The Island of Doubt

The French beat us again!

Look what the French are up to on the climate change front. According to Nature, a wide coalition of government, business, labor and environmental advocates have agreed on the following:

All newly built homes to produce more energy than they consume by 2020. Renovate all existing buildings to save energy. Ban incandescent light bulbs by 2010. Reduce greenhouse-gas emission by 20% by 2020.

Increase renewable energy from 9% to 20-25% of total energy consumption by 2020.

Bring transport emissions back to 1990 levels. Reduce vehicle speed limits by 10 kilometres per hour. Taxes and incentives to favour clean cars. Shift half of haulage by road to rail and water within 15 years. Develop rail and public transport.

Reduce air pollutants quantitatively.

Create a national network of ‘green’ corridors and nature reserves.

Increase organic farming from 2% to 6% of total acreage production by 2010 and to 20% by 2020.

Ecological groups to be stakeholders, like trade unions, in government negotiations.

Create a body to review planting of genetically modified crops on a case-by-case basis.

That first point is truly remarkable. Why don’t we ever hear anyone, let alone a presidential candidate, calling for such things? We have the technology, just not the will, imagination or courage, it would seem.

Of course, this being France, there are some caveats:

But despite the wide consensus on many areas, two major issues, the future of nuclear power — which meets nearly 80% of France’s electricity needs — and the planting of genetically modified crops, eluded agreement. The meetings were too short to overcome existing entrenched positions here, Guillou says regretfully. Sarkozy has made it clear that there will be no scaling back of nuclear power. The government’s final position on genetically modified crops is less clear. Although these seem set to face tighter restrictions with the proposed creation of a separate body to consider approvals on a case-by-case basis, a moratorium cannot be ruled out.

The groups’ conclusions, released on 27 September, include 60 pages of recommendations, and more than 1,000 pages of conclusions from some 300 participants in 8 working groups. They are now open to public consultation on the Internet, with the government deciding on its final actions at the October summit.

Plus, I’d still like to hear a sincere apology for blowing up the Rainbow Warrior and killing one of Greenpeace’s photographers ….

Comments

  1. #1 bigTom
    October 4, 2007

    And from a country which already has 1/3rd the per capita GHG emmisions as us.

    I do think the one about homes producing more energy than they consume is going too far. I suspect in many cases utility scale renewable plants will be more cost effective than lots of small scale ones.

  2. #2 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    October 4, 2007

    Taxes and incentives to favour clean cars. Shift half of haulage by road to rail and water within 15 years. Develop rail and public transport.

    There’s some synergy here that will make it easier. If we shipped more goods by rail, thus cutting down the number of trucks on the road, it would be safer to driver smaller, more energy efficient cars.

  3. #3 oldcola
    October 4, 2007

    Well, I hope that this may work, a little bit. But don’t be triumphant or jealous yet. Give them (the government) time to show if those are promises that will be honored.
    I really hope so, but I think not.

  4. #4 Sophie
    October 4, 2007

    It is a little bit too early to rejoice.
    These are the works of commissions, and will be exposed to lobby influence and government stupidity after the big ‘Grenelle’ meeting.
    It is what will happen afterwards that will be interesting.
    I don’t hope for much as the car, the nuclear power plant and economical short-term view reign supreme here too.

  5. #5 Thomas
    October 5, 2007

    Tegumai, the difference between a large and a well designed small car isn’t that great when colliding with a truck or a solid object. It’s only when you have a collision between a large and a small car that conservation of momentum ensures that the people in the small car are worse off.

  6. #6 Lance
    October 5, 2007

    Those darn French are geniuses!

    “All newly built homes to produce more energy than they consume by 2020.”

    If they mandate the same thing for motor vehicles it’s nothing but polar bears and penguins as far as the eye can see.

    Why didn’t some of us dumb Americans think of repealing the laws of thermodynamics?

    Viva la France!

  7. #7 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    October 5, 2007

    Tegumai, the difference between a large and a well designed small car isn’t that great when colliding with a truck or a solid object.

    I’m not quite sure that I see your point. The steps discussed will not improve the safety in the event of hitting a truck, but will reduce the likelihood of doing so, since there would be fewer trucks on the road.

  8. #8 mxracer652
    October 5, 2007

    Lance,
    Earth isn’t a closed system, what with all that energy coming from the Sun & such. Last time I checked solar panels & wind turbines produced more energy than they consumed…

  9. #9 Lance
    October 5, 2007

    So mxrace652 you want to mandate that all homes built in the future be festooned with solar panels and wind turbines?

    What a lovely world that would be. Even with those installed the vast majority of locations in the US wouldn’t provide enough days of full sun or strong wind to break even.

    What would make up the difference, mandatory treadle powered generator sessions for the family and kids?

