April 2008 Archives


Shell released this month two new scenarios about the future of energy and global climate change, and they are quite sobering. To the credit of Shell's scenario team, they did not pull any punches, nor did its executives water down the results.

The global oil giant, based in The Netherlands, has been developing scenarios since the late 1970s as a way of informing its medium to long-term business strategy. Peter Schwartz, who now heads the scenario consultancy Global Business Network, was credited as the main innovator behind scenario planning, which takes a future launch point and asks: "What if?"

Schwartz and Doug Randall were the authors of a prescient 2003 scenario on the potential political, security and economic impacts of global climate change that was commissioned by the US Department of Defense. 

Shell's two new scenarios "Blueprints" and "Scramble" represent two differing visions of the next 50 years. Both project that, "by 2015, growth in the production of easily accessible oil and gas will not match the projected rate of demand growth" and that, "remaining within desirable levels of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will become increasingly difficult." 

Each scenario also sets the expectation for the increased growth of coal as an energy source in providing both dirty and carbon sequestered power for electricity generation. 

From this point, the two scenarios diverge.

Scramble offers up a world where nations refuse to agree on climate change mitigation treaties and efforts, instead focusing on getting energy to meet their economic needs without minding future political, environmental, climatic and corresponding economic consequences.

Under Scramble:

  • nations will only focus on getting more energy supply rather than curbing demand because "it is too unpopular for politicians to undertake."
  • Developing nations get hit with food shortages as a result of first generation (ethanol from corn) biofuel production.
  • Coal production doubles by 2025 and dirty fuel sources such as oil sands and shale are heavily tapped, despite the exponential extra greenhouse gas emissions that result. 
  • Greenhouse levels subsequently rise to a level on a path to being "well above 550 ppmv" (what some scientists call a climatic "point of no return") and the world hits an economic slowdown by 2020. Only then are major actions taken, but at much greater cost than if they had been taken earlier. 

The more hopeful scenario, Blueprints, presents an emerging network of government, business and NGO coalitions from the local level up to the international level that collectively reduce global energy consumption and CO2 emissions.

This passage from Blueprints was especially relevant:

In the early part of the 21st century, progressive cities across the globe share good practices in efficient infrastructure development, congestion management and integrated heat and power supply. A number of cities invest in green energy as sources for their own needs and energy efficiency...In an increasingly transparent world, high-profile local actors soon influence the national stage...Perceptions begin to shift about the dilemma that continued economic growth contributes to climate change...In addition, successful regions in the developing world stimulate their local economy by attracting investments in clean facilities made possible by the clean development provisions of the international treaties that replace the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012. (p. 27)

I've seen evidence of this emerging approach through our firm Common Current's recent work with nations and the State of California that is based on my book How Green is Your City? In How Green is Your City? I describe how some cities such as Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; New York; Chicago; and Seattle are setting the agenda for the future of our nation in their climate change mitigation policies and practices.

Now other nations are trying to develop policy based on international urban best practices. In Korea last month I met with national and local leaders on plans for developing potential green city metrics and approaches. The trip was sponsored by the US Department of State. Next month I will be meeting with European Union officials from the Environment Agency and the EU agency for Sustainability and Information Technology, ACIDD, in Brussels and Paris, where I will be presenting on U.S. city metrics and approaches.

Shell in its Blueprints scenario credits the EU as the key enabler of future international green energy systems through its CO2 pricing mechanism and carbon emissions trading scheme, which it speculates will be adopted by other countries, including the U.S. and even China. "This trading regime gives a new boost to new industries emerging around clean alternative and renewable fuels."

Blueprints depicts an international network of zero emission vehicles, wind and solar power and electric transport, even in developing nations. It suggests that 60% of global electricity will be generated by non fossil-fuel sources by 2050. Moderated consumption of oil, meanwhile, allows "most nations to reach a plateau of oil production without the (oil) shocks that they would have otherwise experienced."

The scenario concludes:

By 2055, the U.S. and the EU are using an average of 33% less energy per capita than today. Chinese energy use has also peaked....in Blueprints, in a critical mass of countries, people support national leaders who promise not only energy security but also a sustainable future. Initial pain has reduced uncertainty and prepared the way for long-term gain. (p.36)





California's globally influential AB 32 climate change legislation received lots of attention when announced in 2006, but it's harder to figure out how it's unfolding as it goes through the policy meatgrinder on the way to the sausage factory (kudos to Winston Churchill!).

