Good COP, Bad COP

Segways, Secretary Chu, and Forest Economics
by -- December 13th, 2009

A quick look at the Bright Green Expo

Today, a few members of the Nicholas group stopped by the Bright Green Expo.  The event was predominately a tradeshow for industry, with speakers and interesting products to check out.  Our first stop was the Segway obstacle course.  These Segways were particularly intriguing because they were ‘off-road’ with rugged wheels and a sturdy structural design.  We enjoyed watching the promotional video, which featured Segways carrying sleeping bags into woods and clubs in the golf course.  I realized that Segways are a bit like horses – they can tell when you are nervous.  I have terrible balance and the sales assistant had to continuously remind me to stand up straight and look ahead.  After two rounds on the bark-lined obstacle course, I was feeling better but not ready to try any tricks.

After asking a few questions about a misleading display and receiving a lackluster sales-pitch on coordinating a home electrical system (never tell your customer that your technology is ‘old’ – thirty years old), we headed to the auditorium to hear Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu speak about progress in the United States.  We learned aboutgeothermal heat reserves and that human fat has an energy density comparable to kerosene and other fossil fuels.  Elevated water storage ponds are excellent places to store energy produced at night from difficult-to-store renewables, like wind.  When power is needed, the water is released and directed through a dam, producing hydropower.  The United States is also investing in “high risk, high reward” projects that are a gamble with potentially huge gains.  Secretary Chu ended his speech with a particularly poignant statement with “Earthrise” from Apollo 8 on the screen: “Look at this photo and realize that there is no where else to go.”

I pulled Mike over to the Danish Association of Wood and Furniture Industry to determine how much the representatives knew about forest economics.  Earlier at Forest Day 3, a representative from Weyerhaeuser Company promoted purchasing wood products as a way to support carbon dioxide sequestration efforts.  Since this involves cutting down trees and eventually disposing of the wood products (presumably by incineration, recycling, or placing in a landfill), the idea seemed very counterintuitive to me.  After discussing the Faustman Formula with my former Resource and Environmental Economics classmates, we determined that this idea must stem from the fact that younger trees grow faster, i.e. absorbing more carbon, and can become a sustainable harvest if managed according to the optimal tree rotation.  Don’t worry, we are applying our learning in Copenhagen!  Anyways, this theory is correct.  Europe is promoting wood products because they are renewable, require less energy and fossil fuels that other products (e.g. plastics), and can sequester carbon if produced and recycled correctly.  I love real life learning applications!

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