Hydrocarbons

New articles about energy alternatives

This post comes to you from Cultura21

The Museum of Fetishes, by Nicholas Hildyard and Larry Lohmann

Too often, discussions about energy alternatives resemble a visit to a 1950s world’s fair exhibition displaying exhibits of the wonderful technology of the future. Against one wall stand shiny replicas of new green machines – wind turbines, solar panels, fuel cells, hypercars, supergrids – alongside diagrams showing how environmentally benign they are. Against another are arrayed labeled bottles of new “substitutes” for oil, coal and gas – corn-based ethanol, rapeseed-based biodiesel, hydrogen cracked out of water, hydrocarbons extruded by algae.

Most of the politics and material realities associated with the various contraptions and conveniences on show, or with the energy they use and transform, are simply missing, as are the strategies of popular movements that might be considering and agitating for different futures.

How should these new visions of technological or economic salvation be read? What role do they play in the real-world politics of energy? How and what can we learn from them? And, if necessary, how can we change the subject? What is glossed over in such displays of “alternatives”is usually more important than what is in them, and there is work to be done in finding out what that is.There is little question that an “energy alternatives” discussion is at least as essential as any other regarding human futures, especially for the industrialised societies whose use of fossil fuels is threatening human survival. But if it is not to degenerate into an irrelevant show of magic tricks, an overdue debt of attention must be paid to voices which up to now have too seldom been heard.

Energy Alternatives – Surveying the Territory, by Larry Lohmann with Nicholas Hildyard and Sarah Sexton

What with a growing climate crisis and increasing uncertainty over the future of fossil fuels, it can be no surprise that the question “what’s the alternative to current energy systems?” is in the air. And there has been no shortage of answers competing for space and attention. In energy policy today, the main conflict is not between business as usual and “The Alternative”, but among the different proposed alternatives themselves. How are these alternatives to be evaluated against each other? The suggested solutions are diverse. The questions being asked are also different, as are the criteria for answering them, the vocabularies in which they are expressed, and the politics with which they are associated. The point of this introduction to the energy transitions issue is not to simplify this debate but to clarify how complex it is. What is on the table in the discussion? Is there a place for everyone there? If so, how will the discussion proceed?

To read more about :http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/sites/thecornerhouse.org.uk/files/The%20Museum%20of%20Fetishes.pdf

http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/sites/thecornerhouse.org.uk/file/ENERGY%20ALTERNATIVES%20–%20SURVEYING%20THE%20TERRITORY.pdf

Cultura21 is a transversal, translocal network, constituted of an international level grounded in several Cultura21 organizations around the world.

Cultura21′s international network, launched in April 2007, offers the online and offline platform for exchanges and mutual learning among its members.

The activities of Cultura21 at the international level are coordinated by a team representing the different Cultura21 organizations worldwide, and currently constituted of:

– Sacha Kagan (based in Lüneburg, Germany) and Rana Öztürk (based in Berlin, Germany)
– Oleg Koefoed and Kajsa Paludan (both based in Copenhagen, Denmark)
– Hans Dieleman (based in Mexico-City, Mexico)
– Francesca Cozzolino and David Knaute (both based in Paris, France)

Cultura21 is not only an informal network. Its strength and vitality relies upon the activities of several organizations around the world which are sharing the vision and mission of Cultura21

Go to Cultura21

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Land and energy

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Northumberlandia, Charles Jencks, 2012 (photo provided by Banks Group)

Matt Ridley is the author of a number of books on the subjects of evolution, genetics and society, and has been variously a scientist, journalist and businessman.  There was an article in Saturday’s Times and the full version is on Matt Ridley’s website.  It’s worth reading.

His family leased land to a mining operation in the North East of England and have sponsored Charles Jencks to create Northumberlandia, the latest of Jencks’ earthworks.

When the Banks Group approached my family to dig out coal from under farmland we own, creating 150 local jobs, they also came with an imaginative suggestion. Instead of waiting ten years to put the rock back and restore the surface to woods and fields, which is the normal practice, why not put some of the rock to one side to make a new landscape feature that people can use long before the mine is restored?

Ridley makes an argument around energy and land.  It’s an economic argument about fossil fuels and land use.

The replacement of muscle power, burning carbohydrates, with fossil power, burning hydrocarbons, has been one of the great liberators of history.

Unfortunately the argument doesn’t look to the future.  It is true that fossil fuels have transformed society, but that’s the transformation of the industrial revolution.  The current transformation is focused on renewable energy and the need to massively reduce our footprint.

And in terms of art practices, this is not innovative, just large.  Cutting edge art practices look to integrate the future into the landscape, not just shape it aesthetically.  Whether it’s AMD&ART addressing Acid Mine Drainage, or the Land Art Generator Initiative  bringing together at scale renewable energy and art, or any of a number of other artists working on energy and land futures (see greenmuseum.org for examples), Northumberlandia misses a trick and a big one.  The creation of new public space is important, but the use of that process to exemplify new futures is vital.

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.
Go to EcoArtScotland

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The Culture of Bioremediation: Terry Hazen Interview.

The signature on an email from Terry Hazen is a paragraph long. It has to be- it lists a multitude of titles.  He’s the Head of the Ecology Department at the University of California at Berkeley. The Head of the Center for Environmental Biotechnology. The Lead of Microbial Enhanced Hydrocarbon Recovery at the Energy Biosciences Institute. The list goes on. Hazen is, therefore, the perfect man to talk to about our current attempts to correct massive ecological f-ups, and what that means for artists.

Hazen’s world is inhabited by mircoorganisms, or, as he colloquially refers to them, “bugs.” There are bugs that eat pollution, bugs that chemically reduce uranium, bugs that feed on hydrocarbons. ” I still feel a lot of people are amazed that there’s a bug out there that can degrade just about anything, ” he says. While the idea of the “magic bug” is sometimes helpful to the remediation industries, there is, he cautions, no bug without context.

“It’s so easy to sell bioremediation, ” he says. “It can completely degrade contaminants in laboratory settings, (but) in the environmental settings it may not work as effectively, or make it worse.” He cites the example of arsenic, which actually becomes more soluble– and  likely to contaminate the water table– when reduced.

“Some companies will go for the quick fix, not realizing that in cleaning up one contaminant, they exacerbate three others, ” he laments. “They often don’t look for a complete solution.” Hazen’s work  is dedicated to more of a “complete systems biology” approach. Sometimes, he argues, the best thing for a polluted site is to just leave it alone. You can see one of his excellent and comprehensive lectures here.

While navigating the maze of invisible bug-land, Hazen keeps environmental art within reach. On his office wall hangs a piece of artwork by a 10-year old girl, depicting storks in the Danube river riparian zone. He obtained it while in Serbia for an Environmental Remediation meeting.

“Art that educates or just inspires people to reuse, recyle, reduce, and remediate, to make our land and water less toxic and less toxic for generations to come makes us all better doesn’t it,” says Hazen. He would know: he spends much of his time managing the methods that attempt to clean up our mistakes.

Go to the Green Museum