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What price carbon emissions?

Excess

Photo credit Pinot & Dita

One of the reasons we are facing a climate crisis is because people have not been paying the full economic price for their carbon consumption. Had they been, we’d be living in a very different world today. A quick comparison of average car fuel efficiency in the US versus the EU (where fuel has typically been priced at 2-3x the US price) bears this out.

When people have to pay a higher price for their emissions, they are less likely to pollute (if only to save themselves money!).

This brings us onto the trickier question though of what is a realistic price for carbon. The recent price of carbon emissions in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) has varied from €30 to €10 while today as I write this, it has a spot settlement price of €15.31. That may be current, but is it realistic?

What is a realistic price for carbon emissions?

Well, the reason we are charging for carbon emissions in the first place is to counter the damage being done to the environment by those very emissions – the polluter pays principle. In other words, the price to emit one tonne of CO2 into the atmosphere should be equal to the price of extracting one tonne of CO2 from the upper atmosphere.

And how much is that?

I have no idea to be honest! I have asked several people in this space and no-one has been able to tell me – principally because the technologies to extract CO2 from the upper atmosphere don’t yet exist! You can be sure that it is significantly more than €30 per tonne though.

As global CO2 emissions continue to rise and the effects of climate change become even more pronounced, the price being charged for CO2 emissions globally will need to trend closer to the price of extraction and away from the current €15.

If nothing else, this will encourage us to move to a less carbon intensive lifestyle – manufacturers of carbon intensive products beware!

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June 15th GreenMonk Energy & Sustainability show – Face Off!

Last week I wrote a post in response to Dennis Howlett’s ZDNet article questioning the causes of climate change and therefore our reactions to it.

I also mentioned Dennis’ post in last week’s Energy and Sustainability show so Dennis contacted me and asked for an opportunity to come on the show to put forward his point of view. Dennis is an old friend, so of course I said yes.

So yesterday’s Energy and Sustainability show was a Tom vs Dennis face-off on climate change (actually it was a good natured chat with Dennis basically saying he was asking questions because not enough people were being skeptical!).

What do you think?

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Sunday Times and the Google non-story

CO2

Photo credit \<

I was more than a little surprised to read a story printed in the UK’s Sunday Times yesterday claiming that a search on popular search engine Google:

generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15g

Reading the article a little more revealed that the research has not been peer reviewed, so its veracity as a piece of scientific research has yet to be confirmed. However, given that the researcher in question had no access to Google’s carbon data, this has to be, at best, educated guesswork.

On top of that, the researcher responsible for the claim is CTO of Maxtility, a company whose aim is to:

solve important problems in industries ranging from education to energy

he can hardly be said to be an impartial researcher.

Google responded to the assertions this morning. In Google’s response they mention the energy-efficiency of their data centers which:

means the energy used per Google search is minimal. In fact, in the time it takes to do a Google search, your own personal computer will use more energy than Google uses to answer your query.

Google goes on to claim that

one Google search is equivalent to about 0.2 grams of CO2. The current EU standard for tailpipe emissions calls for 140 grams of CO2 per kilometer driven, but most cars don’t reach that level yet. Thus, the average car driven for one kilometer (0.6 miles for those of in the U.S.) produces as many greenhouse gases as a thousand Google searches.

Google then continues the piece by talking up its philanthropic arm Google.org (see GreenMonks’ podcast with Vint Cerf about Google.org) and the investments it has made through that vehicle in renewables, as well as its co-founding of the Climate-Saving Computers initiative.

As in most issues like this, I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Google could do itself no end of good by having its carbon emissions third-party audited (under NDA if they are worried about competitive intelligence) while publications like the Times should know better than to run non-peer reviewed science stories from people who could be perceived to have their own agenda.

I won’t even go into on the childish Twitter bashing further down in the Times article – monumental ignorance trying to pass itself off as intelligent observation, sigh!