After dozens of public hearings for public and private industry input, the first major scoping report is due for completion Wednesday. From my sources, it looks like the main target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 (and 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050) will be vehicle miles traveled.

The draft scoping plan for state recommended policies and programs is set to be released in late June for public comment, with a final report due in November 2008.

The main category slated for reduction, Transportation, is responsible for more than 41 percent of GHG emissions in California, unlike other states, where utility power plants are the primary source. Electric power is responsible for only 19 percent of Cali's GHGs.

The state's Air Resources Board, which is managing AB 32 implementation, is targeting Per Capita Vehicle Miles Traveled reduction as the best metric for cutting transport impacts.

The Board said in an agenda for a private forum to be held later this week that California cannot meet its AB 32 goals through technology alone: "reductions in vehicle use will be necessary."

While this agenda also correctly states that "land use is a main driver of long-term reductions," hopefully the Air Board and its private forum attendees will be addressing positive drivers--er, incentives--that can greatly limit future transportation GHG impacts.

Positive actions frame the issue so people, businesses and local government think of what they can do and how they can do it, not what they should do less (drive).

Shall we run through the list?:

* Use public transit more/ fund more public transit (reduces household GHGs by 10 percent if only one household member regularly uses public tansit!). And now that oil/ gas are ready to skyrocket further, keeps money in local economy much more effectively.

* Carpools, car sharing. Make it easy with HOV freeway lanes, employer and government incentives. Gotta love Post Carbon Institute's Solar Car Share program that uses electric cars to reduce the need for GHG-producing vehicle ownership and use altogether.

* Walkability of neighborhoods, developments, cities. Require sidewalks (so much is built these days without them), safe cross-walks, nice streetscapes. Also reduces obesity, our nation's number one health epidemic. Becoming a valuable real estate market feature.

* Mixed-use real estate development: Having jobs, retail and homes in same neighborhoods or development gets people walking and biking to work and shopping, schools and entertainment. The US Green Building Council's LEED-ND standards are a good new benchmark for this approach, another attribute that increases real estate value.

* Plug-in hybrids for city fleets and city employees. Cities, their operating budgets and city-wide carbon emissions will fare much better with 100-200 mpg performance than 20 mpg.

* Communications and IT technologies that help people use public transit more effectively, and that help people carpool, car share or use co-working centers. Cisco and other companies are developing Connected Urban Development; I'll be traveling to Brussels next month to meet with the European Union on this approach, as well as to propose land use and planning metrics that the European Environment Agency may adopt.

Stay tuned for updates of AB 32 progress as it moves down the pike.




truckers protest in tampa

There has been a populist uprising today among truckers about gas prices. They've banded together at 20 mph three-abreast on Interstates to slow traffic to a halt, in protest of record prices.

They want the government to intervene, as they pay $1,000 per fill up and can't make a living anymore. 

Locations for this sort of modern day Shays' Rebellion (crica 1780s), included the New Jersey Turnpike and Peoria, Illinois. (Though Shays, protesting agrarian debt in Massachusetts and the Connecticut Valley, didn't want the government to intervene.)

Will it play?

Photo: "Truck driver David Santiago, of Valrico, Fla., speaks to the media after about 50 independent truck drivers parked their rigs Tuesday morning, April 1, 2008 in Tampa, Fla., in protest of rising diesel fuel prices." --AP/Jeffrey Gold/Chris O'Meara


About the Author

    Warren Karlenzig
Warren Karlenzig, Common Current founder and president, has worked with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (lead co-author United Nations Shanghai Manual: A Guide to Sustainable Urban Development in the 21st Century, 2011); United Nations Center for Regional Development (training of mayors from 13 Asian nations on city sustainable economic development and technology); provinces of Guizhou and Guangdong, China (urban sustainability master planning and green city standards); the United States White House and Environmental Protection Agency (Eco-Industrial Park planning and Industrial Ecology primer); the nation of South Korea ("New Cities Green Metrics"); The European Union ("Green and Connected Cities Initiative"); the State of California ("Comprehensive Recycling Communities" and "Sustainable Community Plans"); major cities; and the world's largest corporations developing policy, strategy, financing and critical operational capacities for 20 years.

Present and recent clients include the Guangzhou Planning Agency; the Global Forum on Human Settlements; the Shanghai 2010 World Expo Bureau; the US Department of State; the Asian Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the non-governmental organization Ecocity Builders; a major mixed-use real estate development corporation; an educational sustainability non-profit; and global corporations. Read more here.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2008 is the previous archive.

May 2008 is the next archive.

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