Tunnels everywhere!

First a train tunnel between Africa and Europe, now the Russians want to build the long-dreamt-of tunnel between Russia and Alaska. The tunnel would theoretically carry natural gas, oil, electricity, and fiber-optic wires. The more and better tunnels we have for rail, the more competitive rail will be with less efficient transport systems like air travel. This is better for energy efficiency and therefore the environment. This project still has a lot of problems -- it's not like there's a lot of spare rail up above the Arctic Circle, necessitating lots of construction -- but I'm sure Ted Stevens is already salivating.

Material intensity

Indirect greenhouse-gas savings

(Part of the No Sweat Solutions series.) Previously I pointed out that efficiency, doing more with less, is a key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (A lot of people on Gristmill are fans of conservation, doing less with less. I have nothing against this, so long as it is a voluntary choice, but I won't be spending a lot of time on it.) Normally, when people think of efficiency they think of direct savings -- insulating homes, electric cars, and so on. That is: make the same sort of goods we make now, but more cleverly, so they require fewer inputs to operate. And that is an extremely important kind of efficiency. But Amory Lovins and Wolfgang Feist pointed out long ago that there is another kind of efficiency. Instead of looking at how to provide the same goods, look at what those goods do for us, and see if there is another way to provide the same service. For example, it remains essential to start making steel, cement, and mill timber more efficiently.

We Just Ran This Story So We Could Say “Chunnel”

Eurostar will reduce emissions, offset the rest Of trains, planes, and automobiles, locomotives already have the best rep for carbon emissions — but one operator is on track to boost the bar higher. Eurostar, which shuttles commuters under the English Channel, plans to reduce CO2 emissions 25 percent per traveler by 2012. Without raising prices, the company will choo-choose lower-emission electrical generators, electronic tickets, recycled uniforms, local food, and efficient lighting, heating, and air conditioning. It also hopes to fill more empty seats, which probably won’t require blow-up dolls; passenger numbers are up 5.4 percent from a year ago. Starting …


A couple

Here are two lists, for those of you into that kind of thing: First, Sustainlane — which seems to produce a list every few weeks, no? — has a list of the Top Ten Cities for Renewable Energy. That’s the cities that provide citizens with the most green power. They are: 1. Oakland, CA 2. Sacramento/SF/San Jose, CA (tie) 3. Portland, OR 4. Boston, MA 5. San Diego, CA 6. Austin, TX 7. Los Angeles, CA 8. Minneapolis, MN 9. Seattle, WA 10. Chicago, IL Oakland, huh? Maybe Van‘s doing something right. Read the whole thing for details. Second, from …

Smart grid baby steps: smart meters (metres?) in the U.K.

Helping homeowners monitor electricity use

One piece of the smart-grid puzzle is home electricity monitoring — allowing homeowners (and eventually business and factory owners) to track their electricity use in real time. As the old saw goes, what gets measured gets done. Simply making people aware of energy flows is the first step to helping them modulate those flows efficiently. On that note, it’s fantastic to see this: soon, every household in the U.K. will be able to request a smart meter and have it installed for free. The next step, of course, is giving homeowners more automated control. One part of that is smart, …

On efficiency

There’s more room than you think

(Part of the No Sweat Solutions series.) As almost everyone who studies the subject concludes, one key to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions is efficiency. Renewable sources generally provide energy at a slightly higher market price than fossil fuels. Oh, there are exceptions: passive solar heating, wind electricity, biofuel from waste. But overall, if we get all our energy from low-emitting sources, we will spend more overall per BTU. If we can use those BTUs efficiently, our overall energy bill can be the same or lower.