UPDATE – quite a bit of discussion about this happening – see Techmeme for more, also I see my old friend Jeremy Wagstaff came to a similar conclusion.

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Save Toms not Tonnes!

At the recent [email protected] Green IT conference Gavin Starks of AMEE had an idea which he and Simon Wardley co-pitched to the audience, to change the carbon footprint metric from tonnes of CO2 to people!

The idea, as outlined in the video above was so well received that we decided to create a site to promote it and encourage anyone who also thinks it is a good idea to become involved. The site is at megatom.ning.com.

From the MegaTom about page:

The average European creates 10 tonnes of CO2 per annum.

The average American, 20 tonnes.

To avert the dangers of Climate Change, we need to drop our CO2 production to 1 tonne per person.

Problem: What is 1 tonne of CO2? How do you visualise it?

Answer: You don’t! You change the metric. 1 tonne = 1 person’s annual CO2 production.
1 average person. 1 Tom.

Because it’s not about saving tonnes, it’s about saving everyone.

For example, a 15 minute shower is 0.1% of a Tom, driving 100 miles in a standard car is 4% of a Tom and producing 1 laptop computer is 45% of a Tom.

How many Toms have you consumed? Don’t waste your Toms.

Save Toms, not tonnes!

If you agree that we should be saving Tom’s, not tonnes, why not go to the MegaTom, join and please leave any feedback/suggestions. Thanks.

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How to make a hosting company carbon neutral РRen̩ Wienholtz of Strato

CO2
Photo Credit <

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Episode 4 of the GreenMonk Podcasts – 36 mins 28 secs

My guest on this podcast is Strato’s Executive Director for Information Technology and Innovation Rene Wienholtz.

Strato are Europe’s second largest hosting company and Strato are also carbon neutral! Amazingly they achieved this without buying any offsets. How did they do it?

Listen to René explain it.

Here are the questions I asked René and the approx. times I asked them:

Can you tell us something about your own background first and who are Strato? – 00:34

If I heard you correctly you are now the largest hosting company in Europe? – 02:28

You guys are a bit like RackSpace in the sense that you don’t do co-location, you rent space on your servers, id that right? – 02:38

You mentioned that you decided to re-architect the setup in Strato and reduce your carbon footprint, was this for environmental reasons or business reasons? – 03:34

Questions from readers:

Jiri Ludvik
what percentage in carbon reduction they achieved by each of the step you mention? – 05:48

Do you use underfloor plenums as well to direct the air to the cold aisles? – 21:47

Can you talk to us too about the energy savings you are getting from buying CO2 free energy? – 25:44

Have you negotiated a set price from your clean energy supplier for a set period? – 29:36

Can you tell me how long this price is guaranteed for? – 30:15

Have you had any independent 3rd party certify that you are carbon neutral? – 30:27

More questions from readers:

Jim Hughes
Has the carbon saving had a real cost benefit? Or have the lower power costs been exceeded by the premium for carbon neutral electricity? – 31:42

Would you recommend other hosting providers take the same route? – 32:53

Do you think environmental awareness is an area where European hosting companies have a head start over the US? – 34:47

Download the entire interview here
(33.4mb mp3)

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Any questions for Strato Director Rene Wienholtz?

Sevici
Photo Credit Rock Alien

Despite being Europe’s second largest hosting company, Strato are also carbon neutral!

They didn’t achieve this by purchasing offsets either. Strato did it by:
1) purchasing energy efficient hardware
2) using very precise cooling methodologies
3) using customised software to run its facilities and finally
4) by buying CO2 free energy from NaturEnergie.

Strato’s Executive Director for Information Technology and Innovation is Rene Wienholtz and I will be chatting to him tomorrow morning asking him how a hosting company, typically a massive power sink, can go carbon neutral.

If you have any questions you’d like me to put to Rene in the podcast, either leave them in a comment on this post, or email them to me ([email protected]).