."

As I look out over the next 5-10 years I'm confident that the most important development in the clean-energy sector will be the scaling of manufacturing, systems integration, and equally important, technology deployment. Millions of jobs and billions of dollars will be generated in the process if policymakers, investors, corporations, and innovators get this right.

I couldn't agree more. We are moving into the next stage of clean-energy technical, financial, and policy development. And I believe it will be all about scaling up.

Clean energy is moving so far beyond the "alternative" moniker that many regions and states are now targeting 20 percent or more of their energy from clean-energy sources within the next decade or two—representing more electricity generating capacity than natural gas in many regions. Even China is targeting significant amounts of renewable energy. China's Renewable Energy Law is targeting 120 GW of new renewable energy generation capacity by 2015 (representing three times the amount of nuclear power currently on the drawing boards).

So, will clean energy technologies like solar, wind, and biofuels and its efficiency brethren like green buildings, light emitting diodes (LEDs), and the smart grid be the dominant form of global energy generation (and conservation) by 2020? Perhaps not. But will they represent the highest growth and innovation opportunity in the energy sector and double-digit chunks of our energy infrastructure? Absolutely!

Just look at the numbers to put this "scale up" in perspective. Back in 2003 the solar industry was valued at less than U.S. $5 billion globally with around 600 MW of solar manufactured worldwide. By 2006 that number had approached U.S. $16 billion with more than 2 GW of solar manufactured globally. Now, companies like German-based SolarWorld are announcing plans for 500 MW solar manufacturing facilities (in the U.S. nonetheless)—nearly equal in size to the total global manufacturing output (among all manufacturers) just five years ago.

Wind power, which in 2003 represented just 8,000 MW worldwide of new installed generation capacity, nearly doubled to more than 15,000 MW in 2006. Just last month T. Boones Pickens announced plans for a 4,000 MW wind power plant—that's equal to the total annual global install less than a decade ago. FPL recently announced that it will develop 10,000 MW of new wind power projects between now and 2012.

What will this inevitable scale-up mean to the industry? Well, we're certain to see increased M&A activity as multinationals with clean-energy interests like ADM, Applied Materials, FPL, GE, Honda, Sharp, and Toyota work to maintain or build their leadership positions. And of course, we'll see a slew of public offerings. In just the past year such companies as First Solar, Comverge, and Enernoc have gone public-with many other companies waiting in the wings. And performance for the sector hasn't been bad.

Between the beginning of the year and the end of July the NASDAQ Clean Edge U.S. Liquid Series index (CELS), a benchmark index designed by Clean Edge and NASDAQ®, was up more than 30 percent.

I firmly believe that scaling up manufacturing and driving down costs is not a luxury for the clean-energy sector—but a necessity. Wind, after 30 years of significant gains is now cost competitive in most markets in the world with limited subsidies.

Solar, while still 2-3 times more expensive than most of its energy competitors on a pure cost basis, can compete economically at the retail level in many markets when modules and systems integration are packaged with government incentives and financing schemes. As installed solar system pricing reaches $3.50 per peak watt in the next five years or so—we'll see solar competing in most utility markets without the need for significant subsidies.

As I look out over the next 5-10 years I'm confident that the most important development in the clean-energy sector will be the scaling of manufacturing, systems integration, and equally important, technology deployment. Millions of jobs and billions of dollars will be generated in the process if policymakers, investors, corporations, and innovators get this right.

It won't be easy. Many core technologies, like solar cells and wind turbines and LEDs, will become commodities—making the business proposition more difficult for players that don't innovate and capture a larger portion of the value chain. But it represents the natural "growing up" of the clean-energy sector. And, as we move into this next stage of clean-tech development, the economy will be sustainably transformed in the process.

Welcome to Phase II!