Best Green Energy Responses to Climate Crisis: IC’s 2012 Amun-Ra Award

I have created an annual Amun-Ra award for heroic green energy responses to our global climate crisis. Climate change is by far the most urgent of the threats to human existence that human beings can do something about. We are moving rapidly, by virtue of our massive carbon emissions, toward a climate that may be too unstable to sustain human life.

amunra

The award is named for an ancient Egyptian composite deity, since Egypt is among the countries most threatened by rising seas over the next 80 years. Amun was a god of the wind and patron deity of ancient Thebes (modern Luxor). Ahmose I (c. 1550–1525 BCE), from Thebes, led a rebellion against the foreign Hyksos dynasty based in the Delta to his north, and managed to overthrow them and unite upper and lower Egypt. At that point, the local wind god Amun was joined to the national god of the sun, Ra, becoming Amun-Ra. Since wind power and solar power are two of our great hopes for avoiding the worst climate disasters that will be brought about if we continue to depend on coal, gas and oil, Amun-Ra is a good symbol for renewables.

There are many worthy activists and policy-makers in this field. Green Party figures in Germany and the present Chancellor, Angela Merkel, have made that country a powerhouse in the renewables field. Scientists such as James Hansen and Michael E. Mann have done the hard and dangerous work of demonstrating the reality of climate change. But since I can only give one this year, I decided to bestow the honor on the most ambitious practical policy-maker on the issue.

Winner: The 2012 Amun-Ra award goes the far-sighted First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, one of the contemporary world’s great heroes. Scotland gets the award because it has the ambitious goal of getting 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2020, and it is making amazing progress toward attaining it. Although many provinces or countries get 60% or more of their electricity from renewables, most of these depend mainly on hydro-electic. For those without riparian resources, the challenge is to implement other renewable energy generating technologies. Scotland is favorably situated to develop wind power, and is going for it in a big way.

Based on the performance of the first three quarters, Scotland was on track in 2012 to generate 15 percent more electricity from renewables than in the previous year (which also broke earlier records).

In 2011, Scotland was already getting 36 percent of its electricity from green energy, ahead of its target of 31 percent! In 2012 alone, renewables are estimated to have attracted $1 billion in investments. Pete Danko writes of these investments, which have produced 11,000 jobs at a time of economic retrenchment, “Maybe this is what happens if you have a national policy that encourages not just incremental but radical transitioning to renewable energy: Not only do you get clean energy, you get a lot of the manufacturing infrastructure that comes with it.”

In 2011, Scotland had generated 13.735 gigawatt hours from renewable sources (up 44.3% from 2010 and an increase of 97.3% from 2006). Unlike in Portugal, a relatively small portion– only about a gig — of that was from hydroelectric.

Scotland is planning the world’s largest offshore wind farm.

Some of the Scottish have even put in solar panels and use solar thermal to heat water. Although solar is a harder technology to profit from in overcast Scotland than wind, it can be part of the renewable mix there. The government is also now experimenting with wave energy, which could be huge for Scotland, as well as tidal energy.

The UK in general is now wavering on commitment to renewables, under the Tory government of David Cameron, and national policy may hobble Scotland’s efforts a bit. BP and other Big Carbon interests (and Donald Trump) are propagandizing against wind as ruining the beauty of the countryside, as though oil rigs do not, or as though catastrophic climate change would be better.

Here is a short documentary on Scotland’s remarkable push toward renewables:

A warm congratulations to First Minister Salmond, and heartfelt thanks from this member of the small McIlwee clan (my maternal grandfather’s line) for making Scotland a leader in saving our world.

25 Responses

  1. The winds blowing over the North Sea are a much more sustainable (endless?) source of energy than the oil beneath it. Large offshore wind farms on the Dogger Bank can probably power Scotland, England and Wales, entirely.

    In your post on Norman Schwarzkopf (Dec. 28) you estimated that solar panels would be so inexpensive within 5 years that US dependence on Middle East oil would drop significantly (end?) by 2018.

    It is certainly true that more and cheaper solar panels will be produced (the Chinese own the market today), however there is one reason why oil will never lose its importance to US policy-makers: oil is and will always be essential to the powering of the US military. We will not develop solar-powered supersonic fighter-bomber airplanes, nor rapid mobility armored vehicles (helicopters, boats and ships, tanks and trucks and gun carriages) in our lifetimes. US military might is almost entirely an expression of hydrocarbon combustion (with nuclear power in submarines).

