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The COVID-19 pandemic holds lots of lessons for addressing the climate change challenge.  I’ll tackle the knottiest set of lessons — those concerning differing global responses, U.S. partisan cleavages, the psychology of risk and individual choice, and the ethics — in an upcoming post.

For now, I will simply set out a list of ten major impacts which the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the climate change mitigation effort.  Four negative, four positive, and two ‘the jury is out.’

FOUR NEGATIVE IMPACTS

 

POACHING, LOGGING & PROTECTED AREAS LOSS

The impacts of COVID-19 — reducing mobility, leading to job cuts, and diverting world attention — have made the work of guarding against poaching, illegal logging and other threats to protected areas much more difficult to accomplish. Endangered specie and protected areas are suffering as a direct consequence.  Possibly, enhanced satellite surveillance and monitoring may be put to greater use in the future to help deal with this problem.

 

SUSTAINABLE TOURISM

The Travel & Leisure Industry has been perhaps the single most hard-hit industry sector as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  As a new start-up, the Sustainable Tourism sub-sector has felt this impact particularly hard.  Many Sustainable Tourism operations are in underdeveloped or developing countries and run by local cooperatives which don’t have access to capital resources to sustain them.

 

CIRCULAR ECONOMY & WASTE MANAGEMENT

Circular economy refers to design solutions that repurpose waste from every point in a system so that is can be reused, optimizing the system from an efficiency and sustainability standpoint. Factories and entire cities are working to implement circular economies.  The logistics of waste management is a key link.  As you’ll know post-COVID if you’ve tried to recycle plastic bags at your market, that link in the cycle is currently broken.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION MOBILIZATION

Humans are hard-wired for connectivity and, while online methods of mobilization allow for greater efficiency and scale, they lack the impact of people gathering together … both from the standpoint of the participants and the observers of the activity.  Countless environmental action events have now been cancelled due to COVID-19.  Even the COP26 meeting to review progress on the Paris Accord has been postponed a year.

 

 

FOUR POSITIVE IMPACTS

 

REGENERATIVE URBAN GARDENS

Along with baking and at-home yoga, urban gardening is one of the activities which has seen a huge spike since COVID-19 forced us to stay closer to home.  This is a hugely positive development since urban gardens have shown — through programs such as the Philadelphia Horticultural Societies Growers Alliance — that they transform neighborhoods. Food deserts become locales with healthy food while improving the quality of the air.

 

15 MINUTE CITY CONCEPT

As  Financial Times and Treehugger have described, the 15-Minute City concept is “having a moment” thanks to COVID-19.  Developed by Professor Carlos Moreno at the Sorbonne in Paris and based on the Lazaretto model developed in Milan during a 16th c. plague, the 15 Minute City plan is to “offer services and quality of life within the space of 15 minutes on foot from home,” the same time a commuter might have waited on the platform for a train.

 

MORE INCLUSIVE LOCAL CLIMATE ACTION PLANS

Among the many things which the COVID-19 pandemic has made painfully obvious is that fact that certain disadvantaged and at-risk communities take a disproportionately heavy hit.  One bright side from this realization is that Sustainability Offices throughout the country are dusting off their city’s Climate Action Plan and reimagining them with a more inclusive vision.  I don’t know if this effort is yet underway in Philadelphia but it should be.

 

IMPACT ON SOCIAL IMPACT INVESTING

COVID-19 initially had a disruptive effect on social impact investing, but that disruption has been overcome.  Perhaps because the pandemic has highlighted vulnerabilities in our maximally-efficient economy (and maximally-stressed work-lives) ideas and innovations for more balance and resiliency in work- and life-styles are popping up.  Social impact investing is watering the growth of those new ideas.

 

TWO ‘THE JURY IS STILL OUT’ IMPACTS

 

AIR QUALITY

The shutdown of economic activity and drastic reduction in the use of fossil fuels has of course led to a short-term amelioration in air quality, as the twin maps of China clearly shows.  But the jury is out on the critical question of what will happen as activity resumes.  Will economic pressure cause backsliding to abundant and cheap carbon fuels or will the Resiliency Lesson from our experience from the pandemic be learned?  We know that areas with worse air quality suffered more from the virus.

 

INFLECTION POINT – YES OR NO?

We can enlarge the air quality question to the environment as a whole.  Our efforts now to revive economic activity can either be rote or be reimagined.  There are lessons which the pandemic has taught us about our interdependence and about what is most important in our lives.  Will we apply what we have learned to recharging our economy in ways that are more resilient and regenerative or will be fall back on old habits? The answer will reverberate across coming generations.

