Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2009 Eco Trends explained

In my meandering on twitter this morning I found a fun trend map for 2009 (Thanks for the retweet @afrognthevalley, I wasn’t following @mariansalzman, but I am now.)  I have a few friends that are getting more and more into the environmental side of business and I thought that an explanation of the trends/buzzwords on the map would be interesting to everyone.  So here goes.
You can find the original trend map on flickr, and the people that made it at There is much more information on the trend map then I am going to talk about today, maybe someone else will define the non-environmental tentacles.
So here is the whole enviromental list, I'll tackle 4 issues a post for the next few posts until we've got them all done.
Clean Coal
Wind Power
Vertical Agriculture
Bio-Fuel Backlash
Declining Water Quality
Peak Landfill
Negawatts (my personal favorite)
Energy dashboards
Nuclear Power
Green Cities

We’ll start with the least likely impact and move to the most likely impact.

Clean Coal
            The Good – Clean Coal is a concept that would in theory greatly reduce the emissions given off by coal burning power plants.  It involves removing impurities in the coal, treating the gases that are produced to remove sulfer dioxide, and capture and tore carbon dioxide.  America is the middle east of coal, so if we can find a cleaner way to use it, all the better.
The Bad – So far, there are zero clean coal plants in action in America, and many estimates predict that they won’t be for awhile because it’s not economically viable (what ever that means these days).  Greenpeace is major opponent to clean coal, I think have the commercial with someone giving a tour of a clean coal plant, in an empty field, basically denoting that it doesn’t exist.
The Ugly – It’s not the burning of coal that most opponents object to but the extraction of it, which clean coal does nothing to change for the moment.
My Take – We have a lot of coal plants in America right now, and with creative financing, like carbon trade, making these plants green seems like a good idea.  In the same breath, we have a lot of coal plants in America, let’s not build anymore, lets put that money to good use diversifying our energy production.
Wind Power
            The Good – I’m pretty sure everyone knows what wind power is these days.  No fuel costs, no emissions, no pollution in general. What’s not to love?
The Bad – Birds, bats, esthetics, and it’s hard to predict out put. Anything that flies and migrates is at risk, because when you fly you use the wind, and well guess where the wind turbines go...  It is also hard to predict the wind output, I seem to remember lots of brown outs in a Simcity because of trying to power the whole thing on wind, but I’m not sure.
The Ugly – Birds, and bats, are you kidding me?  Think how many animals are killed because of traffic.  And esthetics, I mean, now we are just being picky. 
My Take – I think the wind turbines look kinda cool.
            The Good – What I think they mean by “Nano-Solar” is light, cheap, easy to produce and easy to install solar panels.  The company Nanosolar has developed a method of printing solar cells on to something a kin to paper.  If there claims are true it could turn solar panels into a household item, taking a serious strain of the power plants at the peak production times.
            The Bad – It seams the company Nanosolar does not disclose a whole lot about their technology or their costs, so it’s hard to confirm their marketing.
The Ugly – Although we have made great breakthroughs recently, Nanosolar only claimed 19.9% efficiency and independent verifier only confirmed 14.6%.  We still have a long road a head of us in solar panel technology.
            My Take – Nanosolar also has some competitors; Global Solar, HelioVolt, Solyndra, and First Solar.  They don’t use the same technique, but the end goal is the same.  My favorite solar power story this year was the one about putting solar panels in space and then using a laser to send the energy back down to Earth, and I’m not even making this up
            The Good – Eco-Cynics are people who are cynical toward the green movement and may interpret green incentives “cashing-in” or just ineffective.  Cynics are good in any arena though, they push the other side to prove things beyond any doubt, and ask the dirty questions that no one else will.
            The Bad – According to Millennium research reveals that over 50’s are generally eco-cynical, considering most taxes are paid by over 50’s and most political decisions are made by people over 50, this could be a real hurdle for the youngins .
            The Ugly – The Eco Attitudes Report showed that men are most likely to be eco-cynics. (Again most of the people making policy happen to be men.  More bad news?)
            My Take – When it come to eco policy I’d take a modified version of Pascal’s Wager to try and convince the cynics.  I mean, lets say global warming is a sham, is it really that bad to start living and doing business in a sustainable way?  On the other hand, if the doomsday proclaimers are right, then doing nothing could be the end of us.

Stay tuned, I’ll review the next 4 trends in the next post.
Nathan Shetterley (
EVO New Media Director