    I see no possibility of the US military lessening its consumption of petroleum (given the purpose of the US military, which I doubt will change), and I suspect much of US policy regarding oil is primarily (entirely?) to assure that the enormous supply needed for the US military machine is always (and everywhere) available. I believe this is the real reason why the USG shows negative interest in “limiting CO2 emissions” and “responding to climate change.”

    Certainly, it is possible to power our civilian economies on renewable energy sources, largely because civilian power sources (and electrical re-charging stations) can usually be static and of large area and volume (with distribution networks as needed). The majority of military power sources must be compact and of high energy density (e.g., liquid fuels, explosives, solid rocket fuel; and high capacity batteries, and submarine nuclear reactors) so they can be packaged within, and power, rapidly mobile gun/missile/electronics platforms, and transport vehicles.

    I describe both of these themes (“free electricity” and a fully green civil society is possible “now,” and that US militarism/power “is” continuous petroleum combustion on a massive scale) in this article, which argues for “green” national energetics (and against militarism):

    The Economic Function Of Energy
    27 February 2012
    link to swans.com

    Stories like that of Scotland, which you posted, are heartwarming to us energy and efficiency engineering enthusiasts, but much more can be done. I think the societal “breakthrough” will occur (if ever) when the popularity of sustainable (green) power overcomes the mental barrier of “cost,” and such power (in civil society) is just preferred regardless.

  2. Alex Salmond didn’t get his high percentage of renewable energy off his own back. He got from the billions of pounds which we English pour into Scotland every year. Scotish members of parliament can vote in Westminster, but English Members of parliament can’t vote in Scotland. This means Salmond can do what he likes with our cash. If he gets independence and has to use his own Countries money, I don’t think you will hear much more about 100% renewable energy then as it costs a lot of money.

    • Scottish connection fees for the grid are higher than the English.

      Renewables have upfront installation costs, but they are on the verge of being at parity with hydrocarbons, and if you figure environmental and health costs they are *much* cheaper than coal, oil & gas

    • Try reading “The McCrone Report”and educate yourself Mr Wilson.To say that England pours billions into Scottish renewable energy is a joke considering the billions you as a country have screwed from Scotland these past 40 yrs.Nothing against Englishmen and women but your country is corrupt to the core and when Scotland gets independence then you will cry,scream and weep all you like because the cash cow that you have been milking for so long is gone.
      Why do you think your government wants to hang on to Scotland so badly if they are subsidy junkies?Maybe because you would lose 40billion from oil and 5billion from whisky??
      The game is up Johnny boy and your bankers won’t back you as they don’t do any work –they just are only thieves like your politicians.

    • At least Scotland isn’t using austerity dogma as an excuse to dismantle its national health system, while I’ve heard your neo-Victorian prime minister got money from American “health” conglomerates that clearly want to make British health into a clone of the US model – then he hastily imposed rules to make the NHS seek private outsourcing for some services, dismantling the previous bureaucracy in a naked attempt to forestall the public outcry. When did England become Wisconsin?

      Under the rule of such lying bastards, Scotland will lose its money in favor of tax cuts for the oligarchs responsible for the crash. The SNP is the only true progressive party left in Britain. And if Scotland secedes and kicks out NATO, a far bigger waster of money, Salmonds deserves the Nobel Prize.

    • Mr Wilson – Scotland generates 9.6% of UK taxes and receives 9.3% of UK spending in the form of a block grant to run its services. The Scottish Government operates within its budget and, as a devolved government, it can decide how it will spend the grant. One of the Scottish Government’s goals to invest in and promote the renewables industry. Another is to generate all electricity from renewables by 2020. When Scotland becomes independent, all revenue generated in Scotland will remain in Scotland and this will go to fund further development in renewables.

      Members elected to the UK Parliament, whether for a Scottish or an English constituency, are not eligible to vote in the Scottish Parliament.

    • What is this incredibly misguided nonsense? Scotland is not at all subsidised by England, regardless of what you may think. The proportion of UK tax revenue raised in Scotland is less than the proportion of UK public spending in Scotland, which means the people of Scotland more than pay their way. Public spending is only higher per capita in Scotland because the GDP of Scotland is higher per capita than that of the UK average. Please stop spreading false information about how “the English pour [billions] into Scotland”. If Scotland votes for independence, it will be in a stronger fiscal position than the remainder of the United Kingdom.