 

These last two impacts are complex, still-evolving and extremely important.  I will return to each in a future post.

For now, stay safe, healthy and involved.

 

 

The summer’s over and the new work-year has begun. No better way to kick it off than with a reprise of our summer’s big news — China Partnership of Greater Philadelphia and the City of Philadelphia were recognized at the annual high-level U.S.-China talks in Beijing this summer with one of six new U.S.-China EcoPartnerships.  Our partner is the Tianjin Economic-technological Development Area or TEDA.  Our PHL-TEDA EcoPartnership focuses on funded projects in Tianjin for smartgrid online monitoring systems (OMS), wetlands urban water management (WUWM), and green building energy efficiency (GBEE).

EcoPartnership w Kerry, Baucus & PodestaBack row: Philadelphia Delegates Terry Cooke, CPGP (4th from left) and Gary Biehn, White & Williams (2nd from left)

Front row (from right to left) China’s State Councilor Jiechi Yang , Sec of State Kerry, Amb. Baucus & Counselor to the President, John Podesta

 

In other posts to follow, I’ll share some more background on what the five-year old U.S.-China EcoPartnership program is (and why it matters), give thumbnails on the other five EcoPartnership awardees in 2014, and provide a listing of the twenty-four active EcoPartners since the inauguration of the program in 2014.

 

In the meanwhile, here are links publicizing our new three-year PHL-TEDA EcoPartnership:

U.S. State Department Press Release

Secretary Kerry remarks at July 10th EcoPartnership signing ceremony

U.S. Government website for the U.S.-China EcoPartnership program

Official photo from U.S. Department of State

City of Philadelphia Press Release (on City’s blog)

City of Philadelphia Press Release (on City Facebook page)

 

Happy Year of the Snake!

I have some major catching up to do so let me begin here with a link to my book which the Wilson Center launched on September 24, 2012.  (Note: if you want to download the PDF of the book, just right-click and use the Save As option).

Book Cover

More 2012/3 updates to follow in rapid sequence.

Thanks for hanging in there,

In the spirit of sharing news while it’s fresh, I’m copying verbatim a report on the gold nugget in the pile of dross that has passed for this year’s national budget process.

 For those of you who took in (in person or digitally) the Philadelphia’s 21st Century Energy Opportunity event I convened with the Academy of Natural Sciences and the T.C. Chan Center for Building Simulation & Energy Studies on October 11th,  the win is obvious — for the City and the region, for the national effort for cleaner energy jobs and investment, and for our global engagement.  For U.S./China clean energy cooperation, this budget victory also solidifies the framework of U.S./China Clean Energy Research Centers CERC) in building energy efficiency (Lawrence Berkeley Lab), electric vehicles (University of Michigan) and clean coal (University of West Virginia).

Kudos to Mark Muro and Bruce Katz for their success in keeping this ball moving down the field.  Here’s the report from late yesterday afternoon.

Mark Muro and Devashree Saha
December 19, 2011 | 4:10 pm

Notwithstanding the bleak outlook surrounding federal clean energy policy detailed in our recent report “Sizing the Clean Economy,” the FY 2012 omnibus spending compromise hammered out last week actually contains several reassuring affirmations of the value of recent institutional experiments.

One winner is the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, perhaps the Department of Energy’s most popular program.

Although the program is funded at just $275 million–about half the level President Obama had requested–many will probably be relieved that the program has now survived, which hasn’t always seemed a certainty. Moreover, the deal improved on earlier bills that have circulated, suggesting that the cause of the government fomenting disruptive innovation using “outside-the-box” investments in venturesome technology ideas may be gaining traction. That’s good news.

So is another happy surprise in the deal: the authorization of two new DOE Energy Innovation Hubs, one specializing in rare earths and energy-critical materials and one for energy storage technologies. To be sure, the Obama administration had originally asked for eight of these hubs, and settled for three before this year requesting funds for three more in 2012. However, congressional appropriators weren’t convinced that there was a need for a hub focused on smart grid technologies, as reported Darius Dixon in Politico, and so the nation now has two more of them, for a total of five of these special purpose-driven, multidisciplinary centers for accelerated collaboration between corporations, universities, and government labs.

Yet we’ll take it. Having long argued that the nation has been making do with an obsolete energy research paradigm excessively oriented toward individual academic investigators, on the one hand, and the siloed and bureaucratic efforts of the DOE’s energy laboratories, on the other, it is gratifying to watch the slow but continuing rollout of a true network of well-funded, multi-sector regional innovation centers. Congress is doing the right thing by creating–hub by hub–a set of sizable new institutes charged with “winning the future” in energy technology.

