Google to save the planet

It seems Google are not content with just 'organising the world's information'. They're now branching into developing clean energy technology to help address climate change.

They're taking the Toyota Prius hybrid car as a start and further developing this by plugging them into solar charging stations, and then using Vehicle to Grid (V2G) technology to demonstrate how electricity might be transmitted back and forth between the plug-in-hybrid and the electricity grid.

The performance data so far looks pretty good. The plug-in-hybrid Toyota Prius is getting 73.6 MPG as opposed to 40.9 MPG for the standard Toyota Prius, and the CO2 emissions has gone down from 0.577 CO2e/mile to 0.376.

You can read all about it and view their performance data at www.google.org/recharge/

Who killed the electric car

In 1996 Electric cars began to appear on roads all over California. They were quiet and fast, produced no exhaust, and ran without gasoline. 10 years later these futuristic cars were almost entirely gone. What happened?

This is the question that is addressed in the award winning documentary 'Who Killed the Electric Car' recently released on DVD in the UK.

The website for the film makes interesting reading so I'll definitely be checking out the DVD. It seems the technology is there, has been for a long time, and is fit for purpose, contrary to what the motor industry tells us.

The charge is made that the motor industry, in cahoots with the US federal government and the big oil companies (mainly Exxon Mobil) launched a successful campaign to kill off the electric car. But why?

The oil companies interests were obvious: they wanted to kill off anything that may reduce the need for fossil fuels. As for the US federal government, there links to the oil companies are well documented. But what about the car manufacturers? It seems most of the profit generated by the car manufacturers actually comes from maintaining and replacing the internal combustion engine. A transition to batteries would have been a disaster for the profit/loss sheet.

Yet again another documentary which shows how the world is being killed by the greed of big companies. I personally believe this is systematic of the market capitalist economy we rely on. Some people argue that it's exactly the market capitalist economy which will save the world. As climate change affects us more, the market will act to correct prices which will reduce demand for fossil fuels and put more pressure on companies to develop alternatives, which will in turn lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions.

This is a dangerous assumption. Yesterday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released it's second report of the year which yet again gave a unanimous declaration by the world's leading climatologists that global warming is happening, and is a result of human activity. Scientists also agree that we are quickly approaching the point of no return. Can we afford to wait for market corrections to kick in? I doubt it.

Green hypocrisy

According to a survey by the Energy Saving Trust, while 80 per cent of the public believe climate change is affecting Britain, almost half are doing nothing to halt its impact.

I predict that I'm like many: I'm concerned about climate change and am willing to do my bit (recycle more, stop leaving electrical appliances on standby, turn lights off when not needed, etc), but I'm reluctant to make major changes to my lifestyle because at the moment I don't believe it will make any difference. As much as I believe it's everyone's responsibility to take action, I don't want to stop taking flights when the opportunities arise, and I would very much like a 50 inch Plasma TV please. The fact is, whatever we do in Britain, it will make no difference unless the attitudes of American and China (and India, Brazil and others) change. Our carbon output is a fraction of theirs.

It seems like the government and the media in this country have finally woken up to the real and present threat of climate change. It's about time! It's even starting to become cool to be a tree hugger. What I hate though, is the amount of hypocrisy involved. The BBC, Guardian and others keep preaching to us every day about green issues, but what are they doing to combat climate change? Same with the Government. They're quick to bring in green taxes but what are the ministers doing personally? I can't see the ministerial car changing to a Toyota Prius. And what are they doing to force industry into making changes? Why aren't they forcing building companies to build more carbon neutral homes? Why aren't they banning the use of traditional light bulbs and forcing everyone to buy energy saving bulbs, like they're starting to do in Australia? Why aren't they putting more pressure on the motor industry to produce more hybrid cars? Why aren't they putting tax on aviation fuel?

For me and Rach, living in Australia will probably reduce our carbon footprint (our heating bill will certainly go down!). Up until we fly back to visit the family in the UK that is, as one long distance flight can apparently blow your entire carbon calories.