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Spin the (water) bottle

David Lazarus, SF Chronicle
Americans spent an estimated $11 billion last year drinking 8.3 billion gallons of bottled water, according to Beverage Marketing Corp., the leading compiler of facts and figures about the beverage industry.

That means the average American consumed almost 28 gallons of Aquafina, Dasani, Evian or hundreds of other brands that comprise the up to $100 billion global market for bottled water.

So great is our thirst for the stuff that Americans now drink more bottled water than any other commercial beverage except carbonated soft drinks — more than milk, more than coffee, more than beer.

And the trend shows no sign of abating. Both the amount spent last year on bottled water and the amount consumed represent nearly 10 percent increases from 2005.

Within a decade, says Gary Hemphill, managing director of Beverage Marketing Corp. in New York, bottled water could overtake soda as the leading beverage in the United States. (The average American currently drinks more than 50 gallons of soda annually.)

“The single biggest factor driving sales of bottled water is health and wellness,” he said. “People see it as a healthy alternative.”

Today’s column takes a broad look at this fast-growing business. On Friday and Sunday, we’ll focus on matters of production, marketing, safety and taste.

“This is an industry that takes a free liquid that falls from the sky and sells it for as much as four times what we pay for gas,” said Richard Wilk, a professor of anthropology at Indiana University who has studied the bottled-water business.

“There’s almost nowhere in America where the drinking water isn’t adequate,” he said. “Municipalities spend billions of dollars bringing clean, cheap water to people’s homes. But many of us would still rather buy it at a store.”

Critics of the bottled-water business say this represents a triumph of marketing by powerful beverage companies like Nestle, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo — the selling of a ubiquitous commodity that most people can obtain easily and safely from their faucets.

They also cite the environmental harm that can come from the annual production and discarding of billions of plastic water containers.
(17 Jan 2007)

UAE Beats Americans’ Environmental Harm

Jim Krane, Associated Press via MSNBC
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – When it comes to squandering the earth’s natural resources, residents of this desert land of chilled swimming pools, monster 4x4s and air-conditioned malls are on a par with even the ravenous consumption of Americans, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

The average person in the Emirates puts more demand on the global ecosystem than any other, giving the country the world’s largest per-capita “ecological footprint,” WWF data shows. The United States runs second.

But the oil-rich Emirates is considered a developing country, and even as a signatory to the United Nations’ Kyoto protocol on global warming, is not required to cut emissions. The United States is not bound by Kyoto.

Even so, the Emirates government has been embarrassed by the WWF report, which it says is flawed. The federal environment agency is devising strategies to cut emissions, including a public campaign that may offer economic incentives to those who turn down their air conditioning, Saad al-Numairy, an adviser to agency, said Monday.

…Energy consumption in the Emirates runs high for many of the same reasons found in the United States: a feeling that the good life requires huge air-conditioned houses and cars, and a disdain for public transportation.
(16 Jan 2007)

Clean air or TV: Where will Asia find more energy?

Kieth Bradsher, Taipei Times
A toxic purple haze of diesel exhaust hangs over the rice and jute fields here in northeastern India, and bird songs are frequently drowned out by the chug-a-chug-a-chug of diesel generators.

Across the developing world, cheap diesel generators from China have become a favorite way to provide electricity.

They power everything from irrigation pumps to television sets, allowing growing numbers of rural villages in many poor countries to grow more crops and connect to the wider world.

But as the demand increases for the electricity that makes those advances possible, it is often being met through the dirtiest, most inefficient means, creating pollution in many remote areas that used to have pristine air and negligible emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases.

“There has been a mushrooming of these decentralized diesel generators,” said Ibrahim Rehman, a rural energy expert at the Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi.

While many generators are purchased initially to power irrigation pumps, they have also opened up a huge new market for television sets, which in turn creates demand for even more diesel generators.

“You either want clean air or television” in many villages, said Nandita Mongia, the chief of the UN Development Program’s regional energy program for Asia and the Pacific.
(14 Jan 2007)

‘Spaceship Earth’ sculpture collapses

AP via
A million-dollar stone sculpture, intended to remind future generations of the Earth’s fragility, made its point a bit early – it collapsed just three months after its unveiling.

The 175-ton “Spaceship Earth” lay in ruins at Kennesaw State University after mysteriously falling to pieces last week.

The engraved phrase “our fragile craft” was still visible amid the debris.
(5 Jan 2007)
If the artist, Eino, (who claims to be ‘devastated’) set this up, hat tip to him! -AF

Overwork Costly to Environment

Juliet Eilperin, Ashland Daily Tidings
Being a workaholic is bad for the environment, suggests an analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The report, written by researcher David Rosnick and economist Mark Weisbrot, warns that if Europeans worked the long hours that Americans do, it would boost their energy consumption rates by 30 percent. This would boost the international demand for fuel, as well as Europe’s overall carbon dioxide emissions.
(7 Jan 2007)
Found at Ran has been posting a lot the last few days about Idle Theory of Evolution (‘survival of the idlest’). If you’re interested in the genetic determism debate — which is an underlying assumption of many peak oil commentators — go check out Ran’s posts from January 5 onwards. -AF