Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Are these environmental goals any good?

On a recent press conference Obama announced a new standard for cars and trucks emissions (Obama to Toughen Rules on Emissions and Mileage). I wonder if this is the right move?

It was in college while studying Computer Simulation that I learned about retro-feeding cycles. These are cycles where several factors contribute to the growth (positive cycle) or shrinkage (negative cycle) of a specific variable. A retro-feeding cycle occurs for people who gain weight (that is why its so difficult to lose weight). As the person starts to eat more and more, he or she feels less and less energy to exercise (or even walk), also the stomach grows bigger and bigger providing for more space for food as well as preventing the person from feeling satisfied from eating. There are probably other physiological and psychological factors that also contribute to the weight gain of these specific person. Here is a graph that illustrates this retro-feeding cycle:

Weight cycle

The environmental damage we are causing to planet earth is a very complex retro-feeding cycle that is further enlarged by other retro-feeding cycles. Population growth is a retro-feeding cycle  that contributes to the "environmental damage" cycle (the more people, the more growth), so is the "energy needs" retro-feeding cycle (more energy creates more progress and more need for additional energy).

So, is 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016 enough to change the negative retro-feeding cycle of carbon emissions?

The only way to neutralize a retro-feeding cycle is to create a counter-cycle that grows at equal or higher rate than the cycle we are trying to overcome.

I have read that when Kennedy proposed the lunar landing goal before the end of the decade (1960's), the US was very far from achieving this goal. Furthermore, Kennedy did not know if that goal was achievable at all!

In the world of Greentech, 35 MPG does not sound very impressing. There are many vehicles out there that can easily achieve that mileage today (click here to see some of them)! Are we selling ourselves short? If we have the technology to achieve 50MPG today, is setting 35MPG by 2016 going to help or to hinder the development of that technology?

So I ask you again: Are these environmental goals any good?

Comments from Why Greentech in Israel?:

First of all I want to share an article closely related to this post Israel's Clean Technology Pioneers

“Sami, exactly my sentiments. Israel also has it's own environmental challenges which desperately need Greentech solutions. In some ways Israel is an island and needs find new ways to harvest renewable energy, and recycle water and upcycle raw materials.”

“I agree with you in general terms, in specific I would ad that in some cases Israel needs some expertises to be imported for example in the windfarms development. But even here there are a lot of candidates ready to cooperate with companies from Israel provided they are invited”

“My only thought is on the following: "Because it’s easier and cheaper to continue with our current behaviors." It is easier, but not cheaper, to behave unsustainably. True, the greedy don't always pay now, but longer term the costs to society will be far higher to have ignored our planet's well-being”

“Why is that? Following the great success in the IT sector?
Do you believe "Silicon valleys" are the best place to start green start-ups?
Israel is where most of solar nergy concepts and ideas were born and rose up to become products and technologies. Do you believe that this background is another good reason for Israel being a good place to do greentech? “

Until next time: SHALOM!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why Greentech in Israel?

I hereby declare that Greentech and Israel is a perfect match!

The more I put my head into it, the more I get convinced that Israel and Greentech are a great combination.

Let’s start with my assumptions:

Assumption #1: Greentech is the future. As I have explained in the past I strongly believe that Greentech is the Wave of the future (The Greentech Wave July-2008). Whereas you believe the planet is in need of help or you want to reduce your electric bill, the future lays in alternative energy sources, changes in waste management and improving our water supply.

Assumption #2: Greentech needs to push technology boundaries to substitute existing technologies and current behaviors. The world is still running of fossil fuels, waste (liquid and solid) keeps piling up and getting dumped in the wrong places and water sources are diminishing as water needs are rising. Why? Because it’s easier and cheaper to continue with our current behaviors. Therefore, greentech needs to “step it up” and start competing in cost and ease of use.


We need the fastest and best technology developers.

How about using the country that has the biggest concentration of scientist per capita? or The country that has delivered many of the technologies we use today, like the key drives and the messenger? The country that invests the most of its GDP in R&D? The country that has the most Nasdaq listed companies after the US?

The answer to all those questions: Israel

Last, but not least. Israel has the personality (as a country) to develop technology. People are natural entrepreneurs, scientist are “commercial application” oriented (as opposed to “pure research” oriented).

Here are some comments from the previous post “To Tree..”:

“I personally appreciate the yin and the yang of the tree hugging continuum. The extremists on both sides are the ones that come up with the ideas and questions no one has ever thought about before. Though it usually the more moderate parties that actually end up utilizing these new ideas and addressing the questions.”

“"The cost of solar power has to match the cost of coal power". - Coal is subsidized which is why it is so cheap. Wind and solar power are subsidized to a smaller extent through renewable energy credits purchased by individuals and some corporations, but do not receive the large amounts of funding given to coal.”

“Did you see the article about the Inuit village in western Alaska having to move inland because of flooding/rising seawater levels. I think there is ample empirical evidence that we are in the midst of climate change globally and that can be seen by studying the past and present. If we wait until the future...Nonetheless, I see a great global movement unlike anything we have seen in recent history”

“There are more trees in the US today than there were 100 years ago. The state of Texas has more trees than any state in the lower 48.”

“Saving the Planet...And it may be too late; I get your point! But Tree Huggers be damn! It is not "Global Warming" that is going to cause the destruction of life, It is the acidification of the Oceans. And, It needs to stop and reversed”

“Green tech for green tech's sake is a non-issue. The more pressing concern is overall US energy independence and green tech certainly has a place in that”

“Setting aside climate change skepticism (and there are reasonable physical scientists and engineers who are skeptical and have essentially been shouted down), it is too limiting to think only of energy production. We need to look at all aspects of human activity. For instance, intensive farming has done more environmental damage than all industry and transportation. Modern diets consisting of more meat result in significantly higher consumption of energy, water and other natural resources; and all that live stock means more green house gases”

“It is very difficult to tell someone he can't have a car, a refrigerator or an air conditioner because of added pollution and climate concerns. Specially when the "developed" part of our planet consumes most of the energy produced and generates most of the pollution”