The December Issue of EARTH Magazine is now on newsstands and inside you’ll find the latest article I wrote with Michael Webber entitled, A Tale of Two States: Offshore Wind in Texas and the Curious Case of Massachusetts. Our piece explores the ways that development of offshore technology has progressed in Massachusetts and Texas– two states with very different perspectives on energy. Here’s a short excerpt:
Offshore wind projects are particularly attractive because coastal wind tends to blow more reliably than onshore winds, especially in times of greater demand, such as hot summer afternoons. In addition, a significant fraction of the U.S. population lives near the coasts, so coastal wind farms are close to demand centers, obviating the need for transmission lines that are hundreds or thousands of kilometers long. Ideal conditions involve relatively shallow water, low wave heights and high-speed winds. Development has been rapid, but not uniform because each state must work within its own governance framework to establish the institutions to support them.
It’s an interesting comparison and the graphics in EARTH Magazine are great. I’ll also link to the full article when it becomes available online.
You may remember a recent article that Michael Webber and I composed for New Scientist regarding the energy we lose embedded in food waste. Turns out that Michael’s related interview as well as our piece inspired Neil Wagner‘s latest Science Friday comic strip!
Earlier this week I wrote about Jonathan Bloom’s new book American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half Of Its Food (and what we can do about it). On a related note, this afternoon my wonderful and brilliant colleague Michael Webber will be on Science Friday to discuss the energy lost in the food we waste (yes, the very same topic we wrote about in New Scientist). Today’s episode is broadly entitled “Healthy Eating:”
Only 26 percent of the nation’s adults eat vegetables three or more times a day, according to a recent report from the CDC. At the same time, the USDA estimates that Americans waste 27% of their food — the energy equivalent of ~350 million barrels of oil a year. In this segment, we’ll look at our eating habits, and why they can be hard to change.
Walter Willett, Chairman of the Nutrition Department at Harvard’s School of Public Health will be on as well.
Between one-quarter and one-third of the food produced in the U.S. gets wasted. Why care? A new analysis by my colleagues Amanda Cuellar and Michael Webber at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at UT found that the energy embedded in wasted food accounts for at least 2 percent of our national energy budget. This week’s New Scientist features an Op-Ed I composed with Michael about wasting less to conserve more. We begin:
IT IS no secret that meeting the world’s growing energy demands will be difficult. So far, most of the focus has been on finding oil in areas that are ever more difficult to access – think BP’s Deepwater Horizon well – bringing new fossil fuels such as tar sands online and increasing energy efficiency.
Yet we have been overlooking an easier way. We could save an enormous amount of energy by tackling the huge problem of food waste. Doing so is likely to be quicker than many of the other options on the table, while also saving money and reducing emissions.
The energy footprint of food is enormous. Consider the US, where just 5 per cent of the global population consumes one-fifth of the world’s energy. Around 15 per cent of the energy used in the US is swallowed up by food production and distribution.
Global energy consumption is projected to increase by close to 50 per cent between 2006 and 2030. That makes reducing our dependency on fossil fuels even more challenging.
Tackling food waste should be added to the toolbox of policy options because its relative impact is on the same scale as more popular measures such as biofuel production and offshore drilling. Although we will never eliminate food waste completely, we can assuredly create the means to discard less by coming up with the right incentives for producers and consumers.
Read on at New Scientist…
I contend that what really separates humans from all the other species is that we are the only ones to manipulate energy. The First Law of Thermodynamics tells us that energy has many forms (for example, chemical, thermal, kinetic, electrical, atomic, radiant) and that we can convert from one form to another. And though all species benefit from the natural conversion of radiant energy (for example, sunlight) into chemical energy (derived from, for example, photosynthesis), humans are the only species that will specifically manipulate energy from one form to another — for example converting chemical energy (fuels) to thermal energy (heat) or mechanical energy (motion).
And, thus, a new definition of humanity is born: Humans intentionally manipulate energy.
With this in mind, Webber argues that we ought to accept responsibility for its negative effects. In other words, his definition implores us to be better stewards of this pale blue dot. It’s a perspective I like very much. Go read the full article here.
As regular Intersection readers know, I’ve long been interested in energy. Today I’m flying to Texas to join Michael Webber’s three day energy technology and policy course at UTAustin. Here is the description:
Dr. Michael Webber, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Associate Director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin, will share his insights and candid views about the best and worst of US energy practice. His fast-paced and information-packed lectures will include real-world examples, entertaining anecdotes, engineering fundamentals, historical perspectives, and an outlook for the future of energy. This crash course is perfect for people who want an energy credential or a graduate class in energy, but only have a few days to spare.
With lectures covering transportation, biofuels, climate, security, and food, I can’t wait. So expect some energy related posts this week as I have time to blog.