More Articles On: Department of Energy

One of the strongest attributes of job-creation from the clean energy economy in Greater Philadelphia and its surrounding ‘super-corridor’ (NY/MA through DC/VA) is  its balanced profile.  Year after year (and despite dynamic swings in the economy), the clean energy economy in this mega-cluster area (and the Greater Philadelphia region in particular) is producing:

  • steady and dependable growth above the national average
  • a sweet-spot of middle-skill and middle-wage jobs

The following mini-slideshow of data drawn from the new Brookings study Sizing the Clean Economy: A Green Jobs Report  (released July 2011)  illustrates these trends clearly:

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The mini-slideshows in this week’s postings are provided courtesy of Mark Muro, Deputy Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution.  They are taken from Mark’s presentation at Philadelphia’s 21st century Clean Energy Opportunity from Regional, National & Global Perspective, a program I organized in cooperation with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and the T.C. Chan Center for Building Simulation & Energy Studies on October 11, 2011).  I am grateful to Mark Muro and Brookings for permission to share these slides with the readership of U.S./China Clean Energy.

Philadelphia enjoys key advantages in the emerging national clean economy, not least due to its linchpin position at the heart of a vibrant clean energy ‘super-corridor’ running from Albany NY and Boston MA down to Washington DC and northern Virginia (see Monday’s post).

Other advantages that Greater Philadelphia enjoys include:  (1) its position as #5 top-performing cluster nationally, (2) its participation in a national trajectory of fast-growing, high-quality jobs, (3) its profile of balance with middle-skill, middle-wage ‘green collar’ jobs;  (4) its breadth of clean economy segments (air & water purification, lighting, nuclear, mass transit, professional energy services, solar PV, solar thermal, and wind); and (5) its being home to the U.S. Government’s new Energy Innovation Hub (EIH) and Energy Regional Innovation Center (e-RIC)  at the Navy Yard — the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster (GPIC) for Building Energy Efficiency.

What’s the basis of the Greater Philadelphia’s #5 ranking nationally in the Brookings’ first-of-a-kind study Sizing the Clean Economy: A Green Jobs Report  released in July 2011?  There are five strong reasons, each covered with substantive detail, in the following mini-slideshow:

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Tomorrow’s post will focus on the breadth of clean energy segments supporting Greater Philadelphia’s position as a leader among U.S. regional clean energy clusters.

If you want to help make a small push for Philadelphia’s emergence as a 21st century clean energy leader, please tweet or Like on Facebook or +1 this on G+, using the sharing tool below.  This will help spread the word.  Thanks.

 

 

 

 

Yesterday’s mini-slide show focused on the five principal clusters in the northeast Clean Energy super-corridor:

  • Albany -Schenectady-Troy, NY
  • Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH
  • New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA
  • Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD,WV

Today’s mini-deck focuses on how the clusters in this super-corridor are creating the right kind of jobs for today’s globally-connected economy:

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The findings presented above and in posts throughout the week come from Brookings’  Sizing the Clean Economy: A Green Jobs Report  released in July 2011.  The PowerPoint slides are courtesy of Mark Muro, Deputy Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution.  The video clip is extracted from Philadelphia’s 21st century Clean Energy Opportunity from Regional, National & Global Perspective, a program I organized in cooperation with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and the T.C. Chan Center for Building Simulation & Energy Studies on October 11, 2011).  I am grateful to Mark Muro and Brookings for permission to share these slides with the readership of U.S./China Clean Energy.

If you want to help push for the emergence of any of these five cluster regions as national and global clean energy leaders, please consider tweeting us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook or +1’ing us on G+, using the sharing tool below.  Thanks.

This week, I’ll be providing five mini-slideshows to add context and substantive detail to last week’s post and video clip on Brookings Touts Philadelphia’s Top 5 Strengths in U.S. Clean Economy.
Number 1 in the docket is the Cleantech Mega-Cluster stretching from New England though the southern Mid-Atlantic — with Philadelphia at its center.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The findings for today’s slideshow, as well as those for the remainder of the week, come from Brookings’  Sizing the Clean Economy: A Green Jobs Report  released in July 2011.  The PowerPoint slides are courtesy of Mark Muro, Deputy Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution.  The video clip is extracted from Philadelphia’s 21st century Clean Energy Opportunity from Regional, National & Global Perspective, a program I organized in cooperation with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and the T.C. Chan Center for Building Simulation & Energy Studies on October 11, 2011).  I am grateful to Mark Muro and Brookings for permission to share these slides with the readership of U.S./China Clean Energy.