    • The Scottish government used Scottish money for these developments. The block grant from Westminster is less than we send down, as has finally been admitted by the exchequer. It is not your cash. If we choose to use our money more wisely than the UK government that is our business. You and other English people who persist in this fallacy are in for a rude shock if Scots vote for independence. Then you will finally see who’s been subsidising who.

    • John, where do you think England gets the billions of pounds they ‘give’ to Scotland every year? From taxes and revenues raised in Scotland. Scotland are regular net contributors to the Westminster purse (check this years IFS report on the subject if you need confirmation). Scotland receives less back from Westminster than it contributes AND still manages to achieve such great advances. That’s ALSO without whisky excise duty, oil revenues and crown estate income. Imagine what it could do if Scotland got back ALL the money raised in Scotland, not just Westminster’s block grant. Btw England are perfectly capable of doing this too, it’s just that you keep voting in Tory and New Labour governments who have no interest in embracing renewable energy. One last point of reference regarding the West Lothian question (Scottish MPs voting on only English matters, I agree they shouldn’t). You might be interested to know that SNP MPs have traditionally abstained from all votes that only concern England out of principle. I can see you’re a convert already but vote YES in 2014, roll on 100% by 2020!

    • Actually the Scottish Government got it from their own tax receipts following deductions from Westminster. Contrary to what the Daily Telegraph may tell you, Scotland pays taxes, crown rents, customs duties, TV license fees etc. Westminster then looks at the block allocation each year and Scotland gets a percentage of that. (Note that the block allocation doesn’t include things like the Olympics, English sewerage, Defence, cost of embassies etc.) As a result, Scotland actually pays a larger percentage of tax and other revenue into the Exchequer than it gets back in the block grant. The difference is that the Scottish Govt. doesn’t then spend it on nonsense like PPP, or vanity projects. It has chosen priorities like renewables, health and education. England could do the same.

      And for your information, SNP members elected to Westminster have a policy of not voting on English matters.

    • john , where on earth are you getting your information from we as in Scotland have been propping up the UK treasury for over 40 years so i think the billions you are on about is long over due to be returned and as for your voting query ask yourself who made the rules you stating erm oh yes westminster so its no use moaning about what Scotland gets when its your english parliament that enforces them?.

  3. Believe me, the Pentagon is more genuinely interested in diversifying its energy sources than the elected government of the US. Why? Because it has a blank check to pay the higher marginal costs of alternative energy, and it is being embarrassed by its need in Afghanistan to rely on its enemies for supply routes for its oil.

    For instance, the Navy has been subsidizing biofuels for aircraft to help the industry get a footing, but the Tea Party Congress has forbidden it from doing so. If not for that, its nuclear carriers and submarines could guarantee that it will be functioning after the other services – and the rest of the world – are out of fuel.

    The Army has been buying zinc-air batteries (which are refueled, not recharged) from Arotech as portable power sources for its ever-growing electronic inventory.

    And the conversion to flying killer robots is under way, because it’s the only way the US can hold onto its empire while being flat broke. The robots use a lot less fuel than manned jets, besides all their other advantages.

    I have many criticisms of the American war machine, but as an institution obsessed with its self-preservation, it certainly is doing a better job preparing for a low-energy future than the taxpayers it hoses.

  4. In 2011, UNEP released their report on short-term climate forcers – black carbon, tropospheric ozone, and methane as a precursor to tropospheric ozone. These pollutants are in the atmosphere for about a month and their reduction has many ancillary benefits on human health and economics as well as the local and global climate. These reductions pay for themselves quickly and cut across the North/South debate on the costs of climate solutions. They have the potential to reduce climate change temperature rise in half by 2050.

    Here’s a link to the report
    link to unep.org

    We should be pushing HARD on reducing short term climate forcers for the poorest first, most definitely, but also here in the so-called developed world in which Boston University recently found thousands of methane leaks throughout the city of Boston. Lots we could do that makes sense and saves money as well as energy and the climate.

  5. Don’t forget that Scotland’s nationalists are playing an energy nationalism card. Scots might be willing to put up with occasional inconveniences from wind intermittency that other bourgeoise nations are too spoiled to contemplate, in order to boast that Scotland doesn’t need Britain to survive. The SNP was just as willing to play that game with offshore oil & gas – until it went into deep decline. Quebec’s nationalists played it with hydro power. But the instant they find more oil in some god-awful place, they forget all about the environment, just like all the Americans mesmerized by shale-trapped oil and gas.

    Nothing will change, I fear, until a country gains an economic advantage from alternative energy that gives it real power over others. Then jealousy overwhelms laziness and short-sightedness. This is what we’re like.