    Maybe require each home to have its own mini nuclear power plant.

  10. #10 blf
    October 8, 2007

    Lance, no-one has “repealed” thermodynamics (and that isn’t how science works anyways), nor has anyone required all homes (not even just new homes) to be fitted with solar panels, wind turbines, or whatevers. All that’s been done is a proposal for (a requirement for) new homes to produce more power than the home consumes (presumably on an annual or otherwise averaged basis?); and that, over time, for older buildings to be become more energy-efficient (albeit producing surplus power is unlikely for many (most?) older buildings). Neither idea is in the least bit silly, unfeasible, or uneconomic. Nor does it mean festooning buildings or fields with wind turbines. (But I would expect solar installations on rooftops to become more common.)

    Here in southern France, I can see a proposal that new homes produce more of their own power could happen: There are strong winds, and plenty of sunshine. There already is a noticeable use of various solar power devices, and there are wind farms. What percentage of the power is so produced I’ve no idea. And I’ve seen far fewer installations (especially on buildings/homes) than I’d expect, but that is just a subjective opinion. I’ve no idea what extra/unusual incentives exist, if any.

  11. #11 Grreen JIm
    November 20, 2007

    I guess I would be impressed if they said ALL houses must produce more electricity than they use because few new houses are built in France and 2ndly this is a all “blah, blah, blah” committee talk.

    P.S. The EU (France included) has already announced it wonīt meet its Kyoto Treaty agreements.

  12. #12 Matt M
    November 20, 2007

    I still cannot picture how individual houses can be made to produce enough energy to not only meet their needs, but supply an excess.

    I have visions of sewage fermenting in basement tanks, producing methane for heat. Or the disputes between neighbors when my turbine blocks the wind to your turbine, or your solar panel shades mine. Perhaps the new homes will be insulated like beer trucks, with small doors and tiny windows.

  13. #13 John
    November 20, 2007

    Lance, Matt:

    We already have solar installations in the U.S. that produce more electrical energy on the home than is consumed (and in some places you can rent them for the same cost as utility power!), and solar water heater and/or geothermal heat pumps that take care of heating/air conditioning. Of course, this is mostly in the suburbs; townhomes and high-rises won’t have enough square footage, either on the rooftop or underground, to make it work. However, in such cases there could be a community-based solution.

    Turbines aren’t really practical for most individual homes, lol! PV and geo are just fine, thanks. Mandating this for new homes makes a lot of sense, it’s much harder to retrofit geo heating/cooling and also community-level energy solutions.

    The bottom line is, it makes sense, not sure what the point is in opposing it (unless you are a power utility and are afraid of individuals reducing their costs and dependence on external energy sources).

  14. #14 Joan
    November 20, 2007

    OK, I like the idea, but I don’t see the numbers. Show me the research on how a home in an area with poor wind prospecting and poor sunlight availability (read: most of the northern part of the US, and Canada) can produce more energy than it consumes, even with CF/halogen bulbs, lowered thermostats, R-30 insulation and quadruple-paned glass, plus geothermal, solar and wind power.

    John, show me the research, and keep in mind: being energy efficient in the south of France, or in Florida or California, is far different than being energy efficient in Maine, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, Alaska and Alberta.

    Disclaimer: I’m not in league with anyone. I’m speaking for myself. I want to make my house (in a cold climate) this energy efficient. I live in an area with little-to-no wind, poor sunlight availability, no geothermal, and deep cold most of the winter (-20 to -30 F seasonal lows) I just haven’t seen the technology available (or, in rare instances, affordable) to make this happen. Is your suggestion that I move instead? Balderdash.

  15. #15 lea
    November 20, 2007

    remember EV1?

  16. #16 Norikazu
    November 20, 2007

    > Those darn French are geniuses!

    No. We just have some people called politicians. They usually say anything that could help them get elected.

    I heard this kind of people also exist in other countries.

    > Reduce vehicle speed limits by 10 kilometres per hour.

    That was a good one. It made everyone laugh.

  17. #17 KirkH
    November 20, 2007

    There was an interview with the NanoSolar CEO. He said California has more rules and regulations for solar power than Germany. That makes it a pain to get the stuff installed because you need 43 permits.

    Maybe we don’t even need subsidies, just get rid of all of the red tape so these green companies can flourish.

  18. #18 Fro
    November 20, 2007

    On parle de la France et on ne m’a pas invitÃĐ ? :-)

  19. #19 Reality bytes
    November 20, 2007

    The details here make a big difference. The architecture of a home can play a huge role in it’s energy use. As does the type and amount of appliances. Depending on how they are defining this, it seems feasible to me. They are already creating plenty of “zero energy” homes. It may not just be the political lip service we are accustomed to in the US. A smart government will realize that energy security, equals national security.