If you want to be sure you see this week’s series of posts, please click the “Follow” button on the WordPress toolbar immediately above this blog’s heading and an email will automatically be sent to you as soon as each post appears.

 

On October 11th, Mark Muro, Policy Director of The Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, presented the national-level chapter of the story of ‘Greater Philadelphia’s 21st century Clean Energy Opportunity’ at an event I organized in Philadelphia for the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and the T.C. Chan Center for Building Simulation & Energy Studies of the University of Pennsylvania.

According to Muro, Philadelphia enjoys key advantages due to: (1) its position as #5 top-performing cluster nationally, (2) its participation in a national trajectory of fast-growing, high-quality jobs, (3) its profile of balance with middle-skill, middle-wage ‘green collar’ jobs; (4) its breadth of clean economy segments (air & water purification, lighting, nuclear, mass transit, professional energy services, solar PV, solar thermal, and wind); and (5) its location in the middle of the most vibrant clean economy corridor in the country (from Albany NY and Boston MA down to Washington DC and northern Virginia).

Future posts will help tell the other chapters of this story, including the City of Philadelphia perspective (Alan Greenberger, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development), the regional perspective (Mark Hughes, Task Leader for Policy, Markets & Behavior at the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Building Energy Efficiency (GPIC), the global perspective (Amy Fraenkel, UN Environmental Programme Regional Director for North America) and the U.S./China strategic opportunity (Terry Cooke, Founding Director of the China Partnership of Greater Philadelphia.

Stay tuned for more!

Note 1:  If you want to be sure you see each of these upcoming posts reliably and promptly, please click the “Follow” button on the WordPress toolbar immediately above this blog’s heading and an email will automatically be sent to you as soon as each post appears.

Note 2:   See   Brookings Backgrounder  for additional information on:  (1) the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program initaitive for clean energy clusters; (2) the intellectual antecedents of this policy work in the work of Michael Porter at Harvard University; and (3) how David Sandalow and Brookings helped translated this thinking into U.S. Government policy through the closely-connected Energy Innovation Hub (EIH) program and the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) program (via the John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings).

Note 3: If you want to help push for Philadelphia’s emergence as a 21st century clean energy leader, please tweet or Like on Facebook or +1 this on G+, using the sharing tool below.  Thanks.

I was asked during the UNEP Symposium in Philadelphia yesterday how I thought shale gas and ‘tight gas’ projects — which are at an early stage of operation in various parts of the world such as the United States, China  and Argentina — may affect the development of existing renewable energy sources, such as geothermal, biomass, wind, solar, tidal.

There are different dynamics in advanced economies versus emerging economies as each responds to the shale gas opportunity.

In the advanced economies, the values framework for evaluating shale gas tends to emphasize the environment at the expense of economics.  This is the so-called “3 C’s” orientation of carbon and climate change.  Under this framework, shale and tight gas are only somewhat less carbon-intensive in comparison with traditional fossil fuel sources and their extraction entails media-ampliflied but not yet proven environmental risks associated with ‘fracking’ et cetera.

In the developing world, the tendency is instead to focus on economic and energy security benefits — the “3 E’s” of economics and energy exploitation.  From this viewpoint, the positives of shale gas — a relatively cheap and abundant and lower carbon energy source for a country like China — far outweigh negatives of as yet unproven environmental risk.  In any case, under the Chinese framework of development, industrial growth and wealth creation come first, and clean-up from the environmental impacts of fast growth come later.

The hard truth is that these the viewpoints in North America and East Asia should not be so divergent.  In a world of finite resources and global pollution, we can ill afford to be seeing different problems and talking past one another.  The common denominator and linchpin is long-term energy efficiency .  Efficient energy utilization is environmental stewardship at the same time that it is good business and the basis for good economic policy.  Efficient and diversified energy utilization promotes jobs, investment and a sustainable environment.  Neither the advanced world nor the developing world should be sequencing energy and environmental policy or prioritizing between them.  Both the U.S. and China could be pursuing a common approach, based on energy efficiency and designed to yield both economic and environmental benefits simultaneously.

By splitting the difference between the “3 C’s” and the ‘3 E’s” both countries could reframe the challenge as the “3  D’s” of diversified energy sources, dollar-accountability, and developmental sustainability. And by re-framing objectives on a realistic and common basis, strategic efforts such as the U.S.-China Shale Gas Resource Initiative may be able to get better global traction.

In the real world, it’s not shale gas versus renewables.  It’s shale gas and renewables balanced together for economic and environmental sustainability.

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