  6. IF we in Scotland are subsidy junkies as John Wilson makes out, why are the RuK doing everything it can to stop
    Scotland from becoming a normal country.
    Scotland has for generations put more into the UK pot than
    it gets back from the London Treasuary.
    The Gers figures which the UK Goverment use to try and
    prove that Scotland cant pay its own way are by any
    measures inaccurate, in the past 100% of Trident Costs
    have been attributed to Scotland, all the taxes collected in
    Scotland are not included, and of off course if we were
    a normal country we would not be paying for illegal
    weapons of mass destruction, foreign wars,white elephant
    aircart carriers (Which dont have any aircraft) Imperalistic
    foreign embassies,maintaining overseas military bases
    House of Lords and a host of other imperalistic costs
    Instead WE could of course and I strongly suspect we will invest in renewables and meet the targets setout by Mr Salmond
    with ease.

  7. It is worth re-iterating the disadvantage of Scottish connection fees (effectively subsidising connection fees in England) Which make the renewables revolution in that misty country of my ancestors all the more remarkable and magnificent.

    The reality for Mr Wilson is that it is the Scots subsidising the English, not the other way round (and I believe that goes as far as tax take too).

  8. Scotland certainly is not subsidised by England in fact the south east of England is heavily subsidised by the rest of uk. GERS figures show we pay more than we receive to the tune of 2.7 billion whilst using up gas & oil reserves as quickly as possible as it will not belong to them shortly. Please read McCrone report which has been suppressed by Westminster for thirty years which indicated Scotland would have an embarrassment of riches.

  9. John Wilson is regurgitating nonsense he probably read in the Daily Mail or Telegraph.
    The fact is Scotland contributes more to the UK Treasury than it receives back in the Block Grant.
    The most recent GERS figures are that Scotland paid in £46Billion and received back £33Billion.
    It is good fiscal management and a far-sighted and inspired energy policy which places Scotland at the forefront of renewables.
    And when Scotland is Independent, watch the connection fees fall as England struggles to keep its lights on.

  10. Well done to Salmond!

    As the UK continues its downward spiral into a nuclear abyss fueled by future generations of indebtedness, Scotland has a chance to break free of the cold, dead hand of the current London centric ‘Union’.

    Vote Yes in 2014.

    #itsgoingtohappen

  11. I think Mr Garcia is overstating his case. It is true that the military is a major consumer of liquid fuels, which primarily come from fossil sources. They are also investing fairly heavily in various sorts of renewables, including schemes for creating jet fuel from seawater plus CO2 plus electricity (in this case Nuclear powered carriers). Obviously they aren’t doing this to be green, but rather to reduce their reliance on expensive and vulnerable supply lines.

    I don’t think they are a major force against a sane US national stance towards carbon. They actually have produced reports identifying climate change as a source of future instability. Clearly some of their political supporters are not happy with such reports.

    Now, I’m not a supporter of anything like the current level of US military spending, but as far as I can tell, their attitude towards renewable energy is more realistic (and aggressive) than the civilian economy.

  12. As a Scot, I’m very pleased to see recognition of our First Minister’s dedication to clean, renewable energy. I love that my country is leading the way in this department, and truly taking advantage of the sustainable natural resources made available to it.

  13. Fantastic award and a very worthy recipient. It’s nice to have some good news to start 2013.

  14. Alex Salmond and the SNP government have really raised Scotland by looking at the Scandinavian countries as a model for us to aspire to.
    The British government wants nuclear missiles, the Scottish government wants a higher living standard for her citizens, the choice is easy for 2014, a return to Scottish nationhood so we can make the choices that suit Scotland, and not a failing British state that is too slow to realise that it can no longer afford to be a super power.

  15. Its good to see a country with such an abundance of natural resources taking a lead in this matter.As far as the old “England pays for Scotland” …..well,its obvious to anyone who thinks about it that a country with the bountiful resources Scotland has can easily pay for itself.And the figures back that up.

  16. Delighted to see Scotland’s push for green energy recognized internationally.

    There is a similar and equally important effort being applied to improve the energy efficiency of Scotland’s homes and transport network. Demand reduction as well as low carbon energy production. New building standards proposed to be introduced in 2014 will cut carbon emissions from new homes in Scotland by around 75% compared to 1990 levels.

    Low Carbon Economic Strategy
    link to scotland.gov.uk

    2007 Progress report on Low Carbon building standards strategy link to scotland.gov.uk

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