  20. #20 Dan
    November 20, 2007

    Cīmon guys! Do you have to drive that big cars? Do u have to drive em at all? West Coast hasnīt seem to be heard about Subway, Trains, even Buses. Its sad that USA refuses the Kyoto agreement and on the other side everyone is afraid of next tornado, tsunami or whatever happens in the future. I do not wish you that, i really donīt but i am afraid you will have to deal with many more New Orleansīs if you continue to be “stupid americans” what rest of the world think you are. Btw., i am from Germany, dont hate americans but you are not really trying to make people like you.

    Dan

  21. #21 Steve Livingston
    November 20, 2007

    You asked: “Why don’t we ever hear anyone, let alone a presidential candidate, calling for such things?”

    Could it be, because we aren’t listening to Dennis Kucinich?

  22. #22 JoshG
    November 20, 2007

    Edward Mazria from AIA (American Institute of Architects) stated that even some of the grayest, cloudiest places on earth (i.e. Seattle) could build or retrofit houses with solar panels to produce far more energy than is consumed. It’s a matter that requires proper design and expertise, but we need bigger tax credits to get the ball rolling.

    http://architecture2030.org/2010_imperative/webcast.html

  23. #23 sabetts
    November 21, 2007

    Yeah Kucinich talks about this in his global warming speech:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbkZo5YOCNM

  24. #24 Chad
    November 21, 2007

    Reducing speed limits to save fuel is stupid, plain and simple. You are “saving” about $10-12 an hour in gasoline by slowing down. Unless you are a minimum-wage worker driving alone, your time is worth far more than that.

    Indeed, I am not even sure if you are saving fuel on net, because driving significantly slower than the pace of traffic causes the cars around you to slow down and re-accelerate, probably offsetting most of the direct savings from your vehicle.

    If you truly cared about the environment, you would drive like a maniac to work, put in an extra hour each day, and use the overtime pay to buy carbon offsets. You would probably reduce carbon emissions by ten times the amount you would get by driving slowly.

  25. #25 troy
    November 21, 2007

    Joan,

    I though I’d take a minute to reply. Not only can I show you the research but I can show you it in practice. My company designs passive and net-zero houses on a daily basis in the northern US. No turning down thermostats needed. In fact, these homes are MORE comfortable, not less.

    A couple of misnomers: Solar energy is relatively uniform throughout the US! 80% of the US landmass is within 80% of Arizona’s annual solar gain (including places like Michigan & New York). The very absolute worst location in northern washington, is only 50% of the very absolute best location in arizona [http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/redbook/atlas/colorpdfs/208.PDF]. Solar is available everywhere. There are probably more photovoltaic installations in alaska than many other US states put together.

    Germany is a good example. There are thousands of certified “Passive Houses” that use 90% less energy than a standard US house (many of which also produce PV/solar power to make up the last 10%). And yet germany has the solar gain of Alaska!

    Not only is making a near net-zero house feasible, it can be done with little or no added cost to the building, if the building is designed synergistically as a system.

  26. #26 troy
    November 21, 2007

    Joan,

    I though I’d take a minute to reply. Not only can I show you the research but I can show you it in practice. My company designs passive and net-zero houses on a daily basis in the northern US. No turning down thermostats needed. In fact, these homes are MORE comfortable, not less.

    A couple of misnomers: Solar energy is relatively uniform throughout the US! 80% of the US landmass is within 80% of Arizona’s annual solar gain (including places like Michigan & New York). The very absolute worst location in northern washington, is only 50% of the very absolute best location in arizona [http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/redbook/atlas/colorpdfs/208.PDF]. Solar is available everywhere. There are probably more photovoltaic installations in alaska than many other US states put together.

    Germany is a good example. There are thousands of certified “Passive Houses” that use 90% less energy than a standard US house (many of which also produce PV/solar power to make up the last 10%). And yet germany has the solar gain of Alaska!

    Not only is making a near net-zero house feasible, it can be done with little or no added cost to the building, if the building is designed synergistically as a system.

    Troy
    heliocentric.org

  27. #27 Dave Briggs
    December 5, 2007

    It’s comforting to see a government making such radical pushes and opening it up to public debate from any and every possible field.
    I believe that the more people who are allowed to give voice to their ideas the more likely solutions are to come about.
    No one wants it to hurt and by getting more people involved the better chances there are to come up with custom ideas that could easily be implemented by groups or geographical locations, minimizing the hurt and maximizing the gains for everyone!
    Dave Briggs :~)

  28. #28 sohbet
    March 28, 2009

    ee a government making such radical pushes and opening it up to public debate from any and every possible field.
    I believe that the more people who are allowed to give voice to their ideas the more likely solutions are to come about.

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